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How to Master a Career Fair in College

How to Master a Career Fair in College

Writ­ten by: John Lemp

Do I have to go to the Career Fair? YES

Now, that you’re armed with your resume, cover let­ter, and LinkedIn pro­file, it’s time to start net­work­ing – in per­son

Career fairs and employer infor­ma­tion ses­sions are easy ways to net­work pro­fes­sion­ally and land that first inter­view.  What’s nice about career fairs is that employ­ers come to you – they lit­er­ally send sev­eral of their employee rep­re­sen­ta­tives to your cam­pus to dis­cuss intern­ship and full-time posi­tions for which they are cur­rently recruit­ing.  But, that doesn’t mean there is noth­ing for you to do there.  Employ­ers expect you to come to them as well — it allows them to gauge your inter­est in their firm and avail­able job opportunities.

Let’s get to business.

Here are some tips on how to suc­cess­fully net­work at an on-campus career fair:

Career Resize 300x193 How to Master a Career Fair in College

Do Your Home­work:  In all like­li­hood, your col­lege or uni­ver­sity career ser­vices office will pro­vide a detailed ros­ter of all the employ­ers that will be vis­it­ing at the upcom­ing career fair.  Exam­ine that list of employ­ers care­fully and make note of a hand­ful of employ­ers that you def­i­nitely want to talk to (dream job type of employ­ers) as well as a list of employ­ers that you know of and would like to learn more.  Do some back­ground research on the posi­tions they are recruit­ing for and browse their cor­po­rate web­sites.  This step of prepa­ra­tion will allow you to enter the career fair con­fi­dently and be well equipped to begin your networking.

Arrive Early: Unless you have aca­d­e­mic or extracur­ric­u­lar oblig­a­tions dur­ing the career fair or at least a por­tion of it, you should show up to the career fair before it begins.  Arriv­ing early for events allows you to feel com­fort­able in the set­ting and pro­vides you the oppor­tu­nity to be a part of a group speak­ing with oth­ers, before the event begins.  Employ­ers are more likely to notice an indi­vid­ual who is net­work­ing with fel­low stu­dents, than one who is check­ing his smartphone.

Do Not Be On Your Phone: Leg­endary Amer­i­can polit­i­cal activist and pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ralph Nader was quoted in a recent For­tune arti­cle as say­ing “Total addic­tion to screens” is a phe­nom­e­non that our gen­er­a­tion is all too caught up in.  You should not be on Face­book, surf­ing the web, tweet­ing, tex­ting, or snapchat­ting a pic of you in that new suit and tie dur­ing the career fair.  There will be plenty of time for all of that after you’ve net­worked like a legend.

SEE ALSO: Writ­ing a Resume in College

Give Out Your Resume: Be sure to bring sev­eral copies of your resume that you can give to employee rep­re­sen­ta­tives.  Only give your resume to peo­ple with whom you have had a con­ver­sa­tion.  DO NOT sim­ply walk up to some­one and say, “Here’s my resume, bye.”  It is impor­tant that you make a per­sonal con­nec­tion with the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the employer.  At the end of the con­ver­sa­tion, thank the per­son and kindly give them a copy of your resume.

SEE ALSO: Suit Up Like You Own The Place

Keep Up Appear­ances: You should be dressed in busi­ness for­mal attire for a career fair–dress shirt, suit, tie, and dress shoes.  Keep copies of your resume in a resume folder and have a pen and a small notepad with you should you want to take down impor­tant infor­ma­tion that will likely arise dur­ing your con­ver­sa­tions.  Intro­duce your­self and close the con­ver­sa­tion with a strong, firm hand­shake.  Main­tain eye con­tact through­out the dura­tion of your conversation.

Ask Ques­tions:  It is impor­tant that you make the most of your time at the career fair.  The fol­low­ing is a list of ques­tions that you can apply in any con­ver­sa­tion, so feel free to take these with you: What is the typ­i­cal career path in your line of work for this orga­ni­za­tion?  How did you decide to enter this field?  What is the work envi­ron­ment like at __________?  If you were back in col­lege, would you do any­thing dif­fer­ently in terms of course­work or sum­mer expe­ri­ences?  How has the field changed since you entered it?

After the Career Fair:  Net­work­ing is a con­tin­u­ous process, so pre­pare to keep in touch with estab­lished con­tacts and con­tin­u­ally reach out to new ones.  Com­pose thank you let­ters and emails soon after your time at the career fair and send them to the peo­ple with whom you held con­ver­sa­tions.  Be sure to men­tion spe­cific points cov­ered dur­ing the discussion.

The fol­low­ing are some “Can’t Miss” tips for suc­cess­fully nav­i­gat­ing an on-campus career fair:

Job Fair Resize 300x191 How to Master a Career Fair in College

  1. Dress for suc­cess — wear busi­ness pro­fes­sional attire.
  2. Arrive early — Show up before the career fair offi­cially begins.  Your energy and enthu­si­asm will be noticed.
  3. Firm hand­shake and strong eye con­tact — this con­veys your inter­est and confidence.
  4. Col­lect busi­ness cards, take notes — net­work­ing is an ongo­ing process.
  5. Follow-Up — send “Thank you” emails to those with whom you had conversations.

Keep net­work­ing like leg­ends and good luck fel­low collegians!



What has your career fair expe­ri­ence been like? Do you have any tips we missed? We would love to hear about it in the com­ments below!


  1. The best tip I could give to a career fair attendee is apply before going. I can’t stress how use­ful this is. Know what com­pa­nies will be there and arrive with a job req in mind that you want to find out more about. This is how I was most suc­cess­ful. When you approach some­one at a Career fair they will almost always tell you to apply online. Being able to say you have already applied and this is the posi­tion I’m inter­ested in and here’s why will not only set you apart but will also be a great con­ver­sion starter!

    • Yes, Bran­don — this is an excel­lent point. If you men­tion to the employer rep­re­sen­ta­tive that you have already applied, it allows you to smoothly start a con­ver­sa­tion and demon­strate to the employer your proac­tive level of interest.

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