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While I was doing my undergrad, I remembered it to be like clockwork: every year come Fall, big Fortune 500 names would line up one after another to host information sessions, drawing massive crowds of coffee-wired students. I was the biggest skeptic when it came to the possibility of landing an interview and eventual job at one of these events because it seemed too good to be true.

Now, coming at it from the other side, I can tell you it’s not.

One of the best tips I often give to students/new grads is that as much as you are hungry for that dream job, companies are equally hungry for top talent. Consider it from their perspective: applicants are aplenty, qualified applicants are afew, and outstanding candidates are likely being courted by other attractive firms. Tech companies and startups get lots of public attention for their dynamic company cultures and great #workperks, making talent attraction (and retention) more top-of-mind for any VP of HR than ever before, especially those of more established organizations.

Enter the info session. A great way for company reps to showcase their company values and what they’re looking for, and network with a bunch of students in person to hand-pick top talent. As a student, your only job is to make a great impression so they’ll want to interview you for real. And that boils down to 6 simple things:

      1. Show up. Off the bat, you’re already edging out 80%+ students who don’t even bother to come.
      2. Be ready to think. Come having researched a thing or two (or three) about the company’s org structure, corporate strategy, big initiatives, latest M&A news, etc. Cross-reference that with what the reps talk about in the info session to come up with good questions that you can ask later during networking.
      1. Come prepared. Rehearse an elevator pitch about yourself, with zingers (more on those in a future blog post). During networking, company reps are meeting tens if not hundreds of students at these events, so it’s not a good time to blend in. Don’t drone on and on about a bunch of small things you’ve done over the years – hit the highlights and wow them with your best stuff.
      1. Talk to everyone. Reality is you’re not going to “click” with every person you meet, but chances are the more you talk to, the better shot you’ll have of someone seeing potential in you and doing something about it.
      1. Bring business cards. Some schools make it mandatory to order school-branded business cards as part of your enrollment, which seems extra, but is actually a great idea. A lot of company reps have a system to remember great candidates for later. For example, whenever I meet a student and get their card at these events, I automatically categorize them into a “no” and “yes” pile. No’s go in my left pocket, Yes’s in my right. If you don’t give me a card, there is a 100% chance you won’t make my “yes” pocket.
    1. Follow up. Either ask to connect via LinkedIn with a nice thank-you message, or send a brief email. Any way you do it, the person will once again be reminded of who you are, and if they liked you, it will most likely trigger a nudge to HR (or directly land you an interview if they are the Hiring Manager).

While these tips are geared for big-name companies, they’re also universally applicable for just about anywhere. Smaller companies might be more nimble and even set up an interview with you on the spot (if you really impress them), but the fundamentals remain the same. Position yourself as the top talent that companies will fight for. Don’t leave your future to chance!

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