I am writing my very first ever blog post as a response to a post by Rich DeMatteo of Corn on the Job fame. Since I work in a college career center, I wanted to add my two cents to the conversation.
First, I totally agree with trying to make connections with employers ahead of time. You really have to make yourself stand out in one way or another, and making a personal connection in advance is a great way of doing that. Our career center lists all of the employers who will be attending on our website, as they register. No need to come by the office to pick up a piece of paper. Just check the website. Make sure to keep checking back, though, because employers register all the way up to the day before a career fair (sometimes the day of).
While you may (and I emphasize MAY) be able to get the contact information for the person who registered the company for the career fair, it won’t do you much good. Most companies list their recruiters as TBA and decide on who will be attending at the last minute based on staffing needs. Alumni are often sent to recruit at their alma maters, no matter what type of position they hold within the organization. Better to try to make some connections with alumni at the company through your college career center, alumni relations office or LinkedIn.
I agree with Rich that you should make sure your LinkedIn profile is in order prior to connecting with any potential employers. Internet savvy (and who isn’t) recruiters and alums will google you before they decide whether or not they will return your call or make the connection. Hopefully you realize that LinkedIn profiles come up very high in search results. Having a great LinkedIn profile that isn’t just a recitation of your resume will give them a good reason to want to connect with you.
Connecting with company representatives prior to the career fair is essential. Many companies will hold information sessions or other special events the evening prior to the career fair. These are not just ‘fluff’ events. They are excellent networking opportunities! So few students take advantage of these events because they don’t understand what they’re about. There are also business plan competitions and dinners and other professional settings in which to get yourself noticed. Most of these events are sponsored by companies because they are aware that the connections made at the career fair itself can be nebulous. They are actually handing you the opportunities to make more meaningful connections: take advantage of them.
Trying to meet with recruiters post-event may be difficult. In my experience, most recruiters are on the first plane out after a long day at career fair. Only if they are on campus for multiple days and you haven’t had the opportunity during scheduled events would I advise this.
Finally, I can’t stress enough how important follow-up is. Send that e-mail, or better yet, send that hand-written thank you note. The biggest complaint I hear from alumni mentors and recruiters is that students don’t follow up. What else can they conclude but that you aren’t really interested? Following-up is another really simple way to make yourself standout. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t take the time to do this.
As a student, what types of events are attractive for you to meet with employers? And employers, what makes an impression on you outside of career fair?