Any opportunity of coming face-to-face with a potential employer is a critical part of the job-hunting process. This includes career fairs, no matter how preliminary it may seem to you.
It is important, therefore, to use this chance to ask relevant questions while you’re still free from the pressure of the job interview.
But what are the good questions to ask?
To help you tailor your questions, we rounded up 18 professionals who noted some good questions to ask employers at a career fair.
HR & Business Consultant, KIS Finance
Ask about specific company or sector developments
If it’s a company that you’re already interested in working for then this is your opportunity to make a good first impression, so do your homework before you go.
Don’t just go with the obvious questions but try to find out about new products or markets that they’re involved with so you can ask about those. Alternatively, research what’s going on more widely in their industry so that you can ask relevant and insightful questions on new developments.
Ask for their most positive experience with the company
Ask employees on the stand what’s been their most positive experience of working for the company. Lots of people will ask about what they like best about their employer but by being more specific and asking for their most positive experience you’re less likely to get a bland answer.
Similarly asking what’s been the most challenging experience that they’ve faced will give you a far better idea of what it’s really like to work there.
Ask for real examples of career progression pathways.
Questioning about career development opportunities is always a good idea but again be specific. Ask for details of the career path that they’ve taken themselves to test out if the reality matches up to the promises that organizations will often make in relation to the training opportunities.
Ask what they think sets their company out from the competition
This is a good way to get a feel for the values and culture based on what they see as the company’s defining characteristics. This will help you get a better feel for whether they’re a good fit for you and whether you could see yourself happily working within the organization.
Finish by asking for contact details
Finish by asking if you can contact them again if you have further questions and ask for a business card. That way you can establish a point of contact within the company.
You can then follow up with a short ‘thank you’ email for their time and attaching your resume. That way you will hopefully leave a positive lasting impression with them.
Vice President, Nelson Frank
Careers fairs offer one of those rare instances—the chance to grill a potential employer on the makeup of their company, the jobs on offer and their firm’s ethos, and all free from the trappings and tribulations of a job interview.
This is one of the most attractive reasons to attend a career fair and one of the best uses of your time once you get there. Where else can you speak to a potential employer face-to-face and ask direct questions that could enhance your chances of landing your ideal role? Use this window of opportunity wisely.
Start by gaining an understanding of exactly what they do
Gauge if it’s a possible fit in terms of the type of position you’re looking for. Not only will this give you an immediate impression of their operation, but it’ll also inform what happens next. If you like what you hear, ask about the type of vacancies they have available and get into some of the nitty-gritty around compensation and company culture.
You have nothing to lose by asking what kind of company they are to work for
Nor should you shy away from finding out what they believe sets them apart from their industry competitors. These are often questions reserved for the interview stage, but gaining this knowledge needn’t wait for such a formal setting.
The earlier you can ascertain the positives and negatives of working for a particular company, the quicker you can rank their suitability.
Always enquire about hiring procedures
These can be procedures such as how long you can expect to wait beyond any deadline before finding out if you’ve landed an interview. This isn’t something you’ll always get an answer to at a later date, but by asking face-to-face the onus is on the recruiter.
If your interest is genuine, make sure you’re crystal clear about the next steps. If you’re leaving a copy of your resume behind, don’t walk away without a timeframe in return.
Founder & Executive Director, Professionals In Transition
For an Employer, a career fair is intense, because so many people want to see you all at the same time
With that in mind, it is important to understand that your “face time” will be short. Basically they want to move you in and move you out as quickly as possible because of all of the other people that are in line. Remember, for them, this goes on all day.
With such short “face time“ it is important to preplan your questions (that may change from Employer to Employer). If possible, go with an open position that you qualify and have already applied for.
Bring copies of your correspondence/resume and be sure to follow their lead. If they are in a hurry, you may only get 1 question that you get to ask. If your time is short, be sure to hand them off when you meet the HR rep.
Be sure to smile, have a warm handshake and be ready to share your 30-second elevator commercial. Have a warm handshake and be ready to share your 30-second elevator pitch. From there:
What else would you like to know about me?
