Preparation is key to a good career fair experience.
Think of it as “going to talk to some employers who will be at the career fair,” rather than as “going to the career fair.” If your goal is landing an internship or job interview, knowing who you want to talk to and why — and having a plan for starting that conversation! — will help you achieve it.
The short version:
- Research the employers you want to talk to.
- Have multiple copies of your resume and an office-ready outfit.
- Have conversations with employers that demonstrate your research and your skills.
- Take any suggested follow-up steps and send thank-you emails.
- Find the list of employers attending the career fair on Handshake or LAS Career Services CF page.
- Identify 3 – 7 organizations that you KNOW you want to talk to. You’re probably qualified for more positions than you realize, so don’t rule any company out until you’ve read the requirements for the positions they’re trying to fill.
- For each employer, figure out
- What the company/organization does
- What positions (if any) they’re hiring for
- Something you’d like to know that you can’t find on their website or Handshake page. (e.g., “What kinds of leadership experience do successful applicants usually have?” “How do you retain valued members of your sales team?” “What do YOU like about working here?” “Is this internship available at your new location in XX?”)
- If the company has a button to apply online, and the job is of interest, go ahead and apply (and mention that you’ve done so when you talk to the recruiter at the fair.
- Look beyond the companies that specify “all majors” or that name your major. If the job ad lists other majors yet you meet most of the other requirements for the job, it is safe to say that yours is a “related major.“
Preparing to Attend
- For in-person fairs, print out multiple copies of your resume. If you’re looking at more than one broad category of job, it’s okay to have more than one version of your resume. The number of organizations you want to talk to times 2 plus 10 more is a safe number.
- Have a career fair outfit ready to go. Aim for a professional and office ready look: no athletic wear, t-shirts/hoodies, logos, jeans, shorts, flip-flops, or excessive displays of flesh. A suit is great, but you can blend in at the career fair with slacks/skirt, a collared shirt or office-appropriate top/sweater, and shoes-that-aren’t-sneakers.
- Get a folder to hold your resumes — preferably one with a pocket for the fliers and business cards you may collect.
- Identify three talking points: things that you think employers should know about you that are not your major. E.g., “I have customer service experience in a wide range of organizations.” “I’ve been working since I was fourteen.” “I write at least 75 pages of polished prose every semester for my major.” “Between my job, my RSO, and my classes, I’m good at juggling multiple deadlines.” “I have organized three events for my sorority to raise over $1000 for children’s cancer research.” Practice saying them and practice some more. Look at The Career Center’s list of ways to talk about your experiences.
At the Fair
- Work the fair alone. It can be helpful to come with a friend, but split up and make a plan to check in with each other.
- Plan your route — maps of employer locations should be available.
- Start with the employer you are least interested in (or one that’s not on your list), and work up to the one you are most interested in. If you see an employer with no one waiting to talk to them, that may be a good one to practice on — they’ll be glad to have someone there to talk to, even if your qualifications or interests don’t match their openings.
- Aim for a conversation, with the goal of demonstrating your communication skills. Introduce yourself to the recruiter with a question, based on your preparation. Then use their answer to that question as a reason to mention one or more of your talking points. You may hear other students giving “elevator pitches” — but don’t feel that you have to take that approach.
- Offer your resume, and ask for a business card so you can follow up. If they have a flier or brochure, take that. Beware of accumulating too much swag.
- Two minutes of conversation is good. Less is okay if the employer seems uninterested or the line is unusually long. More is okay if there is no one waiting.
- Take notes as you go: the name of the person you were talking to, any interesting information that came up, anything specific that you talked about, any additional steps you might need to take — you’ll need this when writing your thank-you emails afterward, and you WILL forget details.
- Some employers won’t be that interested. That’s okay. Some employers are looking to fill very specific needs. Being able to hear “no” and move on is a valuable life skill that a career fair may give you opportunities to practice.
- If you get the urge to talk to an employer that you didn’t research in advance, go ahead and do it (that’s why your brought extra resumes). Employers with banners describing their hiring needs and benefits are particularly receptive to happenstance.
- Career fairs can be hot, noisy, stressful, and exhausting. Take breaks when you need to.
After the Fair
- If recruiters suggested next steps, do them: apply online, contact a related division directly, send an email, look up a job posting.
- Write a thank-you email to anyone you talked to with regard to an internship or job you want (if not this hiring cycle, then in the future).
- If there were jobs you were particularly interested in, it’s okay to follow up again if you haven’t heard back in a week or two.
- Keep applying for jobs, networking, and following leads while you wait to hear back. Career fairs are just ONE part of seeking a job or internship, and it’s good to take multiple approaches. Connect with LAS Career Services staff for help.
- Come talk to us if you have questions or want to debrief about your career fair experience — it’s helpful to us to know how things go! These guidelines were informed by what students have told us, but things change all the time.