15 Questions to Ask at College Job Fairs
College job fairs have been staples of junior and senior year of college for decades. They offer a great way for students on the cusp of graduation to interact with the people they’re most likely to work with and for as they collect their diploma and move to the other side, the so-called “real world.”
In the following article, we’ll be offering the 15 questions that we think you should be asking at college job fairs. Additionally, we’ll be exploring the importance of the fairs themselves, and why you should come prepared with plenty of questions. Let’s begin!
What Are College Job Fairs?
College job fairs and now virtual college job fairs are where employers send a contingent of their recruiting team to let soon-to-be graduates know of the opportunities available to them. The virtual job fair became more of a thing thanks to COVID, but you can expect face-to-face to return this fall. (Thankfully!) While you can make a connection with companies in virtual environments, nothing is quite so memorable as meeting people face-to-face, handing them a resume, and shaking their hand. Every chance you get to attend a college job fair is a wise use of your time for the networking opportunities they offer.
Why Is It Important to Attend Them?
You never know who a company will be sending to a college job fair, but that’s all the more reason to attend! Many times they will try to mix it up with someone from recruiting and perhaps a worker or two from other core departments. This gives you, the attendee, an opportunity to ask deeper questions about what the job is like, how to get it, and what you can expect as far as professional development is concerned. We’ll be getting into more of these questions in the heart of the article, but for now, it’s important to know that college job fairs place you into the direct path of a potential future employer. You might even be meeting the person who will directly hire you, so show up looking your best and ready to interact.
Why Is It Vital to Ask Questions?
Interaction is key. You want to have a firm handshake, confident eye contact, and a snazzy appearance. Beyond that, however, you’ll want to show that you have a genuine interest in what they do. That’s why it is so vital to ask questions. When you ask thoughtful and meaningful questions like the kind we’re about to share, you are showing them that you have what it takes to be professional, understand the complexities of their industry, and be a creative part of the team moving forward. When you don’t ask questions, you seem disengaged. Since so many recruiters and employers who attend job fairs are looking for top talent, they’re likely to forget about you in favor of the ones who strive to leave an impression. Always keep that in mind before you walk up to a booth.
Now that we’ve covered what college job fairs are and why you should be attending them with questions in tow, it’s time to look at the specific questions that seem to do the best with employers. You might think of even more specific questions as you research a company and prepare to attend. That’s great if you do. Even if you don’t, however, our cheat sheet should serve you just fine.
1. What Does This Role Do?
The great thing about career job fairs is that they will introduce you to people of different experience levels. These employees can give you clear insight as to what the job entails from the major roles and responsibilities to the ancillary ones. You just have to be thoughtful about how you phrase the question and ask plenty of follow-ups whenever something strikes your interest.
A side benefit of asking about the specifics of a role is that you can really gauge whether it’s a position for you. College job fairs can be very eye-opening in that regard and may even lead you down (or away from) a new career path. Don’t be afraid of what you discover. Use it as a learning opportunity.
2. How Does the Hiring Process Work?
Almost anyone at the table should be able to give you an overview of how the company handles hiring, particularly if they are from the human resources department or were hired a short enough time period ago to remember the details of their own onboarding experience. Understanding the hiring process will give you a clear idea of what documents you’ll need to gather. It will also help you understand the skills and educational experience to showcase upfront to attract the right kind of attention.
Armed with details of the hiring process, you can start sending out resumes and getting those applications submitted and the ball rolling before graduation. That can cut down on the idle time that you experience and be an enthusiasm builder for the career you have chosen.
3. What Was Your Experience When You Hired On?
Not everyone comes to a job with the requisite amount of experience necessary to make an impact in the roles they are currently in. In other words, they’ve probably been where you are. Knowing what the base amount of experience necessary is to secure a role can help you get out in front of any gaps that you may have in your resume. It can also be a confidence booster if you find that you are in a better role than some of the employees you’re talking to were in when they were initially hired. (It happens!)
While you do have to allow for changes in the industry, the chances are likely you’ll be speaking to professionals who are not far removed from where you are. They will be able to point the way as technologies and industries change.
4. What Experience Have You Picked Up Since Your Hire Date?
This is a particularly important question because it sheds light on how much post-hire professional development the company will allow. It essentially notes that on-the-job training is allowed and that you don’t have to be completely ready to go upon the date of your hire. In a world where it seems everyone is looking for “previous experience” before they’ll give you an entry-level job, this is encouraging information to have.
Knowing the answer to this question also points you toward classes you can start taking now to stand out from the competition. And there will be competition, so the sooner that you can start, the better!
5. What Opportunities for Growth Does the Company Offer?
The question of experience presented in question No. 4 is a great starting point for talking about the growth opportunities that the company offers. Things like paying for the pursuit of advanced degrees or certifications should be important to you as you look to make yourself more marketable. A company’s willingness to go to that level shows that, if they hire you, they’ll be one of your biggest supporters to become even more valuable to them and to society at large.
Without professional development opportunities, you set yourself up for extinction through automation. Having those options on the table and knowing what they are ahead of time can only be a boon for your career in the long term.