Be sure to follow their lead. If they are in a hurry, your 30-second commercial may be the only question you get to answer. Don’t get upset. Smile and thank them, ending with: “You will hear from me shortly.” (You have just given yourself permission to call them, not wait for them to call you.)
Find out who the recruiter is that is responsible for filling the position you are most interested in
If their booth is not crowded, and there is not a tremendous line behind you, this may be an opportunity to begin to establish rapport.
Which company recruiter is handling the position that we are discussing? Are they here today, and would you be willing to introduce me to them?
Many times, at career fairs, multiple people from HR cover the booth. If you can find out who the recruiter is that is responsible for filling the position you are most interested in, you are ten steps ahead of the game. That’s because, when you follow up for the position, you will know who to ask for.
Be sure to ask for the correct spelling of the person’s name, their email, and their direct dial number.
That way you will be able to say that: “_______ from the Career Fair mentioned that you would be the person to talk about the ______ position.” By doing this you’ve made a warm connection (you were referred to this person) and because of that, they are more likely to engage with you.
Recruitment officer, Adventist Development and Relief Agency
Ask about unknown facts about the organization
What is something people may not know about your organization?
Hearing this question tells me that the person is very interested in learning about the organization. It enables me to be more open about the organization that is not usually part of a normal pitch.
Hearing that someone wants to learn more in-depth information about an organization is great to hear from a candidate.
Ask about the benefits of working for this organization
What do you enjoy about working for your organization?
This question allows me as a recruiter to expand on the benefits of working for this organization. I want to be able to talk about the positives and about how this could be a positive for new employees.
This question also leads to a discussion on what you as an applicant are looking for and can expect, and what we look for as an organization.
Ask what you can bring or contribute to the organization
How can what I studied be an asset to your organization?
Knowing what you can bring to an organization is a positive sign. The key is wanting to know if your skills and competencies are a fit to the organization. This shows a recruiter that as an interested person you want to know if it’s truly a match and you will be valued for your skills in this organization.
Ask about the company’s view of the future
What excites you about the future of your organization?
This question will let the recruiter know that you are interested in being part of an organization for the long term. I would think that you want to be part of an organization that is growing and forward-thinking. This question also allows the recruiter to talk about the exciting plans for the future.
Ask about employee development opportunities
What type of employee development options are offered?
Asking about employee development will show me that you are interested in growing your skills and competencies. It also tells me that you want to be part of an organization that values you and your professional growth. More organizations are making this a priority and this question will help you see if this organization is one of them.
Vice President of Business Development, Messina Staffing
Ask about training and mentorship opportunities
Does your company offer any training, coaching, or mentorship programs?
Most companies go to career fairs to find entry-level talent. Occasionally, we may meet someone more experienced who is perfect for a management role, but we’re mostly looking for recent grads to fill entry-level positions.
So if you land a job at a career fair, it’s likely going to be one of your first jobs in the industry. But, most people don’t want to work in an entry-level job forever. You should want to use the job as a launchpad to start your career!
By finding a job with a company that offers training, coaching, and mentorship programs, you’ll be able to learn the skills you need to excel in your industry.
If your employer doesn’t offer these resources, you could find yourself in a stagnant role with no opportunity for growth. So before you commit to a position, make sure to ask about these types of programs.
Principal of Software Technology, WinterWyman
The questions you ask employers at a career fair can make or break their first impression of you. You want to use the time to your advantage and learn more about the company.
Ask the representative how their company defines success
Are there common characteristics identified in your top performers?
This question shows that you’re motivated to do well and that you want the tools you need to be successful.
Ask about the ins and outs of their business
What are your biggest challenges?
What makes you better than the competition?
Showing interest in their business and asking critical questions about it shows that you’ve done your research. You demonstrate that you are knowledgeable, motivated, intelligent and business-savvy.
Don’t ask yes or no questions
Are you publicly traded?
The answers to these questions can often be found online through researching the company and they lack the depth that will impress the company representative. When asking questions, make sure you’re asking things that are insightful and thought-provoking.
Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish
At a career fair, it’s important to build rapport with potential employers by establishing open communication and asking questions.
- Ask the prospective company about its mission and vision.
