How to Win Your Job Fair

by Andrew Daglas

Universities, career counselors, and makers of corporate-branded pens all agree: Job fairs are one of the most effective channels for finding new employment. With these handy and reliable tips, you’ll learn how to stand out from the crowd — or at least, from those in that crowd who have not also read these tips.

  1. Identify which companies you’d like to work for. Then, only speak with the other companies, so that your targets will get jealous and want you more.
  2. Master your “elevator pitch,” which consists of standing stiffly and avoiding eye contact for thirty seconds of awkward silence.
  3. Do your research in advance. Don’t find yourself asking questions you should know the answer to, like “What does your organization do?” or questions nobody knows the answer to, like “What does account management mean?”
  4. Understand the positions being recruited for. For instance, “experience marketing” means “handing out energy bars on college quads while wearing a neon-green T-shirt.”
  5. Print your resumes on a thick paper stock costing no less than $15 per sheet. Real weapons-grade shit. Seriously, paper cuts from your resume should be able to dice up a bone-in porterhouse.
  6. Wear appropriate business attire, typically a suit. A hooded sweatshirt is only acceptable if you are applying for the position of Internet billionaire. (Please note: regrettably few companies hire Internet billionaires at job fairs. Put on a damn suit.)
  7. Bring a spacious tote bag. Employers will signal their interest in your talent by bestowing free pens, mouse pads, spiral notebooks, foam beverage cozies, keychain flashlights, refrigerator magnets, and nylon baseball caps. Because your career can only flourish at a company that devotes a sizable budget to showering twentysomethings with disposable tchotchkes.
  8. Don’t approach your most-desired prospect first; warm up your pitch by starting with an employer you’re less interested in. That’s why non-profits are invited to these things, after all.
  9. If a recruiter is engaged with another applicant, wait patiently. Use this time productively by acting as if other people in line have something disgusting in their teeth, subtly undermining their confidence.
  10. Engage recruiters with a firm handshake, a winning smile, and a heartfelt anecdote about your lifelong dream of becoming an entry-level direct sales representative.
  11. When a recruiter asks why you’re interested in this job, emphasize your desires to learn valuable skills and contribute to a successful team. Downplay your goals of no longer sleeping on an air mattress and escaping the dolorous regret of an English lit-art history double major.
  12. Obtain a business card or other contact information from everyone you speak to. Wait three business days to follow up — you don’t want to look all needy and desperate.

Andrew Daglas is a freelance copywriter, critic, and journalist based in Chicago. His writing can be found at

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