Skip to Content
Author's profile photo Former Member

Handshakes, head nods and handouts

Dos and don’t of attending job fairs, conferences and information sessions.

By: Caitie Sullivan, iXp Program Lead, Bay Area

This last month, I hosted four informational sessions, manned booths at three career fairs, and received more than 1,000 resumes. I spent nine days in the San Francisco Bay Area promoting and spreading awareness for SAP’s early talent programs, particularly SAP iXp, our Internship Experience Project that recruits university students for project-based on-the-job experience.

As a program lead, not a recruiter who is used to recruiting events, I entered with excitement and fresh eyes. I was greeted with a plethora of big smiles, sweaty palms, and elevator pitches that ranged from mind blowing to cringe worthy. What surprised me most is the range of preparation levels from students.

Some students had perfect handshakes, crisp and clean elevator pitches, and used strategic questions to seamlessly insert how they were a perfect fit for what I needed. Others barely grasped my hand long enough for it to qualify as a handshake, had no elevator pitch, or immediately launched into a five-minute regurgitation of their resume without waiting to hear my name or ask what I wanted to know.

Please take notes of the dos and don’ts when meeting recruiters or company representatives:


Treat me like a human

I’m still a human, not a resume-screening robot. When you approach me, shake my hand and introduce yourself. Don’t launch into your resume without taking the time to know who I am, what my company is looking for, and where you can fit in. I may end up being the person who gives you the opportunity of a lifetime, so break the ice!

Establish a personal bond by telling me your name, year in school, your major and interests, and if you’re looking for a full-time or part-time role. These two pieces of knowledge are your key to connecting with recruiters and receiving proper answers. If you don’t take these first steps, your resume monologue could be a waste of time.

Passion should be the driving force behind your elevator pitch and resume

Everything in today’s economy is story based, including your resume. Rather than speaking in literal bullet points that are fragmented, stale, and not complete sentences; tell me the story. Share the reasons you want this specific career, how you came to this realization through your work experience, and what you are currently doing to move toward your goal. Start with explaining the “why” behind your interests, and your passion will shine through and recruiters will want to talk to you.

You don’t need to know everything about every company, come learn!

If you have no idea where to start, come up and ask what’s cool about my company. Be curious, practice active listening, and ask questions to see if our company aligns with what is important to you (i.e. giving back, early talent programs, learning and development opportunities, etc.). If you don’t like the answer, just say thank you and find a company that excites you. It’s a two-sided conversation, so be curious and picky, just like we are.

Follow us on Twitter for updates and program highlights!  


Assigned Tags

      1 Comment
      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      Author's profile photo Ella Brand
      Ella Brand