What To Bring To A Job Fair (With Examples)

By Caitlin Mazur - Oct. 19, 2021

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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.

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.

Job Fair FAQ

  1. How do I make a good impression at a job fair?

    To make a good impression at a job fair, be prepared, confident, and professional. Just as you would for a job interview, it’s important to do all you can to present yourself as capable and poised at a job fair.

    The first step in accomplishing this is to research the companies that will be at the job fair and note which ones you want to talk to. Knowing a little bit about what they do before you get to the fair will help you make better use of your time and show recruiters that you’re truly interested in working for their organizations.

    Print out plenty of resumes on good quality paper to hand out to recruiters, and think of some questions to ask them. If you want to, you can even go the extra mile and look up job openings at the companies you’re interested in. Then you can target your resume to those positions and talk with recruiters about them specifically.

    To boost your confidence, practice your elevator pitch, which is your brief introduction of who you are, your qualifications, and your goal in coming to the job fair. This will allow you to introduce yourself quickly and professionally. Once you’re at the fair, walk confidently, shake hands firmly, and look recruiters in the eye.

    Organizing your resumes, pens, and notepads before you arrive will also help you keep from fumbling or scrambling to find what you need, helping you feel and appear even more professional.

  2. What do you wear to a job fair?

    Wear comfortable, professional clothes to a job fair. Business casual is typically appropriate, and you must be able to walk around for several hours comfortably.

    This means you should wear shoes that don’t make your feet hurt, clothes that don’t give you anxiety about a wardrobe malfunction, and layers that can allow you to either warm up or cool down.

    As you choose your layers, keep in mind that it will probably get warmer and warmer as people show up and mill around the event.

    You don’t want to worry about getting too sweaty or juggling a jacket you didn’t need along with your resumes and other materials, so consider wearing something you can throw in your bag or leave at a coat check.

    A career fair isn’t generally the best time to try out a new outfit or pair of shoes, especially if you’re planning on staying for several hours (and even if you aren’t, you’ll be surprised at how quickly time flies). Go with tried-and-true clothing that you feel like yourself in.

    The most important thing is to wear clean, neat clothes and to be well-groomed. That means brushing or fixing your hair, trimming or shaving your facial hair, wearing deodorant, and freshening your breath. Just make sure you spit out any gum or breath mints before you begin chatting with recruiters.

    For women, makeup should be fairly light and natural-looking. Jewelry should be subtle. If you wear perfume or cologne, make sure you apply it lightly or consider leaving it off altogether for this event.

  3. What should I expect at a job fair?

    At a job fair, you should expect to talk to many different recruiters from many different companies. Each organization represented at the fair will set up a booth or table attended by one or more representatives from the company. Usually, these are general recruiters, but depending on the job fair, they might be from a specific department as well.

    You and the rest of the attendees will get to go from booth to booth talking to the representatives about their company, the jobs they have available, and your skills and goals.

    You can (and should) pass out your resume and portfolio to organizations you’re interested in, whether they have an opening you qualify for or not. Sometimes you can even fill out an application right then and there.

    Even if you don’t find any jobs you want to apply for, job fairs are great opportunities to get your questions answered and make connections. Giving your resume to recruiters will put your name on their radar if jobs you do qualify for open up in the future.

    Then, when you apply, you’ll already have a connection at the company, which can give you a leg up on the competition.

    Job fairs often only last for a few hours, and you’d be surprised at how quickly time flies when you’re conversing with so many people, so don’t feel like you have to stop by every booth. Prioritize talking to the companies you’re most interested in so that you can be sure to fit them in, and then use any extra time you may have to do some exploring.

  4. Are job fairs worth it?

    Yes, job fairs are worth it. You get an opportunity to have a mini-interview and low-pressure, face-to-face conversations with representatives from several different companies, something you don’t normally get to do.

    Not only do you get to introduce yourself and make a personal connection with someone at a company you’d like to work for, but you also get to find out more about the organization.

    This can help you decide whether or not you want to put in the effort to apply for positions there, as well as give you direction on what types of roles you’d want to apply for.

    Come prepared with copies of your resume because you might get to apply for a job on the spot. Even if they aren’t hiring anyone with your qualifications, at the least, you’ll be getting your resume in the hands of recruiters so that they know you’re interested and can consider you if and when an opening that you are qualified for arises in the future.

    Even with all of these benefits of job fairs, it’s important to remember that they’re only worth it if there are companies there that you could and would actually want to work for.

    Many job fairs center around a specific industry or have a limited number of organizations, so do your homework and look up the companies that will be represented there ahead of time.

  5. What should I know about a company before a job fair?

    Before a job fair, you should know what a company does, what types of open positions it has, and what they’re looking for in candidates to fill those positions.

    While you can still attend a job fair without doing much research ahead of time, looking into these facets of companies that you’re especially interested in can go a long way.

    Having this background information in mind will allow you to treat your interactions with recruiters more like interviews than a general informational conversation. You’ll know what questions you want to ask and which skills you should highlight, allowing you to have a more fruitful conversation with the recruiters.

    In addition, if you walk in with questions that go beyond the information they present in their typical spiel, you’ll show that you’re genuinely interested in the position, and it’ll be easier for recruiters to remember you when they go back to review resumes.

    Plus, you’ll be able to skip right to the meat of the conversation, which allows both parties to get the information they need.

    If you don’t have much time to research before a job fair, though, at the least, you should make sure that at least a few of the companies represented are in the same industry that you are. Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting your time.

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Caitlin Mazur

Caitlin Mazur is a freelance writer at Zippia. Caitlin is passionate about helping Zippia’s readers land the jobs of their dreams by offering content that discusses job-seeking advice based on experience and extensive research. Caitlin holds a degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA.

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