A picture showing Details of what one may gain on a career fair

So you signed up to attend your first career fair, huh? Congratulations, that’s a big step towards landing your dream job. But now, the anxiety is starting to creep in as you wonder how to make the best impression.

Career fairs can be intimidating, especially when you’re just starting, but with some preparation and confidence, you’ll be networking like a pro in no time.

How to Prepare Ahead of Time

A career fair is a chance to make a great first impression, so preparation is key. Do your research ahead of time to target the right companies and roles. Check their websites to learn about their culture and values. Come equipped with thoughtful questions that show your enthusiasm and interest.

Polish up your resume and have several copies on hand

Plan your outfit. Dress in professional, polished attire that makes you feel confident and comfortable.

Practice your pitch. Be ready to introduce yourself and your career goals genuinely and engagingly. Mention your relevant experience, skills, and passion for the work. Ask an insightful question to start a meaningful conversation.

Do a dry run the day before. Practice your pitch, think through possible interview questions, and review your resume and the companies you’re most interested in.

What to Wear and Bring

When it comes to career fairs, first impressions matter. What you wear and bring with you can make or break your chances of landing an interview.

Dress for success in professional business attire. That means slacks, a knee-length skirt, a button-down shirt, and a blazer. Avoid anything too casual, like jeans, t-shirts, or sneakers. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed at these events.

Bring copies of your polished resume. Have at least 20-30 on hand if the fair is well-attended. You want to be able to provide a resume to any company representative who expresses interest in your background and experience.

Don’t forget a notepad and pen. Jot down details about the companies and representatives you speak with, comments they make about your experience or skills, and any business cards you collect. These notes will help jog your memory later and allow you to follow up appropriately.

You’ll also want to bring a professional-looking bag or folder to hold all your materials. A backpack won’t make the best impression, so opt for a simple leather or canvas messenger bag instead.

A smile and an enthusiastic attitude are two more must-haves. Career fairs can be tiring, especially if you speak with many companies, but do your best to maintain an upbeat demeanor. Your passion and energy will shine through, leaving a lasting impression on recruiters.

How to Work the Room

Working at a career fair successfully requires some strategy. Here are some tips to make a lasting impression:

Do your research ahead of time

Check which companies will be attending and review their websites. Make a list of those you’re most interested in so you can make the most of your time. Prepare questions to show your enthusiasm and knowledge about the company and role.

Have a firm handshake and make eye contact

A handshake and confident smile can go a long way in making a good first impression. Look the recruiter in the eye, state your name, and mention the position you’re interested in.

Be engaged and ask questions

Recruiters will appreciate your thought-provoking questions about the company culture, career path, challenges, opportunities, etc. Show your passion for the work. Discuss how you would be a great fit for the role based on your relevant experience, skills, and interests.

Express strong interest in the opportunities

Politely ask about the next steps in the interview process and when you can expect to hear back from them. Get business cards from your most engaging conversations so you can follow up with a thank you email within 24 hours. Briefly reiterate your interest and enthusiasm for the position.

Follow up and stay in touch

If you establish a connection with certain recruiters, keep the relationship going by periodically following up and nurturing your network. You never know where future opportunities may lead! Career fairs are a chance to plant seeds that could eventually blossom into new career opportunities.

How to Start Meaningful Conversations

Starting meaningful conversations with company representatives at a career fair is key to making a lasting impression. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Make eye contact, smile, and have good body language. Walk confidently over to employer booths that interest you. Make eye contact, flash a genuine smile, and have enthusiastic body language. First impressions matter, so they appear engaged and excited to be there.

Do some research ahead of time. Learn about the companies attending and their open positions. Being knowledgeable about the company and role shows your enthusiasm and preparation. Briefly mention some facts about the organization to start a dialog.

Share your experience and qualifications. Explain how your background and skills would make you a great fit for the organization. Discuss relevant coursework, internships, activities, and interests. Help the representative visualize what you could bring to the role and company.

Discuss the next steps. If there seems to be a good fit based on your conversation, inquire about the interview and hiring process for the position. Ask what the next steps are to advance your candidacy. Understanding the decision timeline will help determine how quickly you need to follow up.

Follow Up and Follow Through

Following up after a career fair is just as important as your preparation and performance at the event. You may miss out on opportunities if you don’t reach out to the connections and new leads you made. Here are some tips for effective follow-up:

Touch base within 48 hours. Send a quick email to anyone you connected with, like a friendly “It was great meeting you!” message. Mention something you discussed so they remember you, and reiterate your interest in the company or role. This helps to keep you fresh in their mind.

Connect on LinkedIn.

Send an invite to connect on LinkedIn. In the message, reference meeting them at the career fair. Once connected, you can stay updated with their company and see if any new jobs are posted. They will also know when you edit your profile or work experience.

Request an informational interview

If there was a company or person you were particularly interested in, ask if they would be open to an informational interview. Explain you’re looking to learn more about their work and experience. This is a chance to build a relationship and discuss potential opportunities, even if they don’t have any current openings.

Follow through and stay in touch. Take action on any next steps discussed at the career fair. Conduct interviews, revise your resume, and work on projects discussed—whatever was suggested to move forward. And continue to get in touch periodically with your new connections to express your ongoing interest. With time and persistence, the right opportunity can emerge.


So here you have some key tips to help you make a memorable first impression at your next career fair. Stay positive, be authentic, and believe in yourself. You have so much amazing potential, and the right opportunity is out there waiting for you.

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