Based on more than 1,000 employer surveys that the University Career Center has collected at fairs over the last couple of years, we have identified key employer expectations for candidates at fairs.
Employers expect candidates to have a polished, professional appearance at career fairs. For candidates seeking full-time, post-grad jobs or internships and co-ops, a suit is expected. Career fairs that have a focus on part-time employment (such as the Part-Time Job Fair) can be a little more casual, but it is still strongly recommend that students avoid jeans, shorts, t-shirts, or flip-flops.
While some candidates see a career fair as a good opportunity to learn about companies they are unfamiliar with, most employers expect candidates to have at least some knowledge about their organization. Researching organizations before the event allows candidates to make a strong impression through their conversations with recruiters and avoid having to ask very basic questions, such as "What does your company do?" and "What are you hiring for?" (both of which are considered taboo). The University Career Center provides the list of registered organizations for each fair months in advance, giving candidates plenty of time to conduct research.
Employer feedback reveals that not all candidates bring resumes to our career fairs, and that student and alumni resumes could be stronger. All career fair attendees, even those that aren't looking for an immediate position, should bring multiple copies of a professional resume to the event. Students and alumni can reference our Resume Writing Resources, and we strongly urge candidates to have a career advisor provide resume feedback (through an appointment or drop-ins).
Employers react favorably to candidates who speak confidently and clearly, who are able to showcase their strengths, and who have a good sense of their career direction. One of the best ways to prepare to talk with career fair recruiters is to develop a 30-second commercial (also known as an elevator speech) - a short introduction of yourself. For assistance in identifying a career direction and being able to articulate that to employers, students and alumni (0-5 years out from graduation) can work with their career advisor or participate in our self-assessment program.