Tips for Success at a Career Fair


Many job-seekers go to career fairs to “see the sights” and are not prepared to interview.

  • Get a huge jump on the competition by getting a list of the companies attending the fair and doing some research on each of the companies you want to interview with.
  • While all of the recruiters will have company literature at their booths at the fair, you often can’t access those until after the interview. With so much information about companies on the web, there is no excuse not to do your homework.


  • Create the ideal resume – it should be short, sharp, and digestible in one minute’s reading by an employer.
  • Make sure yours is one that is memorable but totally professional. Use good quality resume paper.
  • Forget pictures, graphics, colored paper, funky print styles – they don’t leave a positive impression and they aren’t scannable. Most major employers today will scan your resume into an automated applicant tracking system that can mean quicker retrieval for current or future interviews. Bring lots of resumes to the fair, at least two for each company for which you have interest. If you have multiple interests or job objectives, make sure you bring enough of each version of your resume.

Take the Event Seriously

It is an interview. You are making that all-important first impression.

  • Only a small percentage of hundreds of interviewees will stand out at the end of the event. Make sure you are one of them.
  • Dress well, practice your best handshake, award-winning smile and make eye contact!


  • You may only have 2 – 5 minutes to market yourself and protect yourself from being screened, thus you need to make the most of your time. Many experts suggest that you develop a one-minute “commercial” that highlights the key benefits that you can offer the organization and then use this at the beginning of the interview.
  • Also remember the 3 keys to all interviews: make eye contact, offer a firm handshake, and show enthusiasm.
  • You should also prepare answers to interview questions just as you would any other employment interview. The most common question you will face is something along the lines of “what are you here for today?” Seems like an easy question to answer, especially if you’ve done your homework - you can tailor your answer to your interest and the company’s interest, thereby marketing yourself. Make sure you also have some questions ready to ask the interviewer.
  • A great concluding question for you to ask is, “What do I need to do to obtain a second interview with you firm?”
  • Make sure to avoid poor communication habits, such as fidgeting, rocking, chewing gum, etc.

Ask Questions Directly, Politely, and Concisely 

Your goal is to get a second interview, “in house” this time, so you don’t have to play all your cards on the first round.

  • If you are genuinely interested, let them know. “I am quite excited about the possibilities your company offers, and I think I have the talent to help you achieve your goals…What do I need to do to arrange a second interview?”
  • This isn’t “pushy”; it is flattering and says you are professionally assertive. Ask them how they rate your credentials and “fit” compared to other candidates they are seeing. Asking for an honest appraisal is one of the best ways to raise it a notch!


Conservative business attire is essential because image and first impressions are critical. Know what the expected attire of your profession is and dress accordingly. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.


Follow-up is very important! You would be surprise at how few job-seekers actually take the time to follow-up their career fair interviews, thus when you do it, you will get an edge over the many others who do not.

  • Write a thank you note and mail it the next day to the address on the recruiter’s business card. In the letter, thank the recruiter for his/her time, restate your interest and qualifications for the position; reiterate your interest in a second interview, and make a promise to follow-up the letter with a phone call (and then make sure you do in fact call). You should probably enclose another copy of your resume to be sure.

Questions to Ask at Career/Job Fairs

As with any situation where you find yourself with a potential employer, job seekers must be prepared to ask insightful questions of recruiters at job and career fairs. There are 4 categories of questions you can ask recruiters at career and job fairs. Each category of questions has a specific strategy. Which questions should you ask? It depends on the recruiter, on your interest and knowledge of the company, and how much time you have with the recruiter.

Strategic Comeback Questions:

These questions are designed to give job seekers the chance to respond to the recruiter’s answer with a positive spin on how you perfectly fit (and ideally exceed) what the company is looking for in an employee.

  • What kinds of skills and experience do you look for in the employees you hire?
  • What are the characteristics of your most successful employees?
  • Are graduate degrees important to advancing within your organization? Which ones?
  • Which courses or experiences to you suggest to be a successful candidate?

Strategic Planning Questions:

These are questions designed to give the job seeker more information and knowledge about the hiring process for each particular employer.

  • What kind of entry-level positions (or internships) exist within your organization?
  • Does your company hire on a continual basis or just at certain times of the year?
  • How long does the hiring process take? What does it consist of?
  • What percentage of applicants are eventually hired? What is the retention rate?

Questions to Ask at Career/Job Fairs – Continued: Key Company Information:

These questions are designed to provide you with inside information you need to know when making a decision about the attractiveness of each potential employer. Remember, a job fair is a two-way street and you should be evaluating these companies as much as they are evaluating you.

  • Are there specific career tracts within the organization? In other words, what can a typical employee (for the position I am seeking) hired in your division expect to be doing 2, 5, or 10 years after hiring?
  • What is your organization’s culture like?
  • How many years does the typical employee stay with the company?
  • Are there opportunities for ongoing training through your organization?
  • Do you expect your employees to relocate? How much travel is involved?

Recruiter Information:

Some experts advise not asking the recruiter personal questions relating to his/her job, but especially if the recruiter is an alumni of your university – or you have some other personal connection – these questions are fine. Even if there is no connection, these questions can be asked – and their answers can provide you with some critical insights.

  • What made you choose this company and why do you stay?
  • How long have you been with the company?
  • What’s the one thing that most surprised you about this company?