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Present And Correct

Advice, Interview, Job hunting September 16, 2007

Present And Correct

Present And Correct

THE MILKROUND HAS COME A LONG WAY SINCE THE DAYS OF DODGY OVERHEAD PROJECTORS AND PLATEFULS OF CHEESE AND PINEAPPLE ON STICKS. NOWADAYS YOU SHOULD TREAT PRESENTATIONS LIKE MINI-INTERVIEWS, SO DON’T FORGET TO TAKE IT EASY ON THE FREE BOOZE…

Known as the milkround, the annualpresentations given by recruiters to universities across the country, continue to happen like clockwork. The milkround typically comprises visits by large, blue-chip companies with equally large recruitment budgets. But, increasingly, smaller companies have started to visit campuses too. Employers from a range of industry sectors attend universities to give presentations and sometimes interview finalists. However, if you are considering a career in something like social work it is unlikely that suitable recruiters will come to your university and make a presentation. Typically, the milkround focuses on five major areas of recruitment: banking, finance, management, consulting and law.

Presentations can be small or extravagant affairs and may be held on campus, at a nearby venue, or at the company’s own offices. Presentations can take many guises and some will be more formal than others. Generally, recruiters will bring along some company brochures and a stand with details about the careers they offer. A presentation will usually be given by someone from human resources, or whoever is involved with graduate recruitment. They will explain what opportunities they offer graduates and give an overview of the recruitment process. You will be provided with information about the company’s ethos, the application procedure, a typical day of a recent recruit, and get a feel for the people that work there.

It may sound obvious, but pay attention throughout the presentation. It will look unprofessional if you ask a question that has already been answered during the talk. Take a pen and paper with you so that you can make notes during the session. While you are doing this also try to formulate one or two questions that you can ask after the presentation. You can either ask the question in front of the audience immediately after the presentation has been given during the formal question and answer session, or, if you prefer, wait to ask one of the company’s representatives later on. For ideas on what to ask, see the box: "Do your homework".

Drink in moderation
Presentations are typically followed by the chance to chat to company representatives over drinks and canapŽs. This is one of the most important parts of the presentation process, so do make the most of it. Remember, just because there is free booze on offer doesn’t mean you should quaff as many glasses of vino as you can muster. Getting drunk will reflect badly not only on you, but also your university. There is a time and a place for boozing – and that’s at the students’ union, not at the expense of one of the country’s leading companies.

More often than not, firms bring along recent recruits who hail from your university. This will be an invaluable opportunity to network. Although these graduates are obviously there to promote the company, you will usually find that they will give you an honest assessment of working life at their firm. They will be able to tell you, amongst other things, how to prepare for interviews, the pay and conditions, and what working life is really like. If you get chatting to someone and like the sound of what they do, be sure to make a note of their name, and if possible take a business card.

When it comes to applying for a job at that company it will impress the recruiters no end if (a) you mention you attended one of their presentations (a lot of time and effort goes into co-ordinating these presentations, so recruiters want to know their efforts haven’t been wasted), and (b) name-drop the person you spoke to. It will show you are serious about the company. Once you have made initial contact with an employer at a presentation you will probably find it much easier to get an interview.

While you don’t have to attend a presentation to apply to a particular company, it will help to give you a better impression of the firm. For example, if a company arrives at your university and, out of 20 employees who attend the presentation only one is a woman, it might make you think twice before applying to the firm because of its apparent lack of diversity. Likewise, when discussing the typical day of a recent recruit you may realise that a company with a long hours culture really isn’t for you.

Be prepared
Your careers service will have a list of companies who are presenting; make sure you sign up well in advance of the presentation as places can go quickly. There are so many universities nationwide that it is impossible for recruiters to visit all of them.
If a company you are interested in isn’t presenting at your university, contact the company’s graduate recruitment department to see if they have any presentations planned near you. In addition to listings in careers services, many companies also advertise their presentations in the student press, so you can also check your university’s newspaper for any upcoming events.

You might find that there are too many presentations scheduled at your university, with some companies clashing with others. In this case, plan carefully which companies you need to target. By doing research before the presentation you will be able to draw up a shortlist of company presentations you want to attend. Think of reasons why you are interested in your chosen companies as this will help formulate answers when it comes to completing application forms.

Dressed for success
It is always difficult to gauge what to wear to a presentation. As a general rule of thumb you should dress smartly – this means wearing a suit for both men and women. However, if the presentation is by someone like a small IT company, you might get away with wearing something smart/casual, in which case use your judgement. Whatever you do, don’t turn up straight from the hockey field wearing your tracksuit covered in mud. Your appearance might be memorable to the employers, but it is likely to be for the wrong reasons.
Presentations differ in length with some lasting just half an hour or so. Always get to each presentation on time, but remember you don’t have to stay right until the end. Having a chat with the recent recruits can be great fun. Think about it – where else will you get the chance to speak to many attractive ex-students who have good jobs earning wads of cash?

All in all, the milkround can be an extremely useful way to meet prospective employers. Remember that it is a two-way process: not only is it a great opportunity for you to see if you like the company, but recruiters will also be assessing whether you could be a good "fit" for their organisation.

Just as important as finding out if you would like to work for the company in question, is discovering that you wouldn’t want to work for them. If nothing else, it will be a great way to feed yourself and have a night off from beans on toast!

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