Connecting Before Your Interview

Over the weekend I attended the national conference of a student organization.  This conference is supported by many companies who participate in various professional panels, and perhaps most importantly to the students, conduct interviews at the organization’s career fair for internships and entry level management opportunities.

In route to the conference, I noticed a group of students on my flight.  One of the students was assigned the seat next to mine and confirmed that the group was indeed traveling to the same conference as me.  The student asked which university I attended, of course I accepted that compliment, and identified myself as a recruiter.  I immediately felt empathy for this student, a graduating senior, who now appeared nervous at the thought of spending the next two hours in such close proximity to me.  I silently wished that the student would welcome this opportunity and make such a strong impression on me that he would depart the flight with a scheduled interview and a new industry contact. Although the student attempted to engage me in conversation, his nerves ultimately got the best of him and unfortunately he was silent for the remainder of the flight.

Throughout the weekend, I witnessed similar behavior from other student attendees.  They simply didn’t take advantage of being together with company recruiters in casual settings such as the hotel lobby, elevator, or during the short walk to the nearby convention center. I fought the urge several times during the conference to climb on my “soapbox”, get parental, and say the following:

Capitalize on the Opportunity

The host hotel for the conference had just two restaurants and only seven guestroom floors.  Recruiters and students were often co-mingling; in fact the majority of the guestrooms on my floor were occupied by student attendees.  The students that stood out to my peers and I were the young men and women who separated from their friends, gathered their confidence and introduced themselves to us.  These were the same faces that offered friendly greetings throughout the weekend or inquired about how I was enjoying the conference when we were next to each other in the coffee bar line.  As a result of their efforts, they were more relaxed and comfortable during the interview because they had already built a rapport with me.

Drive the Conversation

Although it can be uncomfortable to initiate and drive the conversation, when networking with recruiters, feel free to do so.  I’m more than willing to ride in the “conversation car” with you, but you should take responsibility for keeping me engaged.  You could do this by asking a question or expressing your interest in the organization I represent.  One memorable student opened the conversation by telling me she followed our company on Twitter and then chatted about a recent tweet announcing our newest property.  In just five minutes she demonstrated her interest and level of preparation for our interview.

Remember You’re Always Interviewing

Although interviews were conducted on the last day of the conference, they actually began upon arrival at the hotel. My peers and I were able to observe students interacting with the hotel staff and each other.  We overheard conversations and took note of those that chose to skip the professional panels and instead hang out in the hotel lobby.  The manner in which the students conducted themselves and represented their universities, in my opinion, was indicative of how effectively they would one day represent our company and our brand.

It’s easy to feel intimidated or overwhelmed at the idea of interacting one on one with the recruiter of a prospective company, but you’ll see greater results if you gather your courage and make the connection! If the recruiter is anything like me, deep down they’re rooting for you to be successful!


Ronisha is one of Hyatt’s College Recruiting Managers.  Hyatt’s College Recruiters visit more than 30 college campuses each year recruiting top talent at hospitality programs across the country.  A graduate of The Ohio State University, Ronisha begin her Hyatt career as a Human Resources Corporate Management Trainee.  During her ten years with Hyatt, she has worked at Hyatt Hotels in Orlando, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.  To learn more about opportunities with Hyatt please visit, follow Hyatt on twitter @hyattcareers, become a Hyatt Facebook fan at Hyatt Hotels and Resorts Careers and follow the Campus Recruiter blog at

Related posts:

  1. Connecting With Alumni for Your Career
  2. Conquering the Phone Interview
  3. Ask Questions During a Job Interview

One Response to “Connecting Before Your Interview”

  1. avatar Lew Sauder says:

    Looking back at my college interviewing days, I wish I had had more confidence going up to recruiters to talk to them like that. I didn’t have the internet tools at my disposal like they do today. Students can now find out what companies will be at these events, research them and have at least one conversation starter for an impromptu meeting. I’m going to share this article on Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully all student interviewers will take heed.
    Lew Sauder, Author, Consulting 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting (

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

  • Dan Schawbel

    Dan Schawbel, the founder of the Student Branding Blog, is a world renowned personal branding expert, the international bestselling author of Me 2.0, as well as the publisher of the Personal Branding Blog.

  • Connect With Dan

  • Chelsea Rice

    Chelsea Rice is the editor-in-chief of the Student Branding Blog. She began her work for just before graduating from Boston University, where she studied journalism and minored in international relations.

  • Connect With Chelsea

  • Recognition

    • Recommended resource - The Washington Post
    • "A terrific way for students to learn about branding" - Lindsey Pollak
    • "Worth checking out" - Psychology Today
    • HR World's top 100 management blogs