Navigating Career Fairs

First year students through alumni can benefit from attending a career fair by gathering information about internships, co-ops, summer or permanent full-time employment. When you attend a career fair, you can gain insight into what employers will expect upon graduation. Many times the career fair tables are staffed by recent UMass grads offering insights like, "If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently my freshman and sophomore years." 
Listen, if you are not ready to get a job or internship. Listen to the conversations between students and employers and get the idea of how things go. 


  • Know your employers. Review the list of employers expected at the career fair and focus your research on the 5-6 that interest you the most. Go to the fair knowing something about each of these organizations. Employers like it when you know about them.  
  • Know what you want.  What position or department are you interested in? You can get this kind of information while doing your research. Saying, “I’ll take anything,” or “I don’t know,” to a recruiter shows a lack of interest. 
  • Dress the part. Go dressed as if you were interviewing. This is your first impression on the employer so you want to look like a professional. Some employers come to fairs in very casual attire, but wait until you get the job/internship, to follow their dress code.  


  • Carry your resumes (at least 10-15) in a professional way. A neat folder is fine. A small briefcase works well too. Stow your coat, backpack and other gear in a coatroom.  
  • Pick up a map and walk around the room to get oriented to the location of the employers that you wish to connect with. 
  • Come early. Some recruiters will have planes to catch; others will be tired and ready to wind down after a long day of chatting with students. Come early while employers are fresh-and hit the tables of employers you are most interested in working for first.  
  • Present a positive attitude. Greet each employer with a smile and an enthusiastic 30-second pitch-your name, your major and your career interests/skills as they relate to the organization.
  • Some May Not Take Resumes. Be prepared that some employers cannot accept hard copy resumes and will ask you to apply online. This is to comply with federal regulations about the way employers keep data on applicants. This does not mean the employer is giving you the brush-off, and it does not mean the employer is wasting time by attending the fair and talking with you. The employer reps may well be taking note of candidates — in whom they are interested, but they have to follow certain procedures to comply with law.  
  • Ask for cards. Collect business cards from recruiters you speak to as you can. Jot notes on the recruiter and the organization on the back of the card. Use those cards-to personalize your thank-you notes. Do not be offended if they prefer not to give out cards.  
  • Ask for the next step. At the end of a conversation with a recruiter, ask what the next step is in the hiring process.  
  • Pace Yourself. The amount of time you will have with each recruiter can vary from seconds to minutes. Use the time to provide the employer with a clear description of what you are looking for and what you can offer. Please do not monopolize the employer’s time, present professional boundaries, thank them and move along, so that other students get access. 


The recruiter may ask you, "Do you have any questions?" Here's your chance to show you're interested in the organization and are serious about your career plans. Here are some questions that can help you stay focused. 

  • What kinds of people do you hire to fill your entry-level positions? 

  • What skills or educational background do you look for when you recruit for these jobs, internships, co-ops or summer positions? 

  • What kind of orientation and training do new hires or interns receive? 

  • How does your organization support diversity and inclusion? 

  • What is the typical career path in this area of specialization? 

  • Your questions should be related to your career interests and goals. Show that you have done your homework and now need to learn more about the career opportunities available.  


Send a thank-you email to any employers you want to continue to communicate with. Complete any online applications requested. Even if you’ve left a resume behind, filling out an online application ensures that your data is in the employer’s data base quickly and with the information you prefer. In the thank-you email: 

  • Thank them for taking the time to meet with you. 

  • Review key points that were discussed during your conversation. Resend your resume. 

  • Explain how you would be an asset to the employer (address the keys points discussed in your conversation or from employer literature). 

  • Add new information that may not have been addressed during your quick meeting. 

  • Check back after a few weeks to see if opportunities are available for you with their organization.  


  • Don’t cruise the booths with a group of friends. Interact with the recruiters on your own. Make your own positive impression! 

  • Don’t carry your backpack, large purse, or other cumbersome bags with you. Carry your resumes in a folder or portfolio. It will keep your resume neat and handy, and gives you a place to file business cards of recruiters that you meet. Stow your coat, backpack or other gear in a coatroom.  

  • Don’t come dressed for an exercise workout (or any other casual activity). A career fair is a professional activity.  

  • Don’t “wing it” with employers. Do your homework! Research the companies just as you would for an interview. You’ll be able to focus on why you want to work for the organization and what you can do for them.  

  • Don’t come during the last half hour of the event. Many employers come a long distance to attend the fair and may need to leave early so you may miss the organizations you wanted to connect with. 


  • Most recruiters will have information for you to pick up, including brochures, position descriptions and giveaways.  

  • Knowledge and a better sense of your career options. If you have used the event correctly, you will have made contact with several organizations that hire people with your skills and interests. In thinking about their needs and your background, evaluate whether each organizations might be a match for you. 

  • Self-confidence in interacting with employer representatives. A career fair gives you the opportunity to practice your introduction skills than a formal interview. Use this experience to practice talking about what you have done, what you know and what your interests are.  

  • A possible connection that could lead you to getting the job or internship offer! Many students tell us they got their position by attending a career fair -- It can and does happen all the time!