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The college I attend often has info sessions for computer-science related business looking to recruit students or recent graduates. Today Google came and even though Google is a very reputable and company that is considered prestigious to work for I was surprised to find the presenters appeared unhappy and depressed. Reputations can be misleading, for example just because a lot of people try hard to get into Google doesn't convince me it's actually a good company to work for. What should one look for in these info sessions, for example is it fair to look at the underlying tone of the presenters such as body language and level of energy?

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    Hey Arnakester! Is there any chance you could focus your question a bit with an edit? It seems like you want to know A) 'Is the attitude of the recruiters a good indicator of the quality of the employer?', B) 'How can I determine if employees are happy with the companies they are recruiting for?', and C) 'Should I make a decision on which company to work for based on their career fair pitch?' -- all of these are very different questions with very different answers, so it would help to consolidate a bit! – jmac Oct 8 '13 at 2:03
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    Honestly there are no great places to work where everyone is happy. My great place could be your nightmare from hell place. Judge a company against your needs and wants not against some reputaion based on what other people think. – HLGEM Oct 8 '13 at 14:35
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You're free to look at the underlying tone of the presenters. I sure would. They are the representatives for the company at that moment. Although, you have to keep in mind that it is possible that the person you're speeking with has 'a bad day' as we all have from time to time. It is not possible to 'be professional and be happy' all day every day. Altough, you're talking about 'presenters'. So they all (howmany that may be) looked unhappy and depressed?

What I would pay more attention to is the story they got to tell and if that story covers everything you want to know as a possible future employee of that company. Don't be afraid to ask questions!

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Presenters and programmers have very different jobs, and presenters who are recruiters have an even different job. Every job at a company is different and has its perks to those who love doing that job. Perhaps the janitors at Google are extremely miserable while the cooking staff in the cafe are deliriously happy. You can't know that from the body language and energy levels of a couple of recruiters at a mass presentation.

There could be all kinds of reasons these two individuals had perceptively lower energy than you might expect. They could have been having a bad day, gotten bad work-related news, been on the road for longer than they like, or maybe they just aren't that comfortable with public speaking. The point is, their unhappiness in that moment shouldn't deter you from pursuing a job at a company because it isn't even remotely indicative of what you'll be experiencing while working there.

Consider the company itself beyond its reputation. Do they do work that excites you (or at least stimulates your interests)? Do they operate in a manner that you find unobjectionable? Are their work hours satisfactory? What are the facilities like? What opportunities to improve yourself? I've known technical designers (clothes) who worked sweat-shop hours for Abercrombie & Fitch right out of college because they knew it would set up and fast-track the rest of their career elsewhere. I've known customer service reps who dealt with whiny athletes during ridiculous hours at Nike because that was the price of admission to the better jobs there. There are jobs at Microsoft that have stupid pressure, but Microsoft on the resume is a pretty darn nice thing to have for a specialist.

Do your homework about the specific job and the specifics of the company before you consider a job. Never take a recruitment seminar for face value, but don't read into things that may or may not be there. If something seems off, trust your intuition and then find out about it.

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A great first question for any info session is - "who is this guy and what's his relationship to the company?" Generally, college recruitment will consist of:

  • A recruiter - probably from the company, but possibly a paid third party - they don't do a technical job, this is is there job. If this is the low-energy person, you can chalk it up to a bad attitude or even that this their 10,000th session this year and they are just worn down. In essence, you really don't care, his job isn't your job unless you were aiming towards a career in recruitment. That goes double if this guy is a contractor or from a talent acquisition firm - he isn't even managed by the company, so can speak even less to corporate culture.

  • A peer - someone who is doing your job, or something similar right now. Probably not an exact match, but someone who is an individual contributor, in relatively the same place in his career, and similar in work and contribution to a number of the open positions. This guy's morale matters a great deal - if he thinks the company is awful, figure out why, then see if you agree. A key, though, is to really ask - don't assume. A general engineering type person is NOT going to be thrilled to be sitting next to an HR recruiter answering stupid questions for 4 hours... so make sure that the sense of boredom comes from the job and not that this day is a particularly boring day.

  • A Manager - it's not unusual for hot industries to bring a hiring manager - that lets them make hiring decisions easily and accurately on the spot in many cases, or shortly thereafter in others. This is another good person to check in with on morale - after all, if the manager thinks this gig is lame, there's nothing to recommend it. Also - interview the manager - is this someone you'd want to work for? It really doesn't matter whether it's just a personal preference, this is what the company has hired and promoted as a manager - if you don't like them now, you probably won't like them more in 3 months when you've started to work for them. Again, though, be aware whether it's sitting next to the recruiter that has the manager bummed out, or the job as a whole.

A good thing to do with any of them is to try to get to a conversation about something in their area of expertise. Keeping in mind, the recruiter's expertise is likely to be about the jobs available, the benefits they can provide and other corporate info, but not so much technical details. Peers can usually give you a real sense of what it's like to join and work in the job you'd be doing. Managers can speak to management objectives, the way teams usually work together, and bigger pictures of where the work is going.

Body languages is certainly a factor, but it's not the only factor. Observing someone's body language from a distance will be much less informative than observing while interacting. Also - public presentations or sitting in a booth are much more contrived than a one on one conversation. Most technical folks don't shine in a large scale, broad-but-shallow type of interaction - so they can easily come off as standoffish, low-energy, or otherwise disinteresting. Factor into account whether you'd enjoy the situation if you were in their shoes before you make judgements.

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