Networking: The Conversation

This is the time of year when many colleges are hosting events that will provide an opportunity to network, including career fairs, panel discussions or actual networking events. For those who are not in school, many cities have network-after-work events, workshops or conferences you might attend. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you make the most of these opportunities.

  1. Know your audience. You might ask an employer a different question than a fellow student.Photo by Ambro
  2. Be tactful and professional. Last year at a holiday event I was having a conversation with a couple of people when a business owner, bent on getting a client, interrupted us, ignored me (which is not easy when I’m nearly 6’ tall) and launched into her spiel. Several minutes later she finally looked at me and said something by way greeting. (Can’t remember what, I was making a mental note to mention her in this blog.)
  3. Listen more than you talk and ask follow up questions. When you do speak try to weave in some things that will make you memorable. Perhaps your sister attended the same college as the person you’re speaking with. Maybe he’s a Raven’s fan—tough to find in Bengals’ country—and so are you. You might realize someone’s last name sounds familiar and discover her dad was your softball coach in high school.
  4. Share a little bit about yourself. This is a good place to use some of the components of your elevator pitch (what is unique about you, what you can contribute to an organization, what you know about the company) or to answer some of the questions you’ve memorized (see below). You might also talk about hobbies and non-work-related interests. Think dinner party/get together, not just professional events. I received some great advice about being published from a friend of my sister’s at a get-together, and afterward added that person as a Linkedin connection.
  5. Start with small talk. This might include weather, information about speakers scheduled for that evening, the event itself, sports (unless you are or you encounter a fanatic), news items, latest movies. This will help break the ice before you ask more in-depth questions, but avoid controversial topics if possible.
  6. Move into open-ended questions. These are questions that require more than a yes or no answer. When you walk away you want to have useful information. If you’ll be seeking work soon, make sure you know if their organization is hiring. If you need clients you should know if they have need of your services.


When you approach someone, shake their hand, look them in the eye and introduce yourself. Below are some questions you might ask or might be asked of you at a college networking event such as a reception with potential employers. 

College Event

  • What made you choose _____ University? When will you graduate?
  • What’s your major? Why did you choose that?
  • What do you love/enjoy most about your major?
  • If someone were to describe your school in one sentence what would he say?
  • How did you end up in this area (city)?
  • What organizations are you involved with on campus?
  • What was the strangest or funniest incident you’ve experienced in your organization? (e.g. sorority, fraternity, sports team or club, etc.)
  • What were you involved in while in college?
  • Do you have any hobbies or involvement outside of work?
  • Is your organization open to partnering with student groups for service projects?

The conversation might be a little bit different at a professional networking event, but these questions can also be asked of potential employers who are visiting your university.

Image by AmbroProfessional/Work Event

  • Where did you go to college?
  • How long have you been with your organization?
  • What attracted you to your organization?
  • What advice would you give me if I want to be successful in your line of work?
  • What do you love/enjoy most about what you do?
  • What separates your company from the competition?
  • What made you decide to attend tonight?
  • What do you see as the coming trends in your profession/area of expertise?
  • If someone were to describe your business/company in one sentence what would he say?
  • What would make someone the ideal employee for your company or organization?

Other Events

  • What do you do for a living?
  • How did you hear about this event?
  • Did you get a chance to go to (insert name of local event) this past weekend?
  • What made you decide to attend tonight?
  • Did you catch the game last week?

Here is an example of a conversation that might take place between a student and a potential employer after the initial greeting or introduction:

Student: Thanks for coming tonight. (Reads name tag. Sounding enthused because she did a little homework before the event.) Oh, you’re with the World Helpers Foundation. I just read an article about your record-breaking year.

Employer: Yes. We’re really excited about that, especially with the economic challenges.

Student: I’ve always enjoyed philanthropy and fund-raising. In fact, I’m the President of my sorority and we recently exceeded our goal for cancer awareness by 40%.

Employer: That’s wonderful. How did you do that?

Student: I felt like we’ve underutilized social media in the past. This year we made sure we put the word out about our event early through Facebook and Twitter, then on our webpage we highlighted cancer survivors that were close to our members.

Employer: What a great idea!

Student: Thank you. What’s your role at WHF?

