Everything You Need to Succeed at the Career Fair

Career fairs are a wonderful opportunity for you to meet recruiters and learn more about potential employment opportunities. To ensure career fair success, attendees will need to put their best foot forward and prepare in advance. To help students and alumni prepare for the 2016 UMUC Spring Career Fair being held both in-person and online on March 10, here  are a few tips to help you prepare and give you the confidence you need to find your next career opportunity.

Know Your Goals

It is a good idea to think about “why” you want to attend a career fair or participate online at a virtual fair. Are you interested in learning more about the company? Do you want to gain a better understanding about the open positions? Are you interested in developing a stronger network?

Identify Companies/Agencies and Research

One of the most important steps in the preparation process is spending time learning about the employers who will be participating at the career fair.  Take a look at each employer and note the reasons why you want to work for that company and how you are a good fit. What unique qualities stand out about that employer? Prioritize your list of participating companies/agencies and prepare questions for the ones you are interested in meeting.

Prepare Your Resume

When attending a career fair in person, even if you submitted your resume in advance, bring plenty of hard copies of your resume with you to give to the recruiter. This is a good way for the recruiter to remember you and jot down notes about the conversation. If you are looking for more than one type of position, each significantly different, you might need two different versions of your resumes. If you are unsure or you want someone else to review your resume, click here to set up an appointment with a UMUC Career Advisor.

Prepare an Elevator Pitch

Your elevator speech or pitch tells the employer who you are, what you do, and what you are looking for. It should be brief and to the point.

For example: “Hi, my name is_______. I am a recent UMUC graduate/student/alumni. After conducting some research on your website, I am interested in the ________ position with your company/agency. I would like to tell you a little about my background.

Just in case an employer has not listed the positions they are hiring for, you can still provide information about the type of position you are looking for. Use this time to educate the recruiter on your experience and demonstrate the enthusiasm and passion you could bring to their organization.

Registering for the Career Fair

Career fairs typically require that attendees register in advance and upload a resume as part of creating your online profile. While you are on the website you can either download or view the names of the companies attending the fair. Some sites give you the chance to log in using your LinkedIn profile to allow potential recruiters a chance to not only see your education and career experience, but to put a virtual face to your profile when chatting online.

Dress for Success

The career fair is professional and it is recommended that you wear conservative business attire. Make sure that accessories are kept to a minimum and refrain from wearing cologne or perfume (an employer might be allergic).If you are attending online, you will need to ensure that your appearance from the waist up is business professional in case potential employers want to speak via video chat.


Think of the career fair as a way to network and make contacts with a company that could potentially lead to a job. Treat each meeting as a preliminary or screening interview. If you are attending virtually, you can browse the different employer chat rooms and chat with recruiters. If you are chatting with a recruiter who is not the one actively looking to fill a position you are interested in, ask the recruiter to connect with the person on his or her team that is hiring for that position. A lot of career fairs have a chatroom where you can network with other job seekers. Use this opportunity to learn about cultures at different organizations, and a way to expand your networking capacity.

Follow Up

When attending a career fair online, you will be able to easily follow up with the recruiters you speak to. Most of them will give you their contact information so that you can easily email them to follow up on job opportunities in the future.  Within 48 hours of the career fair write a targeted thank you letter. Reiterate your interest and why you are a good candidate. Enclose another copy of your resume. When attending a career fair in person, make sure to get business cards from the recruiters you speak with. Write notes on the back of the card to summarize the conversation you had with the recruiter, and use your notes to customize your thank you note.

Career fairs can be a wonderful opportunity to search for your next career opportunity. Click here to register to attend either the in-person or online 2016 UMUC Spring Career Fair. Click on the “Employer Listing” link below to learn more about the companies participating in this year’s event.

2016 Spring Career Fair Employer List

Additionally, click here to watch the recent webinar titled, “Preparing for Career Fair Success” to learn more.

Rhoda Smackum is a career services advisor at University of Maryland University College. She in an associate certified career coach and global career development facilitator. Her areas of expertise include career coaching, career transition, career exploration, working with special populations, job search strategizing, and supervision.