Rather than spending countless hours filling out applications and reviewing hundreds of online ads, more and more job seekers prefer attending a job fair instead.
Why? Because it’s a smart approach to marketing yourself to any potential employers.
Here’s how to effectively prepare for a job fair, as discussed by experts.
Ron Auerbach, MBA
Educator | Career Coach | Job Search Expert |
Author, Think Like an Interviewer: Your Job Hunting Guide to Success
What’s important for job seekers to realize is that job fairs are informational. In other words, you’re going to be gathering information about different employers in the same and/or multiple industries. And they’ll be learning something about you.
It’s basically a screening interview where they’re getting a quick sense of whether you seem like somebody worth considering. And you’re checking them out to see what opportunities they may have and whether they seem a good fit for you. Because it’s an informational interview and there are other attendees there, you will typically not spend a lot of time with an employer.
They will need to get through as many people as they possibly can. And attendance can really fluctuate throughout the day as some people come later and others leave earlier. So you might start with say 50 people, then it grows to say 120. It might then possibly reduce to say 75. Therefore, your time with employers will be more limited.
Make a quick pitch to grab their attention
That means you have to make a quick pitch to immediately grab their attention and getting them excited enough to spend a little more time with you. So you must have your elevator pitch ready to go! And it must be a really strong and powerful one in order to be effective.
Remember, you’re approaching them rather than their approaching you. So you’re the one who will be initiating the contact. That’s where the elevator pitch comes in. It’s your first contact.
Have all your materials with you
It’s also super important that you show up to the fair completely prepared! So you want a stack of resumes ready to hand out to the various employers. And have samples of your work that you could show them to make the discussion more interesting and tilt things more to your favor.
Having copies they can keep is best! Remember, they’ll be seeing lots of candidates so it will be hard for them to remember every single one.
Make this easier and stand out by having something they can take back to the office. Some to which they can refer and/or share with others. Remember, the one(s) at the fair are company representatives, not necessarily the ones who will be doing the hiring.
Prepare for the job fair the same way you’d prepare for any face-to-face interview. This means dressing professionally and making sure your clothes match, are cleaned and pressed and are appropriate. You also want to make sure your hair looks nice and your breath is fresh.
Be prepared to speak with confidence
A meek and mild voice equals uncertainty and a lack of confidence. That’s not the impression you want to send! You also want to be extremely personable and show enthusiasm.
You’re there to gain knowledge about various places and job opportunities. So let the company representatives see you’re really interested in gather information about them and sharing info about yourself.
Research the various companies in attendance, especially the ones you are most interested in
This way, when you approach those representatives, you’ll already have greater knowledge about their companies. So demonstrate your researching capabilities by showing them you’ve done your homework.
Be kind to other applicants
Here’s something else to prepare for. And I say it as somebody who’s participated in job fairs before. The representatives in attendance will converse with one another.
Some will even know others there because they’ve been at job fairs together before. So don’t make the mistake of assuming they’re all separate and not speaking with one another. They do!
This means that if a candidate were to approach a certain company’s representative, he or she may have heard from another representative that this person was rude, didn’t seem that well prepared, etc. That’s exactly why it’s so important for you to put your best face forward every step of the way!
Another thing we’ll do as the representatives is to be watching the room. So although I might not have met you yet, I could have seen you when you’ve approached other representatives. And possibly even overheard part of the conversation. So if I wasn’t impressed by what I saw and/or heard, then when you approach me, I already have a negative impression that you’ll need to overcome. And most likely, you won’t even realize this!
So never forget that those companies in attendance will converse with each other, be watching the room and observing the various candidates in attendance, and forming impressions even before you might approach them.
Always think before you respond to questions
One more thing you should do to prepare for a job fair is to be sure to think before responding to questions. You want them to see you think first and then react, not you’re hasty. Remember, those who think first and act second will make better and smarter decisions than those who act more hastily.
Paul J. Bailo
Global Head of Digital Strategy & Innovation, Infosys |
Adjunct Professor, Columbia University
While it may be tempting to slip on casual clothes for a day spent visiting booths and standing for long periods of time, you’re actually showing up for a series of job interviews with different employers.
Show your respect by wearing a proper wardrobe. Men should wear suits or jackets and ties, women should wear a “business attire” which can be pants suits or knee-length skirt suits. Look professional, carry yourself well…as if you already have the job.)
Observe proper grooming
Looking neat, clean, and professional is vital. Guys should have a haircut and a close shave. Gals should visit the hairdresser or salon and apply your makeup conservatively, not like it’s for a night out on the town.
