There are many benefits to attending a career fair:
- Provides an opportunity to investigate positions, organizations, and career fields of interest
- Can increase your chances of getting an interview with an employer and allow you the opportunity to learn more about potential employment or internship opportunities
- Allows you the opportunity to expand your professional network through meeting recruiters and organization representatives
Before the fair
If you are planning to attend a career fair with the purpose of finding a job or internship, you need to spend some time preparing for the fair just like you would spend time preparing for an interview. The following steps should be taken to be well prepared for any career fair interactions:
- Determine who you want to speak with at the fair. Review the list of organizations that will be attending and select your top five organizations of interest. Prioritize your list and set some goals for yourself. What do you want to get out of the fair?
- Do your research on the top organizations of interest to you. Spend some time on each organization’s website getting to know the history, mission, and culture of each of the organizations. Ideally, you also want to have a good understanding of the positions that the organizations have available (if that information is provided).
- Prepare tailored résumés for each of the organizations you plan to speak with. Use the objective to specifically target each organization by stating the organization’s name and position title you are seeking. If you are not sure what the specific position title would be, mention top skills you hope to utilize in your objective. Print your tailored résumés on quality résumé paper and also bring a few general résumés that could be given to other organizations you have not specifically targeted.
- Prepare your 30-second introduction, or pitch, to be used when first meeting representatives. (See your pitch section below.)
- Prepare some questions to ask the employers and practice answering common interview questions. (See back for sample questions.)
- Choose a business professional outfit to wear to the fair. If you are seeking a job or internship, you should wear a professional suit.
During the fair
When you arrive at the fair, collect a map and note where each of your top organizations are located. Do a lap around the space to get comfortable with the layout. Take the opportunity to listen in on some conversations that representatives are having with other fair attendees.
When you are feeling more comfortable, approach an organization that you are interested in and have done some research on, but make sure it is not one of your top five organizations. You want to use this interaction as a warmup. When you approach the table or booth, introduce yourself, shake their hand, deliver your pitch, and have a brief discussion with the representative about the opportunities they have available.
At the end of the conversation, if they have not asked for your résumé, offer to leave one with them and ask for a business card. Once you have made it through your fist career fair interaction, begin working your way through your list of organizations of interest. Work from the bottom to the top of the list so when you reach your top organization you will have had plenty of practice.
A pitch is your 30-second commercial that should be used as an introduction when you meet employers, organization representatives or when networking. Your pitch should include:
- Who you are
- What you offer (e.g. major, degree, experience, skills, etc.)
- What you are looking for (e.g. career goals, specific position, type of position, etc.)
- Focus on what you feel you can contribute to the organization or position
After the fair
Follow up with the representatives within one week of the fair. Typically, this follow up is in the form of an email. Thank them for their time, re-express your interest, and provide them with a link to your online portfolio if you have one available. Simply following up can put you at a huge advantage over other fair attendees. Often representatives leave fairs having spoken with hundreds of attendees and carrying stacks of résumés, but less than five percent of attendees follow up after the event. Be part of that small percentage!
Sample questions to ask organization representatives
The following are very basic questions that you can ask representatives at a career fair. Ideally, you should do some research on each of the organizations you are interested in and come up with more tailored and detailed questions to ask the representatives. If you ask informed questions, the representative is more likely to view you as a serious and professional candidate.
- What type of previous work experience and skills do you look for in candidates?
- What are typical entry-level position for someone with my particular major, experience and skills?
- What does the application process look like with your organization? How long does the process typically take?
- Will you be conducting on-campus interviews?
- Do you offer a formal internship program?
- What type of experiences and skills do interns gain while working at your organization?
- Does the organization offer both paid and for-academic-credit internships?
- What do you look for in potential interns?
- When is the best time to apply for one of your organization’s internships?
Sample questions other representatives may ask you
- Tell me a bit about yourself.
- Are you interested in a full-time or internship position?
- Are you looking in any specific geographic area? Are you willing to relocate?
- Why are you interested in our organization?
- What are your long-term career plans?
- What type of position are you looking for?
- Could you tell me about any relevant experience you have?