Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Making the most of a Company Presentation

There are usually as a minimum two opportunities to hear from companies that are interested in your university as a source of graduates. One is at the careers fair, and the other is at the company presentation and/or reception which the company will arrange in order to visit the university and talk to an audience about their offering in particular. At the company presentation, attendees are usually a bit more accessible as there isn't quite as much of a crush as at the careers fair, and you will usually get the opportunity to have a more meaningful discussion where you can ask several questions, as well as see a presentation or video which gives you a bit more detail into what the company has to offer. If you know you are interested in a company, but trying to find out where exactly you might fit, the presentations are usually worth a visit.

Company presentations are organised in many different ways - sometimes targeted to an invited audience, sometimes sign-up in advance, sometimes open doors policy.

Presentations are a good opportunity to hear about specifics related to the role/job that might not be on the website, or that you might not have had the opportunity to ask about at a careers fair. Some examples would include:
- particulars of the training offered - how long, what content, where held, who delivers.
- what study opportunities are available - CFA, CAIA, ACCA, etc.
- if rotational, what are the typical rotations that graduates undertake, how frequently they move, how they are assessed
- how is a full-time role is found/decided upon at the end of the programme

Presentations are always a great way to pick up on what the culture of a company is like. Definitely more so than at a careers fair, where the layout and structure is fairly formulaic for all the companies there. At a presentation, there is a lot more scope for individualism which should give you lots of tips as to what the culture of the company might be like. Some things to observe:
- how do the team of people from the company interact with each other? Is it all quite formal, or is there plenty of banter and fun?
- how does the interaction between superiors and juniors appear - e.g. if there is a Partner or an MD there, how do they treat the rest of the team, how does the team react to them?
- what media do they use to communicate? Standard Powerpoint bullets approach, or do they have videos, maybe a Prezi, YouTube clips, cartoons?
- how engaged/enthusiastic/passionate do they seem? Do they sound like they believe in what they are saying, or are they just going through the motions?
- what are they wearing? Formal suits, business casual, casual?
- what drinks and food does the company provide (if any)? Cheese/wine? Beer/sausages? Cocktails? Are they trying to impress you with fancy food or are they trying to give you food they think you might prefer?

The other opportunity the presentation and reception can provide is a chance to help you get ahead when it comes to interviews. At these events, in most cases the attendees will be fairly open to answering any questions that you can come up with. So have a think in advance about the kinds of questions the company (or similar companies) would ask you at interview, and then ask them for their opinion on those topics. Essential then you should try to remember the best of what you hear / the things that sounded most knowledgeable/impressive, and rehash them at interview! Example questions that you could think about asking include:-
- what changes do you see happening in the industry in the next couple of years?
- what are the major challenges facing your particular company/department/division at the moment? What are you doing about them?
- what competencies would you say are most important for roles on the <name> graduate programme?

As with the careers fair, my advice is to jot down what you heard and learned as soon as you can after the event, as well as the names of the people you have met if you can remember them. The information fades / merges with other info very quickly after you've been to a few events, so its worth capturing it somewhere.
In many cases, the company presentations can be very close to a deadline, or sometimes even after a deadline has passed. It is still worth going as if you do get invited to interview, you can pick up a lot of useful from the presentation, and also it could help you decide whether or not you would ultimately accept the role if it was offered.
Equally if you are in 1st or 2nd year, it is worth going a long in order to get more information for if you decide to apply to them in your final year.

Good luck everyone. Enjoy the Milkround…


  1. Hello,

    I recently went to an in house presentation of a professional firm that I am applying to. I was really impressed by the firm and would love to work there.

    At the event I received a business card from an executive who did not have enough time to answer my question. One of the graduate recruitemnt officer also gave me and a friend her email address. I am unsure about how to utilise these contacts to help my application. I would really appreciate your advice on the issue.


  2. Depending on how exactly you left things with them, I think the best approach is to email them to say thank you for the invitation, that you really enjoyed the networking event and the conversation you had about XYZ (to remind them of who you are) and will definitely be applying for programme X and you hope you will have the opportunity to meet them again. If you did have a specific question to ask them, then I would include it, but make sure it is something they can answer fairly quickly, otherwise I wouldn't both. Keep it short, polite and not too 'gushy' if you see what I mean.

    The best you can hope for then is behind the scenes, they will forward your email to their recruiter and say 'liked this guy/gal, keep an eye out for their app for me.' If I get that message, generally I will put them forward for interview as they obviously made an impression.

    This means you might not necessarily hear back directly from them, but you are leveraging the relationship you developed behind the scenes. I do get emails like this reasonably frequently after events from our line representatives.

    With regard to the contact details of the graduate recruitment officer in particular, I would probably do something similar - drop them an email to say you enjoyed the event and have applied / intend on applying shortly. Again, hopefully if things went well, they will keep an eye out for your application, but they are most unlikely to take any immediate action that you will notice.