The Gold Mine of Employer Information Sessions at Cal
Each fall, employers come to campus to host info sessions. Given all the info available on the web, do you really need to attend?
Only if you want a job! -- especially a job with an employer whose organizational culture and management style are compatible with your own values and interests. So how will attending a company info session help? These sessions offer an unmatched opportunity to:
- Get a feel for the organization, its people and culture.
- Have the opportunity to determine if you would be a good fit.
- Learn about the positions available.
- Learn how your position fits into the larger organization.
All of this adds to the information available on the website and will help you explain in an interview the congruence between your goals and values and their culture -- in essence the nature of the critical "fit" employers are looking for.
In addition, info sessions constitute a rare opportunity to make a personal connection within the organization while at the same time demonstrating your sincere interest in it as a potential employer. It's always helpful to say you went to the information session during your interview or to mention in your cover letter that you met specific representatives and can therefore credibly describe why you are interested in the job and company. All these actions make you seem informed, well-prepared, and thoughtful in your career plan.
What to expect
Many companies hold information sessions on campus during the recruiting season in order to explain the job opportunities they have available and offer more information about the company and its organizational culture.
Most info sessions range from 1-2 hours and consist of a company presentation where current employees explain the values and mission of the company followed by an opportunity for students to talk to company representatives about the company and ask any pertinent questions. Employer reps are often recent grads able to describe what you might expect during your first couple of years should you join the organization.
How to prepare
- Research what the company does, specializes in, and the job opportunities they offer, especially at Cal.
- Be knowledgeable of competitors in the industry and how this company views itself in comparison.
- Learn about the industry so you understand exactly what the companies do and the expectations for entry-level professionals.
Think about what's important to you and what you want to get out of the information session. This is your chance to interact with company employees and hear about work experiences. If you don't have a clear idea about the company or the job description, it would really help to do your research beforehand so you can ask deeper questions you really want answers to.
Oftentimes, people don't find information sessions helpful because they go there unprepared and don't feel like they can ask questions or talk to the representatives because they don't know anything about the company.
It's always a good idea to bring a resume in case they accept resume drops. With your resume, they may also record your attendance at the information session - helpful when you apply to interview with the company.
How to make the most of it
To maximize the value of an information session, pay attention to what is said during the company presentation. Typically you learn a tremendous amount about the firm, its mission, its services or products, and what type of culture and environment exists at the firm. Also, the information you can draw from these sessions can be used to craft more effective cover letters or can be used to come up with additional questions about the company to be asked during the interview.
In order to optimize the experience at an information session:
- Think of questions to ask representatives that build on the information presented.
- Talk to a few representatives of the company in order to get a better feel for the company.
- Make sure your voice is heard, but not at the expense of a peer - you want to demonstrate respect to reinforce that you are a team player.
- Ask well thought out questions based on your research.
- Think on your feet and ask relevant questions based on the flow of conversation.
- Only when there is a noticeable break should you change the subject.
- The answers to your questions help build your sense of the job and company and determine if it is something of interest to you.
- Wait to formally say good-bye to a representative before you leave the information session or walk away.
It is valuable to ask for a business card or contact information in case you have any further questions, and also so you can remember names if you interview with the company in the future. These conversations with company representatives help build your network. Networking with numerous companies and representatives gives tremendous insight in multiple careers, industries, job opportunities, and illustrates your genuine interest come interview time.
What you gain
- Expanded Network - This is an opportunity to create targeted contacts that could be helpful in the future.
- Understand employers' corporate culture - Speaking with representatives helps you determine whether or not you are a good fit for the company.
Visualize an information session as a way of interviewing the firm and finding out if they are a good employer to consider working for. You'll be more knowledgeable about the company, job, and industry, and have greater confidence in interviews. Also, during information sessions you get a chance to meet and talk to peers who may be interested in similar jobs, companies, or industries.
Info sessions also make you a better applicant. In addition to demonstrating your interest, they are a great opportunity to learn more about what they look for in a candidate. Think about how you can use what you've learned to highlight the aspects of your background and experiences (e.g., leadership or teamwork) that fit their conception of what a strong candidate looks like. Now that you know what they're looking for, you can demonstrate these qualities in your resume, cover letter, and interview.
How to find them
Login to Handshake, select the Events tab and then search for Info Sessions. Check back periodically for new sessions. Space is often limited, and you are encouraged to "Join Event" if you plan to attend.