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Career Center Confidential: Your burning career fair questions, answered

Get career fair ready with tips from career center professionals who have seen it all.

Who are these employers? Should freshmen or sophomores even bother? And do students really get job or internship offers at these fairs? (Yes!)

Career services professionals have seen it all: the freshman who lined up an internship at a career fair, the best and worst intros, the student who forgot about career fair day and showed up in gym clothes (oops). Here are their best tips and stories to get you career fair ready.

Check out upcoming career events on Handshake to find your next career fair! (Filter by Category → Career fair).

Can you share some career fair success stories?

The biggest question students ask is, will this actually help me land a job or internship? Here are some real stories from CS staff to inspire you!

“Nerd out! Once, a first-year student went to the career fair knowing they probably weren't going to get the attention of an employer seeking sophomores and higher, but they tried anyway. They ended up talking to an employer about their interest in drones and how they've worked on them outside of the classroom. The employer ended up mentioning how they were about to launch a new drone division and they would be interested in hiring the student as their first intern for the upcoming division.”

Christopher Maldonado, Assistant Director, Career Systems at Syracuse University

“Don't forget to also show your personality and other interests. A student just got an internship interview because they talked to the employer about their interest in rock climbing.”

Eric Anderson, Director at University of Idaho Career Services

“We have had a freshman make such an impact at a job fair, the employer remembered them and hired them for an internship in their senior year! Another one of our students got an internship at a job fair last spring, and the company didn't have an exact fit but was so impressed, they created an internship for him.”

Sheri Blight, Assistant Director of Career Events and Outreach at Kennesaw State University

“One of our former career fair student coordinators had volunteered at a previous career fair (as an Employer Liaison) and as she was walking the employer to their table, she had a conversation with the employer and was offered an interview. She got the internship!”

Amy Franklin, Engineering Career Services at Ohio State University

How do you choose employers that come to career fairs?

Who chooses the employers that come to career fairs? Career center staff are usually the ones inviting employers and making sure they are a good fit for students. The employers who show up to career fairs are a mix of past attendees that have hired alumni, faculty-recommended companies, and other Handshake employers (who are already screened by your university).

“[We invite] employer partners that are hidden gems, high impact, and dedicated to student success (such as strong DEIA practices, inclusive cultures, etc.)"

Christopher Maldonado, Assistant Director, Career Systems at Syracuse University

What’s the best reason for students to attend?

Of course, getting a potential job or internship interview is a great reason to attend. But did you know that you can network with employers long before you’re looking for a full time job? Career fairs are a great place to start practicing your networking skills, since employers are there for the specific purpose of meeting college students like you.

“[Attend to practice your] networking skills, sharing your interests, and learning about creative ways to integrate your passions and academics into a paid role.”

Christopher Maldonado, Assistant Director, Career Systems at Syracuse University

“Students need to attend career fairs early on in their college career so they become comfortable introducing themselves to all types of people and to grow their network.”

Jim Ritz, Career Services Advisor at Lawrence Technological University

What are your top tips for making the most of a career fair?

Do some prep work before you attend the career fair, and you’ll feel more confident and make the right impression.

“Research the companies who are coming, both to help you to target who you'd like to speak with at the fair and to ask intelligent questions. Don't be afraid to speak to employers. They are in their positions because they like connecting with people, and they want you to learn about their company. And prepare some questions in advance. You look so organized when you whip out a notebook of questions you've pre-prepared.”

Meredith Richel, Assistant Director of Career Development at Keuka College

“1. Practice your introduction! Grab a friend or coworker and practice your intro so it feels natural. You don't want to sound like you are reading a script but you also want to know your most powerful details by heart.

2. Bring plenty of copies of your resume—no, really, bring twice as many as you think you might give out. Chances are you will end up speaking to more employers than you expect. It is also good to have a digital version on your phone for employers that accept resumes digitally.

3. Dress for your personal success: you should be polished and professional but also feel like yourself and show your own personal style. When you feel like yourself, you will feel more confident, and that shows to employers.”

Sheri Blight, Assistant Director of Career Events and Outreach at Kennesaw State University

“Practice talking about your accomplishments and interests. When in doubt, talk about what parts you like about your classes. Don't forget to understand what you don't like about your classes as well. Sometimes what you don't like can help you understand which experience is the best fit for you.”

Christopher Maldonado, Assistant Director, Career Systems at Syracuse University

Check out more tips from career center professionals in our ongoing series, Career Center Confidential.

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