One of the most prominent, industry-leading companies is hosting an Open House. I mean they have the coolest headquarters, are fully invested in their employees’ well-being, and would be the best career starter that you could ever think of. It’s your dream company. You know it wouldn’t matter what job you were doing, working at this company is a success on its own.

The answer here is obvious: You should attend the Open House. However:

  • The Open House flyer clearly states the company is seeking experienced professionals. You have no experience.
  • You have submitted several (well, 25 to be exact) job applications to this company, and have always been disqualified.
  • Only geniuses work there. You are hard-working, sure. Highly motivated, sure. But, “genius”… No.
  • Your heart hurts from all the rejection emails you have received, from the no-response black holes, and from a lack of entry-level jobs in the market. You aren’t sure if you can hear the rejection in person too.

Now the answer doesn’t seem too obvious, does it? Nevertheless, make plans to attend the Open House.

What is the purpose of an Open House?
Companies host an Open House to attract talent. Typically, Recruiters and Hiring Managers from the company are hosting the Open House to fill their current positions and to build a pipeline for positions that aren’t open yet.

Really though, an Open House serves as in informal interview. Companies want to see how well you fit into their culture. They want to see how enthusiastic you are about being a part of that company. And, of course, they want to see what knowledge, skills, and abilities you bring to the table.

Experience, in terms of years, is one thing. However, organizational fit is something entirely different (and a bit scarce). Organizational fit is the how well a new hire will mesh with the company’s mission, vision, and values. It’s about how well a new hire will work with the company’s employees. It’s about how a new hire will increase ROI, increase customer and client satisfaction, and overall, positively impact the company.
As you can tell, the latter is much harder to find! During an Open House, it is the latter that companies are seeking.

Why should you, a new graduate, attend?
To network, no duh! Yes, the flyer is looking for experienced professionals, and yes, you have received enough rejection emails to last you a lifetime. However, unless entry is denied, you should plan to attend the Open House.

An Open House is great opportunity for you to meet the faces of a company and to analyze your own fit with the organization. By speaking with Recruiters, Hiring Managers, and Staff members, you are learning so much about yourself and your career opportunities. Use this time to impress everyone of your knowledge and abilities, as well as of your motivation. Feel free to tie in your research of the company, the industry, the current trends. Ask questions about where the company is headed, where certain jobs are headed, and/or what process improvements would be beneficial for the company.

Please note that an Open House also, and perhaps most importantly, serves as a gateway for you to skip the ATS and submit-an-online-application step. You know.. the same step during which you are disqualified time and time again? Of course, eventually you may have to go back to this step, but that time may be completely different because you attended an Open House and met someone who wants you on his or her team!

How should you prepare for an Open House?
You should prepare for an Open House as you would prepare for an interview. Some aspects to keep in mind:

    1. Prepare to wear a suit. Choose an appropriate tie. Wear comfortable shoes. Don’t show your cleavage. Don’t overspray your cologne. Shower before arriving. Keep make-up to a minimal. You get the idea…
    2. Prepare your resume. Bring several copies of your resume to hand out to Recruiters and Hiring Managers. Bring business cards, if you have them. Carry a professional binder or bag to put your personal items in.
    3. Prepare to be screen-free. Turn-off your phone, iPad, and/or laptop. Make FaceTime real face time!
    4. Prepare to listen. Maybe there’s no open positions for you now. Maybe you don’t meet the qualifications. Yet, maybe there’s a new building opening or an expanding department. Pay attention to what Recruiters and Hiring Managers tell you. They know the inside information. Listen attentively, and you might find yourself a job after all.
    5. Prepare your Questions-to-Ask list. You should always, always, always ask questions. Even after you are employed, you should always, always, always ask questions. Being able to think critically and ask in-depth questions will really help your career. Please note that in order to ask quality questions, you must know your stuff too!
    6. Prior to attending an Open House, make a list of questions to ask Recruiters and Hiring Managers (and, preferably not just about job openings).

When should you arrive, and how long should you stay?
A general rule of thumb is to arrive early and to stay relatively long. However, it’s really up to you. Some Do’s and Don’t’s:

    1. Don’t arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of the Open House. That’s way too early!
    2. Do plan to stay at least an hour. You are welcome to take breaks throughout your stay, as in use the restroom, step out for a bit, etc. Note that staying for too short of a time period will be noticed and may portray a lack of interest in the company.
    3. Do plan to talk to as many people as possible, from company employees to event attendees. You never know who you will meet, and what opportunities arise from that meeting.
    4. Do get contact information from Recruiters and Hiring Managers. Ask if they have business cards. Ask what’s the best method to contact them- phone/email? Ask if you can follow-up with them after the event? Note: Do not ask if you can send your resume to them (unless they ask you to). First of all, you should have brought your resume to the Open House to give to them. Secondly, most companies prefer you apply online and submit a resume that way.
    5. Don’t leave without gauging how the event went for you. Are Recruiters and Hiring Managers interested in hiring you? Did you leave a good impression? Do you know how to keep in touch with Recruiters and/or Hiring Managers? Do you know the next steps after leaving the Open House?

Who should you talk to? And, about what?
As stated earlier, you should speak with the Recruiters, Hiring Managers, and Staff members from the company. You should also speak with the other attendees at the Open House.

What you should discuss with company employees really depends on the event and situation. However, this is a networking event. Prepare a few elevator speeches to share, but you should spend a majority of your time listening. By listening, you are able to collect your thoughts and speak more thoroughly on the topics the Recruiters and Hiring Managers are interested in. By paying attention to what they are seeking, you can mold your objectives and career goals accordingly.

With attendees, learn what types of opportunities they are seeking. Once again, there should be active listening on your end.
• Ask them where they currently work or last worked. Maybe that company has openings you qualify for.
• Ask about their career goals.
• Ask about their professional network.
• Let them know what you are looking for. You never know who they know!

Should you have a post-attending strategy?
Yes, of course! As research shows, you want to follow-up before you are forgotten about.

Follow-up with those you made a strong connection with. Also, send out a Thank you to whomever hosted the event. It’s a nice gesture (same as sending Thank you note after an interview). An email will typically do with follow-ups, unless you were asked to submit something more specific. Anyway, make sure to follow-up within 2-3 days after the event. This includes weekends.

Note that the whole point of attending the Open House may be wasted if you do not follow-up after the event. This is the most important part. Know your next steps before leaving the event, and follow-up ASAP after leaving the event. Your responsiveness will be noticed and appreciated.

So, I’ll make the conclusion short and sweet: Do attend Open Houses! They are especially opportune for new graduates.