Prepare for the Fair: 10 Tips to Make the Most of the Career Fair

Career fairs offer many opportunities to advance your career search. It’s a chance to practice your networking skills and get comfortable having professional conversations. Career fairs can also offer resume reviews, workshops, and interviewing practice. Finally, if you’re undecided about what job or industry you want to go into, a career fair can offer a way to browse new and sometimes unexpected options.

No matter what your motivation is to a attend a career fair, here are some tips to help you make the most of your day.

A photo of a employer speaking with a student at a college career fair

Before the career fair

1. Do your research

Before attending a fair, check which employers are attending and do some basic research. Start by reading through their page on Handshake to get an overview of the organization, see students’ reviews, and find out if the open roles match your career interests. Then, expand your research by looking at the company website, and doing a quick online search for recent news articles, press releases and other information.

Make sure to check out the open jobs and internships on the employer’s Handshake page. 

2. Prepare some questions

Asking good questions is an easy way to start a conversation, shows that you’re prepared and motivated, and can give you new insight into the company. Have a short list of questions ready about company culture, professional development opportunities, mentorship programs, or anything else you want to learn about. Check out this post for a ton of examples!

3. Practice introducing yourself

You don’t need a perfect speech, but you do need a confident intro when starting a conversation with employers. Check out this post to get a better idea of how an elevator pitch works at these events.

4. Pick your outfit

Career fair attire at Olin can span a wide range of styles. Yes, suits and business attire are perfectly fine, but so are button-up shirts and nice jeans, or khakis and a polo shirt, or a dress, skirt, or other combinations. It's more about what to avoid: you should absolutely skip sweats or athleisure, ripped jeans, dirty clothes and wrinkled shirts. Appearance basics also include neat hair, fresh breath - two key features of a positive first impression! 

Tip: If you need to borrow something to wear to the Career Fair or another event, check out The Expression Rack, a closet of lender clothing where you can borrow an outfit for any occasion. And if you like the clothing, keep it! If not, just launder and return the items to the closet. 

Day of the career fair

5. Come prepared

Bring a notebook and a list with info about the employers you’re planning to meet. And bring several hard copies of your resume. Not all recruiters will want to accept a paper copy, some want you to scan a QR code so they can see your digital resume in Handshake. Be prepared for both options. 

6. Take notes

Get the contact information of the people you talk to so you can follow up after the fair. And don’t forget to jot down notes about your conversation—it will make for much stronger follow-up!

7. Eavesdrop!

If you are feeling intimidated by the career fair format, you can still find value in observing. As you approach employers, listen in on other conversations: how do other students introduce themselves? What is their body language conveying? Who seems to be having the most success? You can use these observations in the future as you get more comfortable at these events.

Following up after your career fair

8. Follow employers on Handshake

If you clicked with an employer, go to their Handshake page and click Follow. You’ll receive notifications when they post new jobs and events. Plus, when the employer views your profile, they can see that you follow them.

9. Apply to an open job or internship

If you discussed a specific opportunity with the employer, get ready to send your application.

If you didn’t discuss a job, see what jobs they have posted on Handshake or on the company's website, and apply to any that interest you. If you need a little time to get your application ready, save the job you like in Handshake so you’ll get a notification to apply before the deadline.

10. Send a thank you email

If the employer shared their contact info, plan to send a follow-up email shortly after the fair. Begin your email by thanking them for their time and telling them you enjoyed meeting them. Then, include something specific that you liked discussing or learning about. Finally, let them know what next steps you’re taking, such as applying for a job.


Source: Handshake's student blog, 10 tips to make the most of your college career fair