Career & Internship Services

Career Handbook

Job Fair Success

Tip: Print this page to get a list with checkboxes.


  • Plan exactly what professional attire you will wear. You should look as good as you would for an interview. See What to Wear for ideas.
  • Review standard interview questions and formulate your responses. See Frequently Asked Interview Questions for questions to practice.
  • Participate in mock interviews or practice your interview responses using InterviewStream.
  • Prepare a 30-second to one-minute description of who you are and what you want. Your objective is to say one memorable thing to the recruiters as you hand them your resume. This is often referred to as an "elevator speech."
  • Obtain the list of companies attending the fair.
  • Once you identify the companies you want to target, research them. Read each company's website and enter the company name in a couple of search engines to see what others are saying about them. Also see Know the Organization and Where to Find the Information.
  • Gather essential items to take to the fair:
    • a letter-sized portfolio, also known as a padfolio, with notepad and pen
    • your research notes on companies participating in the fair
    • more than enough copies of your resume and have your resume reviewed by UMD Career and Internship Services staff before the fair
    • a compact professional portfolio of your work samples (optional)


  • Arrive as close to the start of the fair as you can. It is to your advantage to speak to recruiters earlier in the day rather than later. Also, near the end of the event, recruiters may pack up and you may miss an opportunity. You may come and go throughout the length of the fair.
  • Check-in at the registration table to pick up a nametag and a copy of the fair layout showing the location of each employer.
  • A student lounge area is usually available where you may relax, review your company notes and collect your thoughts before and between visiting recruiters. Career counselors are often available if you have questions.
  • Develop a plan, which includes taking a break between talking with recruiters, to ensure you look and feel your best and that you don't confuse one employer for another.
  • Walk around the fair to determine where the companies you have selected are located and to observe the process of interactions as others speak to recruiters.
  • Watch the traffic flow in the room and if a line seems too long, it may be more efficient to visit with another employer.
  • Select an employer for your first contact. To start with, choose one who is further down on your priority list, not your first or second choices.
  • Review the information about the employer you plan to approach.
  • Check your appearance.
  • Have your resume ready.
  • Relax, take a deep breath and approach the first employer.


  • Conduct yourself professionally at all times. You are on stage even as you stand in line or move about the fair area.
  • As you approach the table, respect other people's privacy as they complete their contact.
  • When it is your turn, or as you approach, establish eye contact, present a firm handshake and introduce yourself, deliver your 30-second to one-minute introduction and explain why you have chosen the employer.
  • If the employer invites you to sit down, put your materials in your lap or on the floor, not on the table.


  • Have a three-point agenda: know what you are looking for, what you have to offer and what questions you will ask.
  • Listen carefully and take conversational cues from the employer (e.g., when to end a response, when the contact/interview is over).
  • Try to generate and maintain interest. Smile, respond to questions with specific and concise examples, keep your voice lively, maintain a pleasant vocal tone, use a slightly forward body posture and use humor appropriately.
  • Use transition statements to share information about yourself that the recruiter may not have addressed (i.e., "That's interesting, I had an experience which relates..." or "May I tell you about...").
  • Respond truthfully, while always painting a positive picture of yourself (i.e., "I have not yet had an opportunity to..., but in a similar situation, I...").
  • Ask for information about the application, hiring process and time lines. Determine actual and potential openings.
  • At the end of the contact, offer a firm handshake, ask for the recruiterís business card and express your appreciation, using the recruiter's name.
  • Walk away with confidence; remember you are still on stage.
  • Immediately following the contact, make notes on topics of conversation, contact names and follow-up procedures. Then prepare for your next contact.


  • Check the list of companies attending to see which ones may be conducting actual interviews the day of or the day after the fair.
  • Visit, as early in the day as possible, with the employers who have indicated they are interviewing, to ask about getting on their interview schedules.
  • Some employers may pre-select candidates for interviews. If this is the case, follow the instructions to get on their interview schedules.


  • Some employers may suggest you visit their website or apply online and you may wonder, "Why did I even bother to come?" Don't be discouraged; this is where your research comes in. Many employers use this suggestion as a screening tool, to judge who is seriously interested in the company. If youíve done your research and have been to the website, say so and use the opening to begin a discussion.


  • The job fair is a perfect place to practice your people skills. You do not need to be outgoing to be successful at the fair.
  • Prepare your introduction and several questions for each employer.
  • Approach an employer that marginally interests you and practice talking with the representative before you meet with one that really interests you. The recruiters will ask you a few questions; relax and answer them.
  • Talk about an experience or a project you particularly enjoyed and why.
  • Take breaks between interacting with employers. Step out for a few minutes, collect your thoughts, take a deep breath and go back to meet with the next employer.


  • Within three days, send professional thank you letters, electronic and hard copy as appropriate, addressed to the specific recruiters with whom you spoke.
  • Within ten days, make telephone calls to determine if the companies have received your application materials, to check on the status of vacant positions and to express your continued interest.
  • Keep accurate records of your contacts with companies; include dates of your letters, telephone calls and copies of all materials you send.


Focus on learning as much as you can about what employers look for in the people they hire. The primary benefit of participation in a fair is to collect information and make contacts.