Stream of Consciousness

Friday, February 6, 2009

Beating the Career Fair Game

I don't like career fairs - they tend to be overcrowded (especially on college campuses) and full of people being overly fake. However, there are definitely benefits. In a place full of some many random people you never know what connections you could make. After attending Northeastern's Mega Career Fair yesterday I thought I might share some of my tips and tricks for standing out in the sea of "Hi, I'll be graduating in May, take my resume!"

  1. Have a conversation with the recruiter, find a way to connect. I ended up talking to one guy yesterday about an ad campaign his company had worked one that is one of my favorites. After a few minutes of honest conversation, he asked me for my resume and to follow-up with him with some of my portfolio clips.

  2. Be a real person, not a robot. Another recruiter and I were having a conversation about his house painting franchise business (College Pro), which had a really cool business model. Mid-conversation we got to talking about the crowd waiting to speak with recruiters at a nearby table and how so many of the students at the fair seemed to simply be repeating a memorized speech: "Hi, I'm a Northeastern student. I'm looking for xyz in a job, will you take my resume?" Here's a hint: they're just going to throw it away when they get back to the office unless they remember who you are!

  3. Be selective about who you give your resume to. You might be desperate, but you don't want to seem that way. Keep in mind you're interviewing the recruiter about the company just as much as they're interviewing you. You show good judgment and you save some trees!

  4. Go with a plan, then ignore it. Know who's going to be there and who you want to talk to, but don't limit yourself. Fighting the crowd sucks - let it push you around and take advantage of unforseen opportunities. But don't leave unless you've seen everyone on your list.
(This entry can now also be found on Careerealism)


J.T. said...

I think my favorite part of this post is how you point out that the part of a career fair is to connect face-to-face with recruiters. Standing out can be as simple as being sincerely interested in the recruiter and what they have to say. You don't have to be a smooth talker, just a good listener who can ask questions and build a connection through dialog. Recruiters are people too! And everyone likes to talk to someone who seems interested in what they have to say instead of interested in selling them something. In this case, a college student is selling their services for their company-of-one. Don't sell too hard. Listen twice as much as you talk and then pick the right time to share more about yourself.

I'd like to throw in one extra idea...If you meet a recruiter that you really connect with and you have a friend at the event who you think would enjoy talking to him/her, take the friend over and introduce them. Show the recruiter that you are thinking about the type of candidate they need and that you know these candidates. It speaks volumes about your credibility as a professional.

Marisa said...

Asking questions is key to me: once you get someone excited about their job or the company, they're more excited about talking to you specifically. Plus, asking questions makes you look like less of a drone. You don't need to have background on the company to ask good questions. Ask how they got involved with the company, how much opportunity there is for vertical or horizontal mobility, what their favorite part of the job/company is, if the company is active in the community or in social causes, etc.

Be friendly, not desperate. Present yourself as a whole person, not just a workaholic or broke college kid passing out a resume. If you take the time to ask a recruiter how it's going, or be truly pleasant, they'll want to talk to you, and not the pompous business major behind you who just wants to talk about how he worked for Merrill Lynch before the collapse.