Hacking Silicon Milkroundabout

A Job Seeker's Guide to Winning

Career ・ May 22, 2017 ・ 12 mins

One of the biggest free-to-attend technology job fairs in London, Silicon Milkroundabout (SMR) attracts capable young job seekers and hot companies looking to hire new talent for two days straight at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. But what’s the right way to attend?

If you’re looking for a 💩🔥 tech job, SMR is the one to go to. This fair connects you to some of the best companies, from innovative startups through to the likes of Amazon and Google. So as you can imagine, it quickly becomes a competitive affair to be an attendee here with the limited number of roles on offer.

Luckily, I’ve attended a number of these events, observing and self-analysing carefully as I’ve gone along. In this article, I’ll share some insights as to how you can benefit from my learnings and really make the most of the opportunities on display at SMR. As a bonus, the advice contained herein can be adapted to almost any job fair in any industry. Ultimately, jobs vary but the intentions remain the same.

Hacking SMR

Before the fair 👩‍💻

The first thing you need to do is register on the website. Do this as early as possible knowing that there are two events in the year: May and November, and that they’re free to attend, leading to over-subscription. The SMR peeps will vet you and your portfolio during the application process, so for maximum impact, get these to represent your most professional self before committing to a ticket.

A nice aspect with this fair is your planning process is helped with a listing of all the visiting companies on the SMR website. With updates happening right up until the start of the event, it’s worth checking the site every so often to see if any new additions have made it onto the list.

Set up your targets 🎯

Scope out the list for organisations that catch your eye:

  • You can shortlist with the web app’s built-in favourite tool.
  • You can filter by specialism, e.g. UX. This is by far the best way to find the kind of role that suits you.
  • You can also filter by day:
    • Generally Saturdays are devoted to design,
    • Whilst Sundays are for developers.

Once you’ve got your companies down…

Research, research, research 🕵️‍♀️

The last thing you want to do is speak to a company with zero ammunition for the conversation. Learn as much as you can about them online so you can really engage them in person. Look at:

  • Their official website.
  • Their social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin).
  • Check what insiders say about the company on Glassdoor.
  • Check the press for recent news and opinion pieces.

Once you’ve picked up all you can, save unanswered questions for the event day. Even if they go unanswered, at least you’ll have shown initiative in attempting to understand the company from an outsider’s perspective - companies appreciate that effort.

Get printing 🖨

There are two things all attendees can bring to a job fair, regardless of specialism:

  1. CVs - Max 2 sides long in the UK (…if you’re in North America, a resumé is max 1 side long).
  2. Business cards (I made mine with Moo.com - highly recommended. Get 15% off at checkout with this code: JMNTWG).

It’s up to you as to which of those you bring - I’ve personally found business cards to be less formal therefore an easier way to pass on your credentials; they’re also easier to handle in a spur-of-the-moment scenario. Another thing you might want to bring, if relevant to your profession, is a PDF portfolio - print one copy to show to company reps as and when you speak to them.

When to attend 🕓

If you can manage it, attend both days - there are different companies on each day as the organisers try to cram in as many names into the event as possible.

In terms of success, there are two distinct behaviours I’ve observed with company reps:

  • At the start of the event (from 1pm onwards) is when reps are charged up and making maximum eye-contact with visitors. This is a great time to interact with them as their enthusiasm is at a high. However, the downside is conversations tend to be short as they mill through the swathes of roving attendees. Personally, I’ve found interactions at this time to be less meaningful and yield only meagre results.
  • Half way through the day (4pm onwards) is when reps are a little more relaxed (and occasionally slightly drunk). This is a better time to speak on a one-to-one level to really understand sentiment within the company as the rep is more open/loose-tongued. I’ve also had the most success closing deals (see below) after this time, especially if you’re willing to drive the conversation, but of course you’ll have less time at this point so budget wisely.

During the fair 📅

It’s event day. You’ve shown your ticket, picked up your lanyard and you’re raring to go.

