...and a few suggestions on what to ask instead. When chatting with a recruiter virtually or in real life, asking them a good question can be more effective than any pitch you have prepared. But that doesn’t mean you should ask just any question.
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers” is a famous quote from Voltaire
- and particularly at career fairs, recruiters tend to do just that. When you’re writing recruiters in an online chat at a virtual career fair, you should pay particularly close attention to what you ask. “Companies can’t see you, so your language is your appearance”, says Steen Vive, Senior advisor at Djøf, the Danish Association of Lawyers and Economists, in a post on the Graduateland Career Blog (in Danish).
We know from the company representatives who attend career fairs that, in general, they like to be asked questions at events. That’s for 2 reasons: First, it’s easier to have a fruitful conversation with someone who actually appears interested in knowing what you are up to, and, secondly, questions are a good way to assess the social skills of any potential candidate (Do they listen? How do they deal with new information? Can they put themselves into someone else’s shoes?). So, asking a couple of thoughtful questions can bring you one step closer to your dream job.
But as we know from talking to recruiters, there is one question they get at career fairs which they’d be happy to NEVER EVER hear again:
"So, what have you got for me?"
Why is this a bad question to ask?
You’re trying to strike up a conversation with a demand. Let’s just say, it’s like inviting someone to your birthday party and telling them in the same sentence that they don’t have to bother showing up without a present.
Luckily, there are many other ways to get the information you need in a more elegant way. Below, we list some suggestions, but, of course, the best questions are the ones that come naturally to you as you are doing your research on a company. As you formulate your questions, there are 3 easy rules to follow:
- Open questions (starting with How?/What?/Why?) are better to get a dialogue going because you are giving the other side a chance to elaborate instead of just answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
- Asking for an introduction to the company or industry is a good fallback question when you are at a loss about how to start a conversation - but then make sure to use the given info to ask a more tailored and relevant follow-up question!
- Have a maximum of 5 questions prepared, the rest should follow naturally from the conversation you have (remember that the recruiters may have some questions for you as well).
Examples of what to ask company reps at career fairs
Asking about job opportunities
- What kind of job opportunities are available for people with a background in [your university major]?
- What is a typical entry-level position for university graduates at your company?
Asking about the application process
- Which traits and skills do you look for in applicants for this job?
- What kind of assessment should I prepare for as an applicant for this position?
Asking about the company culture and work environment
- How would you describe the company culture at your office?
- How do you develop employees inside your company?
Need more inspiration? Have a look at our list of questions to ask at the end of a job interview.