Hello Wolf Pack!
This is going to be a relatively quick post. After two extremely detailed and thorough posts on how to go about networking and cold calling/emailing, this is a topic that is much more straightforward: what to do and what not to do at an information session.
Should I Attend?
I get this question a lot from students. While it’s not an absolute must to attend these sessions, if an investment bank is hosting info sessions at your school and you don’t have a great reason for not attending, you should make an effort to be there. Why?
- Investment banks take attendance using a sign-in sheet at these events, and they do sometimes look at it to see which students are genuinely interested in their firm
- Some people have been asked during interviews if they attended the info session a few nights ago. Imagine how awkward it is if you say no (and you shouldn’t lie… see point #1 above)
- You may meet an investment banker that you successfully build rapport with, and they could end up becoming a useful connection to you
- Even if you don’t end up building any solid connections, it’s useful to be able to take some conversation you had during the info session and work that into one of your answers during interviews. For example, when you’re asked “Why do you want to work for Goldman Sachs?” you can include the fact that after speaking with 5 different bankers from the firm at the info session, you felt like you would really fit in with the culture there because of [reason 1], [reason 2], and [reason 3]
- Bonus: If you’re starting early and are only in your first year of college, this is a great way to get a head start on your networking efforts
Your goal at the info session should be to create as many contacts that you can follow up with as possible, without making a bad impression on anyone. In an ideal world, you’d also make a really good connection with at least ONE investment banker, so that they become a true resource for you during the recruiting process. The best way to do this is to test the water with each investment banker until you find someone you really click with. Keep the conversations to around 10-15 minutes each, so that you have enough time to move around the room and have multiple conversations. If the conversation is too short, it will feel like you’re not really interested in what they have to say. If it’s too long, you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket by not meeting other investment bankers. Once you find someone you have a great rapport with, fully engage and try to spend some extra time nurturing that relationship. Keep the conversations casual/personal – you want to come off as the guy/gal that they could grab a beer with after work.
Now if you don’t go to a target school, your goal is slightly different. You can take a risk and find an info session and/or banking career fair for a target school nearby and crash it. Some investment bankers may be slightly turned off that you’re doing this but all you need is one or two people to be impressed by the initiative and drive that you have. You are there to win over a couple of investment bankers who will vouch for you to get an interview.
Now that I’ve convinced you to attend info sessions, the rest is all about carrying on a good conversation. The key to this is asking good questions, so I’ve prepared for you a list of questions that you should and should not ask investment bankers. Before you read on for the more general do’s and don’ts, make sure you click below to claim our free all-in-on recruiting toolkit so that you have this list handy.
What to Do
Here are some tips on what you SHOULD do at an info session. Most of these should be common sense:
- Make sure you’re dressed well. Business casual at a minimum, or full business attire is even better
- Be confident, have a firm handshake, maintain strong eye contact, and SMILE (first impression is everything)
- Choose the investment bankers that have the fewest people talking to them. This way you are not competing with 10 other students at the same time – it becomes impossible to have a meaningful and memorable conversation
- Spend more time with the investment bankers who actually 1) went to your school, 2) work in the office/group you’re interested in, or ideally 3) all of the above. These investment bankers are going to have more of a say on whether you get the interview you want or not
- If you think it’ll help you, go with a friend so that you guys can work off of each other as a pair. It could be easier to keep the conversation flowing this way, and you may also be more comfortable
- Keep the conversation personal and casual. It should be as if you’re chatting with a friend, while still maintaining a basic level of professionalism. Your goal at these info sessions is to make the investment bankers like you as a person. After your conversation, they should feel like you’re someone they can see themselves grabbing a beer with
- Always ask for their business card at the end of the conversation by saying you’d like to reach out with more questions later on if it’s OK with them. Before you go talk to the next person, find a moment to jot down some quick notes about the conversation on the back of the card. The next day, follow up with a personalized thank you email and mention something that stood out from your conversation. This will help them remember you. End the email either by asking to stay in touch (if you don’t need to use this connection until later), or by asking for 10-15 minutes of their time either by phone or in person to follow up on some additional questions you didn’t get a chance to ask (if recruiting is happening now and you need to cash that check immediately)
What NOT to Do
When it comes to things you should not do at an info session, just think of the event as your first date with a guy/gal you’re trying to win over. The same rules generally apply.
