How to Beg People to Hire You, With Class: Crushing the Job Fair

Last year, a good friend of mine graduated from Pitt with a neuroscience degree and no idea what he wanted to do.

By January, when he was ready, he applied for two jobs through UPMC. Prior to this, he had never made a resume, gone to a networking event, or created a LinkedIn. His only internship-related experience was a stint in a lab that he’d gotten through his friend.

He got interviews at both places. He was offered both jobs.


Unfortunately, most people applying for jobs in 2015 aren’t as #blessed. I, like many of you, am just about to finish up my senior year without any concrete plans after graduation. I’m finding out very quickly that applying for jobs can be a time-consuming, stressful, occasionally confusing process.

BUT, Pitt is on our side! To make this very scary time a little easier, they hold two career fairs each year: one in the fall, one in the spring.

After the fall’s career fair, I was wary. It was largely targeted toward STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, math), and the extent of my ~ ScIeNcE ~ knowledge begins and ends with the years of my life that have been spent in bed with Walter White. Day one of the fair was similar, seeking primarily technical majors. Day two, however, was targeted to the considerably more familiar “liberal arts, social science, and business” majors.

Now (spoilers!), just because I knew that the job fair was happening wasn’t enough to actually get me a job. I’ve done several interviews before, and I talk with prospective students every week at my on-campus job. But walking up to a table of real, live professionals and interviewing them while they judge me with their eyeballs? I felt lost. So, like any self-respecting aspiring young professional, I turned to Google.

The Basics: Things That You Should Definitely, Indisputably Not Forget To Do At A Job Fair:

Dress professionally! Look good, feel good.


Look up the list of companies before you go. The coordinators of any job fair will offer a description of each company that has registered for the event, as well as the types of majors they’re looking to recruit. Do your research like you would if you were attending Firefly: circle the employers you want to visit and brush up on the logistics of their organization.

Bring LOTS of resumes. Ideally, have an idea of how many companies you’d like to speak to and print out the corresponding number of resumes. Print out a few extra copies in case an unexpected one catches your eye, be it one that you’ve never heard of or missed upon first investigation.


Even if you’ve done your research, finding the right questions can be difficult when you only have a few minutes to make a lasting impression. And remember: Don’t ask anything that can easily be found online or on the table. (I once asked what majors they were looking to hire while standing in front of a large poster that explicitly stated those majors. She just pointed.)

According to Quintessential Careers, there are three types of questions you can ask at a job fair:

Strategic comeback questions are designed to let the job-seeker (you) respond to the recruiter’s answer by describing how you will both fit in and excel at that company.

  • What kinds of skills and experience do you look for in the employees you hire?
  • Are graduate degrees important to advancing within your organization? Which ones?

Strategic planning questions give you more information about a company’s hiring process:

  • What kind of entry-level positions (or internships) exist within your organization?
  • Does your company hire on a continual basis or at certain times of the year?

Key company information questions give you crucial insider information necessary to deciding if the company will vibe with you:

  • Are there specific career tracks within the organization? What can a typical employee hired in your division expect to be doing 2, 5, or 10 years after hiring?
  • Do you expect your employees to relocate? How much travel is involved?

Finally, unless the recruiter is an alum at your university or you know them very well, don’t waste time with questions like: “how long have you been with the company?” Personal questions about the recruiter’s experience are a little like asking the perfume-spraying lady in Macy’s what her favorite scent is.

Remember: unlike interviews, job fairs offer a chance to ask real questions to prospective employers and find out exactly which companies offer a great fit for you.



3 thoughts on “How to Beg People to Hire You, With Class: Crushing the Job Fair

  1. Great advice! I’ve never been to a career fair, but I will definitely remember these tips for the next event. If you cannot attend a job fair though can you request a personal interview with the company at their office? Would you suggest following the same strategy that you describe in this post?



  2. I just attended the spring career fair last week! These are all great tips. I get really nervous talking to potential employers, so I looked up some tips on networking before attending the career fair myself. It definitely helps to be prepared. Here are some websites I found helpful:

    I especially found the questions you suggested useful! Finding a job is really hard and stressful, but not impossible. Thanks for the tips!



  3. I agree with your advice about researching a job fair before you attend. Before attending a job fair or networking event, I usually look at the companies listed online. This way, you can get a plan of what tables you want to visit or how you want to most effectively spend your time. If you are only really interested in 3 or 4 companies, you can dedicated your time there. But if you are interested in a larger number, you should budget your time accordingly. Researching the companies in advance will also help you generate questions to ask. This way, you won’t be scrambling to come up with a question while you are in the middle of a conversation. I think that researching is most important because it gives you confidence. You will feel more comfortable and avoid the awkward moment when you have to linger around a table to figure out what a company does.



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