Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

It’s Not Just about the Food!

This blog post was written by Peer Career Ambassador, Ji Hwan Kim (’18).

So you’ve put in an immense amount of work to land that internship/job. You’ve polished up your resume, submitted your applications and maybe even completed your first round of interviews. Now you’re waiting for the next round of interviews… until you get an invitation to a pre-interview social. While most people are familiar with the interview portion of the application process, most people don’t exactly know the purpose of a pre-interview social or dinner. Although not every employer may use this as part of their process, it’s important to familiarize yourself with these types of events so you can continue to be successful in your job search.

What’s the point?

First off, you need to understand that pre-interview dinners and social gatherings are simply an extension of the interview process. While there won’t be a formal interview session during the event, the various recruiters and employees in attendance will be paying close attention to your behaviors and interactions; therefore, it is crucial that you continue to behave professionally no matter how casual the recruiters may be. Because first interviews and applications only provide basic information on your background and educational experience, a dinner/social is a great way for employers to gain insight into your social skills and personality. In essence, the employer utilizes socials and dinners to better gauge your ability to effectively communicate and interact with other people. This is especially important for firms and companies that conduct most business through clients.

Preparing for the Dinner/Social

Because of the nature of the event, there are very few items you need to bring with you. Mainly, a few copies of your resume and a small notepad are all you really need. While you should bring these articles to your dinner/social, it is important to keep in mind that you may not need to hand any resumes out or take any notes. After all, you are here to show the employer that you are capable of holding conversations and acting appropriately in an outside setting, not to take notes. While there are few physical items you need to prepare, you must come prepared on all of the latest news topics regarding the company. An inability to participate in engaging conversations relating to the company may cause team members to question your interest in the company. Make sure you are well rested and prepared to hold many conversations. While this may seem like an obvious piece of advice, having to interact with people at different career levels and having to deal with multiple personalities may be stressful if you don’t have much prior experience doing this.

For the meal itself, be sure to order something that can be eaten relatively easily. As tempting as it may be, this is definitely not the time to try new foods. Therefore, go with something that is safe and not too messy. If you are under the age of 21, you should never accept an alcoholic beverage (because it’s illegal!). If you are of age, be sure not to overdrink. Again, now is not to try something new and it is especially not the time to test your tolerance. If you don’t think you can keep a professional conversation while consuming an alcoholic drink, don’t drink!

And as is the case with all employer-related events, be sure to dress appropriately. While most dinners and socials will require a business-casual or smart-casual dress code, this may differ based on the employer. If you aren’t sure of the dress code, don’t hesitate to ask the organizer (better safe than sorry!).

One Last Piece of Advice

The best piece of advice is to act like yourself! While it isn’t good to keep silent for the whole event, it also isn’t necessary to dominate every conversation. Let the conversations happen naturally and try to engage in meaningful discussions with multiple people. Also, it’s not necessary to hang around that one partner or senior manager for the whole night. The quality of conversations you have with the employers is far more important than the quantity or the job title of the person you speak with. Make sure you get the name and contact information of everyone you have a conversation with so you can follow-up and thank them at a later time. If the dinner or social is the night before interviews, wait until after the interviews are finished. If not, don’t be afraid to follow-up with them the next day. But most importantly, make sure you are being authentic and professional throughout the entire process.