How to Prepare for a Career Fair: 8 Tips for Success


Your college career is coming to an end. Now it’s time to prepare for the “real world,” as they say. That means it’s time to find a “grown-up” job. But where do you start?

Career fairs are a great place to learn about available careers from multiple area employers. You probably already knew that though since you’re researching how you can prepare for one…

Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) has been hiring employees for nearly 70 years, so we’ve attended our share of career fairs. Over the decades, we’ve learned what employers — like us — want to see from the future workforce.

In this article, you’ll learn eight things you can do to prepare for your next job fair and why it’s important for you to do so.

How Can I Make Myself Stand Out at a Career Fair?

When you’re in a room full of dozens of students and a handful of employers, how can you ensure it’s your phone number they call for an interview? These tips can be the difference:

  1. Update your resume
  2. Update/clean up your social media profiles
  3. Research the employer(s)
  4. Keep an open mind
  5. Prepare a 60-second “elevator speech”
  6. Prepare questions in advance
  7. Remember to smile

1. Update Your Resume Before Attending a Job Fair

Just like attending a job interview, it’s extremely important to have an updated resume when attending a career fair. Make sure it has all of your recent (relevant) work experience with the most recent at the top. Also, make sure to proofread it — and have someone else review it too — and ensure you have the most up-to-date contact information on it.

You wouldn’t believe how many times we have students share their resumes with us and say, “Don’t use that email address, here’s the one I actually use.” 

Holy cow, everyone. 

That should never happen. Put your correct — and most updated — contact information on your resume.

One sidenote related to resumes. It’s absolutely a good idea to upload your resume to whatever web platform your college uses for career fairs — especially if your professors recommend it. However, it’s also a good idea to print a handful out so you can give them directly to whichever employers you talk to.

Offering a physical copy will help you stand out over those who don’t provide one. That way, when the company representative gets back to their desk they don’t have to log into the web platform your college uses and search for your resume in order to contact you. All they have to do is find your resume in their paperwork and give you a call or send an email.


2. “Professionalize” Your Social Media Platforms

To be clear, it’s always a good idea to make sure your social media channels are professional. You never know who is looking at them and when. The hiring manager at your dream employer may have stumbled upon your profiles before you were ever interested in applying and, therefore, chooses not to interview you. That could hurt your chances before you even start the process.

That said, before attending a career fair, make sure your profiles are “cleaned up” — especially on LinkedIn. Cleaned up also means making sure, like your resume, everything is correct and updated. We call out LinkedIn because that’s the platform employers will use the most, but there’s still a good chance they’ll browse through your other platforms too.

On LinkedIn especially, follow the employer(s) you’re interested in and connect with any recruiters or hiring managers that you can. That may come after you talk to them at the job fair though.

Related: How to Find a Job on LinkedIn (3 Easy Steps)

3. Research the Employer(s) You’re Interested In

You certainly don’t need to be a walking encyclopedia about the companies you’re interested in working for, but you should know a bit about their history, values, mission and vision.

This isn’t just so you can flatter them; it also helps you know whether or not you align with the company. After all, you don’t want to go through the entire hiring process just to find out the company operates in a way you don’t agree with ethically. Knowing these things could help you eliminate some employers before you even spend any time with them.

4. Be Open to Talking to Employers You Never Even Considered

You should definitely have a list of the top several employers you want to talk to before attending a career fair. After all, there’s a limited amount of time you have to chat with them during the fair.

That said, don’t ignore other employers that aren’t on your “list.” If you saw ATS at a career fair, what types of careers would you think we have to offer? Truck driving positions and maybe some operations careers? You might be surprised to learn you can find everything from sales to IT to HR and everything in between.

You’ll, hopefully, figure things like the above scenario out during your research prior to the job fair, but it’s still good to keep an open mind. Swing by an employer’s booth you didn’t even consider. It could open doors you never thought possible.

5. Prepare an Elevator Speech to Share With Employers

As we just mentioned above, you don’t have a ton of time to interact with each and every employer — so you’ve got to make good use of your time.

