I am not a recruiter by trade, but whenever the recruiting coordinator in our office puts out the Bat-Signal for volunteers to go to a university career fair I’m always willing to answer the call. It’s a nice change of pace from going into the office to do actual work, and there hasn’t been a single instance where I didn’t end up enjoying the time I spent recruiting. So with the spring recruiting season underway and a fair number of career fairs under my belt, here are my main takeaways from hitting the recruiting trail as a quasi-mercenary:
I Still Get the Nerves
Of all the people participating in career fairs, I probably have the least at stake out of anybody. My job isn’t on the line if I don’t recruit a certain number of good candidates and more importantly, I still have a job to go back to once the fair ends, unlike the kids coming in who face an uncertain future. Yet despite this, I still get a little nervous before the doors of the fair open and waves of college students pour in to shake hands and give out resumes. I start questioning myself: Did I bring all the materials I’m supposed to hand out? Do I remember all the talking points I’m supposed to say? Is my fly open? (Yikes, good thing I checked.) I usually need to use the first candidate I speak with as sort of a practice run for myself, which is fine because those kids are usually advised to first go to a booth they’re not all that interested in to work out all the kinks they have. After the first kid though, I get on a roll with my routine and never look back. Mutually beneficial anxiety coming in to save the day!
Talking About My Job Helps Me Appreciate it More
Like anybody, I go through stretches of dissatisfaction with my job. I sometimes don’t like the work I do, I feel like I don’t get paid enough to put up with everything, the good donuts are usually all gone by the time I get to the break room, etc. All are equal grounds for quitting. But talking about my job over and over again to prospective candidates at a career fair reinforces in my mind all the positive aspects working where I do and even renews my own excitement for working there. This goes double for when I talk about my job with recruiters from other companies. There’s nothing I love more than telling kids that they can have every Friday off like I do while their friends at other firms are forced to work ungodly amounts of overtime. Or that you get the opportunity to travel to some pretty cool places. Or that you can wear jeans to the office every day. Damn it, now I’m all excited again to work at this place until I’m like 80.
Take Advantage of Free Stuff
The best part of going to career fair as a student was taking free swag from all the companies in attendance. The best part of going to a career fair as a recruiter is… walking around to other booths and taking free swag from all the other companies in attendance. Time is a flat circle, man. Some recruiters are eager to get rid of their shit to avoid bringing it back with them so I’m more than willing to help them out with that. Additionally, recruiters also usually get exclusive access to a separate room where you can get refreshments and catered food, which I always take an inappropriate amount of. My favorite is Panera because chocolate chip cookies are usually part of the spread. “Calories don’t count on the recruiting trail!” I tell myself as I wolf down my tenth cookie.
I Can Still Kinda Relate to College Kids
Teenagers may scare the living shit out of me, but I’m not so out-of-touch (yet) with college upperclassmen that I feel like there’s a huge gap between us that can’t be bridged. In some ways I’m still kind of the same as I was in college, and I think when some recruits come up to me they can sense that, which helps make for easier conversation about the job, postgraduate life, and life in general. I fully understand where they’re coming from; I was on that side of the recruiting process once and I had a damn difficult time with it. For some of these kids, coming up and talking with someone like me, who isn’t trying to shoehorn improper pop culture references or give off an aura of superiority or anything like that, can be a huge relief during such a crazy time in their lives. Not to mention it probably helps with getting them to want to work with us too. We’ll see how this all holds up in five years though when I’m trying to crack Fortnite jokes way too long after it’s relevancy.
Late-Day Fatigue is Real
I can glad-hand and put on a veneer of excitement for my job with the best of them, but it starts to take a toll after a while, especially at the career fairs that last for hours on end. Your legs get tired from standing around all day, no amount of water can quench your cotton mouth from all the speaking you’ve been doing, and the lame jokes you tell kids somehow sound even lamer to you as the day goes on. And you don’t want to give a half-assed effort to anyone because it’s not fair to the kids who worked so hard to prepare for this and have a legitimate reason for showing up at the tail end of it. However, and this is a tip for anybody going to a career fair, when people tell you it’s better to visit the booths earlier in the day rather than late? That’s 100% true. When some kid shows up towards the end my fried brain’s first thought is “This fuckin’ guy.” It absolutely influences how you feel about a candidate so get as much done in the early going as you can.
Recruiters Party Hard
If you think alumni going out to bars at their alma mater for homecoming is a sight to behold, you need to check out the scene when it’s filled with alumni who are down in the middle of the week to recruit for their companies. With homecoming the majority of the people going out are alumni so nobody usually looks out of place. But on nights following career fairs, recruiters go out to bars filled nearly with underclassmen and really try to re-live their glory days. People getting lit on a Tuesday night for the first time in years, dudes giving out business in an effort to pick up co-eds, and engaging in behavior that would be unbecoming in any key environment besides their college. It’s their playground, and recruiters will rack up $100 bar tabs on the company card and dance on tables if they want, all in the name of “networking.”
If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend volunteering to recruit a career fair at least once. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t. But it’s a good experience, and maybe you’ll get something besides a cool new co-worker who will definitely replace you out of it.