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?