Working the room during the milk round / corporate roadshow season

Candidates should approach the milk round or corporate roadshow as an opportunity to make an impression on prospective employers – and not just as an opportunity to stock up on freebies

The milkround or corporate roadshow presentation should not be seen as a chance to swing a free drink, or the season when you do not need to buy groceries because you are taking advantage of the free food and hospitality.

These events are a key part of the recruiting cycle and if managed well, can give you a major advantage over other candidates. It is probably the easiest forum in which to impress the employer and if you do impress them, rest assured your details will be passed on and you will get a call. You may even be fast tracked.

How to successfully work the room

1. Always sign in
Sign-in sheets are carefully analyzed by good recruiters. At the end of the presentation, company representatives are asked to hand in names of candidates who impressed them. As there are hundreds of potential candidates at these presentations, sign-in sheets are often circulated afterwards to jog recruiters’ memories.

2. Always ask a question
The question should be relevant to the company or industry. A question about the general industry is best as this makes it clear that you have done your homework.

Questions should always be asked politely. Do not get into a debate with the company representative – you may have the sounder argument but the odds are against you winning.

Give your name before you ask a question and then ensure that it is a good one. Following up a point raised in the employer’s presentation is one obvious option and shows you have been paying attention.

3. Introduce yourself to company representatives after the session
Once again, impress them with how much you know about the industry and to some extent, the company. Use the talk to ask questions regarding something you know about the company – this will impress them.

Referring to recent press articles is usually a good approach. It is not always a good idea to ask about rumors you have heard about an industry or a company – that research should be done elsewhere. The rep could be embarrassed – and therefore resentful – if he or she does not know the answer or the issue may be very sensitive.

You are far better served by trying to impress and trying to accelerate the recruitment process. Asking questions about long hours or glass ceilings, for instance, will give the impression that you are naïve and not really motivated.

You will gain a clear enough picture about the company from the people it chooses to send to the presentation, without having to ask questions about the culture. Answers to these sorts of questions are often unhelpful in any case, as the official company line is often far from the reality. Ask yourself if you could work for these people.

4. Do not ask what the employer’s commitment is to your university
It is clearly reasonably committed if it is there in the first place. This question really irritates employers. It is not important what their commitment to the university is. What is important is the career prospects for you and the quality of the people you will be working with.

5. Ask about the recruitment process
Remuneration, training programme, opportunities for international assignments and other issues will be tangibly important to you once you get the job.

6. Follow up enquiries
If you are given someone’s business card follow it up. Email is always a good way to do this – they are easy to pass on. Think carefully about what you write – your follow-up is another opportunity to impress.

7. Make the effort to impress
Do not overlook the valuable opportunity provided by the presentation to make a positive impression. If you are not prepared for doing this, it is probably better to miss the event altogether.

Do you homework – there are better ways to research the company and industry than at the presentation itself. A surprisingly small number of attendees at such presentations actually end up being interviewed or hired by the host firm – so be sure to make your mark.

8. Get yourself invited to follow-up events
A lot of firms run smaller, more targeted events on campus, ranging from technical lectures to fireside chats, trading games and general discussions.

Numbers are often restricted and some are invitation only. The numbers are kept low so that the ratio of company reps to candidates is low. This gives the company a great opportunity for a more detailed, close quarters assessment of candidates.

If you hear of such an event, try to get included. Lots of hires are made on these occasions and it is a good way to get fast tracked. The ratio of hires to attendees at these more select gatherings is high.

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