The Good, Bad, and Ugly Ways to Talk with Recruiters on Campus

August 15, 2016

Returning to campus this fall, you may feel you’ve finally figured out how to build rapport with professors and get the most out of your classes. Those skills will help you achieve a sterling academic record but won’t be the same you’ll use to land your first dream job. Now is the time to cultivate relationships with recruiters, learn a new set of skills, get to know employers, and close the deal with your preferred firm.

Our recruiters meet with students like yourself each fall and winter at dozens of universities around the world. They’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to students asking questions and making the case for their qualifications. Here’s what you can learn from their efforts.

The Good

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it helps high achievers land their dream jobs. Curiosity is a common thread across the behaviors our recruiters see among top talent.

  • Research what firms do and their impact – Recruiters want to see that you can connect the dots between the firm’s products and services, the value they deliver to clients, and their impact on economies and societies. Explain to recruiters why you’re committed to the same goals that the firm espouses.
  • Probe about specific projects – Recruiters like to see you’ve done more than just scan the company’s site. Ask questions about the types of projects you’d work on. Then ask follow up questions about how those projects are measured for success.
  • Show you’ll seek out third party perspectives – Prove you’re interested in the firm’s industry and culture by taking the time to listen to others. Ask to speak with current employees who are in the role you’re pursuing. Talk to the recruiter about what you discovered through your research on Glassdoor, the firm’s website, and social media channels.

The Bad

There are a few common missteps that students make when interacting with recruiters based on a lack of experience in the business world. These aren’t deal breakers, but they should be avoided if possible.

  • Failing to articulate your “employee value proposition” – The process of attending career fairs, talking with recruiters, and submitting information about yourself is meant to help find a fit between you and a firm. This fit is equally about what the firm can provide you and what you can provide the firm. Doing this means speaking specifically to how your skills can help the firm achieve the objectives you’ve researched.
  • Assuming roles don’t exist for you – A lack of imagination can cause students to overlook companies and even entire industries. For example, at Citadel, we have high performers who studied subjects as varied as chemistry, physics, and computer science, along with traditional finance. When talking with recruiters, ask about how others with your background have progressed at the firm.

The Ugly

With top firms looking for the best and the brightest, there are a few common things you can do and say that will cause recruiters to move onto other potential candidates.

  • Asking, “what does your firm do?” – While you should probe about what a firm is focused on, you shouldn’t talk with a recruiter with zero preparation beforehand. If you do have questions to clarify what a firm does, phrase the question in a manner that shows you researched what the firm does. For example, we’ve been asked about which investment strategies we focus on and the types of technologies that drive our trading platform. These are the types of questions that show that the student has done their research.
  • Focusing on compensation – After spending years earning just enough money to eat ramen for dinner, it’s tempting to focus much of your conversation with employers on compensation. While it’s appropriate to ask about compensation ranges, a focus on this topic often leaves recruiters with a bad taste in their mouth. They want to know you’re looking for a purpose-driven career that includes great learning opportunities and fulfilling challenges, as well as commensurate compensation for your achievements.

See you on campus!