Waiting in line for the most popular employers can try your tolerance. You may be tempted to jump the queue, complain about delays, or shuffle your feet, or complain aloud.
Instead, bring a good book with you – in particular, one that the employers might see you reading and be curious to know more about.
Whether you’re chatting up an employer, or bump into someone who starts a conversation with you, be extra courteous. First impressions count. You never know when the person whose foot you rudely step on as you race to another booth turns out to be a hiring manager for another employer.
Respect your interviewers
The recruiters who represent employers are having a long day too. They must contend with high volumes of candidates (like you) who are super-anxious to make an impression.
So stick to time limits when you’re interviewing. Speak up to be heard over the crowd. Do your research and practice your answers beforehand to show that you’re taking these opportunities seriously.
Follow-up in a timely way
If, during an interview, you promised something to an employer – such as providing references or supplying your social insurance number – be sure to do so quickly.
Related: How to Follow up with a Recruiter
Anyone who interviews you deserves a personalized thank you note. (Hint: always ask for a business card no matter who you meet; it will come in handy afterward).
Let the interviewer know that you appreciate them meeting with you. Remind them why you’re the best candidate. And include your contact info. E-mailed thank you’s are fine, but an actual card or letter can make a more lasting impression
Terry B. McDougall, PCC, MBA
Here are some tips on how to prepare for a job fair:
Research the companies that will be in attendance
Prioritize the booths that you will visit. If you are able to find out what representatives from the organization will be in attendance, send them LinkedIn connection requests beforehand.
Bring more than enough copies of your resume to leave with the representatives you meet that day.
Practice and perfect your elevator speech
Be able to talk about who you are, what you’re looking for in your next job, and how you’ve added value in your career so that you can share this information in less than 90 seconds when meeting someone new.
Look your best
Make sure that you’re looking your best from head to toe: Clean and pressed clothing, well-groomed hair, well-groomed facial hair for men, tasteful make-up for women, professional-looking purse or briefcase, shined shoes, etc.
Prepare some success stories from your career or academic background
Make sure that you can share it in a concise way. Structure them as “PAR stories” — what was the problem you encountered, what action did you take, and what was the measurable result?
Practice being able to share each PAR story in 2 minutes or less, and make them relevant to the roles you’re interested in.
Be positive and focus on yourself
Before going into the career fair, take a moment to center yourself, and visualize what a successful day looks like. This can help you become more confident and show yourself in the most positive light.
Gather contacts and improve your network
Get business cards from everyone you meet, get Linkedin with everyone you meet, and send follow-up notes to thank them for their time and to provide any follow-ups that you discussed that day.
Daniel E. Santos
It is imperative to wear business professional attire
Dress as if you were attending a first-round interviewer with an employer. First impressions matter and the HR rep you meet at a job fair will take you seriously if you’re dressed the part.
Related: What to Wear to a Job Fair
Conduct research on each company attending
Develop a shortlist of the companies you’re interested in. You should try to remember as much background information as possible for each company on your “shortlist.”
When you meet the HR rep at the career fair, you should share something that you found interesting on their website and talk about why you’re interested in learning more about this business.
While it is important to demonstrate you’ve researched the company, focus on having an organic conversation with the HR rep too.
Always update your resume before attending a job fair
It is important to share your most recent work experience with the person that may potentially be interviewing you. After you’ve updated your resume, print many copies of it on professional resume paper or cotton/linen paper. This shows the HR rep that you’re someone who is prepared and proactive.
Finally, you should know your resume backward and forwards. You should easily describe your contributions to each company you worked at and how you can take this experience to better their company.
Develop an elevator pitch
Elevator pitches are incredibly important for job fairs because there are often many more job seekers than employers. Prepare and practice an elevator to recapitulate your professional experience in a brief yet impressive manner.
Elevator pitches should leave your audience feeling inspired and impressed by your most tangible accomplishments.
Owner, Sound Advice Careers
Preparing for a job fair can be difficult. Many feel overwhelmed by the competition and struggle to find a way to stand out to potential employers. We advise job seekers to stand out at job fairs by clearly articulating their USPs, or unique selling propositions.
In order to build trust with an employer, it is important that you can clearly explain how you can solve their biggest problems.
With a clear USP that captures details about your background and skills, and backs them up with evidence as to how you’ve delivered results for other employers, you’re sure to stand out from the crowd at a job fair.
Preparing your USP for a job fair is simple:
Research the employers who will be at the job fair and the roles they’ll be hiring for
Select 3-4 employers to focus on. For each, ask yourself: What background can you offer the company? How and why can you specifically help them meet their goals? What past experience or success do you have that shows you can do that?
