Networking 101: How to Standout to Recruiters at Conferences

Koya had the pleasure of serving as an exhibitor at the National Black MBA Association conference that held at the New Orleans Convention Center at the end of last year. The conference features panels that address topics such as career, education, entrepreneurship, lifestyle and leadership, and attracts more than 9,000 business minded attendees, annually.

We had the opportunity to connect with many talented people from across the country. As we engaged in conversation with potential candidates and handed out our (coveted) Koya orange notebooks, we couldn’t help but notice the difference in approach from each prospective candidate that visited our table. Our interactions led us to compile a list of the top five ways to stand out to a recruiter at conferences.

Do your research. The question “What does your organization do? “may seem like an easy way to break the ice, but in reality, asking it immediately sets you at a disadvantage. Now, we know you haven’t done your research.

If you prefer to lead with a question, think about something like, “Can you describe your company culture?” or “How did you get into this line of work?” The less of an introduction the recruiter has to give, the more time there is for you two to get into a genuine dialogue.

Listen as much as you talk. Yes, you only have only a few minutes to make an impression! We certainly understand the pressure of time limitations, but it’s best if you do not come off as if you are simply leaving us a voicemail. Slow down, share thoughtfully, and try to have an exchange of ideas rather than rushing into a canned elevator pitch. Listening is an effective way to demonstrate your communication skills, which are crucial to any job.

Have your materials ready. This is an easy way to show how organized and enthusiastic you are. Expect to share your resume or business card at a networking event. Recruiters may have limited time to look at your materials while speaking to you, but they will certainly take those materials back to the office and look through them then. Invest time and energy into your resume. Have the people you trust look it over, too. It’s important to highlight your strengths, be consistent in your presentation, and create materials that are easy to read through.

Be authentic! Don’t shy away from showing your passion for the organization’s mission. Some of the most interesting candidates we meet are those who are upfront about their passions. Whether you took a year off between undergraduate and graduate school to teach yourself app development, or have worked tirelessly for education in your hometown, learn to tell your story to recruiters in a thoughtful and articulate way. Your passions are some of the best parts of you, and your work should be a reflection of that.

Follow-up. Connect on LinkedIn. Send a follow-up e-mail with a digital copy of your resume. Follow the company’s social media pages and post about meeting their recruiter. These are easy ways to develop a connection with the recruiter you met at a networking event, and it’s crucial in demonstrating your interest in the organization.

These tips may sound simple- and we agree, they are – but they can be easily overlooked when we’re sidetracked by our own agendas. The best networking conversations are truly conversational in nature. While searching for a job, these basic steps will differentiate you from other candidates and enable you to present your best self to a recruiter.