Attending job fairs is stressful. You’re surrounded by hundreds of other candidates and need to pitch yourself to employers in a short amount of time. However, if you know what to bring to a job fair and what questions to ask, it’s a great first step to landing your dream job or internship.
To make the most of any job fair, you should have already researched the companies attending, identified which open positions you’re interested in, and carefully read the job description for each position.
Here’s a list of the best questions to ask at a career fair:
Ask about a particular role
With so many other candidates asking the same questions, how do you stand out from the crowd? A good way to do this is by focusing on a specific role the employer is hiring for.
Be straightforward and ask what their ideal candidate for the role looks like. This also helps you be better prepared to answer the question “what is your greatest strength?” later on. If the interviewer decides to ask you this, you’ll know which strength is best suited to use for the role.
For example, you could bring up a past experience or skill that’s relevant to their ideal candidate’s profile. Additionally, you could highlight a time you put your skills to work using the STAR method to make a favorable impression on the recruiter and demonstrate your abilities.
Here are a few example questions you could ask an employer to get a better idea about a specific role they’re hiring for:
- What does success look like in this role/on this team?
- How would you describe the team/the manager?
- How do managers measure success for employees/interns?
- Who does the person in this position directly report to?
- What are the opportunities for growth in this role/on this team?
- I noticed that you don’t currently have any [specific role] positions currently open. What kind of other opportunities do you foresee in the future?
However, you shouldn’t just ask any question about a role at a job fair.
Here’s an example idea of a question you shouldn’t ask a potential employer:
- How much overtime do employees have?
Asking about working hours or pay before you’re offered a job shows that you’re more concerned about the number of working hours rather than the value of your contribution.
Instead, you can learn much more by getting an overview of a typical day or week on the job with the following question:
- On a typical day, what does someone in this role do?
Ask about the hiring process
A one-on-one conversation with the recruiter is your chance to learn about the hiring process for a specific position.
Asking hiring-related questions can help you establish a realistic timeline and reevaluate your expectations. For example, if the company has a long, multi-step hiring process, you’ll know to continue exploring other opportunities in the meantime.
Here are three questions you can ask an employer at a job fair about the hiring process:
- Can you tell me about the different stages of your hiring process?
- What does the hiring process look like for this position?
- What will the onboarding process be like?
Ask about the recruiter’s experience
You should always ask the recruiter about their experience with the company. After all, they’re an employee themselves and potentially a future colleague. You can learn a lot about how a company operates by asking for their opinion.
Here are a few specific questions to ask a job fair recruiter about their experience:
- What do you like about the company?
- What do you enjoy most about your job?
- What are some recent challenges you’ve faced in your role?
- What do you enjoy most about working with the company?
However, you should be careful about the questions you ask the recruiter because some questions can be inappropriate or unprofessional. Here’s an example of a question you shouldn’t ask:
- Why did the company lay off so many employees recently?
This question comes off as confrontational and can hurt your chances of getting hired. Instead, reframe the question to appear more forward-thinking and positive.
- I heard about the recent layoffs. How do you see the company’s growth in the near future?
Ask about growth and opportunities
Asking about growth opportunities, especially if this is your first job interview, tells the recruiter that you’re thinking about your long-term professional development.
Growth opportunities can include mentorship, training, and continuous learning programs. These are particularly relevant if you’re just starting out your professional career or are looking for an internship.
Here are a few example questions you can ask:
- What kind of opportunities for growth does the company offer?
- How does the company commit to the professional development of its employees?
- Where do you see the company going in the next 5 years?
Here’s an example question you shouldn’t ask:
- How soon do you promote employees?
This question can make you come off as arrogant. A better alternative is to start by asking the following:
- How do you measure success in this role? How do you see this role expanding in the future?
Ask about the company’s products, services, industry, or recent news
By asking questions related to recent company news, you’re showing an interest in their business and that you’ve done your research.
You could also mention any personal connection you have to their products or services (if you have one) or congratulate the recruiter on any recent accomplishments, such as a product launch.
Then, you can ask a related question along the lines of:
- I love your product! I use it all the time. How do you think it’s going to evolve in the next few years?
- I saw that you announced a recent strategy change on your company page. How has that impacted the company internally?
However, make sure your question is genuine and specific. Here’s an example of a bad question to ask a recruiter at a job fair about their company’s product:
- Can you tell me more about your product?
While it’s fine to inquire for further details on a specific product, the above question shows you haven’t done basic research on the company. Demonstrate your curiosity by trying a question like the following:
- Can you walk me through the existing product development process?
Ask about company culture
Company culture plays an important role in whether you’d be a good fit as an employee.
If you’re new to the professional world, you might still be exploring what sort of office culture suits you best. In this case, asking questions about the company culture can help you identify an environment you’ll thrive in.
Here are some questions you can ask at a job fair that address company culture:
- What does a successful employee look like at your company?
- Is the office environment more formal or casual?
- What is the team like?
- How are diversity and inclusion promoted within the company?
- Are there team-building activities and do employees socialize outside of work?
- How would you describe your company culture?
Answers to questions like these will give you the opportunity to understand for yourself what the company culture is like and if you’ll enjoy working there.
However, avoid asking questions where you volunteer too much personal information and appear inflexible, like in the following:
- Does your company have a flextime policy? Work-life balance is really important to me and I’m not really a morning person.
Ask how you can stay in touch
Wrap up the conversation and thank the recruiter for their time, confirm their name, and ask for the best way to keep in touch to follow up on your job application.
This will help you make sure you’ll be able to reach out if you don’t hear back within a week.
Even if you aren’t selected or there’s no position available at this time, you’re likely to be the first to know if one opens up in the future. If you’re a student or a recent graduate, this is a great way to start networking.
Avoid asking a direct and overconfident question like:
- When should I expect to hear back from you?
Instead, you can ask more appropriate questions along the lines of:
- What’s the best way to stay in touch with you?
- Who can I follow up with about this role?
Finally, just as you would send a thank you follow up email after an interview, you should do the same with a recruiter so they can remember you. In addition, it’ll keep you updated on any developments in the hiring process.