Guest blog by Jose Alzate, a Consultant in the Economic and Financial Consulting practice at FTI Consulting. He joined the firm in 2015 after graduating with Distinction from LSE’s Finance and Economics master’s programme:

It’s application season, and bit by bit your calendar begins to fill with an assortment of careers fairs, CV workshops, networking events and presentation evenings. Each of these is an opportunity to learn more about, and begin a dialogue with, a future employer. The majority of applicants that attend these events will leave with a basic understanding of what the company does as well as the business cards of a couple of employees to name-check in their cover letter. However, if you follow a few simple rules, you can turn that encounter into a real competitive advantage:

Rule No.1: Come prepared

If you’re attending a careers fair, check in advance which organisations will be attending and make a high-level list of those you want to speak to. Think about the type of questions that really matter to you. What were you not able to find out from their website and what information will allow you to prepare a strong application? Nothing will make you stand out from the crowd more than showing that you’ve done your homework! Before you leave, make sure that you sign up to the organisation’s mailing list and ask for a business card. Which leads us to rule number 2…

Rule No.2: Following up does not (just) mean sending an email

Be under no illusions – chatting to an employer at a careers fair is not a magical shortcut to a job offer, and an email afterwards to let someone know how much you enjoyed meeting them will not gain you any advantage. Instead, the point of following up should be to get information that will help you work out if that organisation is for you and, if it is, that will make your application stronger.

Read the materials that you’ve collected and undertake further research – look at the organisation’s LinkedIn page, read their online job listing and try to get an understanding of what the day-to-day job involves. This will enable you to focus your application on your most relevant skills.

Find out if the employer is hosting any further events on campus and sign up for them. If you can’t then make the event, let the host know in advance.

By all means, send a follow-up email to the person you met at the careers fair. However, make sure that you ask questions that you aren’t able to find the answers to elsewhere – what are the skills and experience that that particular organisation is looking for? How much of your cover letter should you dedicate to your skills and how much should be a demonstration of your understanding of the role? What are the most common pitfalls that they see in applications? How can you best prepare for the next round of the application process?

Rule No.3: Take the time to tailor your CV and cover letter

Having invested the time in getting to know the employer, make sure that it comes across in your application! Mention the events that you attended and what is it that you’ve read about the role that you find especially interesting. Talk about why you’d like to work for that particular organisation rather than your general interest in a sector.

And finally …

Once you’ve submitted your application, start preparing for the next round of the application process. Understand what’s involved – if there are tests, ask what form the tests take and make sure to practise beforehand. Don’t be afraid to contact the person that you met at the careers fair or presentation to ask for any tips that they might have.

And if you are fortunate enough to be invited to the next round, make sure to turn up on time!

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