You're idly considering a firm. They're holding a recruiting presentation. You're tired, not in the mood for schmoozing, and besides, you've got stuff to do. Why should you go? Do you want to increase your chances of getting an interview - and thus the job? We thought so.
Presenters often have to take long train rides, drive for hours, or fly cross-country just to make a presentation and talk to a few students. They've gone through considerable effort, and consider it a courtesy on your part, if you're interested in the firm, to attend. And recruiters have good memories. Your presence at the meeting, and a three-minute chat with one of them, might earn you a place on a closed interview list.
For those of you who haven't yet attended a presentation, here's what typically goes on. Several employees (often recent alumni of your school and members of the firm's "recruiting team") will arrive on campus to tell you why you should become their coworkers. (Not that these presenters sometimes, though not always, will also do interviews.) Sometimes heavy hitters, like chairmen and CEOS, will visit a few select schools. Some companies just send a handful of recruiters, while others, like Goldman Sachs, dispatch a veritable army of bankers (about two dozen) to target schools. The presentation involves a PowerPoint slide show, a Q&A period, and often a reception afterwards where students can practice their schmoozing talents on presenters.
Some firms make a practice of early scouting at recruitment presentations. Banks like Lehman scope out potential hires even before the interview stage; then make up lists of "targets." The firm also offers potential recruits a "game" that simulates a trading floor. Fun for some, sure - but you can also be sure that the highest scorers will be on Lehman's target list. Consultancies, too, are people-centric (their product, after all, is the knowledge and "mental horsepower" of their consultants), and interviewees are well advised to attend. One consultant swears that his attendance at a BCG recruitment meeting ultimately got him a job at the firm. And one recent hire at BCG made sure to get himself on the interview list by "going up after the on-campus presentation and impressing one recruiter with some sharp questions that I asked. He gave me his number at work, and I called him up later. After that, he made sure that I was one of the people interviewed - which may not have happened otherwise because my resume was definitely weak." Others advise that not showing up at a Bain presentation "definitely hurts your chances."
Deciding which ones to attend We polled some wise b-schoolers for tips on making the most of the presentations. First off, how do you choose which ones to attend? "Focus, focus and more focus," says Hysham Abdelnour, a student at UVA's Darden school. " For people who don't have a good understanding of what they really want to do, go to one briefing from each industry and try and understand if there is a fit between your personality and the industry first." Julian Ting, a student at MIT's Sloan school, agrees: "B-school is a great opportunity to explore alternative career opportunities. So if you are uncertain about careers in a particular industry, the best strategy is to find out who the market leader is are and make sure you attend its presentations." Once you've settled on one or two industries, Adbdelnour suggests students "speak to people who work those businesses and find out what they like or don't like about their jobs."
Sloan student Ramon Frausto has a slightly different approach. "I like to attend presentations for any company that I might even remotely find interesting," using a checklist to help him decide. "First, I see if my schedule allows it (no class, team meetings, or big homeworks due soon). Second, if two good presentations are scheduled at the same time, I go for the one that has a more stable environment (i.e. try to avoid those were layoffs have been recently announced. Once I went to a presentation where the speaker was anxious about going back to the office and finding out if he still had a job)."
Once you're there Now that you have a strategy for choosing the presentations to attend, you should try to make the most of them. One recent grad counsels students to "research the company ahead of time so you have intelligent questions to ask." All of our b-school contacts stress the importance of taking notes during the presentation. Adeyanju also suggests you identify "one or two individuals from the company to target after the presentation. Try to establish a connection so you stand out in the person's mind (e.g., same alma mater, past employer, hometown, industry association, etc.) Make it a practice to "pick up business cards from everyone you talk to," she adds, "and on the back write a few bullet points about what you discussed. This comes in handy when you have talked to about 30 or 40 people in different briefings."
Wait - My school doesn't have any campus recruiting! Face it, it's either feast or famine. At the top 10 schools, it's a corporate feeding frenzy - while at many others, students have to handle the job search on their own. Don't worry - it's not the end of the world. One of the smartest things you can do, says one of our contacts, is "find an 'associated' school close to yours that usually hosts job fairs or high-profile presentations." If it's a hike, just "get selective - only travel for those companies that fit your career." Along the same vein, you can target a neighboring school's career center. "This is one I used often," she notes, "and it paid off. Find out if your school has any reciprocity agreements with neighboring b-schools for use of their career center. I made many trips to NYU and Columbia because my school did not have sufficient finance career resources. Also, see if you are eligible to use your undergraduate school's career center or on-line job/contact database. Lastly, try the old-fashioned approach and network as much as you can with your school alumni, professors (often a good source), campus clubs, and undergraduate alumni."
Columbia B-schooler Roberta Griff also recommends using the Internet. You can do much of your research on the Web, plus "most of the companies that recruit on campus post their recruiting info on their Web sites." Of course it will take more effort to set up an interviewer, but you'll start off the process with more information that you'd get by calling the company switchboard. Once you've got a short list of targeted companies, send out your cover letters and resumes, and follow up with phone calls.