Questions to ask at recruiting and networking events

Monkeys,

I'm running into a problem of not knowing what questions to ask when my contacts come back to my school for corporate presentations. Since I've already talked to them and their colleagues before these presentations, and asked all of the questions that I had about their bank during that time, I really don't have that much more to ask them. And for some reason, it just makes me feel really awkward to try to connect on a personal level, especially if I'm the one initiating a non-work related discussion and it's a senior banker -- "So how about them Bears, huh?"

Do any of you have any advice on how I could go about addressing this issue?

Thanks in advance!

questions to ask in networking events

Have a purpose for the conversation. This helps give you an idea of where you would like to guide the conversation as it moves forward.

Figure out what you want to gain from the conversation:

  • Are you trying to learn more about the industry?
  • Are you trying to learn more about the specific company and how it operates?
  • Are you trying to learn more about the person's background?

Initially, it should be all business. However, after you've acquainted yourself with the person trying to establish a more personal connection. Expect some answers to personal questions to be short.

Personal questions:

  • What's your story? How did you get here?
  • What do you guys like to do for fun?
  • Busy weekend?

It's up to you to steer the conversation from there.

from certified user @nomad

Don't try too hard.

The worst was when a kid dug through a 10-k or a list of every single deal my firm underwrote in all asset classes and asked me something very specific that had nothing to do with my job, or even my division

e.g. I was in fixed income and I would something get asked questions like "Do you think the follow on offering you did for SomeShitCompanyinaBackwardsCountry Inc. will open more doors for your corporation in emerging market IPOs?" or, "Your advisory revenues were up 20% last year, what is your firm doing to ensure continued growth?"

Blackball.

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Comments (39)

Oct 24, 2012

In my experience, especially if you've known the contact for a bit and have met them before it's good to try and throw some personal stuff in there. Of course, initially it should be about the business and technical questions and their firms, but if you begin to know them well and have met them before and believe you have a "working relationship" then asking soft personal questions is a good idea. From the responses I've gotten back, they seem to ease up a bit more. The responses are shorter, but there's more likely to be back and forth banter, as opposed to those dead-end firm/position questions.

Oct 24, 2012

Thanks, blackjack. At the risk of sounding awkward (you'll have to take my word that I'm not), what are some easy personal questions/discussion topics that you like to bring up to ease into the flow a little bit?

My main inhibition are the facts that:

1) these analysts are senior to me
2) usually don't know what any of their interests are, and
3) get the impression that analysts don't really have the time to do anything but work, party with co-workers, and sleep

As such, I always see the conversation turning awkward really fast in my head, a la:

"So have you done any cool things in New York lately?"
"Oh, I had to work."
Crickets.

Oct 25, 2012

A lot of it is just having good judgment. If you don't know them too well, be like "Busy weekend?" And see where they take it from there. Typically, if I were you I would ask these questions in person. In e-mail, it may come across as a waste of their time and they may just blow it off. If they seem like the types who aren't interested in getting into their lives out of work at all, then just stick with work related questions and try engaging them on this stuff.

If these older analysts are in their 20's or 30's, I would definitely at least ask a personal question and see where they take it from there. In my experience, the analysts like talking about weekends etc... when they're not complaining about how hard their week was. However, you probably wouldn't ask the same questions to a married guy in their 40's or 50's. Figuring out their interests is about what they say.

Ex: If an MD says he went golfing this week, try expounding on that. "Oh, I golf also... blah blah blah." Or if the guys says he went to a some cool restaurant and you've been there before, be like "I really liked such and such on the menu, did you try it?"

Contacts help you if they like you. I guess it's good for them to know you're not one of those robotic Asian kids who only talks about the the interest rates and boring shit like that. I've found that you relate to them better, they're more likely to sit down with you and discuss business and go up to bat for you because they know you.

If all else fails and it seems like they're sending you bad signals (shitty responses or constant one liners), I would focus your efforts more on those who seem like they're down to talk to you.

My two cents.

Oct 25, 2012

I'd start it off with: "Do you have a job for me?"

    • 1
Oct 25, 2012

You've never met these people. Get to know them first. Their background, how they ended up where they are, etc. Ask something relevant to the company and current events. Show that your interested.

Do not ask anything about pay, please.

Oct 25, 2012

What is up with three double posts by three different people?
First the PE from IB analyst posts, then the Volcker Rule prop trading posts, now dual Alumni posts?

Oct 25, 2012

I don't get it. Are you someone's date? Your going to an alumni event.

Oct 25, 2012

That would be completely tactless. The closes question regarding compensating would be regarding the general profitability of firms heading into the future. In the scheme of things all these first year numbers are essentially irrelevant in the long run---the best will eventually rise to the top and be paid accordingly. Why don't you focus on real thought provoking questions and not ones that will make him remember you as a punk.

Oct 25, 2012
ace7749:

That would be completely tactless. The closes question regarding compensating would be regarding the general profitability of firms heading into the future. In the scheme of things all these first year numbers are essentially irrelevant in the long run---the best will eventually rise to the top and be paid accordingly. Why don't you focus on real thought provoking questions and not ones that will make him remember you as a punk.

At least I will be remembered! =)
I understand in the grand scheme of things, 1st yr comp isnt all that important. But i would still like to have a good idea of not necessarily the avg but what a 1st yr associate can top out at.