- Ask the contact person why he or she enjoys working there.
- Asking about a typical day in the open role.
These are all valid and appropriate questions. Asking these questions allows you to learn more about the company, it’s culture, and if it is a potentially good match for your skills and values.
Jana Tulloch, CPHR
Founder, Tulloch Consulting
Ask about the values of the organization
It is important for candidates to align their values with that of the organization. Values are strongly linked to culture, but only through actual behaviors, so it’s a fair question to ask how a company’s values show up in the workplace.
For example, if the company indicates that it values innovation, and the job seeker really wants to work with an innovative company, good questions might be:
How does the company support innovative ideas if someone comes up with something?
How does the company ensure that innovation happens regularly?
How are employees rewarded for being innovative?
Ask questions about life-work balance
What type of flexible work schedules do you offer?
How are employees supported if they want to take time to attend their child’s school play, or take them to the dentist?
Do you allow employees to work from home occasionally?
It’s terrible when a job seeker anticipates the culture at a company to be a certain way based on what they see on the company’s website, only to find that it’s totally different when they get in the door. Asking companies about the actual behaviors that occur to support the values is one way to find assurance that they walk the talk.
Senior Recruiter, WELL Health, Inc.
You may hear that the worst question to ask an employer is, “What does your company do?” and as a hiring manager who has been to career fairs all across the country, I think this could not be further from the truth.
Be honest if you were not able to research about the organization
As a caveat, this question can be asked in a poor manner that could hurt your chances of landing an interview. Instead of asking, “Tell me what you do,” try being honest and explain,
I did not get the chance to research your organization, but I would love it if you could tell me a bit more about what your mission is.
To me, this shows the person is curious about learning more, and willing to be honest as to their knowledge about our company.
Ask what makes someone successful at the organization
This will allow you to pull a few soft skills from the interviewers of what they are looking for. You can then take those soft skills and modify your answers to the employer’s preferences.
Employers know most students have little to no experience if they are looking for a job while attending a school or a recent graduate. Be honest about your skill level and express that any skill you do not currently have you are willing to learn quickly and accomplish more than someone who has a baseline of skills.
I have a few questions that have been asked of me that struck me as powerful intelligent questions to ask at a job fair.
Asks if there are opportunities for growth or advancement
Unfortunately in today’s workforce, there can be a high turnover rate for some companies – and if a company has a great employee, they want someone willing to stick it out and grow with the firm.
Be blunt, ask questions about your resume and if anything is hindering your ability to obtain a job
One of the best things in life is figuring out any problems and fixing them. This allows you to understand from the employer’s perspective what you could be missing and correct it on your resume. You can also develop a relationship and impression, while also being able to explain away any problems seen on your resume.
There could be a simple gap in your work history that scares an employer, however – they weren’t aware you were on a missions trip helping others in a remote area of Africa!
Simple questions surrounding the company that show interest can be game changes
If you are showing excitement towards the company or brand – this carries a lot of weight since business owners and HR managers love to bring in talent that’s eager to work hard and make an impact!
Ask what the hiring company will consider success in that position
It’s great to show you want to succeed in that position. Ask how the company measures employee success in that specific position.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions showing you know you carry value while being considerate
For example, if you are talking to people in HR at the career fair – you can ask what they love most about working for that company. You can ask if highly talented people that perform above average are rewarded through promotion or pay.
Ask if there are ways to improve your own knowledge or help others do the same
Companies want to know you are a team player, and they want to know you don’t simply believe you know everything.
These questions show you are very interested, eager to work hard, eager to do a phenomenal job and take well to criticism (for example when you asked for critique on your resume). The ideal candidate is self-motivated, hard-working, diligent and a great team player.
CEO, IRC Sales Solutions
There is one career fair question that stands out about them all.
Ask or find out where else they’ll be attending career fairs
If, for instance, you’re in Detroit and you see the company is attending another career fair in Columbus tomorrow or next week, you can ask the coveted question:
So I see that you’re doing another career fair in Columbus next week– how can I set myself apart from those Buckeyes?
The question itself usually doesn’t yield a very informative answer, but that’s not the point. The point is to impress people with your preparation.
