When you’re an entry-level job seeker, trying to connect with recruiters can feel a little like trying to navigate the online dating world: You’re not sure where to begin your search, or how to initiate conversation, or how to make a good first impression.
However, building relationships with these gatekeepers is a crucial component to early career success.
Now, you might be questioning whether you have enough to offer a recruiter this early in your career. But don’t sell yourself short. “Recruiters are always looking for new talent, including for junior positions,” says Harry Dahlstrom, author of The Job Hunting Handbook.
It’s going to take some work on your part to establish relationships with recruiters in your chosen field. Take these steps to improve your visibility, target the right people, and grow your network from scratch.
It’s no secret that employers use the internet to find talent. In fact, 84% of U.S. companies recruit candidates through social media, a recent Society for Human Resource Management survey found. Why not give them what they’re looking for?
One way to improve your online presence is to start a blog on a hot topic in your field. (Doing so will also help you build credibility.) Having a fully completed online profile—with industry keywords woven throughout the page—is another way to get spotted by recruiters, says Atlanta career coach Hallie Crawford. To increase your exposure, upload your resume to Monster. Oftentimes, when recruiters know they have roles opening up, they will search the resume database on the site to find candidates.
Twitter can be a great way to engage with recruiters you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. But don’t just follow or retweet people. “Say something insightful,” says Crawford, and focus your efforts on recruiters who are active on the site.
To add value, for example, you might tweet, “Helpful observation by @recruiterJim about new industry trend,” instead of saying something generic like, “Great idea!”
If you’re a college senior, make it a priority to attend your school’s job fairs. These events give you the opportunity to meet with recruiters from several companies at once.
While there, focus on building relationships with the recruiters, says Dahlstrom, who also wrote Turn a Job Fair Into a Job Offer. Once you’ve established rapport, the person will be more likely to help you get a foot in the door for a job interview at their company.
To achieve that, you’ll need to do some prep work. First, find out what companies will be at the event, and—ideally—the names of the recruiters who will be there. Then do your homework on each organization by reading the company’s website, as well as any recent media coverage.
Also, don’t forget to bring business cards to the fair; since you don’t have a job yet, label the card with either your major or area of expertise (e.g., social media strategist). And of course, bring copies of your resume in case recruiters ask for it.
Even if you’re still in school, take advantage of industry-specific conferences or conventions, as these are great opportunities to rub shoulders with recruiters. As with on-campus job fairs, do your due diligence and find out what companies will be at the event.
Depending on your comfort level, you might reach out to recruiters beforehand to set up a time to meet. One way to frame your request: “I saw that you’ll be at the conference next week. I’d love to connect over coffee for a few minutes and learn more about your organization.”
The frustrating reality is that “some [recruiters] are just never going to respond to you,” says Steve Dalton, a career coach and associate director at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Because there’s potential for poor response rate, you should reach out to as many recruiters as possible. Unlike submitting job applications where you want to target the jobs that are tailored to your skills, connecting with recruiters is about volume—the more of them you know, the better your odds of making a connection. As Dalton puts it: “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your princes during your job search.”
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.