Oct 25, 2012

Just ask, I mean he is an investment banker and what investment banker doesn't care about money right?

Oct 25, 2012

Don't ask.

Oct 25, 2012

mixed signals...I am in sales management and I do a lot of interviewing for my sales team.
I always welcomed comp based questions, especially probing questions on what the commission structure is, what the top sales ppl earn, etc...it tells me that they are motivated by money (which isnt necessarily a bad thing, especially in sales). Banker...and people who seek a career in finance in general, i'm sure are motivated my money to some degree. No one spends $100K+ to attend a top MBA program to make $50K/yr...

Oct 25, 2012

You're a complete moron if you ask about compensation. Take it from those who work in banking... it's an auto-ding. Not a good move.

Oct 25, 2012

Why ask about compensation when you can just search it up on WSO....come on folks....

Ask stupid questions on WSO, not in real life

Oct 25, 2012

I was being sarcastic, obviously do not ask about comp. There are plenty of resources where you can find that information anyways. Can you really not think of intelligent questions to ask with everything going on in the economy/markets/fin reg etc etc.

Oct 25, 2012

make sure to find out which political party the guy supports, what kind of car he drives, and how many women he's been with also

    • 1
Oct 25, 2012

"What do you guys do for fun?"

After I landed on the markets side of thing, this was a particularly cruel question for me to ask M&A guys. It's like asking Jimmy Carter, "So uh, how was your second term as president?"

In all seriousness, though, if you need a question that will get you remembered in a not-that-bad way, that's probably the one to ask. Either that or ask them what their story was during the 2008 crash- and sort of what the takeaway is.

Everyone likes to tell stories. Get people telling a story, and they wind up liking you.

Oct 25, 2012

"What are my exit ops?"

    • 1
Oct 25, 2012

Seriously, all it takes is a few minutes of research on each firm to fill in the blanks of

I've read that (your firm) (specializes/ has a reputation of/has many resources in) (x/y/z)

From my experience, it's not so much about what your initial question is (though that probably seems most daunting), it's how you handle yourself in the subsequent conversation with them. ie. Do some research! Appear interested! Think on your feet!

Oct 25, 2012

Okay thanks for the input. There are 40 employers coming in and about 15 I am interested in.

What is the best website to get good information? I usually use the company about us section and wikipedia....

Oct 25, 2012

remember, most of the people there are HR guys, maybe 1-2 business reps. if you want to work for that company, look at the current open positions on their homepage, check the different programs and ask the things you want to know and you are interested in. be yourself, be interested and don't ask questions which can be answered by looking at their homepage.

the best websites are indeed the company homepages! www.companyXYZ.com/careers

good luck.

oOo

Oct 25, 2012

Does this suit make me look fat?

Oct 25, 2012

make some jokes, collect some cards and be remembered as somebody who did not ask the same crap than everybody else. so make conversation, dont talk about the business but rather about other stuff

Oct 25, 2012

I was at a recent interview and the managing partner gave a little speech and opened the floor up for questions, and a girl asked...

"How do you see your firm developing in the next 5 years and what is your business strategy in order to stay competitive"

I could have sworn I saw him roll his eyes as he let out a disappointed sigh. Ask intelligent/relevant questions - stay away from obvious run of the mill questions that these people hear everyday from uninformed candidates who throw out blanket questions because they didn't put in the time to research the firm / industry enough to come up with a more specific question.

Oct 25, 2012

How did you get here? What's your story?

People love talking about themselves. Ask a question that gets them telling a story, and you look ####ing brilliant.

    • 1
Oct 25, 2012

^^^^^^^
That. Best business advice I ever got from my dad (a great salesman).

Oct 25, 2012

Compliment the HR rep on that "awesome" Men's Warehouse suit that doesn't fit.

When you are great, people will often mistake candor for arrogance.

Best Response
Oct 25, 2012

Whether I was at an information session or interviewing someone, I found most questions annoying. Don't try too hard or you'll get pegged as a douche.

The worst were when a kid dug through a 10-k or a list of every single deal my firm underwrote in all asset classes and asked me something very specific that had nothing to do with my job, or even my division (e.g. I was in fixed income and I would something get asked questions like, "Do you think the follow on offering you did for SomeShitCompanyinaBackwardsCountry Inc. will open more doors for your company in emerging market IPOs?" or, "Your advisory revenues were up 20% last year, what is your firm doing to ensure continued growth?"). Blackball.

    • 2
Oct 25, 2012

Hello Mr/mrs. XYZ, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today.

XYZ: sure.Is there anything you'd like to ask

Yes, first, walk me through your resume :)

    • 1
Oct 25, 2012

"What is one thing you wish you could have done differently in college?"

Oct 25, 2012

I tend to walk away from these types of things with a good impression when the conversation is direct vs. indirect. If you beat around the bush (you're looking for either a job, introduction to someone who can get you the job, or advice on getting the job), it doesn't come off as genuine. Might just be consistent with my own personality though.

As an analyst there's little I can do to get you a job, but putting you in contact with a laid back director who may be able to is possible. I would be more likely to do that if you come off polished, assertive (to a reasonable extent), and direct.

May not be consistent with everyone but I guess that's why you have to network with a lot of people and hit it off with those that relate to you.

Oct 25, 2012
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