See, after working many career fairs myself, I can tell you that there are typically two types of people that you’ll speak to as an employer: people who know nothing about your company nor cared enough to prepare to speak with you; and then people who are aware of your company, want to work for you, and care enough to prepare.
I have zero interest in advancing a hiring conversation with someone who isn’t willing to put in five minutes to prepare to speak about potentially getting hired. On the contrary, everyone who shows they did the research beforehand is one step closer to being envisioned as a valuable asset on my team and gets put in the “interview” category.
Therefore, the best question to ask employers is a question that subtly hints to the fact that you did prepare, and that you do care enough to try to put yourself above other candidates.
Licensed Psychologist | Co-Founder, Stybel Peabody Associates, Inc.
Ask about the company’s founding story
Tell me about the founding of the company and how that story influences the company today.
You are engaged in an exercise called product differentiation. None of your competitors will likely ask this question. Just asking the question itself will make you stand out from the crowd. The question also is an important “tell” about the company’s current culture.
If there is a vibrant founding story that resonates in the company’s values today that gives you a sense of what is unique/special about this company. If there is no strong founding story or the person at the fair doesn’t know it, then that suggests a company cobbled together by a group of financial engineers without core values.
People Culture Specialist, Liberty Mind
Ask about the company culture
How would you sum up the company culture in five words?
My reason for this question is because many people get drawn in by employers looking like a great place to work. But the reality can often be very different after the onboarding. I know so many people who have said it ‘looked like a great place’ but never took time to ask questions about the real expectations of the culture.
The language an employer uses to describe the company culture can be very telling, and help you get to know if it’s really a place where you’ll be able to thrive.
Director, MakesYouThink Consultancy
Ask for employee churn rate as it can give a clue on employee satisfaction
What is your employee churn rate?
This is because the answer can be so revealing! A high churn rate could indicate employee dissatisfaction – with the nature of the work, the working environment, lack of career progression, or benefits package. Conversely, a low employee churn rate could indicate a relatively high level of employee satisfaction on the self-same indicators.
Owner, Atlanta House Buyers
Ask a question that may indirectly expose flaws that that individual sees in the company
You don’t want to ask, “Why should I not work here.” You will come across as arrogant.
Why would you recommend someone not work at your company?
Maybe they see other people leaving the company because of the reason they provide you. But maybe they open up about the things they wish were different at the company. This question breaks down the barriers this individual has set up.
Their job at this career fair is to convince you that their company is the best company to work for. They are putting on their best show, which may not always expose the full picture.
You want to know the flaws that the company has in store for you if you go to work there so that you can make an educated decision on whether or not you can live with those issues.
Owner & CEO, Marygrove Awning Co.
Ask a question that provides an opportunity to insert yourself into the equation as a solution
What’s the biggest challenge your company is currently facing?
It’s possible you have the skills and experience to address their issue enabling you to mention it and take the discussion further. You’ve already scored points with them before the interview giving you an advantage over others seeking the same position.
Global TV Producer | Author, I Know Why Books
Ask for the company’s selling points too
What is the office culture?
Sometimes people forget that you are not the only one who needs to be “selling” themselves at a Career Fair or Job Interview. Change the dynamic, the Company should be selling to you as well.
It is important to make sure its a mutually beneficial relationship you’re inquiring about, I always ask this question and always get a stunned but favorable response.
Ask for their employment needs
What do you need from me to know I’m a great fit for this position/company?
This switches the dynamic a lot of time the person is looking for something more specific then you might realize when you directly ask then you know what aspects of you to pitch to align with their needs.
What are the first things that are going to be asked of the person hired for this position?
When you show you’ve already started thinking about preparing for the first week, it shows your interest level, it highlights your proactive thinking and helps them to visualize you at their company!
Director of Business Operations, Vaco
Ask for growth opportunities
What does career growth in your company look like?
This is a good question because, first, it allows the company representative to talk about the company culture and growth opportunities. Second, it shows you’re looking for long-term opportunities with the company, not just a short-term stint. Retention is big for all employers, so that’s an attractive quality in any job-seeker.