Gear Up for Fall Recruiting
Companies are most receptive to candidates during the fall. Hiring managers-the ones with the real hiring power in a company-like to make the most of the fall recruiting season: The rest of the year they have to focus on bringing in revenue so their companies can go out and hire more people the next year.
If you're in school, you're lucky: There's a good chance that many regional, national, and international companies will descend on your campus in the weeks to come to look you and your classmates over-and to be looked over themselves.
Career experts say that in today's job market, your first job is crucial to the arc of your career as a whole. Taking advantage of on-campus recruiting is a great way to make sure you get the best possible start.
What to do before the interview
Before you even think of heading off to a first-round interview-or mass-mailing your resume-you'd better do some detective work. Recruiters constantly stress the importance of doing adequate research before you start interviewing.
Think about it for a second, and you'll realize how important it is too: What are they looking for? Do you have what it takes? Most important, how are you going to convince your interviewers that they'd be making the biggest mistake of their professional lives by not extending you an offer . . . or at least inviting you back for another round?
While there are no easy answers when it comes to the job search, recruiters say that one factor clearly distinguishes the best candidates from the also-rans: their knowledge of the company and the industry.
The first rule of effective company research is simple: Do it. Surprisingly few candidates, even at top universities, take the time to get to know the companies and the industries with which they're interviewing. Those who do clearly stand out.
The second rule of effective company research is a little harder to swallow: Do it early. We can give you all the tips in the world for planning a successful company- and industry-research effort, but if you don't get started until the night before your interview, good luck!
Starting Your Research
To get you started in your industry and company research, we've put together a short list of questions you'll definitely want to explore. Add to this list to make sure it reflects the issues that are most important to you.
Questions about Industries
- Who are the key players in the industry?
- What is the history of the industry, and where is it heading in the future?
- What are some of the major industry trends?
- What skills are required to succeed in and contribute to the industry?
Questions about companies
- What role does the company play in its industry?
- What are the company's key products, and what is its market share?
- How has the company made money in the past, and what will its sources of revenue be in the future?
- What skills are in demand at the company-marketing, engineering, finance, sales, product development?
- What types of jobs are available for recent college and MBA grads?
- Does the company have special training programs for recent college and MBA grads?
- What makes this firm different from other firms in the industry-its customers, products, culture?
A great place to begin your online research is at your school's career center site. Many career centers will post employers' recruiting and presentation schedules at their websites.
In addition to WetFeet's industry research, we recommend Careers in Business. Hoover's is another great place to look for information on companies and industries.
The next stop should be the websites of the companies you're interested in. Think of them as online brochures. An Internet search will also yield professional associations you can use to learn about industry trends, networking opportunities, and job openings.
Finally, keep up on your target companies' latest news by reading publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Fortune, Business Week, and Red Herring, many of which offer free online access to archived articles.
Talk to Strangers-and People You Know
Take the initiative to set up informational interviews with people in your network (alumni, people referred to you by your career center or your personal network, or other people you have identified in companies or industries you are eager to learn about). They should last about 30 minutes and be held in a place convenient to the interviewee.
During the informational interview, ask about the person's daily responsibilities, career path, company, and outlook on the industry. You might also ask for suggestions about how to find a position within the industry, what kind of preparation is needed for a successful career in the company, and whether the interviewee can recommend any other people to meet. However, keep in mind that most people do not want to be solicited for a job during an informational interview.
Need some help in coming up with good questions for your informational interviews? Here are several to get you started:
- What are the backgrounds of most of the people in the company and the industry?
- What are some of the exciting areas to be working in across the company/industry?
- What is the culture of the organization like?
- What do you like about your job?
- What don't you like?
- Which companies do you think are the most exciting places to be working in this industry?
- What opportunities are there for people with a background in (your major) in this industry?
- What types of qualities or experience do recruiters look for in this industry?
- What kind of people do well here?
- Is there a lot of turnover? Why or why not?
- How much autonomy and responsibility do people get?
- Is this a good place for women and minorities?
- Do you know anyone else with whom I can speak to find out more about (the company or the industry)?