Career Fairs 101: Everything you should know!

Support & Advice Back

This week, we are thinking about NQTs and University Career Fairs! As we approach the point when trainees switch to their second placement and consider plans for September, we discuss the importance of fairs in building connections across universities and attracting fantastic talent and how to make the most of it!

As one of the more traditional recruitment methods used, the coveted careers’ fair provides a unique opportunity to network with potential trainees and employers. With the addition of more modern, digital sourcing tools, MATS and schools across the UK have been able become adaptable to today’s teaching job market. It does make you wonder, does the traditional practice still prove useful against the more digitised networking tools available to us now as employers?

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Outdated or still a staple in your recruitment toolkit?

Careers’ fairs give access to hundreds of trainees enrolled in their respective universities, looking for their next step in teaching. This direct pipeline means employers can engage with trainees, giving employer great opportunity to send the right messages about their organisations first hand. Face the sceptics and demystify what teaching at your organisation will look like. Setting the tone with a great first impression, informative pitch and answering questions where you can go a long way. Despite the more modern digitised tools and resources cutting-edge organisations use now, it is important that trainees can see employers just as grounded and attentive as much as they seen as are powerhouses for success and career development.

Digital world, digital people?

Understanding where to connect with NQTs is essential to building networks with potential talent. Trainees can come from a diverse range of backgrounds and can hold different circumstances entirely, is your campaign effectively reaching everyone it applies to?

With 91% of all social media users accessing social channels via mobile devices[1], content marketing has taken up post as a central function in part of recruitment and brand awareness strategy. Teaching school bodies and other teaching organisations have had to adapt to this changing landscape, particularly with note to the growing teacher retention issue across UK schools. There is far more thought about whether your website and branded content is up to scratch now than ever before. This is mainly because trainees who are at university level come from a generation that is much more digitally inclined. However, teaching brings together a diverse number of passionate, inspired people and deciding to take up your PGCE can strike at any point in your life. This reason is key to understanding why career fairs remain an important tool to sourcing teaching talent, early on. This is where the practice of career fairs’ offers up more well-rounded approach to connecting with prospective talent.

The business of education recruitment agencies

Amongst the LAs and MAT exhibitors present, there is likely always a recruiting agency present to talk to trainees about working interim or supply. This is because trainees can easily sway towards the promise of what seems to be “freer”, independent local placements sourced quickly by an agency. This also adds to the university’s statistics all round, as the overall number of trainees who find placements or other work opportunities soon after studying, aids universities in filling quotas and hitting yearly targets.

However, trainees aren’t always privy to some of the dangers of working with agencies or their effect on the school system in general. Typically, recruitment agencies charge schools from anything to 20-30% of the teacher’s salary as finders’ fee with mark-up rates going up to 100% in some cases. This isn’t including additional agency fees or fees that may come directly out of the hired teacher’s salary depending the agency. This leaves schools in a difficult position with little choice or quality measures in place with agency teachers, as it’s impossible to know whether agency teachers’ will be a good fit for the school until they get into the classroom. Navigating the business of education agencies becomes a difficult and long process for schools and does more harm to the school system than its known for.

For both schools and trainees everywhere, the business of agencies can be a very unnerving experience! Teachers and trainees who apply directly, whether an LA or a MAT, save the school from potentially being charged a hefty amount. Trainees and teachers that choose to go direct to schools help positively contribute to the school system by minimising costs to the school and allow for it to go towards more pressing areas of school improvement. By going direct, teachers and trainees go without the hassle of negotiating daily pay rates or uncertain contracted terms and set great foundations within schools.

Our school direct programme at Harris ITE offers up a fully supported, enriching experience for graduates with weekly training days, personalised tutor and team support across the Federation. Find out more here.   

Onto the trainees! Here’s what you should know about attending

It’s easy to see teaching careers events as nothing more than a way to gather up a wad of leaflets and as many freebies as you can as quickly as possible, before getting back to the important business of studying.

However, it is also a great opportunity for you to meet prospective employers first hand and get some insight into your options – and could even be your first step to your perfect NQT job!

We’ve collated some of our careers fair top tips to help you get the most out of the event on the day.

Got your eye on any prospects?

  • Set your sights on the right targets. There will be a large number of trainees competing for the same NQT positions. Get an attendee list and prioritise direct employers – they will be able to give you a much better idea about what it’s like to work at their school, academy trust or Local Authority.

Explore ALL your options

  • Keep an open mind. You may have your sights set on a particular school or academy - perhaps your first or second placement - but think about and consider the best place for your induction year and the support you’ll receive. Could you compromise on location for a fantastic NQT induction programme or exceptional opportunities for progression?

A little research goes a long way

  • Know the basics. You may only have a couple of minutes to chat, so do you research and read over employer websites to make sure you’re asking the right questions on the day. It might be a good idea to write some down to check back to when you are making the rounds.

This is your time! What is important for you?

Really think about what you want to ask, whether that’s the application process, progression and development opportunities, support during your NQT year or the school culture and ethos – whatever is important to you.

It can be difficult to think on the spot about some of things that matter to you about your NQT year. That is why we have laid out some essential questions to follow or add when you are at a fair:

  • What opportunities are on offer?
  • When is the best time to apply?
  • What benefits are available?
  • Are there any open events or recruitment days in future?
  • How can you find out about jobs?
  • Can you arrange a time to visit the school or academy to learn more?

It’s worth writing down your questions and taking them with you to jog your memory on the day!

On the day

Print off some copies of your CV, but be mindful of the information you leave on it to ensure you are only handing out the essential information. While most exhibitors will have some way for you to leave your contact details, it’s all too easy to make a typo or for recruiters to misread a handwritten note. You’ll also be one step ahead of the competition when schools come to recruit NQTs.

Don’t be afraid to start a conversation. After all, the exhibitors genuinely want to talk to great potential teachers like you! Make eye contact, introduce yourself with a confident handshake and ask your key questions while you have the opportunity to chat face to face.

Pick up a business card or ask for contact details. If you have more to ask, let them know you’d like to get back in touch and check whether it’s better to call or email.

After the event

Keep key information in a safe place. If you’ve been given contact details, application deadlines or useful careers literature, store them somewhere you will be able to find them easily or record them electronically. 



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