Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
Recently, Okta held an information session at a high-profile college in the northeast in hopes of landing M.B.A.s for product management internships. A 2017 college graduate and current Okta employee presented and, instead of making a hard sell for the company, he talked about:
- Why students might choose product management as a career;
- The types of companies students should consider;
- The pros and cons of working for companies at different stages of their evolution and of different sizes; and
- The differences between business-to-business and business-to-consumer product management.
“By the end, it opened up a lot of questions for the students because it was an excellent overview of product management and tucked at the very end was why they should work for Okta,” says Kathy Mason, a university recruiter with the company, who attends every one of its information sessions.
It was, Mason says, an excellent information session because targeted students could relate to the speaker, who provided the kind of information college students are most seeking from a company employee.
For organizations looking to get the most from their information sessions, Mason suggests, first and foremost, getting alumni involved to offer their experiences and carry your message. If you don’t have an alum from the school, solicit a recent graduate to be your speaker.
“Students can make a connection, especially if it’s someone they know or who has recently been in their place,’” Mason says. “Providing information about the speaker beforehand to the career services office and others on campus is important so students know it’s a recent grad—someone they can relate to—and not just a ‘talking head.’”
You should also make sure to provide a good description of what the company is and what it does, and what the information session will cover so students know what to expect. From there, you need to meet—or better yet, exceed—the attendees’ expectations.
“If the information session is too PowerPoint heavy or too much of a sell in terms of the company, it won’t be an effective session,” Mason says. “Instead, give students practical information that they can use.”
Mason says that, during information sessions, students want to know the following:
- What a typical day is like;
- How employees transitioned from college to work;
- The differences between a day in the life of a college student and a day at work;
- Company culture;
- Career paths; and
- The chance for career growth.
Also, ensure you are targeting students with interest in your industry. To maximize your efforts, enlist the help of the career center to support you by, for example, sending the names and contact information for leaders of student organizations and associate deans of programs that are specific to your industry. This way, these campus leaders can let their members and students know about the session.
For example, if a company is recruiting software engineers, it wants to get in front of computer science majors.
“If we’ve got information on STEM clubs,” Mason explains, “we can reach out to those clubs to make sure we get even more students—especially those who would be interested in our organization and jobs—to attend the information session.”
For Okta, Mason ensures everything is in order pre-information session, but during and after as well.
“I feel that one of my responsibilities is to make sure that our speakers shine,” Mason says. “M.B.A.s and product managers are pretty used to getting up and speaking. However, some of our software engineers are not as used to speaking in front of groups.”
To help them, Mason leads off a panel by asking members questions about:
- Their career transition from college to work;
- Why they decided on Okta;
- What the interview process was like;
- The company’s culture.
“I’ll ask these types of questions and students start raising their hands to ask questions of their own,” she says. “Everybody feels much more comfortable.”
Post-event, Mason conducts on-campus interviews throughout the next day or two.
“We find that a lot of students coming to the information session have never heard of Okta and by the end, they want to interview with us,” she says. “It gives interested students a great chance to meet us and us a great chance to meet with these students.
“Career fairs are great for branding, but when you have a thousand students coming into a career fair, you’re going to talk to some students and pick up some resumes, but it’s hard to remember the students. Having a chance to sit down with students the day after an information session is a key step in finding out more about one another, and building a relationship.”
Mason says that ensuring employer information sessions are successful takes work both on and off campus.
Says Mason: “It’s a combination of efforts by the employer and by career services to get the word out so the employer not only has great attendance, but the students who do attend are interested in our industry or, even better, in our organization.”