Making the Most of a Career Fair

Business Suit with Ferris Wheel

By Cathy Francois, Career Coach at American Public University

What I like the most about career fairs is that you have an opportunity to meet with hiring managers and recruiters face-to-face. There are no easily agitated receptionists, evil gatekeepers, or electronic and political red tape in your way. This is the one place where it is the recruiter’s duty to meet you personally!  Job seekers often tell me that they are looking for an in, a hook-up, or connection.  Well this is your chance to go in, make a connection, and get the ”in” you’re looking for.  But, this is easier said than done. Remember, the point of a career fair is to get a lead that will take you from applicant to prospect by landing an interview. Here are some tips on how to make that magic happen.

Do the Prep Work. Conduct research on the companies attending the fair and their available positions prior to arriving. Polish your resume around your targeted positions, though be aware this may include creating a few different variations. Next, create a business card that includes your phone number, email address, and URL to your completed LinkedIn profile. If you are pressed for time ordering business cards, using a local printer may be best. While bringing resumes is always a great idea, keep in mind that some employers do not accept resumes at career fairs and may refer you to their website, or have the expectation that you would have applied online prior to the event. Applying beforehand is a fantastic way to demonstrate your preparation!

shutterstock 129217481 black professional woman 300x237 Making the Most of a Career FairBe Prepared for Questions. You showed up to the career fair well-dressed, your elevator pitch down pat, your hand shake firm, and you’ve made your way to the recruiter. While waiting in line, instead of checking your phone to see how many ‘likes’ you got on your morning status, take the time to listen to questions that recruiters are asking the people ahead of you. They’ve come prepared to ask questions of you as well.

Be Prepared with Questions. After you introduce yourself with a well-crafted elevator pitch, ensure your conversation includes questions from you as well. Specifically, ask questions that demonstrate you are informed about the company and their open positions. Front load the question with valuable information about yourself, and then include the question. For example: “I am experienced with Java programming and web design as the position requires; how large is the team that I would be potentially working with?” Perhaps this is key information that you couldn’t fit into your introduction or wasn’t covered in your responses to previous questions.  This keeps the conversation going and the recruiter interested in you.

Ask for Contact Information. As the conversation is coming to a close thank the recruiters for their time, hand your business card as you say, “I would like to exchange contact information with you.” This opens the opportunity for follow up later. I recommend you make notes on the key points you discussed to help jog the recruiters’ memory when you follow up.


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 Making the Most of a Career Fair
The Office of Career Services at American Public University System employs a world class caliber team of career coaches. While serving a population of over 100,000 students and 27,000 alumni, career coaches rigorously pursue continuing education and professional development opportunities to ensure they stay abreast of the changes and trends in their professional field. Of the career coaching professionals on the team, 70% possess a master’s degree or are near completion; and 70% possess a certification in the field of career coaching. Their thirst for education, continuing professional development and life experiences results in blog posts that are not only entertaining to read, but exceptional in their quality of advice as well.

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