10 Steps to “Working It” at Your Next Job Fair

Interview Coaching and Prep

Traditional job fairs are still a major way many companies find the people they hope to employ. Employers and recruiters gather their banners, booklets, pamphlets, business cards, candy and other unique goodies and head to high school and college gymnasiums, auditoriums and other large scale venues excited about meeting talented career seekers just like you!

We want to see you, we want to shake your hand, get to know you and tell you all about the opportunities we have available.

With all this excitement built up you can imagine how big of a letdown it is when we show up and are disappointed in the way job seekers present themselves. Some show up as we’re all packing up and some seem not to care. Perhaps they’ve been on the job hunt for some time and are a bit discouraged. Others seem to be more interested in the goodies than the career opportunities and wonder why they walk away empty handed. They haven’t made any valuable connections, have no interviews scheduled and haven’t given out a single resume.

This is a major challenge and it’s time to fix it. Below are steps one must take if you expect to impress at a job fair.



1. Look the part 

Put away your weekend wear and opt for a well-fitting dark suit. Make sure your shoes are clean polished. Keep your hair and nails neat and don’t over-do it with the make-up, perfume or cologne. Imagine you’re on an interview and dress accordingly. Often times a meeting at a job fair easily turns into an interview if the manager or recruiter is impressed. Don’t let your wardrobe cause you to miss out on a great opportunity.

2. Maintain your professionalism

Remember that you are in job hunting mode and need to present yourself as the in-demand professional that you are. Avoid being too casual and making inappropriate jokes in the hopes of connecting with whoever you’re conversing with. More often than not, you’ll end up turning that manager off and that’s not what you want to do. Be sure that everything from your initial greeting and introduction to your good-bye is polished and professional.

3. Do your research!

The “So what do you guys do?” or “What are you guys all about?” question is one of my biggest pet peeves at job fairs. Most organizations or schools hosting job fairs usually publish the confirmed list of the employers expected to attend ahead of time. This is great for you! It allows you to research any companies you may not have heard of and get an understanding of the opportunities they offer. If you’re serious about pursuing an opportunity and want to impress a hiring manager, do your research.

4. Be on time

Here’s a little secret: if a job fair begins at 11am and ends at 3pm, typically employers begin setting up at 10am and are packing up by 2pm.

If you show up at 2:55pm, you will probably see some empty tables or frustrated looking managers and recruiters who have been on their feet all day and are ready to go. It’s best to show up at a reasonable time. This way you’ll be able to connect with managers who are alert, energized, and ready to meet you, review your resume and sell their opportunities.

5. Have your resume handy

When meeting reps at job fairs it is customary for them to want to see a resume. It doesn’t look good if you show up and don’t have a resume or say that you ran out. As I mentioned above, the organization or school hosting the event usually releases the names of the companies beforehand. You’ll know how many companies are there and using that information will be able to determine how many copies of your resume you’ll need. Failing to come prepared to something as simple as a job fair shows that you may fail to properly prepare for other important work related items. This is a turn off to any employer.

6. Know what you want

Every opportunity at the job fair won’t be for you and that’s ok. If you find yourself speaking to a rep and the company is not a fit for what you want or need, walk away. Be polite, thank them for their time then move on. Don’t feel pressured to force the round peg into the square hole. Don’t allow desperation to take over. If you do, you’ll continue pushing your resume into the hands of recruiters who will never call and agreeing to interview for roles you aren’t genuinely interested in only to waste their time and yours. This is a big no-no. Walk into the job fair knowing what you want, the kind of organization you’d be interested in, commuting distance you’re open to, etc. Keep your backbone intact and if an opportunity does not meet your needs, walk away.

7. Don’t forget your elevator pitch

As you go from table to table, booth to booth you’ll only have a few moments to “sell” yourself. Be ready to deliver your elevator pitch each time with energy and passion. You don’t want it to feel robotic or sound as if you’ve said it a million times before and are tired of having to say it again. Make it appealing to the hearer and make sure it doesn’t take you longer than 30 seconds to get it out.

8. Smile! Be personable

This is probably the most obvious one. Smile! Be friendly and personable. Be someone that the rep attending the job fair would actually want to converse with. Don’t approach each table or booth with a negative expectation or outlook because it will appear on your face and in your behavior. Remember, your attitude determines your altitude. Maintain a positive attitude as you go from recruiter to recruiter and you’ll be much more successful.

9. Get contact info

As you go from table to table, you’re going to meet lots of people you like and have meaningful conversations with. When the conversation ends, make sure you get their contact information. Ask for their business card and connect with them on LinkedIn. Turn these moments into solid relationships that could lead to big time success in the future.

10. Only visit tables you have a genuine interest in (Avoid shopping)

A job fair is an opportunity to connect with employers directly and learn about employment opportunities you may be a fit for. It’s an opportunity to follow up on an application you may have already submitted and maybe even schedule an interview. It is not an opportunity to go shopping. Avoid going from table to table just to fill up your bag, collecting candy or interesting toys you’ll never use or care about once you leave. Remember why you’re there.


Thank you for reading my post. My name is Pamela Shand and I want the best for you in your career. It is my hope that you find everything you read here helpful in advancing your career. If you did, feel free to follow my blog for future articles. I regularly write on resume building, interview success and various ways to unravel common and not-so-common career snags.

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