Get Noticed at the Job and Internship Fair!
Career and job fairs provide candidates with an opportunity to meet employers from a variety of industries and receive first-hand information about the organization and available full-time, part-time and internship positions. These fairs allow employers the opportunity to view a large number of potential candidates and promote their organization, which aids in the pre-screening process and gaining familiarity with students at the fair.
For those seeking full-time employment or an internship:
- Have some knowledge of the company/organization
- Dress professionally
- Be prepared to answer questions at the fair
- Be prepared to ask appropriate questions
- Follow-through after the fair
For those seeking information about careers, networking:
- Be prepared to ask thoughtful and appropriate questions
- Have an idea of the type of industry and/or position you might be seeking in the future
- Be prepared to answer questions about your potential interests, major, and/or skills.
Preparing for the Fair
Preparation is key in making the most of your career fair experience!
Resume: If you do not have a resume already prepared, be sure to have one written and reviewed prior to attending a career fair. (Career Services provides workshops on Resume Writing and will critique resumes for you.) Many employers will collect resumes, indicating those candidates with whom they have met and would like to consider further. Have a resume that is clear, concise (one page is preferred), easy to review by a reader within a short amount of time. Be sure you have enough copies to take to the fair with you.
Attire: According to a survey (March 1999), many employers consider business casual appropriate attire for a career fair. If interviews are being conducted at the fair, business attire (suits) should be worn. It it better to err on the professional side.
Research: Review information about the fair and employers that are scheduled to attend. Many will have links to web sites, a list of the positions available (internship and/or fulltime) within the organization, and contact information.
Plan Your Strategy: After reviewing the list of employers, you may want to make a list of those you intend to visit by order of priority, especially if you have a limited amount of time at the fair. Determine “What is my objective?” Are you attending to visit with employers about potential internship positions? Are you interested in hearing about organizations and the positions they may have available for someone with your interests and background? This will help you focus on your objective for attending the fair.
Questions: Prepare a list of questions: Ask about career opportunities, specific position openings for which you might be qualified, and the organization. Do not ask questions such as “So, what do you do?” or “Do you have any jobs?” Having a few prepared questions will help you make the best use of your time at the fair as well.
Promotion: Be prepared to talk about your career interest areas, strengths, educational and work background.
Items to Bring:
- Resumes (clear, clean copies)
- Pens, pencils
- List of employers to target at fair
- List of prepared questions
- Other information not provided on resume (in the event you need to complete an application)
- Professional Portfolio with samples of work (if appropriate)
- Copy of Transcripts*
* Note: these items could be requested by an employer at the fair.
Things to do During the Fair
When you arrive, view the lay out of the fair, noting the location of employers with whom you have a desire to meet. You will have the ability to plan your strategy for visiting with your top priority employers, making the best use of your time.
Be patient. There may be some employers that will have a line of candidates waiting to visit with them. You may decide to visit with another employer and come back to this employer later or use this time to review the company literature (as well as your list of questions!) and...
Listen. While waiting in line, you will have a great opportunity to listen to employers. You can hear what questions other candidates are asking, and the employer responses to these questions, both positive and negative.
Professionalism. Introduce yourself and use a firm handshake and genuine smile to begin the conversation. Be sure not to interrupt others that might be talking with an employer.
Answer questions directly and concisely. The conversation should be two-sided, with both parties asking questions and providing information.
Ask intelligent, well thought out questions from the list you have prepared. You may think of additional questions as you circulate through the fair.
Make notes. You will be able to use these after the fair to assess your interest in certain organizations or compare organizations.
Be positive. Even if an employer doesn’t sound like a future alternative for you, be gracious and thank them for their time.
Collect business cards and company literature. You will be able to use these to do further research as well as to send an application or Thank You note after the fair.
Network. You might have a specific career interest area or geographic preference. Some organizations may be able to refer you to a specific department, division or location. Keep an open mind while you talk to various individuals; the employers as well as fellow career fair attendees may be able to provide you with resources, ideas and contacts.
Things to do After the Fair
Thank You's: Send Thank You’s in a timely manner. Mention how much you appreciated the time he or she took to visit with you and answer questions. Mention your interest in working for them, if appropriate.
Follow-Up: If an employer has asked you to complete an application, send transcripts (or other materials) or contact them, be sure to do so in a timely manner. Failure to follow-through will most likely eliminate you from the potential candidate pool.
- Unprofessional/inappropriate attire
- Questions about salary
- Lack of goals or career direction
- Lack of preparation of questions, asking no questions
- Lack of enthusiasm or interest in a company
- Taking the “Freebies” and walking away
- Poor communication skills (eye contact, speech, interrupting others, weak handshake)
- Waiting until the end of the fair to arrive
- You get only one chance to make a great first impression!
- Rarely, if ever, are employers going to extend an offer at a career fair. Do not expect it!
- Career fairs not only offer the opportunity for you to present yourself to potential employers, but also offer the opportunity for you to “interview” them!
Questions may range from specifics about the organizations to work tasks of typical positions. Determine, “what do I need to know about this employer/organization to help me determine if I am interested in them or if they offer the types of positions in which I have an interest?”
- What types of positions are available within your organization in the ________ area?
- Can you tell me what characteristics your most successful sales representatives have?
- What is the hiring process for your associates/interns?
- When should I begin applying for an internship/full-time position in relation to my graduation date?
- What types of training are provided for new employees?
- Is there an application I need to complete to apply for this position?
- What types of majors do you traditionally hire for your _____ positions?
- If I have additional questions, whom may I contact?
View and print a copy of this Guide (PDF)
- Curtin, J. (2000). Guerrilla Tactics for Job Fairs. JobStar San Francisco.
- Yate, M. (1999) Knock ‘em Dead. Adams Media, Holbrook, MA
- Palomares, A. (1999). Employer Expectations of Students Attending Job Fairs.Journal of Career Planning & Employment.
- Career Opportunities News, Ferguson, (January/February 2004).
- “Job Fairs: Tips and Announced Fairs” University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, La Crosse, WI
- “How to Make the Most of a Career Fair” Ball State University, Muncie, IN