Whip up a quick speech you can share to get your qualifications across. Be sure to include things like:

  • A bit about who you are
  • What your major is
  • When you expect to graduate

And don’t forget to practice your speech. Using crafty words and well-written sentences won’t do much for you if you stumble through them — or forget them completely.

Keep in mind, you don’t want it to sound too rehearsed though. Maybe jot down some bullet points you want to cover and “fill in the blanks” from there. Hopefully, you know yourself well enough that you can successfully accomplish that. 🙂

6. Have Questions Prepared to Ask Employers

Sure, part of what you’re at a career fair to do is sell yourself to employers. But, remember, not every employer is a perfect fit for just anyone. They have a duty to sell themselves to you too.

Have questions prepared to ask employers so you can gain a better understanding of the company’s culture, access to training — whether it’s right after being hired or ongoing training throughout your time with the organization — and growth opportunities. You don’t have to limit yourself to those types of questions though. Ask about anything that’s important to you.


7. Remember to Smile

It’s so important to smile at a career fair. You don’t want to give employers the impression that you’ll be a crabby, stressed or sad employee — or whatever emotion you might be feeling at the time.

First impressions matter. Give the impression that you’ll be excited to come to work every day.

Career fairs can be stressful, for sure, but remember to relax. At this point, your conversations with employers are fairly casual. You and the employers are both exploring your options. Put on your happy face and it’ll go a long way.

What Should I Wear to a Career Fair?

Even if math isn’t your strong suit, you probably noticed we only shared seven tips for success when we said you’d get eight. Well, you’re about to get your eighth tip here.

Dressing appropriately is so important that we’re calling it out separately.

Once again, first impressions matter. You can’t show up to a career fair with the clothes you wear to your 8 a.m. class — unless, of course, you dress in a “professional” manner.

We’ve seen suits and ties at career fairs before, which is perfectly fine if that’s your style, but don’t feel like you have to dress up that much. A safe bet, however, is dressing in “business casual” attire.

Business casual includes things like button-down shirts or other collared shirts, like polos and blouses, for a top. Then, you’d probably wear something like dress pants, khakis or a pencil skirt. You can also probably get away with jeans nowadays, but some employers might consider that to be too casual. Finally, for shoes, go with flats, heels, loafers, boots or Oxfords.

Related: What Should I Wear to Work or an Interview? [And Why it Matters]

Don’t give employers the impression that you don’t care and are taking the event too casually. This is your chance to take a casual conversation with several employers and turn it into a career. How you dress can go a long way in how those conversations go.

How Should I Prepare for a Job Fair?

If you’re nearing college graduation, you’re probably preparing to attend a career fair or two. While other students may just show up and see what happens, you can separate yourself from the crowd by showing up prepared to take the job fair seriously.

Prior to showing up to the event, make sure you:

  1. Update your resume
  2. Update/clean up your social media profiles
  3. Research the employer(s)
  4. Keep an open mind
  5. Prepare a 60-second “elevator speech”
  6. Prepare questions in advance
  7. Remember to smile

It’s also important to show up dressed professionally. You can certainly go with a “business formal” look if you’d like, but a suit and tie aren’t necessary. Instead, bust out your best business casual look and you’ll do just fine.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: First impressions matter. You only have one chance to make your first impression on some of the most influential employers in your area, so make sure you take things seriously — at least if you want to increase your chances of landing your dream job.

Ace Your Next Interview

If your next career fair gets you a chance to interview with an employer — which it probably will if you use the tips above 🙂 — you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for that too.

We’ve put together a guide that will help you crush your next interview by providing:

  • Crucial tips to employ before, during and after your interview
  • Clear next steps toward starting the career of your dreams

If you’re ready to land your dream job, get the FREE tool now. 👇

13 Tips for Crushing Your Next Job Interview

Nikki Dotzler

Written by Nikki Dotzler

After graduating college, Nikki began her professional career in radio ad sales before transitioning into a human resources role focused in employee benefits. She joined ATS in 2021, where she serves as a talent acquisition specialist. Nikki enjoys being able to help people change their lives by finding careers that allow them to make a difference while growing to their fullest potential.

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