It’s that time of year again, and career fairs are in full swing. Navigating these events is a very delicate process and the biggest gain is often the connections you will make. When meeting recruiters and potential employers, there are some basic rules of etiquette you should always consider.
Building a few really great connections is always better than a ton of unmemorable ones. We all know that the ultimate goal is for every recruiter at the career fair to be calling you once you leave the room. You’ll find that in most cases, the recruiters that remember you the most are the ones with whom you had meaningful conversation and not those who you spoke with for two minutes before you handed them your resume and made your way to the next table. Sometimes it is better to make a handful of really strong connections than 20 meaningless ones.
Don’t make it all about yourself—it’s a conversation. When you are speaking with recruiters, its always a great idea to have a short elevator pitch in your head that highlights your best accomplishments and what you are looking for, but you also need to remember to engage with them. Asking questions about the company and their role is very important because it shows you are interested without having to constantly reiterate that you are interested.
Remember that you are also speaking with another person, and that conversation should be fluid. Therefore, jumping straight into your elevator pitch after introducing yourself comes off as being very aggressive and is never a good start to building a connection. When in doubt, think about how you would speak to your previous bosses and teachers that you have built a good relationship with.
Set goals and make a plan for what you want to accomplish. Career fairs only last for so long, and without a plan you may end up wasting time navigating your way through the room before you find the right companies to speak with. If possible, go on your career center website before the fair and research all the companies that will be coming. Make an organized plan for which companies you definitely want to get your resume to and who you will spend the most time talking to based on the job you are looking for.
It’s also a great idea to research some of the companies lower on your list so that you can ask them questions about the company, open positions and anything else you may be curious about. It’s never a bad idea to be overly prepared and in most cases, not every booth in the room will apply to the type of position you are looking for.
Don’t be afraid to ask. Whether you are looking for a job in the company, looking to get into contact with someone in a different department or hoping to connect on LinkedIn, the worst they can say is “no.” More often than not, recruiters are impressed when students are honest and up-front about the job they are looking for. These people have very little time on their hands and to be speaking to them one-on-one is a very rare thing—don’t waste it.
Being well prepared and on top of your game is the best thing you can do to ensure your success with this process. Remember to stay poised and be yourself because you are a unique individual, and whether you believe it or not, you have something to offer any company out there. Career fairs are all about opening the door to new opportunities, so jump in, start networking and see where it takes you!