Recruiter overlooking résumé (CC: Adobe Stock Images)
If you’ve taken the time to research a career fair or convention, applied and paid (or received a stipend), got out your best business attire, and showed up, chances are you’re a conscientious, determined person. But when you want a job (badly!) and are aware of all the competition, it can be easy to forget what these events are like for the people on the other side of the table. Given that these are the guys (and gals) who can get you a job, it’s important to understand their perspective. You don’t want to just check off places on a list. You want to be your most impressive, diligent, and thoughtful self. That means putting yourself in the recruiters’ shoes.
If you're plannning to attend a career fair in the future, we want to make sure you use your time, and the recruiters’ time well. Here are four things Annie Hopkins, the director of campus recruitment says students should keep in mind on what recruiters and hiring managers at these events need from you.
They don’t have a lot of time
Career fair attendees may feel like they’re short on time with all the potential employers they want to meet and a limited amount of time in which to do so — but imagine being on the other side. For every recruiter at a convention, there are dozens of eager job seekers, so be mindful of how much time you take up, Hopkins urges, and be quick.
Take about three minutes to give your grand introduction: “Say your name, where you go to school and when you’re graduating. Then say something like, ‘I’m really interested in your company because…’ and explain why.” Try to be as detailed and as thoughtful as possible in your response.
In a similar vein, make sure you look up each company before you approach them! Hopkins says another huge time waster at career fairs is asking recruiters to give the spiel about their companies.
“That would be an automatic pass,” she says. “The 40th time someone comes up to you and says, ‘Tell me what your company does,’ you want to say, ‘No. That was your job. You should have prepped for that ahead of time.’”
Any kind of fair like NSBE will post a list of attendees published on the event website, so there’s no excuse to go in unaware. You’ve likely been planning to go for months, Hopkins says, so go through every company, understand who they are, what they do, and what type of jobs they might have available.
They come prepared to hire on the spot
Recruiters aren’t there just to boost brand recognition. They really do want to find great candidates — and they come prepared to do so that same day. Another benefit to doing your research about the companies at a career convention in advance is finding out what jobs are up for grabs. Instead of applying blindly online and hoping that someone likes your résumé, you can meet the people hiring for your coveted position in person and speak to them one-on-one.
“On the NSBE website, they’ll post something like, ‘JP Morgan is going to be here. Here are the two jobs they’re interviewing for,’ and you can apply ahead of time,” Hopkins says. “Recruiters are also pipelining for future potential opportunities, so even if you’re not looking for a job right now, you can still have conversations with recruiters so that they get to know who you are.”
Pay attention to the lesser-known names, too. Top-name companies and organizations will likely be mobbed by attendees, making popular jobs harder to pin down. Don’t count yourself out for those, but be sure to stop by the booths of companies you may not have heard about before you saw their name on the career fair website.
“I always tell students to make a plan of the companies they want to hit but to also keep an open mind,” Hopkins says. “A lot of times, there are companies you’ve probably never heard of but they could have great jobs. If a company has lower brand recognition, there’s a chance they’re amenable to spending more time with you.'You came to me? I’m going to have a very in-depth conversation with you!'”
They don’t want to hear how cool you think they are
As part of your introduction, try to answer the recruiter’s unspoken question (“Why do you want to work for us?) without them asking. Hopkins adds that it’s important to prove that you are a good fit by keeping the focus on you and your skills, rather than your perceived status of the company or organization.
“A bad answer would be: ‘Well, I want to work at Jopwell because you’re the leading platform, I read all these articles about you, and I think it’s great what you’re doing in the D&I space,’” she says. “A better answer would be: ‘I want to work in this marketing role because after spending three years doing marketing in ___ position, I’m ready to pivot into an organization that is mission-driven and doing unique things in the marketing space.’”
Hopkins says the first example gives a “BS answer” about why the company is cool. The second one explains why the attendee believes they would actually be a great hire.
“During interviews, students [tend to] spend so much time telling the company why they’re great. That eats into all the time they could be spending telling you why they’re the perfect fit for the role.”
They can’t grant everyone an interview
While it’s true that on-site interviews do take place at conferences like NSBE, not everyone will get one. You have to be okay with the fact that recruiters may not always accommodate your request for an interview, Hopkins says.
“Sometimes people will come up and say, ‘I see you’re doing on-site interviews. I’d really love to interview with you’ — but they won’t take no for an answer. They may think it’s a fakeout, imagining the company wants them to come back and ask again.”
Well…it isn’t. Instead of badgering the person (which absolutely won’t endear you to them), she says you can try seeing if they’ll be open to communicating at another time. You might say: “I understand now isn’t great, but I’d love to leave my résumé with you or take your card if you don’t mind so that I can hear more about your career opportunities in the future.”
There is no guarantee they’ll ever look at your résumé, Hopkins admits, but that would happen in any case, career fair or not. And if you do follow up on a meeting you made at that fair, however long or short, keep your emails just as brief and actionable.
“As long as someone mentions, ‘I met you at NSBE,’ chances are I’m not looking for specific details. But the key in the follow up is conveying your objective,” Hopkins says. “The least effective method is when someone says, ‘Hey, I met you at NSBE and would love to keep in touch’ — and then doesn’t say anything else.”
Instead, she offers, try: “I met you at NSBE. I have a few quick follow-up questions for you. Can I send them to you in an email or call you next week at one of these three times? Please let me know if there is another time that might be more suitable with your schedule.”
You leave it in the recruiter's hands to reply or not and can continue working on all the other options you have in the journey of your job search.