Employer: I’m the Senior Director of Partner Relationships. In a nutshell, I’m responsible for relationships and recruitment.

Student: That sounds interesting. What do you like best about your career?

Employer: Working with people toward a worthy cause. It’s challenging but I get to be creative and I like seeing the results of all my hard work.

Student: I feel the same way when I’m planning events. What kind of advice would you give me that would help me to eventually get into a role like yours?

Employer: Well, you’ve already got a great start! You have to be comfortable talking to people and leading teams and it seems like you’ve done that fairly well with your fraternity.

Student: Thanks! Do you ever have any entry-level opportunities or might you be able to recommend some other organizations?

Employer: As a matter of fact, we usually have some opportunities at WHF.

Student: Well, I would definitely be interested. Would it be okay for me to keep in touch with you?

Employer: Absolutely. (Hands over business card)

Student: (Shakes hand and thanks the employer before moving on.)

Well done! After all your hard work, you don’t want to lose contact with the great people you’ve met so come back next time for tips on how to strengthen your new relationship.

See you next time!


Quick Tips: Career Fair Season


January and February are typically chock full of career fairs, both college and public. If you plan to attend do so with a single goal in mind: be memorable. This will significantly increase your chances of landing an interview and a new career. However, you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Career Fair Mistakes To Avoid

1) No company research (You can’t effectively navigate without a plan.)

2) Wandering around the fair with a group of friends (Prove you’re a leader by striking out on your own.)

3) Grammatical errors on resume (Acceptable in casual settings, i.e. Facebook, but shows the recruiter you lack attention to detail.)

4) Choosing the wrong outfit (Professional is the way to go.)

5) Not practicing your pitch (Never utter the words, “So what are you hiring for?”)

6) No clear career focus (“I’m willing to do anything,” can also convey desperation or lack of commitment.)

7) Collecting too many freebies (aka shopping)

8) Arriving in the final hour (During the last 30 minutes career fairs can become virtual ghost towns.)

9) Failing to follow up (Don’t miss out on an opportunity to reiterate why you’re the best person for job.)

10) Not applying the way the recruiter has instructed (Demonstrates poor listening skills.)

Over the years I have seen at least one of these violations at every career fair. Don’t end up on the list–if you’ve been a perpetrator take time to prepare for the next fair by clicking on the links below.

Good luck!

Career Fairs: Why Bother?

Career Fairs: Don’t Just Show Up (Part 1)

Career Fairs: Don’t Just Show Up (Part 2)

Career Fairs: Don’t Just Show Up (Part 3)

Where the Jobs Are 2013

You visited all the top job sites, prepped your resume—and had someone review it beforehand, thank you very mucJob Searchh—and applied for some jobs you came across that first day. There are tons of them though, and it turned out to be a grueling day. You posted your resume so now all you have to do is sit back and wait for those employers out there to find you, right?

Actually, you couldn’t be more wrong! Remember what I’ve said in the past—with so many people seeking work, it’s all a recruiter can do to keep his head above water at times. Between the career fairs, job postings, phone screens, interviews, coordinating the interview process, running background checks and, for some, generalist duties (benefits, legalities, unemployment claims, trainings…)

Wait, what was I saying? Oh, yeah. We recruiters are swamped! That means, that while we still prospect, you can’t count on us seeing your resume as the only way to find job leads. And while the popular ones—Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed—will all send you jobs that might be of interest you’re going to find a lot more opportunities by having a plan for your job search. Not to mention, as a recruiter, I want a self-starter who is results driven and ambitious, not the guy that waits around for something to fall into his lap.


Below is a list of the top fields hiring new grads this year, so there are definitely jobs out there. The question is, how do you go about finding them?

1.             IT — 26 percent

2.             Customer service — 19 percent

3.             Finance/accounting — 16 percent

4.             Sales — 16 percent

5.             Business development — 15 percent

6.             Health care — 12 percent


(Find the complete article at


Top Places to Search for Jobs


By all means, do not discount the job sites listed above. You might also check out career rookie, simply hired and even snag-a-job. Granted, Snag-A-Job primarily posts part-time jobs but perhaps that can lead to a full-time position. These sites are definitely viable, and the place I find many of my new hires, but I encourage you to go beyond the obvious. Check out Twitter, Linked in and Facebook.

