Navigating Career Fairs

The Spring Career & Internship Fair for 2023 will feature two days of in-person events at Gordon Dining & Event Center in February, followed by a virtual fair option in late April. There will also be multiple other industry-specific career fair options happening throughout the spring.

Whether it will be your first time participating in a career fair or if you’re just looking for some extra tips, you’re in the right place. It’s important to make the best impression possible from your 30 second elevator pitch, questions for each employer, and the follow-up after the fair.

The following suggestions will get you organized and help build your confidence for a successful experience for any fair.

View Upcoming Career Fairs

How To Participate in Virtual Fairs

First, there are a few things you MUST do to participate in Virtual Fairs on Handshake.

  1. Set up your profile in Handshake. You’ll nee to use Handshake to sign up for fairs and meet with employers. iOS and Android app versions are now available! 
  2. Register for each fair you’re interested in when registration opens. You need to be registered to view available employer sessions. Sign up for as many fairs as you’d like!
  3. Sign up for sessions with employers. Employers are available for group and 1:1 sessions.
Can’t get into a 1:1 session with an employer you’d like to meet with? Join group sessions so the employer will still have access to your resume, and you can also join 1:1 sessions with other employers.

Before the Career Fairs

You should always plan, prepare, and have a strategy to make a great impression with employers to make the most of fairs.

Stop by Career Fair Prep Night to get ready for the fairs, and drop by SuccessWorks 15-Minute Express Advising Appointment for a quick review of your resume.

For virtual fairs, make sure you’re on Handshake, registered for fairs, and signed up for employer sessions, here are some tips to help you get ready for the fairs. Check out the technical requirements to video chat with employers (Chrome/Firefox are the recommended browsers to use).

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Tips to Prepare

  • Do your homework!
    • Research employers attending the fairs and learn about the specific organizations you plan to meet with, including what they do and what positions they are hiring for.
    • Write down 2 –3 questions you would ask a recruiter.
  • Upload your resume to Handshake. For help, click here.
  • If you’ll be connecting via video with employers, scope out a good, quiet spot in your residence or elsewhere with no distractions and a nice background
  • Record a professional voicemail message
  • Use a professional email address on your resume
  • Choose appropriate attire– business casual or business professional. Even for virtual fairs, you’ll want to show employers that you take the opportunity to meet with them seriously and are ready to take on the job you want!
  • Prepare your 30-second introduction or “elevator pitch”: An introduction of yourself (name, major, year in school & whether you are looking for an internship or job), why you’re interested in the organization, and why you would be a good fit.

At the Career Fairs

From knowing how to greet employers to making sure you get the follow up information you need, here are some tips on how to make the most of the fair while you’re there.

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Present Yourself Professionally

  • Introduce yourself, but don’t necessarily always go in for the handshake. Watch how the employer interacts with other students before you approach to see if they seem comfortable with a handshake or not.
  • Be knowledgeable about the organization and industry
  • Be able to explain why you are interested in working for them – show enthusiasm

Additional Tips

  • Ask thoughtful questions based on the research you did prior to the fair
  • Know your availability for the upcoming week in case the employer wants to schedule an interview
  • Ask recruiters for a business card or information on who to contact in the future
  • After talking to a recruiter, take a moment to write down a few key points to reference in your thank you email
  • Be selective with taking employer “free stuff”

Virtual Fairs: Have these Items Ready

  • Your resume (for you to reference when speaking with the employer)
  • Any info you have about the organization (for example, their website up on your computer)
  • Paper and pen to take any notes you need during the session
  • Notes to help you with your elevator pitch
  • A list of questions to ask the employer
  • A glass of water

After the Career Fairs

  • Send thank you e-mails within 24-hours of the career fair (that night or next morning is preferable)
  • In the email reference the UW-Madison career fair you participated in
  • Timeliness is important as many recruiters travel to multiple career fairs within the same week
  • Include key points you may have discussed with the employer to remind them of your conversation
  • Contact SuccessWorks (or your School/College career office if you need contact information for an employer representative who you spoke with at the fair)

Career Fair Sample Questions

Career and internship fairs are a great opportunity to talk with employer representatives about their
organizations and employment opportunities. Be prepared to ask questions! Don’t be uncomfortable approaching the recruiters.
They will be eager to talk with you and answer any questions you may have.

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Suggested Questions to Help You Get Started

Basic Questions

  • How long have you been at [fill in name of company/organization] and what keeps you there?
  • In your mind, what skills or attributes have past interns/new hires possessed that helped them be successful in your company [or for a specific position]?
  • What does training look like for interns/new hires?
  • What are some examples of projects interns/new hires might work on? [Intern: over the course of the internship; New hire: in their first 6 months or year]
  • What is your hiring timeline, and can you tell me a little bit about the different stages of your hiring process?
  • If I have follow-up questions, can I follow up with you? If so, was it your preferred form of contact?


More Advanced Questions (require more prep in advance)

  • I recently read an article about [event, announcement, or news related to company]. What was it like to be a part of that? [Avoid negative news]
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion is very important to me. How do you support different identities?
  • [Ask specific questions about their open roles to gain clarity – avoid asking questions that could be answered in the position description]
  • How is performance evaluated and how often?
  • What is a typical career path for someone coming in at my level?
  • What important changes are occurring in your [company or industry] right now? How will they affect the career of someone like me just starting out?

Career Fair Follow-Up Tips

Thank you notes:

If you don’t get their contact information, write down a recruiter’s name from your conversation. It’s usually not that difficult to find a company representative’s email address, and you can show great initiative to an employer by finding their email to send them a thank you note.

Sample Follow-up Email to an employer:

Dear (fill in name of recruiter here):
It was a pleasure speaking to you at the (fill in name of the career fair) at UW-Madison on (fill in date). I am very interested in your (fill in name of position) and enjoyed hearing from you what it’s like to work at(fill in name of company/organization). (Add in anything else related to your conversation as well as what they mentioned you need to do to continue through their process such as apply on-line, etc).

I appreciate your time and look forward to pursuing an opportunity at (fill in name of company/organization).

(fill in name)

Additional Tips:

LinkedIn: Connect with recruiters and employers via LinkedIn. You will find that some recruiters want to connect with potential candidates. Be prepared that some will not though. In addition, be sure to follow a company’s LinkedIn page. LinkedIn provides a tremendous platform for connecting and sharing with potential colleagues.

Twitter: Companies and organization are also effectively using this tool. Job seekers are making a huge mistake by not taking advantage of Twitter and following a potential employer’s Twitter feed. Many companies have a special account just for their career division and a number of recruiters have Twitter accounts themselves.

Cover Letters: Anytime you send a resume to a potential employer, you should include a cover letter. Followup with recruiters after a career fair by re-sending your resume and cover letter. While many will tell you they never read cover letters, many do. It’s not worth it to try and guess who does and doesn’t read cover letters, so just write the letter and tailor it to the specific position you are applying for.

Other company representatives: Believe it or not, your employer meetings at career fairs can really pay off when reaching out to other representatives of the company. Use the story as a lead in for cover letters, conversations or interviews to show your effort in connecting with an employer.