Recruiting for your program at volunteer or career fairs is an amazing way to connect with students looking for post-graduate opportunities. Here are some tips for making the most of these fairs! Many of these tips came from observation, experience and conversations with veteran recruiters.
It’s easy to feel like you could have said more during these conversations. I wonder what I did or didn’t say. I want to respect the discernment process while encouraging students toward volunteering. How can I find that balance without “sound biting” CVN programs? I remind myself that many students feel overwhelmed with fairs and further the prospective of exploring our 200+ programs.
Nevertheless, I have found three key tactics to engaging students in meaningful conversations at fairs:
- Tell them who you are, but don’t be afraid to get to the point. During a conversation with a program director at a recent fair, I learned that she struggled with attracting students to her program due to its geographic location. She later told me that over 50% of volunteers who participate in a year-long commitment are employed by the end of their service. I immediately thought, how do you not lead with this? It’s important to share your mission and vision, but things like job security or geographic location can shift a student’s perspective of post-grad service with your organization. They will listen more attentively to what you say to them.
- Students appreciate when you affirm them for feeling overwhelmed or confused. In some cases, I have met students who know exactly what they want to do and where they want to go. But many still have that look of “I have no idea!” You know, that girl who clenches her RESPONSE directory and all other program collateral a healthy distance from having to actually communicate with a recruiter. Part of this comes from a fear of being locked into a program. The other part comes from an overwhelming lack of direction and 20 tables in a room isn’t their ideal situation for exploring options. This makes recruiter affirmations that much more invaluable. A simple “it’s ok if you have no idea what you want to do” or “you don’t have to make your decision today” goes a long way and creates a comfortable space for students to ask questions.
- Read their non-verbal signs. Body language is my guide to starting a conversation with a student. There are some who walk right in, grab a directory and start talking to each and every recruiter or stand by your table even when you are talking with another student. There are others who slowly move from table to table grabbing information and observing conversations from a distance. These students won’t make eye contact or they will keep their body turned away as they prefer to independently explore options.