Moving around 🚶‍♀️

The fair can be overwhelming both in terms of size and the density of people.

  • If you’ve got time, give the location a once over by walking through the venue and seeing where all the stalls are, noting companies you like the look of that you may have missed during your research.
  • If time isn’t on your side, refer to the paper map given to you at the entrance - this will allow you to hunt down those companies you researched in the first place. Make a bee-line for them.
  • If there’s just one time-management tip I can give it’s to start interacting with the companies you’re most interested in first - you’ll find plenty of distractions during the event which can be good, but save your energy for your favourites - it’ll come across better in your demeanour.

Down to business 💼

It’s go-time. Dial-up your charisma and approach your dream companies with confidence. What I find useful is to head in with the idea that you’re interviewing them, not the other way around. They’re competing for your attention with the other companies at the event, so will likely make an effort to impress you (bar a few exceptions like Google) and answer your every question.

Lead the conversation and ask the questions you’ve been itching to ask that were unanswered by your research. Gauge their thoughts on company culture. Validate their responses by asking the rep how long they’ve been working at the company. All of these will strengthen your understanding and inform your decision as to whether this might be a great place to work.

No need for nerves! 😎

Remember that the companies are there to impress you, less-so the other way around. With the whole fair taking place in an informal and fun environment, anxiety will set you back. Take a deep breath, smile and approach the moment you see a rep free-up. Use these as example icebreakers:

  • “Hi, nice to meet you, I’m a {insert role}”
  • “Hi, I’m {insert name}. What’s your role at {insert company name}?”
  • Or even “Hi, how’s your day going?” - it’s incredible how many reps would rather talk about their feelings than the thing they’re there for.
  • Mix and match any variation on these. Remember to come across warm and friendly to put both you and the rep at ease.

Close the deal 🤝

Once you’ve found out the information you’re looking for, think about how you want to close.

Your goal at the fair isn’t just to find out what it’s like to work there or to sign up to a bunch of mailing lists… the real prize is grabbing insider contact details, usually in the form of an e-mail address or a Linkedin profile from the company rep you’re speaking to. I like to be direct and ask the person if there’s a way to expedite my application; I’d even go as far as saying they expect it, but do it in a way that’s natural to you.

Gaining alternative contact details does two things:

  1. It establishes trust between you and the rep, thus the company, and
  2. It gets you a leg up against the masses of other job seekers visiting throughout the weekend, and you’ll need every distinguishing point you can get your hands on.

When it comes to securing a job, often it’s about who you know than what you know.

After the fair 💌

Well done, you’ve survived the fair… but it’s not over just yet.

Follow up 🍰

Reconnect with the companies you liked the sound of using the insider e-mail or Linkedin profile you obtained. Do this within a day whilst your interaction with them is fresh - this enables you to write more sincerely and enable recipients to have your name at the fore of their mind. Address hirers personally and let them know their reps at the fair did a great job of making the company and role sound amazing. Finally, attach your CV and a link to your portfolio, if you have one. Follow up after a few days with a gentle nudge if you haven’t heard anything - sometimes people are too busy to respond to all of their e-mails.

Managing expectations 💔

SMR is a great way to get a job, and if you get one off the back of it, congrats! You’ve successfully hacked Silicon Milkroundabout. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Sometimes though, even if you’ve followed all of the above advice, it’s not always possible for companies to get back to you, for whatever reason. The fact is you tried your best and worst case scenario: you can go through the standard application route like everyone else (…there are still options to make yourself stand out that are outside of the scope of this article).

Keep on applying 💪

If you still hear nothing, treat it as a rejection, don’t take it personally and move on. The worst thing you can do is dwell over why they didn’t take things further despite your awesome interaction, CV and portfolio. Keep the momentum up and continue applying because it’s a numbers game. SMR takes place every six months; and with each visit you’ll become better at hacking Silicon Milkroundabout.

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