Attending Information Sessions for Recruiting
Key Takeaway: It is better to make a mild positive impression on a few people than to be disliked by one person – one no is all it takes to lose you an interview – this is especially true if you have good grades
All organizations looking to hire students for full-time positions, co-op placements and summer internships host information events throughout the school year. The school’s career center will post the event on an intranet or send out an email blast.
This will include banks, funds, corporations, government agencies and non-profits. Usually these events will be made available to students in their penultimate year (for co-ops and summers) or their final year (for full-time hires). Even if hiring needs have been met for the coming year, the organization may still send representatives for marketing purposes and to satisfy the relationship with the school. The more in demand the employer, the earlier throughout the year the event will be as the competition to extend offers to top talent early is fierce.
The format for these events is usually the same – a representative of the organization will give a presentation on what the firm does, why students should work for that organization and what students they are looking for. After the presentation, there will be time for students to speak with firm representatives and eat free food. Some firms may provide alcoholic beverages. The biggest firms will have the best food to trap you into thinking that working there is great.
For banks, accounting firms and consultancies, there is a large recruiting contingent which will have the school’s alumni represented from the analyst level to the top dog. These are major events which will last for several hours. For schools outside of the city, being selected for an interview is a function of 1) having friends recommend them; 2) their grades and previous work experience; 3) connections formed at these recruiting events.
The professionals who make selections for interviews will remember students based on their business cards. For a lot of the bankers we know, if they had a poor conversation, they will put the student’s business card into the left pocket while the students that they think have potential will be put into the right pocket. When HR forwards them a stack of resumes from each school, they will use this to screen out students for interviews. This guide will show you how to get into the right pocket.
Preparing for Recruiting Events/Information Sessions
For bank events, it is expected that you dress up formally as if it were an interview. This means a full suit – anything else will make you stand out and not in a good way.
This is a big tip: eat before the event. A lot of students see the event as a way to get a free dinner but they should be spending time talking with a drink in hand instead of pigging out. It is difficult to eat a lot of food gracefully and the appetizers provided will be drenched in sauce, which can be problematic if it falls on your clothes.
Presentation and Question and Answer Period
During the actual presentation where the firm flips through a professionally done PowerPoint with plenty of colorful charts and graphs, speakers will occasionally open the floor for questions in between and always at the end. Unless you have a burning desire to ask a thoughtful question here (for example, when the banker is showing M&A volumes per year and where their bank ranks in the league tables, you could ask “what are some of the drivers behind the increasing M&A volumes?”), stay silent until the networking session later.
Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly for us having becoming jaded with the process), there is almost always a student (or two) that decides to ask a question which tries too hard to demonstrate their technical knowledge, or worse, puts the speaker on the defensive. For instance, we have recently heard of a student ask about a certain investment bank’s participation in a sovereign fund corruption scandal and how that bank could be trusted (it was that bank’s information session). The student had the audacity to apply after – needless to say they did not get a call.
Group Conversations at Information Sessions
Students should sip on wine sparingly and spend as much time actively listening as possible instead of chatting with friends. Usually, representatives that students want to talk to will have a circle form around them and it is difficult to establish a good connection. The best strategy is to be alert and look at firm representatives that are temporarily alone or are speaking to only one or two other people. Later, popular circles will thin out and time with professionals will have been maximized.
Exiting a circle is difficult to manage for some people. Sometimes there is a representative who keeps talking and students are jumping at the hilt for their turn to ask questions, in which case it may be difficult to find a lull in the conversation to exit. Usually, this is the result of someone annoying who will not stop asking questions and trying to turn it into a one-on-one dialogue despite a 10-person circle. This is another reason to avoid oversaturated circles.
Waiting for a circle to naturally dissolve is a waste of time. Do not cut off the representative, but if someone is asking a question cut them off and say “Hi [name], I am going to step out for a bit. Thanks a lot again for taking the time to come out and speak to us.”
Approaching a Professional at an Information Session
For a lot of students, making a cold approach is difficult. Professionals can be gregarious and say hi to you if you are stranded, but this is not something that can be counted on. If a professional is alone, go up to them, lock eye contact, smile, and say “Hi, how are you?”
Introduce yourself and let them guide the conversation. Usually, they will ask why you are interested in the field and you can ask how they got their start. However, no one likes telling the same story 30 times in a day, so the more unique the conversation is, the more likely you will be favored. Questions that can be easily answered on google are not helpful, but asking questions like how the industry has changed, asking about some recent deals and how an analyst should look at them, and what are some trends right now can get a more interesting conversation going.
A lot of immature students come in with an agenda where they feel that they have to address every point. Conversations should not be rigid and structured – no one cares that you developed a special portfolio with a professor that has a Sharpe ratio of x.
Information Session Common Mistakes
These are other big mistakes:
- Talking too much – unless you are a master conversationalist who can hold the crowd, you are probably doing more harm than good. Students are not the focus and should be able to show that they are attentive and conscientious listeners. Do not spend too much time thinking of what you are going to say next – listen and let the conversation flow, conversations should not be mapped out or planned. When you do not speak as much, the weight of your words is much heavier.
- Talking too fast – This makes you seem nervous and anxious – professionals are looking for someone who is more client ready to join the team. You can articulate your thoughts much better if you are speaking slower as well. Make sure that the velocity of your words is tempered and that you are not incorporating any sort of weird cadence or intonation. Be calm.
- Trying too hard to be funny – If there is a good spot to tell a joke or make a quip, go ahead if you are funny, but don’t go looking for this spot. If you are not funny, you are not going to learn how to be funny in the night you go looking for a job in finance. A funny joke will not get you that many bonus points but if you are repeatedly cracking jokes you will not be taken seriously.
- Being weird – It is very important to convey that you are a normal human being. If you have weird hobbies that make people uncomfortable, do not bring it up. Do not bring up political flashpoints like whether people like Donald Trump and do not bring up uncomfortable topics.
- Telling a sob story – If you gripe about not having found a job so far, especially if you start blaming other people, you will not get any sympathy. This is one of the biggest turn-offs in recruiting – people want to hire people that other people want to hire.
- Going back to a topic that your counterparty is disinclined to speak about – If answers become curt or the professional says they do not know about something, change the topic. If the professional changes the topic do not bring up the last topic. We had a guy who went up to a fixed income portfolio manager and kept asking him about what he thought about an option strategy that he had structured. The fixed income manager said, “I don’t know enough to speak about that, but we have a derivatives guy here.” The guy kept pushing the option portfolio and made the PM angry. He pitched his option strategy to practically everyone there last night.
- Being a jerk – If you put other people down or try to push other people out of a conversation, this will not be looked upon favorably. Professionals may not say anything, but you are on the blacklist.
- Bragging – You learn more in two weeks of investment banking than you do in your 4-year undergrad, so to any firm representative, you know absolutely nothing. Be humble. Sit down.