How to Work a Career Fair

Career fairs provide an opportunity for networking, a way to search for an internship/job, and a forum for professional development.

Types of Career Fairs

In Person: Typically, career fairs host groups of employers from specific geographic regions or employers that recruit for similar industries or sectors. Employers expect to interact with students seeking job opportunities as well as those simply researching careers and organizations. Most career fairs are held in one large room. Rows of tables are staffed by representatives from the participating organizations and decorated with table-top displays.

Student registration tables are usually located at the entrance to the career fair. Here, you might be asked to sign in and create a name tag.

Virtual: An online platform where employers interact with prospective candidates through the web. Virtual career fairs can include live chats, videos, animation, downloadable material, webinars and social networking. Also, you often have the opportunity to submit your resume electronically during the fair.

Before a Career Fair

Check CareerCat to determine the companies attending the fair. Research company websites and identify 5 - 7 employers most aligned with your career goals. Based on your research, develop potential questions to ask the recruiters. You will also want to update your résumé and prepare copies before the event. Appropriate attire is often influenced by the industries recruiting at the fair. At Northwestern, most attendees wear business professional attire; this means suits regardless of your gender.

During a Career Fair

Approach employers with a firm handshake and introduce yourself. UCS recommends that you prepare how you will introduce yourself through a 30 second commercial or "Elevator Speech". During your conversation, ask inquisitive questions about the organization and available positions. Some questions you may want to ask include:

The Internship Seeker

  • Do you have a formal internship program or do you host students on a case-by-case basis?
  • Do you have an internship coordinator I could contact if I have specific questions?
  • When is the best time of year to apply for a summer internship?
  • What experiences might I have as an intern in your organization?    
  • What courses or majors do you look for in potential interns?

The Job Seeker

  • What skills do you look for in candidates?
  • What type of previous work experiences do you look for in candidates?
  • What is the best way to apply to your organization, and how long does the process usually take?
  • Will you be on campus to interview or host other events?

Sample questions employer may ask you

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What kind of position are you looking for?
  • What geographic areas are you interested in?
  • Why did you stop at our table today?
  • May I have a copy of your resume?

At the conclusion of your conversation, hand your résumé to the employer and ask for his/her business card.

After a Career Fair

Send a thank-you note or e-mail to employers who were of particular interest to you. Employers may leave a fair with hundreds of resumes, and they report that less than 5% of students follow up after a fair. This simple step can give you a big advantage. If there were employers you did not have the opportunity to connect with, send them a message articulating your interest and regret that you did not meet them at the event.