How to Prepare for a Career Fair

What is a career fair?

A career fair is an event where company representatives and job seekers come together.

Often, companies attend career fairs to find qualified candidates for open jobs. At a fair, companies can meet many candidates - and job seekers can meet with many companies - in a short time.

At other times, company representatives attend a fair to attract talented students and recent graduates without having a specific job they're trying to fill, or they attend simply to talk with students about their organization, job opportunities and career paths.

How to Prepare for a Career Fair

Whether a career fair is virtual or in person, there are lots of things you can do to prepare:

  • Add the career fair date and time to your calendar so you don’t miss it.
  • Look for “Prepare for the Fair” sessions hosted by your career center in the week or two prior to the fair date. These are typically posted to Handshake about a month before the fair.
  • Clarify your reasons for attending the fair. Why are you going? What do you hope to gain? Are you actively looking for a job, co-op or internship, or are you going mainly to observe?
  • Update and polish your resume or CV. Use the VMock online tool to get customized suggestions and instant feedback.
  • Prepare a brief self-introduction (e.g., name, major, year, and one question). This is sometimes called an elevator speech. Practice it till you feel comfortable.
  • Prepare for interviews. Look up some common interview questions. Use InterviewStream to practice and get instant feedback.
  • Research the companies that will be at the fair and what they’re hiring for. View the company’s Handshake profile and website to learn what they do and their current priorities. (This is a great talking point!) If the fair is in Handshake, you can use filters and keywords to identify the ones that align with your interests and qualifications and star your favorites.
  • Prepare two or three questions to ask. The best questions are short and to the point and show that you did some research.
    • Examples of questions to ask:
      • "If I were in this job, what kinds of projects would I be working on?"
      • "In a few words, how would you describe your company culture?"
    • Examples of questions not to ask:
      • "What jobs are you hiring for?" This should be addressed on the company's Handshake profile or website. (If it is not, then it is okay to ask.)
      • "Based on my resume, what kind of job do you think would be good for me?" Such an open-ended question that focuses on you is more appropriate to a networking event. If you have questions about what types of opportunities might be a fit for your major or skill set, or you would like assistance with your job search, schedule an appointment with your career coach prior to the fair or review our What Can I Do With My Major? resource.
    • Be considerate of others: Understand that you will typically have just a few minutes to speak with recruiters or company representatives. Your conversation should be focused on your skills and how they align with opportunities at the organization.
  • Plan what you will wear. Dressing well makes a good impression and shows that you take the fair seriously. Business casual attire is often acceptable, but you can never go wrong with business professional attire. If you’re in doubt, ask the fair organizer or someone at your career center for advice.

UC Career Centers

UC's career centers provide online self-help resources as well as career coaches who can help you prepare for a fair. Seek them out at the career center that's best for you:

How to Prepare for a Virtual Fair

With a virtual career fair, because all your interactions are online, you need to do a little more work in advance to get set up. Prepare for a virtual fair by taking the additional steps below:

  • Make sure your Handshake profile is up to date and complete – especially major, school year, GPA and work authorization status
  • Upload your most current resume to Handshake
  • Sign up for sessions
    • These are essential to participate in the fair.
    • Check back often, as more companies and sessions are added as the fair date approaches.
    • Pace yourself. Screen fatigue is real, and a career fair can be intense. Consider NOT scheduling sessions back to back to back. Give yourself breaks in your schedule to collect your thoughts, jot down some notes, eat a snack, use the restroom, look out the window, refocus, and prepare for your next set of sessions. We recommend at least one ten-minute break every hour.
  • Plan what you will wear. Even in a virtual fair, recruiters will be able to see you in video chat. Present yourself at your best: clean, neat and dressed in business professional or business casual attire.

Get Your Device Ready

Since attending a virtual fair relies on having a working device and a good internet connection, follow these steps to get your device ready:

  • Decide which device you will use for the virtual fair. A desktop or laptop will be more comfortable and easier to use than a phone.
  • Make sure your device’s camera is working.
  • Test your video and audio.
  • Think about where you will physically be during the fair. Choose a place with a reliable internet connection that is quiet, where you can focus. Headphones or earbuds are a good idea, if you have them.
  • Pay attention to your background. It should not be distracting or undermine the positive impression you’re trying to make. A plain or blurred background is a safe choice.
  • Choose your web browser. Handshake works best with Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Do not use Internet Explorer.

Virtual Fairs in Handshake: Helpful Links

Virtual Fair Day-of Checklist

  • Get a good night's sleep the night before. Eat a decent breakfast. Drink water throughout the day.
  • Make sure you have uploaded your most updated resume to your profile in Handshake. During the fair, keep a copy of your resume handy for reference.
  • Have your self-introduction ready.
  • Choose a quiet environment where you can focus.
  • Make sure your device has a reliable internet connection.
  • Test your device’s video and audio.
  • As you talk with recruiters, make notes of which companies you visit, who you talk to, and your thoughts about working there. Jot down recruiters' names and contact information in case you want to follow up or send a thank-you message.