Knowing the right questions to ask at a career fair can significantly improve your chances of walking away from the event with realistic job prospects. Unfortunately, many attendees ask the same surface-level questions and leave empty-handed.
This list of good questions to ask at a career fair will transform these events from being hit or miss, to a promising source of opportunity.
1. Ask Them About Your Desired Role
Before you even step foot into the career fair, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with what companies will attend (and which ones you’re interested in). Do some research on your own time and see what positions are available. The last thing you want to do is waste a recruiter’s time asking about job availability.
Instead of asking the same rudimentary questions everyone else asks, focus on the details of the positions that interest you. Career fairs are an excellent opportunity to get more insight into potential roles before you enter any part of the hiring process. Think of it as a pre-interview interview!
Some of the best questions to ask at a career fair are about specifics in the job description or aspects of the role that the posting didn’t mention at all. Now is your time to get clarity and see if the position is right for you. It’s also an excellent time to let the recruiter know if you meet the job’s qualifications.
Try asking questions like:
- “What does the [open position] do in a typical day?”
- “The description for this position mentioned specific qualifications and functions. Can you provide more information about [topic you want more clarification about]?”
- “What are the challenges you hope a new [open position] can solve?”
2. Ask Them About Products & Services The Company Offers
Do you at least have a high level understanding of what products and services the company offers? If not, do some homework before you go to the job fair. This will allow you to ask more informed questions that will give you valuable insight, but also leave a great first impression.
Recruiters love to see applicants that have done their due diligence and will relish the opportunity to discuss details. It shows initiative and helps to create a more personal connection. They’re also more likely to be interested in hiring someone who has a basic understanding of the company’s products and services than an applicant who’s going in completely blind.
And if you have any genuine personal experience with the product or service, don’t be afraid to mention it!
You can ask:
- “What was it like at the company during the development of [product/service]?”
- “I saw that the company recently released [product/service]. How do you think it will play into the company’s strategy moving forward?”
- “I love your latest [name of product/service], are there plans to enhance it?”
3. Ask About The Company Culture
Company culture matters no matter what industry you enter or what position you apply for within an organization. You’re going to spend a big part of your life immersing yourself in this work. It’s perfectly reasonable to learn more about what it’s like to be a part of the company.
You’re not trying to grill recruiters or find something terrible to make you want to rescind an application. The goal of asking these questions at a career fair is to determine if you can fit seamlessly within the organization. Some environments are laid back, and some are very professional. Some are highly collaborative, and others require a lot of work on your own.
Whatever the case may be, the company culture will have a significant impact on your experience.
Use your better judgment when asking these questions at a career fair. Many recruiters have rehearsed answers to paint the company in the best light possible. Pay attention to more than just the verbal responses. Consider body language, and don’t be afraid to research the company culture a bit on your own time as well.
Some job seekers hesitate to ask these types of questions, but it’s better to find out now than waste time later.
Here are some excellent questions worth asking:
- “What type of person finds success at [company]?”
- “What does your organization do to support diversity?”
- “In what ways does [company] foster communication, and what kind of culture is there surrounding feedback?”
4. Ask About The Industry
It always pays to be well-informed about the industry you’re trying to enter, and hearing the thoughts of someone at the company can be very helpful. If you’re already part of the industry, these questions will likely come naturally to you. But even if you aren’t, do a little research to help you know what to say at a career fair.
Check out the organization’s media page to learn more about its changing strategies or new initiatives. Then, familiarize yourself with developing trends. Every industry experiences change.
Companies have to evolve with the transforming landscape. Having some insight into the industry as a whole can help you ask better questions at the job fair.
For example, you can ask questions like:
- “I saw that [trend] is becoming more prevalent in [industry]. How does your company plan on addressing those changes?”
- “How do you think that [trend] will impact [company product or service] in the near future?”
- “Do you believe that [trend] is here to stay?”
5. Ask About Growth & Career Path Opportunities
Right now, your primary focus might be to simply land a job. However, asking questions related to your future in a company is crucial as well.
You won’t want to stay in one position forever. At some point, you’ll likely want to earn a promotion or take on new kinds of projects.
During your time with a recruiter, ask about career development opportunities. You don’t want to end up in a position with little room for growth.
Asking these questions at a career fair also shows recruiters that you’re considering long-term employment with the company and are interested in investing in your future.
Ask questions such as:
- “Does [company] offer any formal training or mentorship programs to help new hires grow and succeed?”
- “How does [company] commit to the professional development of employees?”
- “Does [company] invest in education to upskill or reskill employees?”
6. Ask About Their Experience At The Company
You don’t have to focus solely on yourself when talking to a recruiter. Ultimately, the goal is to build long-term relationships that help you further your career. Your interactions with recruiters at a career fair are just the start.