True, the careers popping up on on Twitter could be in Timbuktu, but if you utilize the search feature and enter your city (ex. Jobs Atlanta) you can see the companies posting local jobs. Follow them and it could open up a world of opportunities that might never be posted in the more traditional ways. The same goes for Linkedin. In fact, if you visit your home page, on the right side mid-way down, you’ll see job opportunities that might be of interest to you. If you follow the link for more jobs you will also see which of your connections already work for those companies. Now you have an in—as long as you haven’t been randomly connecting with people you don’t know on Linkedin. You can reach out to your friend to do research, ask questions and, perhaps, even ask for a recommendation.

Is one of your friends raving about his new job on Facebook? Is he posting about how much fun he’s having, how much he loves his manager and his team and just got promoted after only six months? Find out where he’s working. Have a conversation and see if that company is hiring in your field.


Employee Referral 

Many companies, mine included, offer incentives for employees who make referrals for employment. Let your friends know you’re looking. Keep your resume up-to-date and be prepared to email it at a moment’s notice. The last thing you want to do is make your acquaintance wait while you make revisions.

A few years ago my brother-in-law, John, was in between contracts in the pharmaceutical research field. John’s resume found its way to the desk of a hiring manager and a colleague who knew John saw it. Because she was familiar with him, his performance and his work ethic she told the hiring manager, “You need to hire him.” John got a phone call, had a brief discussion and hung up with a job offer! Sometimes it really is who you know.



As I mentioned in a previous post, career services at your alma mater is a great place to visit. You can also jump on the career services website and browse jobs that have been posted by their employer partners. During the school year attending the career fairs is a must! You can make a much greater impact as a real live person vs. just words on a piece of paper that can get lost in a sea of other resumes. If I am impressed with someone face-to-face I am much more likely to bring that person in for an interview.



During a presentation a few years ago the speaker emphasized the importance of a viable network. If you can’t help others and vice versa, he said, you don’t have a network, you have a netbroke. One candidate I came across definitely understood this. He worked at a country club throughout college where many affluent guests were members. He was a server but knew he was in a position that could open up doors later on. He kept resumes in his car and had his elevator pitch memorized, so when he got a chance to strike up a conversation with a business owner he was ready. That interaction led to an internship in New York where he was able to hone his marketing skills in a position the company created for him. When you impress people sometimes they go out of their way to help you!

I mentioned Linked in before, but it deserves another mention in this category. Take time to join groups of interest and comment in discussions. That way you can meet more people to add to your network. I recently posted a job and got a recommendation from someone who’d read my feedback. For my contributions in another group I was recognized as the Contributor of the Month and was offered a gift card. I was able to provide valuable information and, though it wasn’t my motivation to do so, I got valuable feedback in return. The same can be said of your job search.


Other Sources

 Employment Agencies

Employment agencies can be very expensive for companies so the agency might have a limited number of clients. Similar to your internet search, don’t just sign up and sit back and wait for a phone call. Agencies have numerous clients which means your competition could be significant.

Local Organizations

Oftentimes your local Chamber of Commerce, Urban League, even the unemployment office will have a place for employers to post jobs, so check out the website. In addition, they and other local organizations might host a few public career fairs. Do an online search for “career fairs (name of city) 2013” to see what events will be held locally this summer.

Think outside the box 

If you want a job in a creative field, be creative. With the internet at our fingertips people are thinking way outside the box. I read a story about a guy who put up a billboard to get the attention of employers—and found a job! Utilize Youtube to put together a video. Pin your works of art on Pinterest. Take pics of your fashion designs and post them on Instagram. How about using your marketing skills to draw people—including employers—to your blog? What better way to prove your results than a huge following.

I have yet to hear anyone exclaim, “Yay! I get to search for a job!” Let’s face it, it’s not fun. Keep a positive attitude, but don’t make your job search last any longer than it has to. Take advantage of these tips, exhaust every avenue and keep plugging away until you get that job offer you’ve been seeking.