Compile your answers to these questions into a few sentences that you draw on during your conversations with stakeholders from each company — your ability to transfer your enthusiasm not just for your skills, but the mission of each employer, will ensure you stand out from the pack.
Sales and Operations Strategist, People Managing People
Prepare an ‘elevator pitch’
I’ve found it especially helpful when interviewees come with a short, bite-sized speech on who they are, what they do, and how they can help our business. This helps us know right away if we’d be a good fit.
Start an online application for potential jobs
This is a trick I used back in my job hunting days. Basically, I’d find the companies I was the most interested in, then start applying to their openings online. This way, I’d have specific questions to ask the interviewers and already have a feel for the tone and style of the company.
Bring a notebook, folder, and business cards if you have them
I always love to see potential employees not only prepared but also organized. Practically, this is also a great way to be able to follow up afterward with employers you might’ve had a great conversation with. If you have business cards with your contact information, hand them out so leads may be contacting you.
Resume Expert | Career Advice Writer, ResumeLab
As a recent college grad, it might be everything but easy to land your first entry-level job. After all, you lack on-the-job experience, and your resume isn’t exactly overflowing with achievements. That said, if you know how to prepare for a job fair, it can send your early hiring chances to the moon.
Pre-register for the event and upload your resume and cover letter in advance
It’ll help you register on employers’ radars if they choose to check attendees’ information beforehand. Also, make sure to bring enough copies of your resume, so that you could give it to prospective employers.
Research the attending companies you want to work for
Check the “About Us” page and read up on prospective companies on Glassdoor before going to a job fair. If you can prove to employers you understand their business and you’re able to provide tangible value for them, they’ll throw job offers at your feet like rose petals.
Founder, Unify Cosmos
Job fairs are hunting grounds for companies who want to recruit the best potential employee and it is your responsibility to set yourself apart from the rest.
Before you focus on yourself, you should learn about the event
Do your due diligence and read up on the speakers, what companies will be attending, and research thoroughly on your desired company. Companies will like individuals who are well informed, it shows that they are interested and fully invested in the company. Companies love the organized type, it is best to dress your best for the interviews and carry all your materials in a presentable briefcase or folder.
Don’t forget to bring your CV and extra copies, the more companies you apply for, the more chances of getting hired.
Lastly, do not forget to practice your pitch, having something prepared will make it easier to approach company representatives.
CVO and Co-founder of, Job.com
Career fairs are great ways to network with important decisionmakers at multiple companies at once, so identify the organizations that pique your interest to make the most out of the experience.
- Research your preferred companies, gaining knowledge about their background, mission, and environment.
- Develop a list of questions that highlight your knowledge of the company and show your enthusiasm to learn more about them.
- Begin an application to get an initial sense of the qualities they’re looking for in a candidate. This tactic can also help you to ask more tailored questions about their application and hiring process.
Co-Founder, Undergrads Moving
It is a good policy to prepare for a job fair, the same way you would prepare for a job interview. During a job fair, you may have the chance to sit down one-on-one with potential employers and answer questions the same way you would in a formal interview.
- Most job fairs will provide a list of the companies that will be attending, so do your due diligence and research the companies ahead of time.
- Attend the job fair in professional attire, run through practice questions beforehand, eat a healthy meal and try to engage in some light cardio the night before or morning of to help increase oxygen and blood flow.
- Put your best foot forward and for all intents and purposes treat it the same way you would treat a one-on-one interview.
COO, Boster Bio
Before the job fair:
- Research the companies by attending the job fair. Make a list of companies in which you are willing to get a job and rank them.
- Research what positions they are looking to hire for.
- Build or modify your resume with the latest details; a one-page resume is good.
- Get the details about the company from their website.
During the job fair:
- Start talking to the companies on your list.
- Selling yourself can be exhausting. The first few recruiters you talk to will receive your best pitches. So the best pitches should go those companies on the top of your list.
- Get to know the recruiters. Take their cards before you move on.
- Carry a small scratch book with you and note down all the essential things a recruiter says (they may say something when they plan to start hiring or when the interviewers are available or plan to hire at all).
- If you finished talking to everyone from your list and have extra time, you did a great job! Relax for a bit, then go around talking to other recruiters. Have extra resumes.
After the job fair:
From the notes you made in your scratch book, you most likely know who is looking to hire immediately. Go to those company careers pages and create a profile there. Email the recruiters, asking for an interview and mention that you also applied on their careers website.