Questions to Ask at a Job Fair: What to Ask, Why, and How to Present Yourself
Published: Jul 2nd, 2023
You’re at a job fair, talking to a potential employer. They say, “Any questions for me?”
You go blank.
After an awkward silence, you mumble, “Nope, thanks for your time,” and beat a hasty retreat. As you escape, you kick yourself for missing out on a potentially great opportunity.
The problem? You didn’t start by knowing what you should ask, why, and how to present yourself at a career fair. Had you done that, you could already be interviewing for your dream job.
This article takes you through 10 important questions to ask at a job fair or career fair. You’ll learn exactly what to say, plus the power behind each question. You’ll also discover the 3 questions you should never ask, that will ruin your chance of landing your dream job.
10 important questions to ask at a job fair — and why
Here are the most important questions to ask at a job fair, to make a good impression and convince the hiring manager you’ve got what it takes.
1. During a typical day, what does [role] do?
Is your target employer advertising a specific opportunity? This insight-driving job fair question gives you insight into what day-to-day life would look like in the role.
If you’re new to the workforce or switching careers, it’s tricky to know what to expect. Asking this question gives you a clear idea of whether the role would be a good fit. Plus, it shows the potential employer that you’re interested in the nitty-gritty details of working with them.
2. What do you love most about working for [company]?
This is a fantastic go-to job fair question if you’re not sure what to ask. It gives the employer a chance to share what they truly love about their working day. That’s powerful, because like it or not, as human beings, our favorite topic is most often ourselves. Get them talking about themselves and they’ll remember you.
If they mention something that fits with your own experience, let them know. For instance, if they say, “There’s a really strong team culture here,” talk about a time where you led a team project. This brings the conversation round to your skills — and could lead to a job interview.
3. What opportunities are there for growth at [company]?
Again, this is a great all-purpose question to ask at a job fair. It lets the employer sell you on the benefits of working for them. It’ll also give you an insight into whether this is a role you want. That’s handy, because it gets the employer to start thinking about winning you, and makes the conversation less about convincing them.
This question shows you’re determined and driven, and that you want to commit to a company for the long term. This is something employers love to see. Plus, asking about opportunities for growth helps the employer picture you thriving at their company.
4. I heard about your new [product/service/event]. Has that changed the company’s direction?
This great job fair question requires some research, but it’s well worth the time you’ll spend. Mentioning a recent product, service, or event shows you have a keen interest in the company. Employers want to hire people who care about the same things they do.
By asking whether this new product, event, or service has changed the company’s direction, you’ll also get some powerful insider insight. For instance, if the company has pivoted to serve a new target market, new roles may be opening up soon.
Important: Be careful with this question. Don’t use it for a run-of-the-mill event or a product that’s a minor variation. That will make you seem uninformed or like you don’t quite understand the business world.
5. Can you tell me a bit about the different stages in the hiring process for [role]?
This question to ask at a job fair demonstrates your interest in a specific role. It’s also a crafty way to get a potential employer to picture hiring you — or at least interviewing you.
Asking about the hiring process gives you a clear idea of what to expect if you do get interviewed (on the spot or later). Most companies have a multi-step hiring process with several stages. Knowing the process in advance can give you extra confidence and peace of mind.
6. What type of person is most likely to succeed at [company]?
This is another great go-to question to ask at a career fair, for any employer you talk to. Its answer gives you a better sense of what the company is like and whether you’d enjoy working there.
This question opens up the conversation, too. You can respond to what the employer says by mentioning your skills and qualities. For instance, if they say, “We need people who can act on their own initiative,” that’s a great green light to talk about how you did this in a recent role.
7. Who should I follow up with about [open role]?
This job fair question cuts straight to what you need to know in order to move forward. The person to contact might be the person you’re talking to. But it could be someone else at the company.
Asking this career fair question also clarifies your interest in the role and could lead to extra information. You may even find that you get invited to a brief interview on the spot.
8. What are the biggest challenges in [open role]?
Maybe the employer has been telling you all the positives, but you want the full picture. This question to ask at a career fair helps you get exactly that.
It’s also a great way to talk about how you can deal with tough situations. If a key challenge is, “This role involves working with clients who can be quite abrasive,” use that as an opportunity to highlight your customer service experience.
9. How would you describe the company culture at [company]?
This is another easy question if you’re not sure what to say at a career fair. It works for any company and it can give you some fantastic insights.
Want a ready-made group of friends? A company where everyone heads to the bar after work on Fridays could be perfect. (Or if you just want work to be work, a tight-knit group may be your idea of hell.)
10. What sort of education history do you look for in a candidate?
Studying at a prestigious university? This question to ask at job fairs gives you a great excuse to highlight your education. It can also be revealing. If the company places a lot more emphasis on past work experience, this might not be the role for you.
Again, this question works with almost any company. It also nudges the employer to start thinking of you as a potential candidate.
Now that we’ve covered good questions to ask at a career fair, what shouldn’t you ask?
What NOT to ask at a job fair
At a job fair, you only have a few seconds to make a great first impression. You can’t afford to blow it by asking a terrible question.
Here are 3 questions to avoid at all costs:
1. So what does your company do?
Never ask this as a job fair question. It sounds like you’re uninterested and unprofessional. You should walk into the job fair with at least a rough idea of what a company does before you talk to them.
This question also wastes valuable time. The employer will only have a few minutes to talk to you. You don’t want to spend that precious time hearing just the basics about their company.
Tip: Can’t quite remember what the company does? Don’t panic. Just ask one of the all-purpose questions above, like “What do you love most about working for [company]?”
2. How much would I get paid?
Don’t jump the gun. Asking about money so bluntly at this stage can come across as arrogant or clueless.
Of course, money matters. If you’re already engaged in a good conversation with an employer, you could ask, “What’s the rough salary range for this role?” But to be completely safe, keep conversations about money for a later stage of the hiring process.
3. Do you do background checks?
Ouch. This question is going to make any employer wince. You’re practically inviting them to turn you down on the spot at the job fair. The employer will assume you have something to hide.
It’s safe to say that most employers will run background checks. If something questionable is in your past is likely to be flagged in yours, address that when you receive a job offer.
How to make a great impression at any job fair
Employers at job fairs meet dozens of candidates. You don’t want them to remember you primarily for your grubby sneakers or zany t-shirt. It’s important to present yourself well. Here’s how:
What to wear to a job fair
Job fairs are professional opportunities. Don’t turn up in your sweatpants and don’t dress like you’re on a night out. Instead, opt for a smart, casual look.
If you’re male, a button-down shirt and tie are perfect along with business pants. If you’re female, wear a shirt or blouse with business pants or a skirt.
Going to a virtual job fair? What you wear still matters. And don’t try to get away with pajama pants on your bottom half. You may need to stand up, and dressing well will help your self-esteem.
Think about your background, too. You don’t want your dirty laundry or an edgy poster right in the camera’s view.
What to bring to a job fair
Bring at least 8 copies of your resume, or have a digital version on file for virtual job fairs. For bonus points, create a separate version for each of the companies you plan to talk to.
Carry a notepad and pen to jot down anything you want to follow up on — like the person to contact about a specific role.
Attending virtually? Fill out your online profile ahead of time, so employers can easily find out more about you.
Also, make notes about the companies you want to talk to. Jot down specific questions for each. You can keep this up on your screen or print it out for easy reference.
You’re now fully prepared with great questions to ask at a job fair. Pick a few of the questions above and rehearse them ahead of time, and you’ll be ready to shine. These simple job fair questions could open up a conversation that leads to your dream career.