A career fair is an event where employers have booths with information and representatives from the organization available to talk with you. The goal of the event is to build relationships (i.e., network) with employers so you can explore different career fields, discover position openings, and engage with employers about their organizations and what kind of skills they are seeking for their roles. Often you won’t leave a career fair with a job offer in hand, but you will leave with a better understanding of where you want to apply for positions, how to best represent yourself for those roles, and who to get in touch to learn more or ask questions to. Making a positive impression with employers in person can really help you to stand out in the job or internship application process!
So be sure to check our website for these career fairs:
Advice from Employers
- "Talk with employers. We want to learn more about you and your career interests. Even if you may not be clear on what your career will be at this point, it's a great opportunity to learn what jobs are out there and great practice talking with employers!"
- "Just be yourself. Be confident in your skills and the experience you've worked so hard for. You should be so proud to have your resume and be ready to talk about why you want to work at that company."
- "Don't take each company at face value. It's easy to go there with a one track mind, thinking you only want to apply with specific companies. Each company there has multiple opportunities, in multiple avenues, even if it's being advertised as healthcare, teaching, or manufacturing, etc."
Begin Preparing for the Fair
- Update your current resume, or create a new resume. Come to drop-in hours, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday–Friday, to get feedback on your resume; no appointment needed. Bring at least 10 copies of your resume.
- Attend one of our Prep Events for tips and best practices.
Research the Organizations Attending the Fair
- Find the fair event on Handshake to view the list of employers attending.
- Plan to target three to five organizations that truly interest you.
- Once you’ve selected organizations to target, research basic information like the size of the organization, general history, mission, product(s), target market(s), policies, and competitors, this will make it easier for you to talk to (and impress) representatives from these organizations. You can often find this information on the organization’s website, their LinkedIn page, glassdoor.com, and/or google news search.
Prepare a Brief Introduction
Consider how you want to introduce yourself. Remember that employers want to get to know YOU, so don’t be afraid to show your personality, express your interest, and engage in conversation. Your interactions with employers should be conversational, so say hello and introduce yourself by name, and often the employer will introduce themselves too. Then you can share a little of your introduction with them. You don’t want it to be scripted; the goal is to have talking points to have some ideas before the fair of what you want to discuss with the employers you approach. Some of the things you may want to include are:
- Class (first year, sophomore, junior, senior)
- A brief summary of your skills
- Knowledge of the organization/company
- Opportunities you seek
- Relevant experiences (work, internship, volunteer)
- Relevant personal goals
"Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a senior studying Global Studies and International Relations. After studying abroad in Spain and interning as a marketing assistant, I’m interested in working with your organization. I was really impressed to see the global reach your products have.”
“Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a first year student who is exploring majors currently. I am very interested in communications and nonprofit management so I am thinking of studying english and/or perhaps sociology. I’m starting to think about ways I can continue to develop my writing and leadership skills and was excited to find that you have some part-time jobs available at your organization. I have worked in customer service roles in the past and these experiences have taught me a lot about teamwork and communicating effectively. I’m really interested in the community outreach position I saw posted on goldpass, can you tell me a bit about some of the projects someone in this role would work on?”
Prepare Question to Ask Company Representative
Use the research you conducted to ask thoughtful questions. Examples:
- I saw on (Handshake or another job search site) you’re looking for a ____. Can you tell me more about this opportunity?
- What are the most important qualities, characteristics, or skills you look for in employees?
- I’m a first-year student; do you have any recommendations of what kinds of experiences I can seek out to prepare for an internship with your organization or within your industry?
- I see that you are a U of M alum; how did your major/degree help you prepare for your career?
- Can you describe the organization's culture?
- What are some of the internship or job opportunities for someone in my major or with my interests?
- I’m really interested in learning more about the career paths of some of the people that work in your organization. How could I pursue an informational interview?
- May I follow up with you after the fair?
- Dress in a way that is authentic to you, comfortable, and showcases how you would like to be viewed in a workplace setting. See some examples of dress here.
- Visit your top choices last. That way, you’ll be warmed up and less nervous by the time you talk to them. If you have enough time after that, explore a few other organizations at the fair.
- Make a positive impression, be confident and curious!
- Avoid asking about salary or benefits as it’s too early in the process.
- Silence your cell phone.
- Listen carefully to learn information relevant to future interactions with the organization.
- If the recruiter is busy talking to another student, read their literature while you wait or come back when they’re less busy.
- Request business cards (This will be helpful for following up after the fair). If no business card is available, ask to reach out via the contact info on the fair materials.
- Take the time to connect, even if the job opening isn’t quite what you’re looking for.
- Take notes about your interactions with employers. Use your notes later to mention specific information in thank-you notes and cover letters you send. This will also help the company representative remember you later.
- If an employer tells you to apply online, this simply may be their hiring process. It doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in you.
- Send thank-you notes within 24 to 48 hours after the fair.
- Refer to the fair's name, date, and location and any unique points discussed to jog the rep’s memory of you.
- Reiterate your qualifications and interests in the organization and position(s). And/or inquire about setting up a time for an informational interview.
- Proofread and have a friend review your thank you note.
- Include your resume if you think it’s appropriate.
- Consider connecting with the employees you met on Linkedin.
- Apply for any positions you are interested in.
Have all of the CLA Internship & Career Fair information at your fingertips! Download the free Handshake Jobs & Careers app from the App Store.
We understand that being an international student (one who will eventually require sponsorship in order to work in the U.S.) presents some unique challenges. To help you respond to those challenges, we have prepared a few resources that are specific to the international student experience at job fairs. Make sure you take full advantage of these as well as visiting your college career center for a resume review and practice introducing yourself. Learn more career information and resources for international students.
Be sure to visit the ISSS information table to get the information about work options for F-1, J-1, and H-1B visas.
Career Fair Do's and Don'ts for International Students
DON’T begin with "Do you sponsor?"
DO let the employer raise the issue of sponsorship if they are interested
DON'T begin with "Do you hire international students?"
DO begin with questions that will get a conversation started and let the employer learn what you bring beyond being international.
DON’T begin with "Hi, I'm Punit and I'm from India."
DO begin with an introduction that emphasizes your qualifications for the job and the company.
DON’T begin with "Hi, what does your company do?"
DO showcase the research you have done into the company and your fit for it
DON'T go up to talk to recruiters in groups or pairs.
DO go one at a time
Answering common employer questions about sponsorship
- "Do you need sponsorship?" or "Do you need work authorization?"
- "My education visa covers me for internships. I don't need any authorization or sponsorship from an employer."
- "My education visa covers me for X months during which time I do not need authorization or sponsorship from my employer. After that, I would need my employer to file for a work visa, but I expect by that time to have really demonstrated my value and my fit for your company."
- "I would not require sponsorship or any additional paperwork or expense to work for you as an intern. If, as I hope happens, I do such a great job that you want to keep me on full-time, then I would ultimately need sponsorship."