5 Tips to Get Hired from a Career Fair

Jan 20, 2020

I know firsthand how daunting career fairs can be.

I remember showing up as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior and just walking around and staring at recruiters, unsure what I was supposed to do. It’s when you’re expected to show up as an “adult” and try to get an internship or a job, without really knowing for certain what you’re looking for. But, I don’t want you to feel as overwhelmed as I did!

There are some strategies and tips that will help you make your upcoming career fair a success.

What Are Career Fairs?

Career fairs are typically organized by the career services department of your college or university, but they are sometimes hosted and organized by external companies. Think of them as meet-and-greets for companies and candidates.

I like to imagine career fairs as my time to mingle and network with industry thought leaders. That helps reduce the overall stress that attending a career fair brings.

At a career fair, recruiters (those smiley people at the booths) are typically looking for students to fill these positions:

  • Internships
  • Part-time jobs
  • Full-time jobs
  • Management development programs (also called management in training)

If you’re looking for one of those things, then you’re in luck!

Your college or university may organize industry-specific career fairs to make it easier for you to find the right opportunity, but if they don’t, no worries.

These tips will help you succeed among a sea of applicants.

5 Must-Have Strategies to Succeed at a Career Fair

Now that you know what career fairs are, here are five top tips and strategies to get your dream job!

  1. Research the companies in advance
  2. Lead with a firm handshake
  3. Always smile and maintain eye contact
  4. Bring a polished résumé
  5. Practice interviewing beforehand

Let’s explore these in a little more depth!

1. Research the Companies in Advance

Typically, before a career fair, the career services department will release a list of all the companies and brands that will be in attendance. This is a great way for you to pre-screen everyone that will be there.

After all, if a company doesn’t offer what you’re looking for, then what’s the point of talking with them?

Sometimes, companies will have opportunities that they don’t actively recruit for, but I prefer working with companies that have existing programs so that it’s a smooth transition.

Starting with DECA’s National Advisory Board is great because they have already demonstrated that they value your DECA experience.

2. Lead With a Firm Handshake

This is just about the pinnacle of professionalism. Most recruiters will judge you on your handshake, whether they are subconsciously aware or not.

To have a firm handshake, you want to make sure that it’s brief and demonstrates a strong grasp. But, you don’t want to overpower the person you’re shaking hands with, so don’t feel a need to overexert.

It should feel like you’re opening a car door—just enough pressure and only for a couple of seconds to get where you need to.

Since I have been criticized in the past of giving too firm a handshake, I want to remind you that recruiters are shaking just about everyone’s hand, so feel free to go a little softer as they can be exhausted.

3. Always Smile and Maintain Eye Contact

When people come to me for career advice, I always tell them that people hire for the person, not the position. The exact same thing happens at career fairs.

When you smile and maintain eye contact, you’re demonstrating that you’re:

  • Friendly
  • Listening
  • Courteous
  • Engaged

These characteristics make great employees, so if you show these off, you’ll do great! It’s the same kind of body language that you’d bring to a DECA role-play.

Just don’t plaster on a fake smile or try too hard… That’s when you can come off as disingenuous and inauthentic, and we don’t want that.

4. Bring a Polished Résumé

Your résumé is what does you talking for you after the career fair is over, which is why you spend quality time on it in advance.

Likely, the career services department at your college or university will have a résumé session in anticipation, so take advantage of it.

This is also a great time to market your DECA leadership positions and competitive finishes. If you don’t have any of them, just list your membership! You’ll be amazed at how many recruiters have heard of DECA, which may give you a leg up against the competition.

For a résumé that gets you hired, these are some essential elements:

  • Easy to read sections
  • Minimal color
  • Detailed job experience in reverse chronological order
  • Highlights of qualifications section
  • Leadership/extracurricular involvements section

A pro tip that I love is that if you print your résumé out and turn it upside down, you’ll be able to see just how readable and clean the formatting is. If it looks confusing and muddled, chances are it looks the same the other way and you’re not realizing it.

Make sure you don’t have any grammatical errors as that can be an instant rejection in some cases.

Remember, most recruiters are thin-slicing you, or making quick judgments about your character and employability in a matter of seconds, so do everything you can to make sure your résumé leaves a positive impression.

5. Practice Interviewing

Don’t wait until the career fair to start interviewing!

You can set up a time to mock interview with a member from your college or university’s career services department.

They know exactly what recruiters are looking for and sometimes, even more specifically for certain programs, so you should listen to them.

You should also become familiar with these kinds of questions:

  • Behavioral (Can you tell me how you resolved that conflict?)
  • Situational (How would you react to a guest demanding a refund?)
  • Competency (Can you give me an example of your leadership skills?)
  • Opinion (What is your greatest strength/weakness?)
  • Credential verification (How long did you work at XYZ?)
  • Brainteaser (How many ping pong balls fit into a car?)
  • Nonsense (What color best describes you and why?)

The more that you practice these questions, the more that you will be familiar with how to answer the style of questions.

While it is important to practice, you should not sound like you are reciting from a script. You need to stay engaged throughout the process.

And, chances are, there will be multiple parts to a question or an underlying question, so take a moment before answering to properly address the question.


In this article, we went over some amazing ways to make sure you crush your upcoming career fair, including:

  1. Research the companies in advance
  2. Lead with a firm handshake
  3. Always smile and maintain eye contact
  4. Bring a polished résumé
  5. Practice interviewing beforehand

What are your favorite tips? Feel free to tag me on social media when you get your dream job!


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