6. What Are the Big Trends in Your Industry?
Industry trends are pertinent to individual employment because they help you see where certain roles are headed. Are they hear to stay or soon-to-be obsolete? The answers to these questions will keep you growing in the right direction instead of chasing career paths that lead to dead ends.
It would also make a great impression on any potential employer if you knew what some of those trends were ahead of time and had specific questions about them instead of just asking generally. That shows the potential employer that you are a quick study and eager to learn.
7. What Does Your Product or Service Do?
It’s acceptable to have some lack of familiarity when you go to college job fairs. No one expects you to know everything about their business. They realize these types of scenarios are very much “getting to know you.” That said, if you can ask a more specific question about a feature of the product or service and how it works to create value and set the company apart from competitors, it will be a feather in your cap.
If not, it’s still good to ask general questions about a product or service just to show your interest is piqued and you’re eager to learn more. Many times, enthusiasm is all it takes to get on the radar of a company, especially if that enthusiasm is packaged with great communication skills and a professional appearance.
8. How Would You Describe Company Culture?
The culture of a company is vital to an employee’s enjoyment of their job. It’s likely that an employer will be on their best behavior and stock their booth with people who share only positive things about company culture. That said, you can still learn a lot about asking them the “softball” question. As a company representative begins to talk to you about company culture, keep some of these follow-ups in mind.
Do co-workers hang out a lot outside of work? What does the company do to encourage self-care? What are the most-favored benefits? How does the company keep things fun and lively even when times are stressful? You can probably think of a few more on your own, but you get the point. Company culture is what makes it edifying for employees to work there. Without a good one, you’ll be looking for your next job really soon.
9. What Do You Enjoy the Most About This Job?
Of course, you will want to work somewhere that’s fun and enjoyable. It would be miserable otherwise. But having a job is about more than simply taking breaks, getting time off, and making a good deal of money. It’s also about how you feel about the work while you are there.
So, while you are speaking to company representatives at the college job fairs you attend, make sure that you get a lot of good answers regarding the work itself. Ask them what they enjoy most about the job, not all the benefits and perks that go with it. If you don’t love what you do, it’s hard to generate the passion necessary to keep doing it.
10. What Have Been Some of Your Biggest Challenges in This Position?
No job is perfect. We all have days where the pressure gets to us. Have the company representatives step into that hopefully atypical day and share specifics about some of the toughest moments they’ve experienced while working at the company. If they won’t be straight with you about it, then you’ve got to expect they’re hiding something.
Be more afraid of that than any of the sincere answers they give. You want to know the types of challenges that you’ll have to be ready for. It’s the only way to get the training and preparation that you’ll need to work in that (or any) industry.
11. How Specifically Does Your Company Invest in Professional Development for Employees?
This is where you can talk about some of the specific programs. If there are any programs in development that have not been enacted just yet, this would be a good time to ask about those as well. This gives you a chance to consider companies in the same industry to the fullest extent possible. If you get multiple offers, some of these professional development answers can be what sways you to one side or the other.
12. What Is the Specific Career Path for Your Position?
Career paths aren’t always a straight line. Have the company representative walk you through their educational pathway straight up to where they are in their career. What electives did they take? Did they pursue an advanced degree? Where were they in their educational journey when they got their first big break? What classes or experience would they recommend you pursue as you work toward being “hirable”?
13. How Do You See This Product or Service Changing in the Next Five Years? Ten?
Asking questions about the changes that the company is planning for to their existing products and services is another way of approaching the professional development question. Few products stay the same. Even board games have apps that help you keep score now! What types of changes do these company representatives foresee to the output of their products or services? The answer (or answers) to those questions will give you a better idea of where you can specialize as you pursue next-level degrees, internships, and other forms of work experience.
14. What Technologies Do You Use for Communication?
Communication and technology go hand-in-hand in the workforce, especially as more companies expand their work-from-home base of employees. You probably already know many of the channels that companies and agencies use to communicate, but some industries might use proprietary software that you have little to no experience or knowledge of. College job fairs offer great opportunities to learn more about these platforms. This knowledge will help immerse you more in the work culture that you plan to enter.
15. When Would Be a Good Time to Follow Up?
The follow-up question is always a frustrating one when you’re just winging it. These opportunities give you a chance to demystify the process, so you can reach back out with confidence if you haven’t heard anything in a while. The older that you get (and the more experienced you grow in the workforce), the more you will realize that rejection isn’t necessarily the end of the road.
Companies can have any number of reasons as to why they aren’t hiring right now, or why they’re not saying yes to your application. That’s okay. You still have the right to follow up and foster that relationship. It may not pay off the next 3-5 times that a job opening becomes available, but persistence usually pays off eventually. Keep at it, and use these college job fairs to establish those relationships sooner rather than later.
College Job Fairs Create Important Networking Opportunities
We hope this look at college job fairs and the questions that you should be asking at them open your eyes to one key truth. They’re all about networking. Not the cheap, superficial networking that’s done on social media, but the actual building of useful relationships that can work wonders for your future job prospects. Keep this in mind as you attend, and come prepared to get something out of them. Good luck as you pursue your career and make friends within the industry. Any questions or comments? Share in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by JobFairing.com Creative Commons License]