Coffee Chats are a Central Part of Networking - Here's Why
A "coffee chat" is the name given to an informal conversation you have with an employee of a company you are interested in. Those conversations are not formally a part of the recruiting process.
Coffee chats allow a potential applicant to ask questions about the firm, show their interest to one of the employees and build a network with the company.
Many coffee chat events are organised by INSEAD, but you may want to contact members of a firm by yourself in order to have an informal conversation. Such meetings could (contrary to ones organised by INSEAD) actually take place over a cup of coffee.
Why do coffee chats matter?
Even though the coffee chat is not a crucial part of the recruiting process, they play an important role in your quest for a job, as the person you have a conversion with might be involved in the recruiting process at a later stage.
The coffee chats organised by INSEAD on-campus are generally organised for large organisations. It is paramount to give a good impression and make the person you are having a conversation with feel that you would be a good fit for their company. Also, if the person you had a conversation with trusts you, he/she might support your application when you apply to the firm.
If you seek to find a job in a smaller firm that is not recruiting on-campus or that does not participate in coffee chats on-campus,
contacting an employee to have an informal conversation is a great way to get noticed by the company and create the first contact. As small firms do not always have a large human resources department and may receive many applications, prior contact with the applicant is an element that may be taken into account in order to progress in the recruiting process.
Applying to a firm after networking with its employees gives you more of a chance to be successful, rather than just sending a CV for a job opening posted on the company website.
Also, as not all job openings are shown on company websites, informal meetings might be the occasion where you are made aware of a job that is not publically listed.
Coffee chats are also a good opportunity for a potential applicant to get honest insights into a specific industry. While presentations and recruiting events are meant to advertise the firm and show the positive aspects, coffee chats between a limited number of people generally lead to a conversation where all the aspects (positive and negative) are discussed openly.