Why I Recruit

Image by Stuart Miles

Image by Stuart Miles

While I might not be searching for a job right now I am going through something very similar: Trying to find an agent for my manuscript. You attend career fairs, I attend conferences. You pitch to a recruiter, I pitch to editors and agents. You put together a cover letter, resume and application. I put together a synopsis, one sheet and proposal. This process has made me a better recruiter, because talking to an agent can be daunting, but just about everyone on this journey has been kind to me which makes it so much easier.

I have been recruiting for 13 years and counting.  Just the other day the speaker at the networking event said to me, “I used to be a recruiter. It is the best job in the world!” And she meant it.

Wow. I love what I do but something about the way she said it made me take a step back to see what made her pump her fist in the air when she said those words. So here are my top 14 reasons why it’s so cool to be a recruiter. Yes, I know it’s an odd number but it’s my blog. J And they aren’t in any particular order either. (You Type A’s are going to have a fit!)

1)    Making someone’s day. And not in the Dirty Harry way. (Yes, I know, I’m dating myself, but Clint is actually more my parents’ generation.) Making that phone call to offer a job to someone who is perfect for the job is exciting! I have heard people nearly burst with excitement when I offered the job.

2)    Representing a great organization and sharing great opportunities. I didn’t come into my company as a recruiter, and I wasn’t dreaming of becoming one either. I wanted to learn how to run a business and was able to do that during my first five years. Then the recruiting opportunity opened up. I’d never thought about it before but what an opportunity! I knew I worked for an incredible company. The problem was, not enough people outside of our organization knew. The recruiting role would open the door to share that information with potential candidates.

3)    No two interviews are alike. I’ve had many people say to me, “There’s no way I could interview people all day, every day.” Neither could I! Recruiting is much more varied than that. It’s working with upper management to create postings, building relationships with referral sources, networking and managing a process, just to name a few responsibilities. But even though I might have the same questions for candidates no two answers are ever the same.

One candidate I’ll call Bob had a difficult customer that refused to sign a safety waiver at the community center where he worked. For half an hour Bob tried to explain to the customer why it was important but the guy eventually stalked off into the locker room determined that no one was going to make him do something he didn’t want to do. Since this wasn’t the first time the customer had refused, Bob had no choice but to call the police. And Mr. Customer was taken from the whirlpool, escorted off the premises and banned from the community center.

Trust me, I’ve never heard anything like that before or since.

4)    Impacting the company on a critical level. No matter the product, without people to design, implement and sell there is no company. All the success of the organization starts with its people and I get to play a part in that.

5)    Training others to be great recruiters. Being the expert in my craft is a tall order, but absolutely necessary, and it’s part of my job to make sure all the hiring managers are experts in interviewing as well.

6)    Closing the deal. Make no mistake about it, recruiters are sales people and we get that same ‘high’ from winning a new hire as an account representative gets from landing a new account. Once I know someone is a fit for our company I don’t want to let him get away. Just the other day I spoke with a candidate who told me, “I’m sorry ma’am. I don’t want to waste your time but I’m about to accept an offer with another company.”

I found out this guy hadn’t even interviewed anywhere else; he was just going with the first offer that came his way. I noticed he’d gotten a football scholarship to college. “Let me ask you something,” I said. “When you got your football scholarship, did you just go with the first college that came your way?” He laughed. “I went with the most money!” I laughed. “Then let me tell you a little bit about our program…”

I proceeded to tell him everything that made us the exact opposite of the other company.

He interviewed the next day.

(And we recruiters get to chat with this guy.)

7) Watching the folks I brought on board climb the ladder. I feel like a mama bear as new hires take those first tentative steps, then they slowly learn the ropes and begin to advance into higher roles in the company. Total affirmation that we made the right choice.

8)    Spotting the potential in a candidate and watching him bloom. So we take a risk and hire someone who’s a little light in sales but with a crazy competitive streak and strong leadership. Mere months later she’s breaking sales records!

9)    Creativity. Coming up with new ways to attract quality candidates can be challenging, yet rewarding when new ideas pan out. Should I utilize social media, the internet, college visits or employee referrals?

Along those same creative lines, earlier this week my colleague and I conducted  a Career Prep seminar at a university. When I present I don’t want to talk ‘at’ the audience, I want them to stay alert and participate. So I ask questions and make them think. And, big surprise, I call on people. At the end of the day forty students were scribbling notes, sitting on the edge of their chairs and asking how they can get on board with our company.

