How to be Successful at the Career Fair


Participating in a career fair, whether virtually or in-person, is a great way to get yourself in front of employers and stand out during the application process.

Use your interactions at career fairs to learn as much as you can about what employers look for in the people they hire, inquire about possible career opportunities, and build relationships. Take notes, follow up, and use the information to enhance your search strategies. Employers remember candidates who make the extra effort!

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Preparing for the fair

  • Create or update your resume. Check out How to Write a Resume for tips or have your resume reviewed by C&IS staff before the fair. Upload a resume to Handshake if you are attending a virtual fair.
  • Plan exactly what professional attire you will wear. See What to Wear for tips and ideas.
  • Prepare a 30-second to one-minute introduction of who you are and what you want. This introduction, often called an “elevator speech”, is more of a conversation starter than a speech. Introductions typically include:
    • Information on who you are (name, major/minor, grade level, graduation year) 
    • What you currently do (current experience/courses/projects)
    • Your goals (what are you hoping to get out of attending the fair) 
    • What you are doing to reach those goals and what you can bring to an organization 
    • A question you have for the employer (see Potential Questions for Employers for ideas)
  • Participate in practice interviews or practice your interview responses using InterviewStream.

Tips for Attending Your First Job Fair - Prepare

First Time at a Career Fair: A Guide for First-Generation Students

Tips From Job Fair Recruiter

Deciding which employers to meet with

  • Find the list of organizations attending the fair on Handshake or the Bulldog mobile guide. 
  • Research organizations you might want to meet with by checking out their employer profile on Handshake, visiting their websites, or searching for them on social media.
  • Don’t eliminate organizations because they are recruiting for positions outside your field or major. You may be surprised by what they need and what you can offer them. If you are interested, take time to network with the employer and get the name of a recruiter for your particular career field.
  • Some employers may be conducting formal interviews the day of or after the fair. If you are interested in interviewing with the employer, try to talk to the employer early in the day to ask about getting on their interview schedules. 
  • Once you have decided on the employers you would like to meet with, create a list of questions specific to each employer. Ask questions based on what you have learned about the organization through your research to help yourself stand out.

Potential questions to ask employers at the career fair

Arriving at the fair

In-person:

  • Check in at the registration table to pick up a nametag and a copy of the fair layout showing the location of each employer. Arriving earlier in the day allows you the most time to connect with employers you are interested in.
  • You can stop by the student lounge to take a minute to relax, review your notes, and collect your thoughts before and between visiting employers. Career counselors are available if you have questions.
  • Walk around the fair to find where the organizations you are interested in are located. There may be lines to talk with certain employers; if a line seems too long, it may be more efficient to talk with another employer and come back later.
  • You can start with an employer further down on your priority list, and practice speaking with the employer before you meet with one you are really interested in.
  • Review the information about the employer you plan to approach, and have your resume handy. 

Virtual: 

  • Log in to Handshake and navigate to the My Sessions tab of the Career Fair. Review the times of the sessions you have signed up for to ensure you don’t accidentally miss one. 
  • Double check your technology to make sure everything is working properly.
  • Sign up for additional employer sessions in the Available Sessions tab of the fair throughout the day.

Meeting with employers

  • Going into your conversations with employers, you should know what you are looking for in a position, what you have to offer, and what questions you will ask.
  • When it is your turn or as you approach the employer, introduce yourself with your elevator speech and explain why you have chosen to speak to the employer.
  • Ask the employer any questions you have prepared or that come up during conversation.
  • Allow the employer time to ask you any questions they may have and respond to questions with specific and concise examples. Respond truthfully while also highlighting your strengths or action steps you’ve taken to improve yourself. 
  • Use transition statements to share information about yourself that the employer may not have addressed (e.g., “That’s interesting, I had an experience which relates...”). 
  • Ask for information about the application, hiring process, and timelines. Determine actual and potential openings.
  • Towards the end of your conversation, ask about the best way to follow-up and thank the employer for their time.

How to Navigate Career Fair “Dead Ends"

Handing out your resume

In-person:

  • An employer may ask if you have a resume available. At that time, you can provide them with your resume and discuss some of the experience you have listed.
  • If an employer does not ask about your resume, you can ask them if they accept resumes or if they’d like to see your resume and mention a resume item that highlights something in your conversation.
  • Some employers may not accept resumes at the career fair for various reasons. Not taking your resume does not mean the employer isn’t interested. The two most common reasons employers don't take resumes are to:
    • Comply with federal regulations about the way they keep data on applicants
    • Manage applicant data efficiently.
  • If an employer says they cannot accept your resume, don’t worry. Keep the conversation going and ask the questions you had prepared. The employer may take notes during or after your meeting, or they may ask to look at your resume even if they can’t accept it.
  • Some employers may suggest you visit their website or apply online, which can feel discouraging. However, many employers use this suggestion as a screening tool to judge who is seriously interested in them, and if you’ve done your research and been to their website, say so, and use the opening to begin a discussion. 
  • Make sure to get the name and title of the employers you speak with and mention in your cover letter or interview that you spoke with them at the fair.

Following up after the fair

  • Immediately following your meeting with the employer, make notes on topics of conversation, the employer’s name(s), and how to follow-up with them. 
  • After the fair has ended follow-up with the employer based on how they responded. This may include:
    • Connecting with individual employers on LinkedIn
    • Following the organizations’ LinkedIn pages
    • Sending a follow-up email
    • Writing a thank you letter
  • You can use the names of the employers you met at the fair when reaching out to other representatives of the organization and use the stories of your interactions at the fair when writing cover letters, conducting interviews, and/or other conversations to demonstrate a continued interest.