Career Fair Success Tips

What are Career Fairs? – Traditional and Virtual

A career or job fair is an event allowing employers to meet and talk with prospective job seekers who are there to make a good first impression and to find out about job opportunities.

A traditional career fair typically takes place in a large venue, with employer tables set up around the room. Job seekers browse the booths of employers and engage in a formal and professional short conversation. Most campus career fairs are often not specific to the LIS field and will not be a good use of your time. However, there are opportunities at places like ALA Annual that function much like traditional career fairs and where you can apply what you learn here. 

In addition, in today’s digitized world, job seekers now have access to virtual career fairs, which are online venues taking place in chat rooms, on web conferencing platforms, and in various other virtual environments. Employers can be in virtual “rooms” where job seekers can enter, learn about the company and the employment opportunities, and engage in a formal and professional (though brief) conversation using a chat function or a microphone.

Career fairs, whether traditional or virtual, can be a highly efficient way for students and alumni to meet and connect with a variety of employers in a broad range of industries and find out about multiple job opportunities. This is one more technique to include in your job search strategy. Here are tips for success at both traditional and virtual career fairs.

Before the Fair              

1. Identify which organizations you want to interact with by previewing the list of participating employers. Research those employers so you can target your resume and speak effectively about your interest in their organization and the position(s) they have available.

2. Broaden your focus and include many types of employers in your research. Try not to rule out an employer because it is in a non-traditional LIS industry.  For example, a high tech or health care company may have opportunities that can utilize your diverse LIS skill set.

3. Prepare your resume and tailor the content to each employer’s job opening.  Review the Career Development Resume resources to ensure that you have a professional and competitive document to present to employers.

4. Prepare your personal introduction so you are ready to begin a conversation with employers, whether it is in-person or through web-based technology. Consider developing your One Minute Commercial to help you get started. Visit the Career Development Networking section for tips and a template.

5. Prepare questions to ask employer representatives. This demonstrates that you have done your research prior to attending the fair. Here are examples of appropriate questions to ask:

  • I notice you are hiring for a ______. Can you tell me more about the type of assignments or projects that are given to someone in this role?
  • What skills and abilities are most sought after at your organization?
  • What do you like best about working here?

6.  IMPORTANT: For a virtual career fair, test your computer connectivity and your headset prior to logging in for the fair.

During the Fair

1. At a traditional career fair, you’ll want to shake hands, make eye contact, and present yourself in a friendly, positive, and energetic manner. This is your opportunity to make a good first impression. During a virtual fair, you’ll want to be positive, concise, and professional in your written or verbal interactions with representatives. Don't use abbreviations, emoticons, text terminology, or slang, and be sure to check your spelling. A virtual fair may seem more casual and less formal, but remember - it is still a professional, formal event where you should make a positive first impression.

2. Demonstrate that you have done your research by asking well-thought-out questions that relate specifically to the position and/or organization versus standard questions where your answers could have been found on the internet.  Be clear and concise in your questions and answers. During a virtual fair, respond in a timely and professional manner to chats.

3. Be prepared to take notes about the different hiring organizations and their unique application process. Ask for a business card, or in the case of a virtual career fair, write down the representative’s name and contact information so you can follow-up.

4.  Be patient and anticipate lines, even in a virtual career fair. Develop your strategy by identifying the companies you want to interact with and plan to visit the less crowded organizations first. In the case of a virtual fair, be sure you have completed your log-in profile and uploaded a professional photograph and resume, if that is an option.

5. At a traditional fair be prepared to dress professionally to make a first impression. When in doubt, it’s better to over dress than under dress. For a virtual career fair – it is still recommended to dress the part just so you feel professional, instead of staying in your pajamas as if you are at home.

After the Fair

1. Develop a post-job-fair plan to keep actively engaged in your job search. Organize your notes from your employer interactions and identify your next steps.

2. Apply online for positions or follow-up with employers based on the information you received from recruiters.

3. When appropriate, follow up with a handwritten or email thank you note thanking representatives for their time and information.  

Additional Resources

Job Fair Etiquette: How to Make a Job Fair Work for You by Karen Ziegler, 2009, courtesy of SlideShare

Job Fair Prep videos from the SJSU Career Center: Job Fair Prep.

 Next: Using Social Media in Your Job Search