HOW TO CONVERT A CAREERS FAIR OR COMPANY PRESENTATION INTO AN INTERVIEW
At Harrison Careers, our clients often ask us if there’s any point in them attending careers fairs, company campus presentations, or zoom presentations – and the answer is almost always yes… IF you know how to convert these events into interviews.
This article contains advice on how you can leverage your attendance at any of these events – and maximize your chances of getting selected for interview afterwards.
You know how it goes – you make the effort, either in-person or virtual, to attend a careers fair or a company presentation. But then you find you have minimal opportunity to talk to the actual company professionals because the whole thing is controlled by HR people who just want to give you the company sales pitch to get you to apply.
What’s the solution? You want an interview!! Here’s how to get it…
- Screenshot every slide of the presentation, and most importantly get the names of the speakers. You should be easily able to save all screenshots to OneDrive, Google Drive or a Google Doc. I use a Microsoft Word document. The points is to get all screenshots into the one file or place.
- Look up the LinkedIn Profile URLs of all of the speakers and send them all Connection Requests. Some will accept, some will not.
- Use RocketReach.co (it costs about $30 per month for the Starter Package) to find the email addresses and phone numbers of the presenters. (If they are finance professionals, you can probably find more reliable information on your university’s Bloomberg terminal).
- Email them quickly after the presentation!! Schmooze, and comment on how good their presentation was. Comment on their background that you saw on LinkedIn. Consider asking whether you can ask them a few more questions about their background specifically. The professionals are reasonably likely to refer you for interview. After all, this is why they appeared in the virtual presentation meeting!
- The more senior the speaker was, the better your chances of getting referred for interview.
There is no point attending presentations unless you are going to initiate relationships with the professionals that may help you circumvent the application process by getting you short-listed for interview. Below are some of the things you need to do to achieve this.
1. Get there early and immediately start to talk to the Always ask people for their business cards so that you can send them an email afterwards. If they do not have a business card, ask for their email address, specifically explaining that you will follow up with them afterwards.
2. Develop a 30 second sales pitch. The first 10 seconds should summarize you briefly: ‘Hi there, my name is Jane Smith and I am in my final year at Berkeley studying Data Science’, and then immediately launch into 20 seconds of what you are interested in, so that they can easily categorize you: ‘I’m really interested in Data Analytics or Software Engineering, and came along today to try to find out the main differences and see if I could meet both types of professionals to get a sense of how the careers differ.’ Then finish by asking whether you can ask them a few questions about themselves and their career. With this classic introduction, you have just initiated a new relationship, which you can use to help you get a job at this company.
3. Be brave. This is not a time to be nervous and to carefully plan every single thing you are going to say. You may mess up the first few introductions – but you will quickly get better at them. Set yourself a target of talking to 8 professionals, each for at least 3 minutes so that you can ask them 3 questions.
4. Aim for the most senior people first. You will find that other attendees will go for the junior people because they will feel less intimated. You have more courage than that, so go for the person who is most likely to be able to help you – which means the most senior. Since you don’t know their titles, just go for the oldest people there.
5. Business cards? Possibly cheesy, but consider getting business cards printed. Few other students have these, so if you have them, it can make a good impression.
6. Firm Handshake! It may surprise you to know that a firm handshake is very important indeed. A weak, ineffective handshake says that you are a person who lacks confidence. This company is not going to send you to meet clients if you cannot even deliver a firm handshake, so practice giving someone a big smile and a firm handshake when you first meet them. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
7. Apply the 5-minute rule and avoid talking to somebody for more than 5 minutes. Generally, it is better to talk to 5 people for 5 minutes than 1 person for 25 minutes. The exception to this is where you are in the later stages of the presentation, and you have already spoken to quite a few professionals. At this point you should definitely try to get as long a conversation as possible with a senior professional. If you can manage to talk to someone 1 on 1 for 20 minutes, you are almost certainly going to land yourself an interview. Just make sure you have spoken to other people first!
8. Take notes. During the presentation, take notes on what the speaker says, and in particular, anything that is remotely personal about them. Try to come up with 3 questions for each person based upon what they said during the interview.
9. Initiate relationships early. If you arrive 15 minutes early, you should aim to talk to 3 people before the presentation starts. Walk up to the first person and introduce yourself and spend a few minutes talking to them. For your fourth or fifth question, ask which other professionals who you should be talking to, and hopefully they will give you their names and point them out. Then you can go up to the next professional and say ‘Jeff recommended I come and chat to you – I’m really interested in working either as a salesperson or a trader, and he said that you had worked in sales for several years. Mind if I ask you a few questions?’ Then launch into your pitch.
10. After the presentation, resume your meetings with the professionals. Be prepared to stay right till the very end because this is often how the keenest people are identified by the companies. During my career at Goldman Sachs, I probably attended 100 or so presentations. The format was always the same. When the presentation ended, the 5-10 professionals who were hosting the presentation with me would sit down and go over a list of the attendees and say which ones we thought were impressive. We would then pass this list to the HR people, who would shortlist these people for interview. I estimate that 30-40% of interviews conducted by investment banks are of candidates who have already been short-listed.
11. Quality Questions. It is important that you ask questions that demonstrate that you have some knowledge of the business. Do not think you can fool the professionals with bland, generic questions, the answers to which you do not really care about. Below is a list of some good questions to ask. Remember the answers so that you can follow up by email and impress the professional you met with your memory and curiosity.
12. Get names! If you only achieve one thing from the presentation, make sure that you get the names of every professional who attended the presentation. Make sure you get the correct spellings of each name. Draft an appropriate email to send to these professionals and come up with some good questions to ask them. If you get there early, you can ask one of the organizers the names of the presenters, and write them down – just as importantly, find out which business area they work in. You need to make sure that the names of every professional who attended the presentation are shown in your application.
GREAT QUESTIONS TO ASK
- Can I ask why you decided to get into [Business Area] and what you like most and least about it now that you have been doing it for a few years?
- Why did you pick [Company] rather than a competing firm? How do you feel it differed from other firms when you made your decision to join?
- What do you personally look for when you are making a decision about whom to hire?
- Is there a way that relatively new recruits can help sell the firm’s services?
- What do you think it is that keeps clients coming back to do business with you? Do you think you have the most competitive prices? Or do you think it is more about delivering a superior service?
- Who do you think your biggest competitor is, and what do you admire about them?
- What is the staff turnover rate? I imagine it is something around the region of 5%. Where do people typically go when they leave [Company]?
- When you are pitching for new business, who do you come up against most often?
- What were the best and worst moments of your career so far?!
- What was it about you, do you think, that got you hired?
- How much travel do you do? In a typical month, how many nights are you away from home?
- How long do you think it takes to convert a new hire like me with fairly limited knowledge of your business and turn them into someone who is genuinely useful to the team? Six months? A year?
- What was the most enjoyable thing you worked on in the last 12 months?
- What’s the company culture like What kind of hours do you work and how do you find time for a social life? What do you do on weekends? (This is a fantastic excuse to find something in common with the professional. If they tell you anything about their family, about sport, travel or any stuff outside work, relentlessly follow up with questions so that you can find out what they care about. When you send them a follow-up email, this information is the kind of stuff you refer to.)
At Harrison Careers, we spend all our time helping clients get and pass interviews with elite companies. Get In Touch to let us know how we can help you!
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