10) Mock interviews and resume critiques. I can’t lean across the desk in an interview as say, “You’re doing this all wrong!!”, although some days it’s tempting. Thank goodness for local universities and career centers like the Urban League who offer opportunities for recruiters to come and teach students and job-seekers how to improve their interviewing skills and resumes.

11) The opportunity to learn new things. I’ve learned about investments, how to build a deck and, yes, even the operations behind the scenes at a circus. Apparently, and contrary to popular belief, clowns are some of the saddest people on earth.

Who knew?

12) Building relationships with referral sources. There is a great satisfaction in knowing that a university is sending people my way because our working relationship over the years has become more of a friendship. When they greet me with a hug instead of a handshake, I know I’m doing something right.

13) Spotting candidates’ talents and skills and guiding them in the right direction. A candidate who has started several businesses in college and has entrepreneur written all over him but is considering a career in accounting? Not on my watch.

Nothing wrong with accounting, it just obviously isn’t the best fit for him.

14) Three words: Best. Stories. Ever. My all-time favorite came from a candidate years ago who was telling me how he coped with stress. He explained that he lived in a small town and there was a girl there who had accused him of getting her pregnant.

Oh boy… I was too new of a recruiter to know how to stop this runaway train. So I just sat there with my frozen smile as he continued.

He knew it couldn’t have been him because they’d only been together the one time.

Yikes!! Please do not keep talking.

“So I talked with my friends to ease my stress.” He shrugged, looking a little helpless. “And after that, all I could do was wait for the DNA test.”

And that, my friends, was priceless.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t at all about gearing everyone—or anyone—toward recruiting. What I’m saying is this: when you can compose a Top 5, 10 or, ahem, 14 reasons why you love your career, then you know you’ve made the right choice.

Career Fairs-Don’t Just Show Up (Part 3)

The Night Before

The career fair is tomorrow and you’ve done a lot of work, but here are a couple more recommendations to help you be fully prepared.

Grab a friend to take out for coffee and have him double check your resume. Better to find any typos today than for a recruiter to spot them tomorrow.

While you’re grabbing that coffee take a few minutes to rehearse your 30 second commercial. As an aspiring author, I’ve been in your shoes recently when attending writers’ conferences. The first question every other writer has upon introduction is, “So what do you write?” So I rehearsed the pitch for my novel until I could say it in my sleep! By the time I sat down in front of editors and agents to “sell” my manuscript, my jitters were almost a distant memory.

Next, lay out your outfit. Or two. Because you might discover that sharp gray suit needs to go to the dry cleaner or, as soon as ladies try to pull on a pair of tights, they’ll get a run. Make sure you have a backup plan so you don’t have to show up at the fair in a borrowed outfit. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s not pretty.

The early bird gets the worm. It might be cliché, but it’s very true of a career fair. Many employers leave about 30 minutes (and some even sooner) before the fair ends. So if you show up later, you’ll miss out. And even if we don’t leave early, having spoken to 50, 75 or 100 plus students we’re fried by the end of the day. When representatives are fresh you’ll probably get far more information than those bullet points they’re sharing at the end of a four hour fair.

If it’s 6:05 pm and the fair ended at 6:00 pm, use a little discernment. A recruiter who is all packed up might share some quick highlights but don’t stick around for twenty minutes with tons of questions. Don’t ask for any handouts at this point. He’s already packed up. Even if you have a good reason, you were late, plain and simple. Ask if you can get in touch and let him be on his way. You want to be remembered, but not as the clueless wonder.

The Day Of                                                                                                       

Today is the day. All of your preparation is going to pay off. It’s okay to catch a ride to the fair with friends but once you get there check over your written plan and go work the room. This isn’t a group effort. Walking around with a gaggle of buddies sends the message that you are a follower, not a leader, and you can’t make your own decisions. If your friend is interested in nursing and you’re interested in engineering, you’ll need to speak to very different companies. So shake ‘em and go your separate ways. Later on you can catch up and discuss the opportunities you discovered.

