Making the Most of a Career Fair

A career fair is a unique opportunity to meet multiple contacts at the same time.  Here are some tips to help you prepare.

Breaking the ice

Think of a way to break the ice with the company or organization representative.

  • Offer a firm hand shake, look them in the eye and introduce yourself.
  • Thank the representative for coming to the fair.
  • If the representative is an alumnus of the school, you could break the ice by asking them which dept. they graduated from and when.
  • You could also impress them with your knowledge of their company.
  • And of course, there is always the weather!

The one minute infomercial

  • Prepare a one minute infomercial that highlights you as a candidate.
    • Hello, my name is Kathy and I’d like to thank you for participating in our career fair today. I was excited to see that your organization would be here today.  I’m interested in the field of Maternal and Child Health and the research that I’ve done shows that you look for professionals in this area.  (PAUSE, let them respond.  They will probably ask you to describe yourself further.) For the past 3 years I’ve been involved in birth outcomes research and have developed skills and experience using SAS and EpiInfo.  I will be graduating in May with a Master’s degree and I’m interested in learning more about opportunities in your organization.  Could you tell me more about your opportunities?
  • Do your homework by researching the company.  What kinds of employees do they typically hire?  What positions do they currently have posted on their web site and what skills or attributes are they looking for?
  • Think about your skills and how they relate to what they need.
  • Be enthusiastic!
  • Be yourself!  Employers are looking for qualifications, but they are also looking for a good fit with their team or organization.
  • Ask questions about the organization:  “Are they hiring” is not the best question to ask.  Ask questions that allow you to find out what it is like to work for the organization; what types of people typically succeed at their company; and what skills they look for in candidates.

Dress to impress

  • A business suit, or at the very least, business casual is considered appropriate for a career fair.
  • Wear comfortable shoes because you will be standing for long periods.
  • Bring several copies of your resume and keep them neatly in a portfolio; some students also have business cards printed for career fairs.  This is a nice touch and leaves a professional impression with the recruiter.

Follow up

  • Follow up with the contacts you meet at a career fair.
  • Send the representative a written thank you note for attending the fair along with another copy of your resume and a cover letter explicitly stating something you learned about their company or positions at the fair.
  • Ask the representative if you could visit their organization for an informational interview in the future.
  • If you are passionate about working for an organization and you continue to build the relationship over time, they might be able to create a position for you in their organization.  If there is not a position available immediately, you will be the first person they think of when a position does become available.

See also:

UNC Career Fairs