Table Talk: Tips for Navigating Career Fairs

By Sharon Fleshman

The fall semester is upon us and there have already been several career fairs with more to come. Here are some quick pointers on how to make the most of these events:


  • Make sure that you look at the list of participating employers by logging on to Pennlink.   (NOTE: If you have not logged on to Pennlink before, the system will first prompt you to register by filling in a brief profile.)
  • Determine beforehand which employers on the list interest you the most (your “must-sees”) in order to plan ahead toward making the most of your time.  Some employers may list targeted positions, though you can certainly inquire about areas outside those listed.


  • Research the “must-see” employers by perusing their websites.
  • Look for what distinguishes a given employer and think about how that appeals to you.  Many employer websites have a mission statement/core values of some kind posted. Make note of news or updates on special projects/initiatives that intrigue you.
  • Develop an introduction of yourself (no longer than 1 minute), emphasizing your interests/qualifications as it relates to each of your “must-see” employers.   Also, have a thoughtful question or two in mind as well based on your research of the employer.   Such a question may help clarify key information or express interest in a particular area/specialty/project.
  • Make sure you have plenty of resumes to distribute.  Resume samples are available on the Career Services website if you need guidance regarding formatting. Also, Career Services counselors can provide suggestions on how you can improve your resume.  No cover letters are necessary for career fairs.


  • Each employer will have sent one or two recruiters who will have materials on their assigned table.  Starting with your “must-see” list, visit each employer, introduce yourself (“Good afternoon, my name is…..”) as you shake the recruiter’s hand.   Follow up with your remarks, offer your resume, and wrap up (“It was great to meet you, may I take one of your business cards to stay in touch?”)
  • Once you’ve visited all on your “must-see” list, be open to visiting with other employers if time allows. You never know what other opportunities may appeal to you.
  • Be sensitive to lines behind you.  If there is a long line and your conversation is flowing well, show graciousness by offering to come back to the table when it’s less crowded or following up later.  If the table is not crowded, you may be able to engage the recruiter in a longer conversation, but make sure to read the recruiter’s cues in this regard.
  • If any conversations stand out to you and confirm your interest in a given employer, take notes on the back of the business card of the recruiter you spoke with to note highlights of the conversation for follow-up purposes.

After the career fair, make sure you take your notes from your conversations and prepare follow-up correspondence to thank the recruiter for his or her time, recall a highlight of your conversation, and reiterate your interest in the employer.

Author: Sharon

Sharon Fleshman is the Senior Associate Director of Career Services for students in Education, Nursing and Social Policy & Practice.