Talking to the Recruiter

I promise you, we don’t bite. And you’ve been following this cool blog, so you have plenty to talk about. 🙂 Introduce yourself with a firm handshake and be enthusiastic. We’ve all had that experience where we’ve been in the middle of a story with someone and that person looks away, or looks beyond us to something more interesting. Not a good move at a career fair. If you build rapport with a recruiter and she doesn’t have any careers that are a fit for you, she still might point you in the direction of some opportunities at other companies (we recruiters do talk to one another). But if you’re rude, good luck.

Be mindful of time and personal space. Even if you’re having a great conversation, know when it’s time to say thank you, shake hands and move on. If you think the company is great, there’s probably a line of other people behind you who feel the same way. Let them have their time with the recruiter. On another note, don’t stand so close I’ll want to call for security, but don’t stand so far away I have to beckon you closer. That will make me think you’re timid. If you’re afraid of me, how will you be able to handle the occasional tough customer? An arm’s length away is perfect.

Don’t be offended if the recruiter doesn’t take your resume. This is becoming more and more common. Don’t take it personally; it’s not you. Every company has its own application procedure, which is typically to apply on line and upload the resume. So why have a resume? Because having one says something about your professionalism. Plus, the recruiter might look it over even if he doesn’t keep it.

Ask Good Questions

Remember, you want to have a conversation with the recruiter so be prepared to ask some questions. Good ones. If the representative works for Midwest IT Solutions, please don’t ask, “So what does Midwest IT Solutions do?”

Well…provide IT solutions. (It happens.)

You can ask if they have any opportunities in sales, marketing, HR, accounting, etc. The name doesn’t say it all so don’t assume a company won’t be interested in someone with your major.

Some other good questions might include the following (but only ask if you’re truly interested):

Can you tell me more about your hiring process? This way you’ll know how to apply, when you might hear back from the hiring representative and how many interviews to expect.

Is there an opportunity for, or mandatory, relocation? If you are married to the town you live in and the company plans to send you to parts unknown after a couple of years, it’s probably not the company for you.

What are you looking for in an ideal candidate? The recruiter could describe you perfectly. Or not.

What are the daily responsibilities for the position? The position could be a desk job and you need to be on your feet all day. The job requires creativity and you’re more analytical. Great to know before you apply.

Will you be conducting on campus interviews? If so, find out how to sign up. If it’s three weeks away, however, apply right away so perhaps you can interview earlier.

What kind of training do you provide? Maybe the last company you worked for used the ‘sink or swim’ method and you discovered you want a very specific training plan.

Are there opportunities for advancement? If you want to be a director someday and there are only 20 people in the company, it might be difficult for you to achieve that goal.

More Do’s and Don’ts

Do not ask about salary. It’s obvious you’re going to go with the highest bidder and can’t possibly be sincerely interested in our company which makes us question how long you’ll stick around if hired.

Don’t be a collector. Many people hear there’s a career fair and show up, grab a bag and begin shopping. This is not a trade show, and it’s not a grocery store. He who grabs the most toys does not win. Don’t be mistaken for one of these people. There’s nothing wrong with accepting a stress ball, ink pen or candy but go back and get those things at the end of the fair, after you’ve connected with all the employers of interest. You don’t want to be the guy with so many freebies you’re dropping them in the aisles and juggling all your goodies while trying to get to your resume.

Don’t congregate in front of a booth with your friends. We recruiters want to talk to people but you and your buddies are blocking our table! Take personal conversations out of the high traffic areas.

Do take a business card. You’ll want to know how to get in touch with the recruiter and you don’t want to call Meghan, Megan or Sean, Shaun. Or Shawn. 🙂

Do network with other attendees and fair organizers. Your friends or the staff from career services might be able to tell you about a company you’ve overlooked that is offering your dream job.

Do make one last sweep at the end of the fair. This is a great time to thank the recruiter one more time and assure him you’re going to send in your application. Whenever possible, apply the same day while you’re still fresh in his mind.

Do note how to apply. If you’ve been told to apply online, don’t send an email to the recruiter asking how to apply. You’ll lose big ‘attention to detail’ points.

