Navigating Career Fairs

The career fair is around the corner and whether it will be your first time attending 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.

After you read through these tips, check out our Spring 2020 Career & Internship Fair guide for ways to get the most out of this spring’s biggest fair.

Are you a STEM major or interested in careers in a STEM field? Check out Navigating STEM Fairs.

Before the Career Fair

  • Set up your profile in Handshake to research employees attending the fair and apply for internships & jobs
  • Get the Career Fair Plus app on Google Play and the App Store (includes detail on all employers attending the fair)
  • Update your resume by coming to our drop-in hours and Career Fair Prep Night
  • Record a professional voicemail message
  • Use a professional email address on business cards & resume
  • Research the specific organizations you are interested in, including what they do and what positions they are hiring for and write down 2 –3 questions you would ask a recruiter (see page 2 for example questions)
  • Choose appropriate attire– business casual or business professional (Jeans, flip-flops, short skirts and low-cut tops are not appropriate) SuccessWorks offers the Career Closet a place for free professional clothes for students with financial need.
  • 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) and why you are interested in the organization and why you would be a good fit

At the Career Fair

  • Bring a well-tailored resume, but be aware that some recruiters will not accept resumes and will refer you to apply online
  • Prioritize! Create a list of your top 4-5 organizations, and start talking with one of the organizations you are least interested in. This will allow you to warm-up before going to your top 2-3 organizations

Present yourself professionally by:

  • Giving a good, firm handshake and introduce yourself
  • Being knowledgeable about the organization and industry
  • Being able to explain why you are interested in working for them- show enthusiasm

Additional tips:

  • Asking 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”

After the Career Fair

  • 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
  • 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.


Here is a list of suggested questions to help you get started:

  • What skills or traits do you look for in candidates?
  • What is your company’s hiring timeline?
  • What are some of the key responsibilities of this job/internship?
  • What is a typical career path for someone coming in at my level?
  • What kind of training program does your firm have? Formal/Informal? Short term/Long term?
  • What is a day like in this position?
  • What type of formal education is required for entry-level, mid-level, upper-level, positions?
  • Do people filling this type of position work in a structured or non-structured environment?
  • How is performance evaluated? How often?
  • What degree of task variety would a person see in their first year?
  • What opportunities did you take advantage of while you were in college to help you prepare for your job?
  • How did you begin your career? If you had anything to do differently, what would it be?
  • How would you describe your job?
  • What do you like/dislike most about your job?
  • How much client contact do you have?
  • How much contact do you have with others inside your firm?
  • How much freedom do you have in terms of deciding what you want to work on and how to plan the project? How much does this change with experience?
  • What is your company’s policy on continuing education? For example, will they reimburse you for classes taken towards higher education?
  • Is relocation/travel typically required in this career field?
  • Where does your organization have offices within the U.S.? Worldwide?
  • How easy/difficult is it to transfer to another location?
  • What professional societies or associations should I join?
  • Which professional publications in this field should I read?
  • What important changes are occurring in your field now? How will they affect the career of someone like me just starting out in your field

Career Fair Follow-Up Tips

Thank you notes:

Some recruiters do not distribute business cards at career fairs for a variety of reasons such as not wanting to receive hundreds of notes from candidates that are not really interested or qualified for their positions. What a job/internship seeker can do, however, is write down a recruiter’s name from their name tag or your conversation. It is not that difficult to find a company representative’s email address. A recruiter not giving out business cards can end up being to your advantage.

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 resending 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 booth visits 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.