The Template

Every week, I maintain THE TEMPLATE, an award-winningWinner of the 2015 Plank Center Award (public relations org.) for commitment to mentorship. blog that's been viewed more than 1.5 million times by people all over the world. In every column, I provide step-by-step instruction to help you become a stronger communicator. Like I always say, "Write well, open doors!"

What to Do Before, During and After a Career Fair

what to do career fair
Job fair success starts before you even step into the room.

If you live in Virginia/North Carolina and need a job, consider attending the annual job fair hosted by Congressman Scott Rigell. The fair takes place Tuesday, October 13 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, which is near Old Dominion University in Norfolk.

Over 100 employees will have booths at the event, and I will be there along with career counselors from area colleges and universities to help people with resumes and job applications.

Before you attend the Norfolk job fair — or one in your community — read over the checklist below to make sure you’re prepared before, during and after the event.

Special thanks to career service professionals at Hampton Roads colleges/universities who helped me assemble the list.


  • Dress nicely. That means suit/tie for men and business attire for women. DO NOT show up in casual clothes. Might as well stay home.
  • Bring at least 25 copies of your resume. Before you print them out, improve your “Skills” section (like this) and “Experience” section (like this).
  • If you have business cards, write something special on the back of each one before the job fair. For example, a website URL, additional phone number or Twitter handle. People may hold onto your card longer because it’s personalized.
  • Give yourself a look-over in the mirror before you fly out the door.


  • Make eye contact with employers, give a firm handshake and introduce yourself right away with, “Hi, my name is [first and last name]. It’s nice to meet you.”
  • Ask employers questions like: What kind of skills do you look for in new hires? What’s the company culture like? And also be curious about the employer’s own background with a question like, So how did you get into this kind of work? (Use these six words to ask smart questions on someone’s bio)
  • Do NOT ask questions like: How much vacation time will I get? What will I get paid? How long is the lunch break?
  • Always request a business card.
  • It’s also OK to network with other job seekers. They might be able to connect you to the right employer.


  • Go online and research the companies from the job fair you want to pursue.
  • Then, send strong follow-up emails to employers. Use the subject line, “Nice to meet you at [name of networking event]”
  • In the email, include your first/last name and a detail from your conversation so the person remembers who you are. Then, thank the person for his/her time at the job fair. Next, link to 1-2 examples from the company’s website to show you’re impressed with the work it does (ex: recent press releases, case studies and latest news). Finally, ask for a follow-up conversation to explore the company further.
  • If the employer doesn’t respond to your email after 48 hours, pick up the phone. On the phone: be prepared to introduce yourself, say how much you enjoyed talking with the employer, be ready to reference examples of success from the company website and be confident when you ask to meet again to explore career opportunities.


Have any other job fair tips?

Share below!

Featured photo: COD Newsroom


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