- Don’t seem like the overeager one. This is the most common mistake that most students make at info sessions. If the investment banker thinks you are desperate, it does not make them want to hire you
- Don’t try to be overly aggressive if you’re in a large group of students fighting for the attention of a single investment banker. It’s important to show that you can get along with others in a job where teamwork is highly valued
- Don’t be awkward. Try not to have any awkward silences. Have some canned questions prepared that you can pepper in whenever you feel an awkward silence coming on (again, see our free all-in-one recruiting toolkit!)
- Don’t talk about taboo or controversial topics (politics, religion, etc.). This is pretty self-explanatory
- Don’t ask the same questions that you know they’ve had to answer 100 times already (what’s it like to be an investment banker?)
- Along the same lines, don’t ask “lazy questions” – these are questions that you can find the answers to yourself with just a bit of basic research (for example, things that are on their website)
- Don’t spend the entire time talking (or even worse, bragging) about yourself. This is not the right setting for you to talk about all of your awesome accomplishments; if you do that you will just come off as a douchebag. Save it for the actual interview. Plus, people like talking about themselves, so let the investment banker do most of the talking, and stay engaged like you’re truly interested in what they have to say (because you are, right?)
BONUS Tips – How to Join and Leave a Conversation Without Being Awkward
This is usually the hardest part for people. There are two types of scenarios:
- The investment banker is alone or only talking to 1-2 other candidates: this is a pretty unlikely scenario given the ratio of students to investment bankers at most info sessions. But in case you get lucky and find an investment banker in this situation, your plan becomes pretty simple:
- The Approach:
- Walk towards them. If possible, try to make eye contact with them as you approach, and smile
- When you get close enough, reach out your hand for a firm handshake and introduce yourself – “Hi, I’m _______. It’s nice to meet you.”
- After they introduce themselves, start with one of your standard canned conversation starter “softball” questions: How is your night going? What group are you with? How long have you been at the bank?
- The Exit:
- Once the conversation has gotten to a good stopping point (i.e. they just finished answering your last question, they just finished telling a story, etc.), wait for that momentary pause/natural lull. You want to make sure this pause happens so that you’re sure they’re done talking, and a new topic is not starting
- At that point, tell them “Well, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been very insightful. Would you mind if I grabbed your business card?”
- After receiving their card, shake their hand and say thanks one last time before leaving
- The Approach:
- The investment banker is talking to a large group of candidates: this is the more likely and trickier scenario, so you’ll need to tweak your strategy slightly:
- The Approach:
- Find a spot in the circle to slide in. If there’s no opening, gently tap someone on the shoulder and say “Excuse me, may I join this conversation?”
- If the banker is in the middle of responding to a question, do not interrupt. Wait for the first available pause in the conversation before offering a handshake and introducing yourself. This is usually when the banker finishes answering the question you joined on, or when they first notice or make eye contact with you. DO NOT JOIN THE CONVERSATION WITHOUT ANNOUNCING YOURSELF
- Have a question ready to go in case the conversation comes to a full stop at this point and you’re put on the spot. Otherwise, it’s likely that another candidate will continue the conversation with a question. You can wait for at least one question to be asked so that you are in the flow of the conversation, before asking your own question
- The Exit:
- Do not silently leave the conversation during someone else’s question without saying anything. This makes you seem socially awkward. Again, wait for a momentary pause in the conversation, usually at the end of a question. Thank them for their time and ask for their business card before shaking hands and walking away
- The Approach:
And that’s it! Pretty straightforward, right? Before you go, here’s one last reminder to click below and grab our FREE all-in-one recruiting toolkit if you haven’t already. We’ve included examples of questions to ask and not to ask.
As always, if you’d like more hands-on and personalized help, you can check out our coaching program here. If you have comments or questions, please drop a line down below. Otherwise, remember: