Business Cards and Job Seekers

By | October 17, 2007

businesscard2-250px.jpgI attended a career fair this week where I rubbed shoulders with hundreds of recruiters and job seekers. (Okay, it was more like hundreds of job seekers and a handful of recruiters). I arrived with a stack of my own business cards, expecting to hand a few to interested recruiters, and drop a few more into various fishbowls for the free prizes.

During the event, I noticed that several job seekers were passing out their business cards almost indiscriminately. Several people approached me, told me their 15-second pitch, and offered me a business card. While I appreciate their assertiveness and diligence, I’m not sure their approach is the most effective.

When I got home, I had collected a much larger stack of business cards than I anticipated, and had the task of deciding what to do with all those cards. Do I add them to my Outlook contact list? Should I invite them to join my LinkedIn network? Do I file the cards in a plastic business card file and put them in a binder? Do I keep some and toss the others? How do I decide which ones to keep?

Edith Yeung offers some ideas in her recent article, “12 Reasons Why People Want to Keep Your Business Card.” Her list seems to focus on the attributes of the card itself: is it colorful, unique, multi-purpose, etc.? These seems to emphasize the marketing aspects of business cards.

However, I find that I don’t make decisions based on the attributes of the card. I’m more likely to keep a card based on my interaction with the person. Did we connect on a personal level? Is there way that I can help that person professionally? Would this person be a valuable addition to my network? Chances are, I’ve made that determination long before the other person places a card in my hand. The business card, therefore, is less of a marketing tool, and more of a correspondence tool.

Which brings up some interesting questions. Is it best to pass out as many cards as you can (shotgun approach), or wait until someone asks for your card? Is it best to spend the extra money for special cuts, graphics, paper and color; or will a simple, inexpensive card (assuming it is still professional) suffice?

I suspect that most business cards end up meeting the fate described by Michael at Execupundit, but I would love you hear your thoughts:

  • How do you use business cards?
  • How important are design elements?
  • What do you do with business cards you receive?

3 thoughts on “Business Cards and Job Seekers

  1. Doug Kyle

    A well timed article and I look forward to the comments as I’m in the brainstorming phase of a much needed overhaul for my web, business documents and yes, business card.

    I’m not sure how valuable all the glitter on cards is, but I do know that I’ve had some very basic ones and some pretty fancy ones and the fancy ones do sometimes draw comment. I don’t know if that comment is enough to escalate that cards worth, but it is an acknowledgment of notice, which can’t be a bad thing. It’s tough to determine if its worth the bang for the buck though. However, with so many plain cards out there, I doubt that it takes a lot to stand out and there’s a certain functionality to a business card that I want to keep. This means I won’t be making them into drastically odd shapes as it should fit in someone’s wallet or card holder should they keep it. I won’t be making it out of cardboard or wood for the same reasons. The information must be clear and the design, in my mind should be striking with a certain boldness. A small cut-out may work, as long as it doesn’t hinder with any of the other points.

    In reflection on this topic, I believe what I’ll do next is list what I want my card to accomplish and prioritize those functions to ensure I don’t kill one function on a design whim (the function of a business card may seem obvious, but one card I had that was quite annoying was a glossy… it looked sharp but I couldn’t write a thing on it, which I do often as I like to write referrals and useful web links on them so the favour is associated with my services).

    One other thing I’d say about this is know your audience. One of the best cards I’ve run into; designed for a friend’s company was clear and to the point. The background looked like wooden boards. It folded open so that it was 3 times as wide as when it started and on the inside were folding instructions that turned it into a skateboard half-pipe. The company is indeed a ramp/park construction company. The flat side remained as the card and the inside of the half-pipe was complete with a graffiti that is the company logo. It was so nicely done I kept it, and so did one of the world’s premier bmx free-stylists who then recommended them for such contracts as a joint EA Sports – Disney tour and national X games in Thailand and England… they knew that if you can win over the big riders, you can win contracts.

    keep up the good work!

  2. Steve Wilson

    Thanks for stopping by, Dave. Your comment about knowing the audience is right on, and a good addition to the discussion. Good luck on your web redesign.

  3. silentzephyr

    That’s a great post on job seekers and business cards. I’m an undergraduate computer science student and although I have never used what I call a ‘job-seeker’s card’, I have had friends suggest its use.

    What bothers me is that unless you spend enough time making an impression with the person you are speaking to, a business card for an undergraduate student seems rather forward and bothersome. I understand its use if one plans to hand it out to potentially good contacts at other social events but a career fair seems to be a more appropriate place for a resume.

    Anyway, thanks for the post. It is good to have the feedback of an experienced employer and their thoughts on such seemingly minor, yet grand issues 🙂

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