5 Common Career Fair Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Attending a career fair can be intimidating as you ponder the unknown of what to wear, what to say and who to talk to. Career fairs are a great way to make a positive first impression with an employer, learn more about specific opportunities and explore new career options.

Prepare for the event by learning how to avoid these all-too-common mistakes:

1. Not doing your Homework

“So what does your organization do?” may seem like a good way to learn more, but could in fact send the message that you’re not a serious, interested candidate. To stand out from the pack, look at the attendee list and check out their websites in advance. Knowing a little bit about the organization and how you may fit into it will tell an employer that you are on your A game.

2. Dressing Inappropriately

Dressing up for the career fair is not the same as dressing for a date or a night on the town. That cute short skirt or high heels may be “dressy,” but entirely inappropriate for a professional business setting. Remember that this is your opportunity to make a stellar first impression, and like it or not, that typically happens through your outward appearance. Wear moderate heels or flats, a nice blouse, dress pants or skirt and preferably a blazer or jacket. Don’t forget to iron!

3. Talking to Your Top Choice Employer First

We get it—you may be so nervous going into the event that your first conversation won’t necessarily be the smoothest. Just like interviewing, introducing yourself at the career fair becomes easier with practice. Don’t have your first conversation with your dream employer. Give yourself a few chances to warm up by chatting with other employers at the fair first. You’ll find a groove and feel more prepared by the time you come around to introduce yourself to your number one choice.

4. Giving a Weak Introduction

Ask yourself:

  • What is relevant about my education and experience to the employer?
  • How can I help them accomplish their goals?
  • What are my own goals?

These pieces of information are all great ways to make a strong introduction that not only connect with the employer, but will help you stand out. Avoid giving the generic intro of your name, major and hometown that you’ve given more times than you can count. An employer won’t know where to go from there if you leave your introduction at that.

5. Forgetting to Follow Up

You have a great conversation at the fair, but then what? Don’t drop the ball. Ask for a business card before you leave and shoot the employer a quick e-mail within the next day or two. Thank them for attending and let them know how much you enjoyed talking with them. Reiterate your interest in their organization or position and share any of your action items or future plans to pursue work with them.


Knowing how to navigate a career fair is more than half the battle. Go confidently into the event knowing that you won’t fall prey to many of these first-timer faux pas!

This article was originally published on Career Contessa.