Best Questions to Ask at Job Fairs

Woman shaking hands with professional executive at job fair event
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Are you going to a job fair? Not sure what questions to ask? At job and career fairs, you have a brief window to impress each recruiter. One way to quickly stand out from the competition is to ask the right questions. Having a list of questions ready is a good way to learn about companies you may be interested in working for.

In addition to creating a list of questions, take the time to prepare a brief elevator pitch, so you're prepared to introduce yourself to recruiters as you make your way around the room.

Best Questions to Ask at Job Fairs

By asking informed questions that subtly convey your skills and experience, you will increase your chances of impressing the recruiter and landing an interview.

Here are a number of questions you might consider asking a recruiter at a job fair.

Demonstrate Your Interest in the Company

"What do you think about X?"
Research a few attending companies ahead of time that you'd consider working for.

Look at each company website to discover their latest trends, such as new hires, goals for the future, or recent achievements.

Select one positive trend and mention it to the recruiter, and ask his or her opinion on the development. Then offer your own (brief) opinion on how the trend might benefit the company. This will demonstrate to the recruiter that you are knowledgeable about the company and its successes.

"What is the typical five-year (or ten-year) trajectory for someone in X position?"
This question will demonstrate your interest in staying with the company for a long period of time. Recruiters typically like this; they do not want to hire people who will only stay for a year or two. Be sure to emphasize your interest in the position for which you want to apply (otherwise you'll seem unwilling to start at the bottom and work your way up).

This question not only shows your interest in staying with the company, but that you're also looking for opportunities for advancement within the organization.

Demonstrate Your Qualifications

"What skills do you look for most in a candidate for X position?"
Research the company website and, if possible, look up the description of the position for which you want to apply. This will give you an idea of the skills and qualifications the employer is looking for in a candidate.

If you see that you're a good fit for the job, you should ask the recruiter this question. Then, pick one or two skills he or she mentions, and provide a quick example of how a past job or experience has given you that specific skill.

Point out these experiences on your resume, as well, as to reinforce your qualifications.

"What sort of educational background do you look for in a candidate?"
Once again, look up the description of the job for which you want to apply (or look up employees' company bios) for an idea of the ideal educational background of people with that job. If your education fits the company's needs, you can ask the recruiter this question, and then explain how you're a perfect fit. If you've won any accolades as a student that relates to the skills of the job, you could mention these and even point them out on your resume.

Learn More About the Company

"What is one of the biggest challenges of the job?"
The answer to this question will help you determine if your skill set and your personality are a good fit for the job. For example, if the recruiter says one challenge is the very competitive nature of the employees, and you're not a competitive person, you might not want to work at that company. However, this question also offers you a chance to once again demonstrate your skills. If the recruiter mentions a challenge with which you have experience dealing, you can provide an example of a time when you thrived in a similar challenge.

"How would you describe the company culture?"
It's not easy to learn about a company's culture unless you've worked there for a while, so a recruiter is a great person to give you insight. If the culture does not sound like one in which you'd thrive, you might want to think twice about applying for the position. However, if it sounds like the kind of atmosphere in which you'd like to work, say so. For example, if the recruiter says it's a very communal, supportive atmosphere, you might say that this is an environment in which you do your best work and provide an example of such a time in your past work history.

"What do you like most about your job at X company?"
If the recruiter struggles to answer this question, it might be a sign that it's not an ideal place to work. This question will also allow you to connect with the recruiter on a more personal level and might help you leave a stronger impression.

More Questions for Professionals to Ask

  • What entry-level positions are available in your company?
  • Does your company offer any internships or training programs?
  • I went online and filled out your application for the X position. What else might I do to demonstrate that I'm a qualified candidate for an interview?
  • How long is the application and interview process and what does it consist of?
  • How would you describe a typical day at X position?
  • How does the company measure performance for X position? What are the company's systems for feedback?
  • What percentage of time is typically devoted to each of the responsibilities of this position?
  • What is the balance between teamwork and individual work at X position?
  • What training or education programs, if any, does the company offer employees?

More Questions for Students to Ask

  • What courses would best prepare me for your entry-level positions?
  • Are there any student organizations or activities that would be beneficial in preparing for a position at your company?
  • My major is X. What positions at your company would be a good option for someone with my educational background? 

Concluding Questions

"May I contact you with further questions? Do you have a business card?"
These questions allow you to establish contact with someone at the company. Be sure to get the person's business card or contact information. Follow up with a thank you letter or email, reminding the person of who you are, where you met, and your qualifications. It will help you make a lasting impression.

Questions to Avoid

"How much will I be paid? How much vacation time will I get?"
You have not been offered the job yet, so don't act like you have it. Questions regarding pay and benefits are for after you've been offered a job. If you ask these questions at the job fair, you will come across as cocky (and as unmotivated, if all you appear to care about is money and vacation days).

Also, stay away from asking any questions that draw attention to something negative on your resume, such as a gap in your employment history, being laid off or fired, or any criminal record. These things do not need to be addressed this early in the job search stage.

"So, what does your company do?"
Avoid asking questions that demonstrate your lack of research on the company; do not ask any questions that could be easily found online. These questions imply your lack of interest and your unwillingness to put in the work to get to know their company.

How to Prepare to Attend a Job Fair

Before you attend a job fair, review these tips for attending a job fair, including what to wear, what to bring, when to arrive, and how to follow up afterwards.

Key Takeaways

  • It's easy to work the room if you have a list of questions ready to ask recruiters.
  • Bring extra copies of your resume or business cards to share with company representatives.
  • Arrive early so you don't have to wait in line to meet with companies of interest.