Tips for Attending a Career Fair
Have you thought about participating in a career fair? Not sure how they work or what you should do when you get there? Whether you’re job hunting or thinking about making a career move, it’s worth taking some time to attend job and career fairs (the terms are used interchangeably).
You will have the opportunity to meet with companies that you might not be able to access any other way. You’ll also be able to explore career options, talk to prospective employers in person, learn about companies and available roles, and apply for jobs. You may be able to interview for open jobs, and you could even get an immediate job offer for in-demand jobs.
In addition, job fairs and career expos typically offer networking programs, resume reviews, job search workshops, and other programs for attendees.
Here’s what you need to know about attending a job fair, how they work, what to bring, how to participate, and the best ways to make a good impression.
How To Prepare for a Career Fair
Here’s how to get ready to attend a career fair:
Register in Advance
For some job fairs, you’ll be able to just show up. For others, you may need to register online to participate. Have your resume ready when you register, in case there’s an opportunity to upload it as part of the registration process.
Attend the job fair dressed for success in interview attire and bring a portfolio or folder for your materials, if you have one. Your interview attire should err on the side of the conservative. Many fairs suggest guidelines for what to wear—it could be casual, business casual, or professional attire, depending on the type of fair and the organizations that are participating.
Check the fair’s website for recommendations on appropriate attire. At the least, make sure that your outfit is neat, clean, and tidy.
Tip: Make sure your shoes are comfortable, because you may be standing in line.
Get Ready to Pitch Your Credentials
Practice a quick pitch summarizing your skills and experience, so you’re ready to promote your candidacy to prospective employers. Also called an “elevator speech” (because it should only be 30 to 60 seconds long, the time the typical ride on an elevator takes), this pitch should enthusiastically explain who you are, what your skills are, and what your career goal is. The more you practice this pitch beforehand, the more confident you’ll feel delivering it at the job fair.
Check Out Companies Ahead of Time
Many job fairs and career expos have information on participating companies on the job fair website. Be prepared to talk to hiring managers by checking out the company’s website, mission, open positions, and general information before you go. If you demonstrate knowledge about each company or manager you’re talking to, you’ll certainly stand out from the crowd.
Make a list of the companies you’d like to meet with the most and visit their booths first. Then, if time permits, you can browse the booths and meet with other employers that catch your interest.
Be Prepared to Interview
Some job fairs have on-the-spot interviews, so be prepared to answer interview questions and discuss your credentials with hiring managers. Taking the time to prepare in advance will ensure you’re ready to interview—and to get hired.
Have Questions Ready to Ask
Have some questions ready for the company representatives that illustrate your knowledge of their organization. Employers are not merely looking for the most skilled candidate for the job—they are looking for candidates who are truly interested in their company. The more you engage them, focusing the discourse on their company’s needs, the better the impression you’ll make.
Tips for Attending a Job Fair
Here are tips for getting the most out of the job fairs you attend:
Bring Your Resume
Bring extra copies of your resume, pens, and a notepad, and consider bringing business cards with your name, your email address, and your phone number. You might also want to consider bringing “mini resume” cards as an efficient way to sum up your candidacy. A mini resume is a short synopsis of your credentials.
Keep in mind that lines can be long, so arrive early—before the fair officially opens. Give yourself plenty of time to meet with companies and talk to hiring representatives.
Shake hands and introduce yourself to recruiters when you reach the table. Maintain direct eye contact. Demonstrate your interest in the company and its job opportunities.
Employer surveys identify some of the most important personal attributes candidates can bring to a new position as positivity and enthusiasm. This means that employers want to see you smile!
Collect Contact Information
Collect contact information or business cards, so you have the contact information for the people you have spoken with. After you get home, immediately compile this information into a contact list and use it to send “Connect” requests on LinkedIn.
It’s hard to keep track when you’re meeting with multiple employers in a busy environment. Jot down notes on your phone, on the back of the business cards you have collected, or on your notepad, so you have a reminder of who you spoke to about what.
Participate in Workshops
If the job fair has workshops or seminars, attend them. In addition to getting job search help, career advice, and/or your resume reviewed, you’ll have more opportunities for career networking.
Spend Time Networking
While you are waiting in line, talk to others and exchange contact information. You never know who might be able to help with your job search. Along the same lines, remember to stay polite and professional.
Even if you’re feeling discouraged in your job search, don’t vent to other participants about your situation or about any specific companies. Keep it positive and make the most of the opportunity.
Follow Up After the Fair
Take the time to send a brief follow-up thank-you note or email to the company representatives you met at the job fair. It’s a good way to reiterate your interest in the company and to remind company representatives that you’re a strong candidate.
Tips for Attending a Virtual Career Fair
Virtual job fairs are very similar to in-person events, other than how you will participate online. Typically, there are opportunities to meet companies in both group and one-on-one settings, and to learn more about the company. Here’s what you need to know about attending a virtual career fair.