A quick guide on how to start a conversation at a recruiting event.

Are you attending career fairs and feel like you are spinning your wheels?

Spending the last 20 plus years recruiting at career fairs, we could probably write a book with all the inappropriate and unimpressive things people have said or asked. As IT career coaches, we understand that events like these can be difficult, which is why we have put together this quick guide on how to start a conversation at a recruiting event.

Don’t Be Generic

The two most common questions that recruiters receive at most events include, “What positions are you looking for?” and “Can you tell me about your company?” These questions require very little thought and as a result, recruiters become robotic in their responses. Not only is this information typically available online, but every one of the 300 plus people in attendance, ask the same questions. As a result, everyone blends together and no one stands out.

Do Your Research Before the Event

Before attending the event, it is important that you gain as much information as possible about who is attending the event, what positions are available and if necessary, the overall event host. A good way of obtaining this information is through the employer and position lists or the event hosts website. Most job seeking attendees fail to research before the event and don’t talk to potential employers. However, it is extremely helpful when “breaking the ice” and can set you apart from other candidates. Review each company’s career site and jot down the positions you’re interested in.

Make a Good Impression

You may have heard that you have seven seconds to make a good impression. Use the seven seconds to make the best possible impression on your potential, future coworker. Always bring a positive can-do attitude, along with 25 to 35 copies of your resume. People can easily identify a negative attitude and it’s a huge turn-off. The people who make the best, first impressions make eye contact, smile and introduce themselves with a warm and friendly greeting, while having a straightened posture.

Below is how the conversation should go:

“Hi! I am Suzanne. I’m glad your organization is here. I saw on your website that you were looking for help desk candidates. Can you tell me more about the required skills for these positions?”

If a position is not listed, you can say the following:

“Hi! My name is Suzanne. I read Joe’s Widget Shop is located on Main Street. That is near my house and I would like to know what positions you are recruiting for?”

Ask Questions

There is no such thing as a stupid question and once you have done your research, you can develop commonalities and continue the conversation. While the recruiter is talking, listen for anything they mention that relates to you or you have an interest in. You can now make comments or ask questions based on what they told you about the position or the company.


Candidate: “Hi, I am Suzanne. I am not familiar with ACME Marketing. I read you were located on Main Street and focus on helping organizations build out their digital marketing strategies. Can you tell me more about your company?”

Recruiter: “Sure, ACME Marketing is a full-service marketing firm located in Tampa, FL. We service small to medium size healthcare companies that outsource their marketing.”

Candidate: “Very interesting. I have a degree in Marketing and was also looking for an opportunity to work within an internet marketing team. Do you have any positions available within that area?”

Recruiter: “We do! Leave me your resume.” Or “We do not.”

Candidate: “Ok, what positions do you have available today? Also, where can I go to keep a pulse on your positions as they come out?”

Recruiter: Lists out or provides the positions to the candidate.

Don’t Forget to Network

Always grow your network! Recruiting events are fantastic. Even if an employer does not have a position you are looking for or anything you are interested in, you can still network with them. Ask if they know any companies that are looking for the type of job(s) you’re seeking. For example, if a recruiter told me they didn’t have any Help Desk positions and that’s the position I am looking for, I would say, “Thank you for your time. I understand you don’t have any Help Desk positions available today. Do you know of any companies looking for help desk representatives at this time? Also, if you might have a position come available in the future, what’s the best way to get notified?”

So far, we have reviewed five ways for how to start a conversation at a recruiting event, but of course, the conversation can unfold differently depending on circumstances, experience and research. Now that you have the content, here are a few things to keep in mind when speaking with recruiters and other hiring representatives at events:

  1. Be respectful of time.
  2. Don’t talk their ears off about non-related things.
  3. Be genuine.
  4. Be polite.
  5. Don’t insult the employer or recruiter and don’t become angry, regardless of what they say or how they behave. Other employers are there and could be watching.

The key to success at recruiting events is research and reading before the event and then leading with a great introduction. Researching allows you to learn about the companies attending the event; the potential positions available and helps you gauge where you should be prioritizing your time. This preparation will help make it easier to ask appropriate questions that lead to good conversations and set you apart from other candidates. I say it frequently and I will say it here too, “If you want to lead, you have to read!”

Wishing you career success!