One of the best ways to learn about industries and companies you’re interested in—and get the attention of prospective employers—is to attend a job fair or career fair in your area. One of the advantages of attending career fairs is the opportunity to meet potential employers face to face, which can give your application an edge over those in the stack on the hiring manager’s desk back at the office. However, good job fair preparation is key for making the most of that potential edge. Here’s how to be fully ready and feel confident on the big day.

Do Research on the Participating Companies

First, gather all the information you need to decide what your priorities are and make a “plan of attack” for the day:

  • Make lists. Review the companies who will be participating in the fair. Make one list of the employers you’re most interested in and a second list of the ones you’re at least curious about. Jot down which companies you’re unfamiliar with and look them up online so you can decide if they make your lists. If you are female or are part of any marginalized group, analyze the company’s website, social media posts, and employee reviews online to get a sense of whether the company prioritizes equitable practices.
  • Familiarize yourself with key information about each company. Take time to find out basic information about each company on your lists: what industry they’re in, what role they play in that industry, what their values and priorities are, what positions they’re currently hiring for, and what makes them stand out. It’s important to do this both to avoid wasting time with unnecessary questions and to make a good impression on prospective employers by showing them that you’ve done your research.
  • Use LinkedIn to your advantage. First, be sure your LinkedIn account is updated in case prospective employers decide to look at it. Then use LinkedIn to search for and follow the companies you’re interested in to stay updated on their news and events. Search for hiring managers and follow them individually so you can learn from their posts; you can even use these as talking points at the fair. However, it’s safest not to send hiring managers a connection request unless you receive a job offer.

Prepare for Your Interactions With Prospective Employers

Next, get ready to put your best foot forward when you approach prospective employers at the fair:

  • Prepare your résumé. Do some online research to be sure you’ve presented your résumé in a way that is uncluttered, easy to read, error-free, and puts your best foot forward. If you’re planning to approach employers in more than one industry or role, consider tailoring your résumé to fit each role or industry type more closely. Then print out copies for each employer—plus spare copies—and keep them in a folder or case to bring with you so that they don’t get stained, wrinkled, or torn.
  • Craft your elevator pitch and talking points. Time is of the essence at job fairs, so you’ll need to introduce yourself to prospective employers effectively. This is called an “elevator pitch” because it typically takes about 30 seconds to deliver, or the rough length of an elevator ride. Afterward, you’ll want to have talking points to show hiring managers you’ve done your homework. Use key details you’ve gathered about their company to express how your skills and experiences connect with their mission.
  • Ask intelligent questions. You’ve already done the smart thing by mining company websites, social media, and LinkedIn for all the information about prospective employers that’s been made public. When a recruiter invites you to do so, impress them with specific questions that can only be answered by an insider. Be sure to phrase them respectfully and in ways geared toward meeting employer needs, not your own. Never ask about pay or benefits until you’ve been invited for a final interview.

Plan Your Outfit and Logistics

You’ve done all your homework and decided how you’ll approach the job fair once you get inside the venue. Now all that’s left to do is decide what to wear and how you’ll get there:

  • Wear appropriate clothing. Buy or choose an appropriate outfit for the day. Select one that is comfortable and allows you to move freely, yet is adequately polished for the kind of work you want to do. Try on your outfit to make sure it fits well and isn’t damaged, iron it as needed, and remove any lint or pet hair. To reduce stress and keep yourself on schedule the day of the job fair, have your outfit ready to wear and hanging safely in your closet well ahead of time.
  • Choose a reliable method of transportation. If you’re driving, make sure your vehicle has plenty of gas, is up to date on maintenance, and has good tire pressure. If you’re getting a ride from someone else, make sure that person is reliable and punctual, and that there are no schedule conflicts. If you’re taking public transportation, choose a means and route you’re familiar with, or do a test run before the day of the fair. No matter how you’re getting to the fair, know the directions to get there and arrive early.

Mark your calendar for JobTrain’s next Job Fair on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 from 10 am to 2 pm at 1950 University Avenue in East Palo Alto . Learn more here. Career centers are a great place to learn about and attend job fairs. To get started, search for a career center near you. If you live near Silicon Valley in northern California, you can visit one of JobTrain’s four affiliated centers.

JobTrain is an accredited educational and training institution that transforms lives and communities in Silicon Valley. We help people prepare for successful, sustainable careers in high-demand and emerging fields. Check out our programs to get started on the path to a high-quality job.

Each of JobTrain’s programs combines vocational training, academics, and essential skills development, preparing students to turn their lives around—from unemployment and poverty to success and self-sufficiency. Contact us today to learn more!