Career Fairs

Preparation is key to a good career fair experience.

Campus career fairs are open to all students, regardless of who is hosting the career fair. Many organizations need employees with strong communications, problem-solving, quantitative analysis, project management, and organizational skills. They hire students from any major who can demonstrate those abilities.

Check out upcoming dates & times on our career fair page and on Handshake.

Career fairs are not a representative sampling of the jobs available to you. For many small or mid-size companies, start-ups, or nonprofit organizations, career fairs are not a cost-effective way to find the talent they need. If you don’t find your career goals reflected in attendees at a campus career fair, it just means that you should find other ways to connect with the employers who interest you. Even so, it can be worthwhile to go to a campus career fair. It will expose you to career paths that you may not have thought of, and it’s a low-stakes way to practice talking to employers.

Before the Career Fair

  1. Find the list of employers attending the career fair on ​Handshake.
  2. 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 about what they’re looking for.
  3. For virtual fairs, sign up early for specific employers’ time slots before the day of the fair.
  4. For each employer, figure out
    • What the company/organization does
    • What positions (if any) they’re specifically trying to fill
    • 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?”)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. For in-person fairs, print out multiple copies of your resume, targeted to the organizations you are aiming for. 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. For virtual fairs, you will need to upload your current resume into the application used for that specific fair–check details on the career fair page.
  8. 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.
  9. Get a folder to hold your resumes — preferably one with a pocket for the fliers and business cards you may collect.
  10. 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 to employers to demonstrate our skills.

During the In-Person Career Fair

  1. Work the fair alone. It can be helpful to come with a friend, but split up and make a plan to meet up back at the student preparation area.
  2. Some career fairs have printed maps available to show you where employers are, others use an app. Find out where at the fair the employers you’re interested in are located and plan your route before you go in.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. After each conversations, jot down a few notes: 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.
  8. If you get a negative response, that’s okay — just go on to the next employer on your list. Some employers are looking to fill very specific needs. Being able to hear “no” without letting it throw you off your game is a valuable life skill that a career fair may give you opportunities to practice.
  9. 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).
  10. Career fairs can be hot, noisy, stressful, and exhausting. It’s okay to take a break if you need to (this is why it’s good to come with a friend and have a plan for meeting up).

After a Career Fair

  1. If recruiters suggested next steps, do them: apply online, contact a related division directly, send an email, look up a job posting.
  2. Write a thank-you email to anyone you talked to that you would like to sustain a connection with:
    • Reiterate your enthusiasm for the job and mention any additional qualifications or relevant details that came to mind after you talked (sample thank you)
    • Mention some memorable detail about your conversation
    • Attach your resume (even if you handed it to them there) and mention any follow-up steps you’ve already taken (like applying online).
  3. 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.
  4. Keep networking, answering job ads, 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.
  5. 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!