After The Fair

This is a great time to shoot the representative a note to reiterate your skills and interest. Send this note after you’ve applied to make them aware that you’ve followed instructions. You might even bring up something you talked about to remind them who you are. I spoke with a girl at a career fair years ago who is also almost six feet tall. Our discussion revolved around what a challenge it is to find pants that are long enough. When she mentioned that conversation in her follow up email I immediately knew who she was.

Make sure you follow proper phone etiquette and grammar. As I’ve mentioned before, all correspondence counts, so if your email is full of typos and improper grammar it could affect whether you move forward in the interview process. You should be putting your best foot forward in every interaction with the company, so while you might feel this is unfair, know that when you’re up against the candidate who didn’t have the Justin Beiber ringtone, he’s the one that’s going to walk away with the job.

There it is, tips on what you need to do before, during and after a career fair to help you get into the interview. May you land your dream job soon.


Career Fairs-Don’t Just Show Up, Part 2

Before The Fair (continued)

First Impressions

You’ve prepared your resume, you’ve done your homework and you’re looking sharp in your conservative, well-fitting suit. You’re all set, right? Well, not yet. We still haven’t discussed some key points. For instance, how should you approach the recruiter?

Um…you just walk right up to him, right?

Not quite. Many a candidate does just that then shoves a resume at us and waits.


Here’s a much better way.

Remember, we haven’t even arrived at the fair yet. This is still prep time. First, you should have a clear career focus so you can have a discussion with the recruiter. I don’t mean ‘find a job’. I mean, what is your field of interest or professional goal? For instance:

“I’m looking for an entry-level event planning opportunity.”

Contrary to what all of our mothers told us we cannot do everything. Not without training anyway. The phrases “I can do anything” “I’m open” or “I just want to get my foot in the door” indicate you have no idea what you’d like to do. This might not seem like a big deal, but companies can’t afford to invest their training dollars in someone who is more than likely going to quit the minute they realize they don’t like the job.

If you’re uncertain about your long-term goal like I was when seeking my first job, as I’ve mentioned before, for the company’s sake as well as your own, at the very least try to find a job where you can utilize the skills you’ve learned or responsibilities you’ve had in the past that you enjoyed the most. Then the likelihood that you’ll be able to build a lasting career increases drastically. If you’ve enjoyed customer service and solving problems in the past, say so.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people, finding solutions and thinking strategically. Do you have any opportunities where those skills could be beneficial?”

Still stumped? Think about what you did naturally as a kid or what you can do for hours now and not even notice the whole day has passed. Writing, drawing, sports, building, working with your hands, etc. Perhaps you’ve always been great with money and budgeting and what comes so naturally to you could be a huge asset to the banking or financial industries. These God-given talents and gifts that no one had to teach you could open the door to many a possibility. Maybe the kid who played every sport known to man should work in sports management. The teen who loved to help her mom pick out new color schemes for the house might be a great interior designer. And the girl who loved to shop might find her home in merchandising.

After the recruiter knows what kind of career interests you she might have some questions about your resume, so be prepared to participate in a conversation, not just listen.

  • Tell me about some of your responsibilities at Marc’s Car Wash.
  • What made you decide to choose history as your major?
  • I noticed there was a job gap between your sales position at Wireless Widgets and your serving job at Java the Hut. Was there a reason for that?
  • Why did you leave your job at the flower shop?


30 Second Elevator Speech

Much of what we’ve discussed will fit nicely into your 30 Second Elevator Speech aka 30 Second Commercial aka 30 Second Elevator Pitch. Whether you deliver it in an actual elevator, a networking event, a dinner party, an interview or the job fair, the intent is the same. Take a short amount of time to tell someone who has something you want (job, book deal, endorsement, introduction) the best things you have to offer so they will be compelled to give or help you get that something.

Here’s what a 30 Second Pitch should consist of for an undergrad at a career fair:

Name, major & year

My name is David Smith. I’ll be receiving my Bachelor’s degree in engineering this spring.

What makes you unique

Trust me, there is something, and whatever it is can help the recruiter remember you among the sea of faces we’ll encounter throughout the day.

I paid for 100% of my education; I played a sport while working 25 hours a week; I finished school in 3 ½ years; I ran a marathon; I speak 6 languages

How can you benefit the employer

If you’ve done the research discussed in the previous blog you might come across some areas of opportunity.

