Making The Most Out Of Your Career Fair

By Walbert Castillo on October 7, 2014

You are days away from a career fair and your chest is filled with a feeling of uneasiness. The idea of speaking with recruiters troubles you and thoughts start to circle your mind.

How can you stand out from others? What should you say to recruiters and future employers? How can you make yourself a suitable candidate? How can you make the most out of your career fair?

Sometimes the best way to lift the anxiety off your chest with these career fairs, job interviews, etc. is to approach them with a positive attitude, the right mindset and full preparation.

Career fairs act as outlets for students to get a feel for what the real world is like. As a potential employer, you can learn about the company by speaking with recruiters directly rather than reading off a website. Meeting these recruiters, you can discover the company’s culture and what kind of people they hire.

Pre-Career Fair


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Before you attend your next career fair, be sure to narrow down your search. There are going to be a great number of companies and businesses attending the career fair, so you have to be sure you know which ones to select. You can do this by looking at your school’s website and finding out which companies will be attending.

David Wang, sophomore in business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that at career fairs, business majors usually go for the Big Four companies.

“These renowned companies are what everyone’s usually looking for,” Wang said. “However, they are the most competitive in the business world.”

You shouldn’t be going into these career fairs blind. Make sure to research the company or employer that fits your criteria.

Try to see if the companies’ mission statement aligns with your overall goals. Recruiters love to see that you have done research about the positions that are being offered.

Most likely, if you demonstrate to recruiters that you have done your homework, recruiters will most likely contact you in the near future.

Dress Professionally                   

Whether you are at a career fair or a job interview, it’s recommended to dress up because first impressions can go a long way, especially with the way you present yourself.

Make sure to dress business professional and not business casual. You want to show the recruiters you are not the type to be lazy so you have to make sure you present your absolute best. For men, it is recommended to invest in a professional suit. For women, it is suggested to wear a skirt and/or blazer.

Check out this article on the Huffington Post on how to dress up for a job interview/career fair by clicking here.

Prepare a Set List of Questions

After you’ve researched the company, are there still questions left unanswered? The best part about career fairs is you get to receive your answers directly rather than waiting for that e-mail you sent ages ago.

Attending the career fair with a comprehensive list of questions reveals your interest and willingness to learn more about that company/business.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What duties are required for the position?
  • What skills, work experience or educational background do you look for when you recruit for these jobs?
  • How much decision-making authority is given after one year?
  • How do these positions fit into the overall organizational structure?
  • What is the typical career path in this area of specialization? How long does it usually take to move from one step to the next in this career path?

Edit Your Resume

Before you distribute your resume to recruiters at the career fair, be sure to have it critiqued and proofread. Colleges offer a variety of resources for students to bring in your resume to have it checked. If you are running out of time, be sure to send your resume to your friends to proofread it.

Another suggestion is to print out your resume on high quality pieces of paper. Make sure to bring at least 20 copies of your resume and organize them into a portfolio.

An article from Chron states “you might find interest in companies that weren’t advertised as participants but showed up at the last minute. Employers always appreciate workers who think ahead of time.”

At the Career Fair

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Be Patient and Wait Your Turn

Keep in mind that you’re not the only one attending these bustling career fairs. There’s a good chance your fellow classmates are looking at the same company you’re interested in.

Although the lines can be long, be patient and use proper etiquette. If recruiters find that you’re tying to get through everyone ahead of you or interrupting a conversation they’re having, it can give off a bad impression.

Global Post states that “while assertiveness is good at a job fair, pushiness and intrusiveness can earn you negative style points.”

Prepare to Approach Recruiters 

When meeting a recruiter for the first time, be sure to shake their hand and maintain eye contact.

According to author Dr. Michael Roizen, “at its most basic level, the handshake communicates trust, goodwill, or agreement with a common decision.”

“A firm handshake conveys confidence, but one that is firm can seem threatening, while a person with a dead-fish handshake can appear ineffectual,” Roizen said.

Approaching these recruiters could be a mess if you haven’t prepared some type of speech. Along with your pitch, make sure you complement that with your enthusiasm!

Joah Kim, junior in Educational Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that enthusiasm goes a long way.

“When someone sees you being positive, they know that you’re interested in the job. I’ve heard from countless friends of mine that there are a bunch of students who do extremely well in their academics. However, when it comes down to interviews, they have a difficult time finding jobs because they lack enthusiasm.”

US News states that “an elevator pitch is all about selling yourself (figuratively, not literally) to the other person. You’re presenting you to a stranger who you may be interested in knowing you better.”

The best 30-second pitch includes:

  • A summary of who you are
  • Something you know about the company
  • What kind of work the company does
  • Why you are interested in that company

Cindy Mei, a sophomore in business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that when it comes to career fairs, the best way to stand out from other individuals is to show your overall confidence.

“You have to realize what you really want for yourself and attain those goals by setting a plan,” Mei said. “Also, one more thing that helps with standing out is presenting to the recruiter your past leadership experiences; recruiters love to hear about that!”

After speaking with the recruiter, ask how you can follow up with them. Usually, recruiters will give you their business card. If not, be sure to write down all of their contact information. 

Post-Career Fair

Thank Your Recruiters

After the career fair, be sure to send an email to the recruiters you’ve talked to.

Because there’s a large chance these recruiters won’t remember you since they’ve met hundreds of students that day, send a brief e-mail to the recruiters thanking them for their time.

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