Ask about the recruiter’s experience and how they got to where they are! Not only does that show genuine interest in someone else’s experiences, but it can give you some valuable insight into what it’s like working and progressing within the organization.
You have the opportunity to talk with a person who’s actively part of the company you’re interested in joining. They’re a well of information and can provide a perspective you couldn’t get anywhere else.
Here are a few questions to get a good conversation rolling:
- “How long have you been at [company], and how did you get started?”
- “What’s your favorite part about your role within [company]?”
- “What’s the most challenging obstacle you’ve had to overcome in your current role?”
7. Ask About The Training New Hires Go Through
Out of all the questions you can ask at a career fair, this is one of the most overlooked and underrated. As a new hire, you’ll likely undergo some training before fully integrating yourself into your position. Knowing what lies ahead can come in handy.
Sometimes this training is general onboarding to familiarize new employees with processes and procedures. In other instances, new hire training is more about skills training.
These questions can help you better understand the hiring timeline. Say, for example, that getting hired would require a move or significant lifestyle change. Knowing what training lies ahead could help you plan the adjustment period to ensure success.
Some might think that it’s a little early to ask about training, but those first few weeks and months can set the tone for the future. The answers you get back can also be indicative of how the company values your success.
To prepare, ask questions like:
- “How long is the training period for [position]?”
- “Will I have opportunities to shadow coworkers or learn about other roles?”
- “What does your onboarding training consist of?”
8. Ask If There Are Additional Skills That Will Help New Hires Succeed
Typically, companies provide a list of skills you need to succeed in an open position. However, those lists aren’t perfect and all roles are multi-faceted.
For example, it takes more than just a clever eye for advertisements to excel in marketing. You also have to know how to work in a team, understand creative writing, and master time management. There are many relevant skills to consider.
Ask recruiters about the skills you might need to be the very best in the position you want. Those questions show tons of initiative, indicating that you’re ready to do what it takes to be the best employee you can be.
You can also use this information to get a head start on skills you can begin honing now. Even if you don’t proceed with an application or get hired, there’s a good chance those skills will be helpful in other similar positions. Why not improve now to enhance your prospects later?
Here are a couple to get you started:
- “Do you recommend any outside training to help me prepare for a job at [company]?”
- “Will improving [skill] better equip me for [open position]?”
9. Ask Where You Will Be Working
It’s not uncommon for organizations to have multiple offices around the country. Many businesses are going global as well, creating international opportunities. When talking to a recruiter, don’t forget to ask about the physical location of your job.
Some companies will move new employees around to different offices to maximize exposure. They may even gauge performance at each branch to decide where to put you permanently. Others will require ongoing travel throughout your tenure, causing you to move from one location to the next.
Of course, many organizations are also offering remote jobs, allowing employees to work at home. Asking this question at a career fair isn’t about finding a “right” or “wrong” answer, it’s about finding opportunities that align with your needs and career goals.
You can ask a question such as:
- “Does [position] require regular travel? If so, does [company] reimburse travel expenses?”
- “Are there any opportunities to work some hours at home?”
10. Ask Them What The Hiring Process Looks Like
Hiring processes differ from one company to the next. At one business you might have a single interview that lasts several hours, while you might need to go through multiple rounds at another!
When talking to recruiters at a career fair, there’s nothing wrong with asking about the hiring process. They can provide valuable information that helps you determine whether or not you want to proceed (or give you insight on how to prep). If there’s a long process involved and you need a job soon, you may want to consider applying to other opportunities just to be safe.
Questions about the hiring process can also shine a light on the work culture and demands of the position. Recruiters will likely reflect on their own hiring process, giving you a heads up on what to expect. Any piece of information you can get by asking questions to the recruiter is helpful.
Good questions to ask include:
- “Can you tell me a bit about the hiring process for [position]?”
- “How long does the hiring process typically last?”
11. Ask When You Can Expect To Hear Back
Last but not least, don’t forget to ask when you can expect to hear back about your application and how you can keep in touch. The recruiter can give you a general timeline covering when they begin reviewing applications and getting in touch with applicants. Once again, that comes in handy when thinking about applying for other opportunities.
This is also a great chance to build a long-term professional connection. Ask about how you can stay in touch and what contact method they might prefer.
This will allow you to follow up about your application and inquire about other potential openings in the future. Even if you don’t get the job you’re after, other opportunities might arise. You never know, so it always pays to reach out!
Ask questions like:
- “Do you have a business card that I can use to stay in touch about [open position]?”
- “What’s the next step I should take after meeting you here?”
- “Who can I contact about [open position] or future opportunities at [company]?”
Now that you’re familiar with some good questions to ask at a career fair, there’s nothing stopping you from taking full advantage of these events. There’s no substitute for asking questions and forming a relationship in person, and that’s especially true when it comes to the job hunt.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.