Guide to Navigating Career Fairs

Why You Should Go
How to Prepare
What to Bring"Day of" Tips
What to WearAfter the Event

Career Fair Tips from Penn Career Services on Vimeo.

Why You Should Go

  • To give employers who interest you a chance to meet you
  • To learn more about organizations in order to make interviews and cover letters richer and more interesting
  • To develop contacts at particular organizations
  • To gain information in order to assess your own interest in working for a specific employer
  • To hone your networking skills, a life-long necessity for professional development

How to Prepare

  • Find out what organizations will attend. Conduct employer research beforehand. Demonstrating familiarity with employers is always a plus.
  • Prepare and practice a brief statement introducing yourself and think of a few questions to ask employers about their organization/position. It's up to you to approach the recruiters and initiate conversation. This can be a little daunting, so work out a great sentence or two about your career interests, skills, special research projects, and background.

What to Bring

  • Bring plenty of copies of your resume. Note: you do *not* need to have an objective on your resume. If you are planning to leave resumes with a number of different employers, you may be better off with no objective. A "generic" objective is never useful. You do not need cover letters.
  • Career fairs are often crowded and full of give-aways, paper, and people. If possible, leave heavy book bags at home and carry only a portfolio.

What to Wear

  • Dress is business casual, but should be neat in appearance and professional, though not necessarily a suit. If in doubt, lean towards the more conservative side.

Tips to Remember During the Event

Check out our brief video on Career Fair Tips

  • Budget your time. To make the most efficient use of your time, you may want to decide who you are primarily interested in talking to before you arrive at the fair. Some employer tables will have no line, others may be crowded. Budget your time and don't stay too long at tables that have long lines.
  • Approach recruiters! Don't be nervous, the recruiters are here to speak with you. Be sociable and professional.
  • A warm greeting is important. Remember firm (but not bone-crushing) handshakes and eye contact when introducing yourself to employers.
  • Be prepared to initiate conversation, by asking questions or saying something that gives the person an invitation to talk. The idea is to converse with employers, not to just have a question & answer session. Your conversation should be brief (no more than a few minutes), particularly if there are others waiting.
  • Be discreet in talking about employers. Even if you know the recruiter keep in mind that they represent the employer now. All conversations should be on a professional level.
  • Don't monopolize a recruiter's time. If you find yourself engrossed in conversation and notice a substantial number of candidates-in-waiting behind you, you can certainly say something along the lines of, "I notice that you have several other students who are interested in talking to you. Could I possibly have a copy of your card, and e-mail you later to discuss this further?" etc.
  • Ask recruiters with whom you speak if you can have their business card so you can follow-up with them. After you walk away from the table, jot down a few notes on the back of the card so you remember what you discussed. This will help you in the future when contacting this person or others in the organization.
  • Be considerate about employer giveaways. Some organizations will bring promotional gift items. Don't take more than you can carry inconspicuously and never simply approach an employer to ask for some of their SWAG.
  • Figure out next steps. If you want to pursue a job with a recruiter, make sure you know what to do next (ie. fill out an application form, send a letter of recommendation, etc.)

After the Event

  • Consider thank you notes to employers with whom you had particularly engaging conversations. Emailing these notes is appropriate.
  • Create a contact file of the cards you collected, so that you can easily reconnect with the employers you met if questions arise.
  • Maintain a system for following up with employers with whom you are particularly interested.