ECO Blog: What to Know about Employer Information Sessions

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Hello Majors,

With the arrival of recruiting season, many employers will be on Grounds virtually or in-person to meet with you and build their applicant pool. This is a great opportunity for you to conduct preliminary research about industries, employers and job functions. In order to prepare, I've listed some basics about info sessions for you below. There are many variables that will influence your ability to interact directly with employer reps at info sessions. These include:

  • the medium of the info session (virtual or in-person)
  • number of employer representatives
  • number of students attending.

Before attending each, you may consider how you would like to interact with the employer team. You may choose to hang back and simply listen, you may choose to introduce yourself and build relationships (aka network). Either way, info sessions are a great way to get your foot in the proverbial door. You can be ready for a conversation with employers simply by writing up and practicing your pitch. Once you write it and practice, you will be much more confident in your introductory conversation with employers. You may practice with our AI software, VMock, which records your pitch, scores it, makes recommendations, and then you may record again.

What they are:

Employer information sessions are typically held the evening prior to an employer's first interview day through On-Grounds Interviewing. However, some employers hold them in conjunction with attending career fairs, or with other reasons they have personnel on campus. In recent years, most employer info sessions are virtual and you may find them on Handshake, by filtering by "events" and "info sessions."

Why go:

Learn more about the organization and meet company representatives in a less formal situation than an interview. You have the opportunity to ask questions in advance of an interview. Many are staffed by alumni from our school.

How they make interviews better for you and the employer:

Consider the employer's perspective on interviews:
They sit in a room all day, and conducts 13 30-minute interviews with 13 students. The employer would rather use that time to get to know you, not repeat info about their company 13 times. Information sessions let employers cover that information once and give students the chance to think over the information before interviews. Students meet someone from the organization (might be your interviewer or someone else) and it breaks the ice. If you don't attend the info session before an interview and you don't have a good reason why, it tells the employer you really aren't that interested.

Length of sessions:

Most are 60-90 minutes to two hours. Sometimes they are formal presentations. Sometimes they are receptions where you can arrive and depart throughout the session.  If you need to arrive late or can't stay for the full duration, contact the employer representative in advance and let them know. Employers won't mind if you show the courtesy and interest by getting in touch. They'll be glad you're interested in attending.

Who can attend:

Often any student interested in the employer is welcome to attend advertised information sessions, regardless of whether you have an interview scheduled. Some sessions, particularly receptions, are by invitation only. If you have heard about a session but can't find the public announcement, contact the employer and ask if it's okay to attend. Employers often include their attendee qualifications in their Handshake postings.

Where to find information sessions:

Find these in Handshake. Note that interviewing season is spring, early summer and fall, and that's when employer info sessions will occur. For banking and consulting these days, some info sessions occur in late spring and throughout the summer.

What if you don't have an interview scheduled with the employer?

Invite-only info sessions likely will not be publicized broadly on Handshake. However, if you learn about an info session and are interested, you may contact the employer about attending. First cross-reference our career fair lists and other employer events to see if the employer will be present there. (Such events include our consulting conference, niche nights such as Economic and Litigation Consulting Night, Careers in Finance night, etc.) If the employer is attending, you may meet them at those events, or drop them an email that you look forward to meeting at that event. 

If the employer is not attending other UVA events, you may write to them about attending their closed info session. If you don't receive a reply or want to take your chances and attend anyway, take your resume, introduce yourself, and explain that you would very much like to interview if there is any possibility of doing so. The employer might have had a cancellation on the interview schedule and be willing to work you in or make other arrangements to meet with you. Maybe your resume didn't stand out from the crowd, but you can present yourself well in person. Employers are impressed by initiative, so this may be effective. The worst possibility is that the employer says no; you haven't lost anything. You may speak with a career counselor before pursuing this path.

What to wear:

During these virtual times, business casual works well, unless the invitation or announcement says otherwise. Events on-Grounds are usually less formal than events in hotels. Some employers may specify business/interview attire for receptions in other venues. If your schedule doesn't permit you to change into appropriate attire, contact the employer in advance and ask if that's okay. Basically, the employer wants you to attend, and wants it to be convenient for you to attend; they also want to observe your judgment in choosing your attire. Ask for contact information of the 

Preparing for the Info Session. It would be helpful to:

  • Do a little background research on what the company does, specializes in, and job opportunities they have, etc.
  • Be aware of competitors in the industry and how this company views itself in comparison to them.
  • Learn about the industry so you understand exactly what the company does.
  • If you have a geographic preference, knowing about the city you want and why you want it (sometimes differences between firms in particular locations focus on specific industries and sectors). 
  • Practice your pitch (see above).
  • Carry something for note-taking (jotting down notes after your conversation) and to collect contact information. For virtual sessions, have something handy for note-taking.

After the info session:

  • Write up your notes and organize by employer.
  • Write up your list of contacts with their contact information.
  • Write up a thank you to the team members you met. You may write to them as a group or individually based on your conversations. Refer to elements of the conversation if something stood out or resonated with you.

I applaud you for taking the time to attend info sessions to explore your interests and the possibilities out there! 

Thanks to our friends at UC Berkeley and Virginia Tech for some of this content.