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Career Fairs 101

Dressed for Success

If you're looking for an effective way to learn more about your industry and take your professional communication skills up a notch, you can increase your network at an upcoming career fair.

Never been? Here's what to expect:

Career fairs are often held in conference centers, colleges and universities, municipal buildings, or other public spaces. Inside, you'll find dozens (or hundreds!) of employers and employment agencies focused on meeting potential candidates and making connections.

Plan Ahead:

  • Dress for success
  • Bring copies of your resume (use nice paper!)

  • Research the employers attending ahead of time and make a list of those you’d like to speak to. Create a list of questions that are pertinent to their industry and company. You’ll sound like an industry insider!
  • Prepare job and accomplishment stories that bolster your candidacy for positions of interest

  • Prepare and practice your elevator pitch or micro pitch

  • Bring a notepad and pen

  • Bring personal business cards (maybe a few professional ones from your current position too just in case!)

  • Bring your phone for quick research before approaching an employer you didn’t intend to connect with. But keep it silenced while you chat with employers!

  • Collect a flyer or business card from each employer so you can follow up with an email or LinkedIn connect request to keep in touch with those you met. Resend your resume as needed.

Read on to learn why you should attend a career fair and how to get the most out of the experience.


For some, networking can be exciting. It involves meeting industry professionals and learning more about diverse companies. For others, networking can be scary! We’ve all had that experience of not knowing what to say or how to start a conversation. Career fairs can be great for reluctant networkers because everyone is in the room for the same purpose and employers are eager to speak to potential employees.

To get started, bring a list of questions about your industry and the position you’d like to have. Ask strategic questions to get the conversation started. This allows the recruiter or HR representative to start to get to know you and how you think. From there the conversation will flow, giving the recruiter the chance to learn more about you.

Another benefit of a career fair is the ability to speak to other attendees. Striking up a conversation with someone else while waiting in line is a great way to collect contacts. You never know when someone you meet will be the person to help you in your next career move.

Employer and Industry Research

Career fairs are less formal than a job interview and allow you to take the conversation in the direction you wish. Whether it’s learning more about the industry, learning the necessary skills, experience, education and certifications for the job or asking the recruiter to review your resume, you have the ability to gain a lot of useful information, including insider contact information for many different employers that are of interest to you.

We’ve all had that experience where we’ve searched for a new position online and found it hard to know which employer cultures, positions, and policies would be the right fit. A career fair is an excellent place to learn more about a variety of employers, allowing you to compare and contrast.

Even if you’re not exactly sure of your future career direction and aren’t looking for a job now, a career fair will allow you to see if the skills you have are in demand and give you an idea of what skills and experiences you need to build in order to be ready for your next step. Plus, you can learn a lot about several different industries and types of positions all in one day, which can include speaking to businesses you might not expect would have positions of interest to you. Talk about boosting your career knowledge fast while also making in-person connections. It’s win-win!

Show your Personality

A career fair allows an employer to put a face, personality and smarts with the resume you leave behind. That’s a lot more memorable than submitting your resume online without the benefit of allowing the employer to learn about you. For recruiters and HR reps, feeling like they have a good sense of someone goes a long way when making decisions about who to bring in for a formal interview. Making a memorable in-person impression is always to your benefit.

Build your Confidence

Strategically using a career fair to build your confidence in speaking to strangers and potential employers is an excellent way to proactively prepare yourself for the interview process. First, start by preparing and practicing your elevator pitch or micro pitch as career guru Hannah Morgan of Career Sherpa calls it. Your pitch is a 1-3 sentence professional mini speech about you. It should include accomplishments that you’re proud of in your field and should make you stand out from the crowd.

Spend some time thinking creatively about who you are as a professional and what you can offer to potential employers. Make sure your pitch uses the latest industry keywords and isn’t too generic or filled with adjectives that could describe anyone. Make it personal and unique to you.

The more you use your pitch, the better you’ll be at making a great first impression, which can include any upcoming interviews.

Overall, a career fair is a great opportunity for students at any stage in their career, from those just starting out, to seasoned professionals. Increasing your professional network, learning more about industries of interest to you including relevant skills, experiences and education, and practicing your micro pitch can all benefit you today and down the road.

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