What to Bring to a Job Fair (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 8, 2020

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Job fairs are one of the most efficient ways for individuals to prospect potential jobs and actively interview for open positions with organizations looking to hire. Career fairs can be positive for your job search; they allow you to not only take inventory of the businesses that are hiring but get noticed yourself.

However, it’s important to understand that job fairs can often attract hundreds of other job seekers, many of who may be interested in the same jobs that you are. This means you need to understand how to make a stand-out first impression and continue your success in networking after the event is over.

Getting ready for a job fair doesn’t need to be complicated. Below we discuss the things you should make sure you understand and prepare for before attending your local job fair.

What Is a Job Fair?

A job fair, also known as a career fair, is an event that brings together companies and organizations that are actively looking to hire. This can be for almost any role in their organization, but typically entry-level positions are more prevalent.

Career fairs are incredibly efficient and effective in bringing together employers and potential employees in one place. Job fairs allow attendees to meet and connect with prospective employers, meet other professionals in their industry or job field, and interview or inquire about open positions. It allows employers to sift through a vast pool of candidates and share information about their company and what they may specifically be looking for.

Employers or organizations will most likely have a booth set up. The purpose of the booth is to market the company and the jobs they’re hiring for. They may provide attendees with literature about the job or the company and collect your information for follow up. At the booth, you can discuss their opportunities further and ask any questions you may have.

How To Prepare For a Job Fair

Before you attend the job fair, there’s a little bit of research you can do to help improve your success at the event.

  • Grab a list of companies. If possible, look or ask for a list of the companies planning on attending the job fair. Use the list to prioritize the companies you’re most interested in learning more about, so you have a plan going in. This way, if you run out of time, you’ll have approached the companies you’re truly interested in and can follow up on any remaining ones at a later date.

    Knowing the companies that will be there also allows you to do your research and arm yourself with specific knowledge about the organization before sitting down to have a conversation with them.

  • Pack a bag. Don’t worry about bringing too much to the job fair. You’ll want to be comfortable, so leave the bulky backpacks or briefcases at home. Use a bag that is comfortable, easy to carry, and can leave your hands free for handshaking. A small purse, backpack, or shoulder bag can work perfectly.

    Be sure to include a folder with your printed resumes that you can hand out at the booths. You can also use it to house any information you receive at the event. For job fairs, bring at least 20 copies of your resume, a pen, and a notebook, as well as any business cards you may have.

  • Dress professionally and comfortably. Think about your outfit and consider trying it on before you attend the job fair. You’ll want to dress business casual with attire that won’t get too hot. If you live in a colder climate, make sure you have a coat you’re comfortable in or that there’s an available coat check. Ensure your shoes are comfortable to walk and stand in, as you may be on your feet for a few hours.

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How to Introduce Yourself at a Job Fair

Once you’re at the event, the next thing is to get yourself out there. But introducing yourself might be nerve-inducing and awkward. Here are a few tips on how to best introduce yourself at these events.

  • Body language. Ensure you create the right impression on recruiters by smiling, making eye contact, and a firm handshake when introducing yourself. Be sure you’re standing up straight and avoid looking bored or disorganized.

  • Approach individually. Even if you attend a job fair with a friend, family member, or colleague, be sure to approach the recruiters’ tables by yourself. If you come with someone beside you, it could give the impression that you lack confidence.

  • Greet with important information. When meeting a recruiter for the first time, you should mention a few things in your initial introduction. First, a greeting, such as “hello,” or “nice to meet you.” Next, share your first and last name, as well as your affiliation. This may sound something like, “I’m Lara Martin, and I’m a recent graduate of Penn State University.”

    Finally, include a purpose or a reason for being at the job fair and, more specifically, their table. This may sound something like, “I’m interested in applying for the Marketing Manager position. Would you like to see a copy of my resume?”

What to Bring to a Job Fair

There are a few things to take with you to a job fair. We mentioned a few above, but we’ll dive into more detail for each item you should consider packing in your bag.

  • Copies of your resume. This is the key asset you’ll use during your time at any career fair. Your resume gives potential employers a snapshot of your work history and skills. Leaving them with a copy will allow them to contact you and remember you at a later date.

    Even if they don’t hire you for the specific job you may have inquired about, they can keep your resume in their back pocket when something pops up.

  • Targeted resumes. Bringing targeted copies of your resume can increase your chances of getting a specific job. This is why it’s essential to understand what companies will be in attendance so that you can tailor your resume for any opportunities that specifically stand out to you. By making your resume more targeted, you’ll help yourself get more notice.

  • Elevator speech. Your elevator pitch is meant to be a tool to sell yourself in a short amount of time. This is the most direct way to tell an employer about who you are, your career goals, and how you feel you can meet the specific requirements for the job at hand.

    Since you will likely only get a short amount of time with any given employer, having this in your back pocket is vital to ensure you are both memorable and efficient.

  • Professional portfolio. Depending on your job or career path, you may have a professional portfolio you’d like to show to recruiters. You can consider bringing this with you, or if it’s a digital portfolio, consider having small business cards made with the link. This way, potential employers can look at your work later without you needing to lug an entire portfolio through a job fair.

  • Notepad, paper, and something to write with. It’s a good idea to have something to take notes with. You might want to take quick notes after visiting each booth to remind yourself of what you might have liked or disliked about the people you spoke with, the company they were from, and any important highlights you may want to refer back to.

  • Change of clothes. If you are local to the career fair, you may not need to worry about this. However, depending on the weather in the area or the length of the distance you’re traveling, you may want to consider taking a change of clothes with you. This way, you feel fresh and confident the moment you walk into the job fair.

  • Application preparation information. You should prepare to fill out a variety of job applications at a job fair. This means you should be prepared to answer the typical questions on job applications, such as reference information like phone numbers and email addresses, as well as information from your past employers.

Tips for Attending Your Career Fair

Once you’re inside the job fair, you may feel overwhelmed by the variety of employers and job openings. It may be challenging to know where to start and how best to spend your time. Below are a few tips that may help mitigate these issues.

  • Do your research. By getting the list of companies that are attending, you’re already ahead of the game. But consider taking it one step further and doing some research on the offered positions and what the recruiter or hiring manager is looking for specifically. This will help you be better prepared for any conversations you may have.

  • Only attend if there are jobs in your prospective industry. Be sure you research the actual job fair and the companies in attendance. Only attend job fairs that make sense for your career goals and ensure you’re targeting your visits at the job fair to the organizations that make sense for accomplishing your career goals.

    You don’t want to waste your own time or potential employers’ time. Use your time wisely with companies that have open opportunities you’re interested in.

  • Follow up. Once you are finished with the job fair, ensure you stay organized and know how to follow up with each individual you spoke with who has an opportunity you’re interested in.

    This is where the taking notes part comes in handy. Follow up with a thank-you note or email to express your gratitude for their time. It will showcase your professionalism and remind potential employers of the conversations you had. This will be to your advantage as they go through the hiring process.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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