Engineering Career Fair: Tips for Success

Engineering career fairs, particularly in the US, often include some of the biggest corporate employers in the profession. They're worth going to see just for the range of career options they represent. They're also excellent for those already in the industry looking for career moves and information about career progression.

This is a professional career fair with a difference. Engineering is a big, diverse field, containing multiple skills and specializations as well as fundamental qualifications. Engineers often spend a lot of time looking for opportunities to change career tracks. The engineering career fair can be considered a one stop research program in that regard.

Planning and research

Plan your attendance to allow yourself time and space to explore the fair. Professional career fairs for engineers are much wider ranging than sector-based career fairs or job fairs. Some big US engineering career fairs have nearly 200 employers attending, including many major employers, so there's good reason to explore thoroughly.

Create an itinerary for yourself:

  • Select employers you particularly want to approach. Keep this list short, realistic and workable within time frames.

    • Allow an hour for each employer. Any spare time left over works in your favor

    • Do a tailored resume for each employer. Targeted resumes are most successful, in preference to a standardized resume.

    • You should use a digital medium for your resume, like a USB memory stick. Make sure you can access copies online if required.

    • Name resume files after your selected employers. Rename files if you do more applications.

    • If you're bringing hard copy resumes: Bring a practical number of them in individual protective sleeves.

Interview preparation

Interviews at engineering career fairs tend to be for internships, with screening interviews for other jobs. In some cases employers will only take applications and advise about positions available. Contact your selected employers directly, and see what interview requirements and intentions they have for the engineering career fair.

The basic interview subject areas are:

  • Knowledge base

  • Qualifications

  • Experience

  • Specializations

  • Communications

  • Interpersonal and team skills

Note: Ask about following up and getting decisions on your interview in the course of the interview.

Interview questions to ask employers

Your main need is to identify good career opportunities, so you can stick to that theme:

For experienced engineers:

Question: What's the career progression from this position?

The only right answer is a clear description of organizational and professional progression. Vague answers could mean organizational issues, or a go-nowhere job.

Question: What's the salary bandwidth in this job?

The appropriate answer is a set of figures at credible industry rates, matched to a formal job description.

Question: Is there any supervisory or training work in this role?

The answer should be a definite yes or no. "Maybe" isn't good enough, because it means some duties aren't properly defined.

For internship applicants:

Question: What's the salary?

The answer is an exact figure. Engineering internships are paid on an industry standard scale.

Question: Is there any overtime?

If not, it's the only engineering job in history without any overtime. Move on to other employers.

Questions: What certifications could I get with experience in this field?

This particular question is well worth asking. Professional certifications should match your career goals very well.