I noticed your company is very involved in community outreach. I was Vice President of my fraternity and that was part of our mission as well. Over the past two years I’ve built relationships with several local non-profits who would love to partner with a corporation.

How can you help solve problems

This is a matter of drawing on your accomplishments and telling how they can transfer to the job.

As captain of the football team I had to keep my teammates on task, working together toward a common goal and, as a result, we went to two bowl games where we won both times.  As a leader in your organization I would bring that same motivation to my team to reach company goals.

Employment aim

This is the place to incorporate the information we discussed earlier.

“I’d like to use my marketing degree in a research role.”

Company insight/why you’re interested in the company

You want to feel special when you’re selected over all other candidates. We want to know we’re special too! Take some time to learn about the companies you’ll be talking to before the fair (see my previous blog).

These components don’t have to be delivered in this order. In fact, you don’t even have to use all of them. The pitch is meant to get the conversation going with the recruiter. So start with your name, major and anticipated graduation date and your employment aim. Allow the recruiter to respond then filter in the other pieces as needed. The key is to be ready.

You should be feeling pretty confident by now. Just a few more tips next time and you’ll work that fair like a pro.

Career Fairs-Don’t Just Show Up

What? There’s a career fair? Today? If you roll into the event disheveled and in a panic, it probably won’t fare well for you (no pun intended). Trust me, if you’re a student at a college or university there is going to be a career fair (most likely two—fall and winter) so check out the school’s website for the date and then get ready.

Before The Fair

Do Your Homework

If you prepare ahead of time you can walk in with confidence and make a great first impression. The first step is to get the list of attendees from career services or whoever is hosting the event. Next, check the companies out to see which ones appeal to you and if they are offering the position(s) you’re seeking.

There are a few ways to do this. The most obvious is to visit their website. What’s the mission statement? Company values? Community involvement? Awards? Have there been any lay-offs lately? You might also visit websites like where existing and former employees share pros and cons and salary information.

As I mention in a previous blog, though, take what you learn with a grain of salt. Just because someone else didn’t enjoy a position doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it and vice versa. I for instance really loved my job at a sub shop. When I was 15. I wouldn’t enjoy coming home smelling of onions and fry grease now. Similarly, one of my colleagues who is an accountant considers conducting interviews pure torture. And the thought of crunching numbers all day makes me sleepy. Seems like we’re both in the right roles.

Once you’ve done your research determine how well the information you obtained and the job descriptions measure up against what you’re seeking in a company and make a prioritized list of those that most interest you. You’ll find that some booths at the fair will have a line a mile long the entire time of the fair, so save that one for last so you don’t miss out on the others on your list.

Prepare Your Resume

One word of caution, if you ask 10 recruiters for their opinion about resumes you’ll get 10 different answers, so try to stick with a standard format. I, for one, prefer that a resume has a clear objective. And I don’t mean:

To obtain a career with Company X.

I want to know what kind of career you’re seeking or what skills you’d like to put to use in your career. More like:

To utilize my creativity, sales and leadership skills in a marketing role to contribute to the success of a company

Make sure you remain professional, even with your email address. Your name works just fine. No reason to use this as an opportunity to broadcast your opinions about yourself: Trust me, we recruiters have seen it. Visit Career Services to get help with your initial layout. After that, sign up for a resume critique with an employer. Take a portfolio with you to the fair to keep your resumes neat and at your fingertips.

Finally, make sure your outfit is ready. If you get invited to an interview, business casual attire might be an option depending on the company, but for the fair the dress code is business professional. Period.

Before you panic, professional does not have to equal expensive. Clean, pressed and presentable—meaning, a good fit and in style—are all that’s necessary to fit the bill. Neutral and conservative are key. Lean toward dark suits with white or light colored shirts or blouses. For men, classic patterned ties.  Polished shoes for everyone! Women should opt for simple pumps versus stacked, trendy styled shoes or sandals. Remember you’ll be walking for an hour or more so choose something that is comfortable. If you’re stressing over your outfit it will take your focus off the interaction with the recruiters.

So far so good. Next time I’ll have even more tips to help you overcome your jitters and make a great first impression.