Like many college students, I have attended several career/internship fairs with the hopes of impressing the heck out of an employer and landing a great position. I recently had the opportunity to experience the other side of a career fair, from a recruiter’s perspective.  Thanks to this experience, I will never again approach a career fair feeling stressed out or anxious—and you shouldn’t either. The next time you prepare to make a case for yourself to a potential employer at a career fair, keep these five things in mind.

5 New insights from an employer’s perspective:

1. Your pitch to an employer is about yourself, and what in the world do you know better than YOU? Talking to a recruiter about the one thing you are truly the expert on should be a piece of cake! In comparison, a recruiter doesn’t know nearly as much about their own organization as you do about yourself, and can sometimes stumble over questions that they had not anticipated or do not know the answer to. Be prepared. Make sure you know what you want to say about you, and relate it to how you can add value to the recruiter’s organization.

2. While you (the prospective employee) get to walk around and learn about all of the employers there, a recruiter has to relay the same information again, again, and again. Answer the same questions over, and over, and over. While it is interesting and rewarding to meet new people and learn about their background, the repetitive nature of recruiting can get old fairly quickly. Bring some courtesy and a smile with you to each stop. Show your appreciation, and you’ll stand out from the crowd. 

3. Talking constantly for a few hours straight is no easy task. As a student or prospective employee you have the option to take a few minutes between each meeting to compose yourself, get a drink of water, and catch your breath. In contrast, there may be very little time for a company’s representative to do any of those things. This is especially true if that company presents a great opportunity for those attending the fair. Be aware of the recruiter’s ‘signals.’ Treat him or her like person; not like a microphone.

4. The specific things you are looking for in an internship or job are often more specific than the criteria an employer is looking for in you. While I had always approached career fairs with the mindset that it is my responsibility to present myself to a company, having the opportunity to view the situation from the other side proves that it is really a two-way street. Recruiters have to make a pitch to you in the same way that you do to them; they want you to apply for a position, otherwise they wouldn’t be there! Remember that you and the recruiter are on equal footing, and you will have more comfortable interactions. Have a real conversation. It just might make the connection that your competition missed!

5. Most career fairs provide a handout or booklet with information about the companies for attendees to look over beforehand. You have the advantage of knowing about them, which puts you in a great position to prepare for the meeting. On the other hand, a recruiter knows virtually nothing about you. Imagine trying to learn as much as you can about someone, while also trying to relay as much information about your company as you can, as well as answer any questions that may arise, all in a matter of minutes. Then, picture doing that constantly for a few hours. Ahh! Overload! Everybody will have a resume. Improve your chances by adding a cover page with just 4 or 5 of your best value points.

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