Nail It: Walk Out of That Job Fair With a Job in Hand

By Edward Harvey

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It doesn’t seem fair that many qualified applicants have little success at job fairs, but most of these disappointed jobseekers unknowingly bring it on themselves. Like it or not, companies weigh and judge applicants based on a number of initial observations and gut reactions not under their control. In order to nail your all-important introductions and interviews to make the fair a successful mission, there are several things you can do.

Dress for Success

Dress as if you really want the job. That means dressing formally, not casually. Get a haircut, shave, do your nails and pay attention to small details. Take time to make sure you look your very best.

According to the job giant,, the majority of job recruiters attending job fairs make a decision based on the appearance of the job seeker before they even reach their booth. They viewed those who wore extremely casual clothing as less qualified, unprepared, less capable and having poor work habits.

To the contrary, the impression they got from those job seekers who dressed more formally was that of being intelligent, well-educated, capable and even more trustworthy than their sloppy counterparts.

Prepare Yourself

You’ll encounter many employers, so bring extra copies of your resume, business cards and letters of recommendation. Be just as prepared as you would be if you were going for a formal interview. Don’t create a situation where you leave a potential employer wanting more information. Most career fairs will provide a list of all the employers attending. You can use that list to find out what positions they are looking to fill, as well as the requirements for each.

Prepare more than one version of your resume. For example, you may want to apply for a sales position with one company, and a marketing job with another. You’ll need to show your specific strengths for each job role.

Be Aggressive

The word, “aggressive,” sometimes carries a negative connotation, but when seeking a job, it’s a good thing if you apply it the right way. Job fairs are not for the timid or shy. You’ll need to shake hands firmly, maintain strong eye contact and make a great first impression on employers. Remember, attending and looking great is just part of the mission; you have to compete to get a job.

Make sure that you understand the mind of a job recruiter. According to Dominique Rodgers, contributing writer for, professional recruiters see it all. They quickly learn how to identify ideal candidates, because they’ve encountered an army of bad candidates first. Be honest and consistent with the information you provide, because they will check it.

Do Your Homework

Don’t enter the fair without knowing about employers. Do your homework on your top choices.  You don’t have to give a history lesson on the company, but you should know enough to show that you came prepared. The career fair list is your best tool. Go to each employer’s website to research the company. This will help you compile some intelligent questions that will make you stand out above the rest.

Ask the Right Questions

Traditionally, employers ask most of the questions, but a job fair has a different dynamic. Stay aggressive and get valuable information by asking questions regarding what they’re looking for in an applicant. Find out what steps you need to take for them to consider you for a position. If you have a degree in nutrition education for example, find out how the coursework you have completed aligns with their company. 

Never walk up to a table and ask a job recruiter what their company does or makes. Not only is this aggravating to them, you should do your research on the company and know this information beforehand. In fact, don’t ask for any information that you can find on their website or on the career fair list. This is also not a good time to discuss salary and benefits. This is one area where the employer should start the discussion, especially in a job fair setting.

Send a Personal Thank You

Send a “thank-you” letter to those who devoted time to speak with you. Even if you don’t get the job, making a good impression could mean they’ll pass your name along to a colleague who has a position to fill. Go the extra mile and handwrite the letter rather than send an impersonal and effortless email.

Your Strength Is Your Weakness

Employers like to throw curveballs at potential applicants to assess their poise and creativity. If confronted with a question about your weaknesses, turn it into a positive. For example, since you devote so much time toward work, you have little time to spend with your family. Obviously, employers love to hear about passionate and dedicated applicants. Your weakness is seen as strength by the employer.

Look sharp, be confident, and act like you want the job. Make yourself stand out from the crowd by being prepared and doing your homework. Follow these tips, and you could walk out of the fair with a new job opportunity. 


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