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Tag: Recruiting

This is how you make a resume

The best recruiting advice I can give is to make your resume exactly like this fictional representation of what Sergey Brin (one of Google’s co-founders)’s resume looks like (HT: Pierre Lindenbaum):

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Why do we like it?

  • It’s unnecessary, in a good way. Does anyone really need to read Sergey Brin’s resume to know he’s sharp? You are unlikely to be Sergey, but there are things you can do (doing informational interviews, networking, being recommended) which can help make your resume unnecessary in a good way
  • It’s simple. I can’t tell you how many resume’s I’ve read where the writer has tried to pack every last detail of his/her life into it. No. We don’t use resume’s to judge you as a human being – we use them to judge if you could be a good employee, worthwhile to interview.
  • Big font. Easy on the eyes. Memorable. To the point.

Rock on, Sergey Brins of the world.

(Image credit)

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4 criteria

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I know what you’re thinking. I’m too young and too early in my career to be able to give credible career advice (hasn’t stopped me, though, from giving recruiting advice). But, because of the New Year and the rough economy, I’ve been giving the same spiel several times, and, at least to my untrained ear, the following four criteria for career happiness are probably helpful guides for any new graduates or young “careerists” out there who are wondering what to look for in a job:

  1. Work with people that you actually like and want to be like. Even if you only work 9-to-5, you are still spending ~50% of your waking life at your job. If you can’t look around and find people that you like and admire, you need to get out, or you’ll wind up either upset about the job all the time, stuck in a rut, or both because 50% of your day is spent with people you either hate, can’t learn from, or worse, both. That doesn’t bode well for your emotional happiness, your performance review, or your career progression.
  2. Do something that interests or motivates you. Like I said, you are likely to spend at least 50% of your waking life at your job. If it’s not something that interests you or motivates you, that’s 50% of your life spent not developing. To be clear, you don’t have to be passionately in love with what you’re working on to be happy in your career, but if you can’t even say you’re “kinda” interested in what you do, that lack of interest will eventually show when you don’t go the extra mile for a promotion/raise or when you apply with a lackluster resume for a new job.
  3. Be in a field that’s growing, not shrinking. A rising tide lifts all boats. In this case, a field that’s growing is not likely to be downsized and much more likely to have plenty of promotions, raises, and growth opportunities, even for people who wouldn’t make the bar at a less rapidly growing field. Conversely, a field that’s shrinking, no matter how profitable, will eventually find itself firing more people than it hires, cutting back on salary more than giving raises, and killing projects rather than providing workers with new opportunities. Try to get on a boat that’s in a rising tide.
  4. Do something  where you can set yourself apart. Almost all of business strategy is motivated to respond to or shape one thing: “commoditization.” In the same way that tissue paper is a commodity and hence very cheap, job skills can also rapidly become commodities. And when that happens, the person with those skills will find their salary and prospects disappear. Someone with skills which set them apart from the flock will find plenty of prospects and plenty of salary.

Any person who has a job which fulfills all 4 criteria above will be in a good position career-wise, regardless of starting salary or sector. Many people I’ve spoken with focus on just one or two of these, oftentimes ignoring #4, or they focus only on things like the reputation of a company or the starting salary. The danger of that is that you may find yourself in a job where you are not valued or not developing or just plain unhappy with what you do on a daily basis, and regardless of the short-term benefits of that course of action, it leaves you in a bad position longer-term.

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Resume/cover letter pet peeves

This may come a little late for those of you who are already in the middle of recruiting season, but having gone over in excess of 100 applications, I felt it’s my duty to at least try to make a few things clear about what I absolutely hate when I’m doing resume reads (apologies if the tone is a bit aggressive, but I’m really tired of running into applications with these problems):

  • Not following the directions – This is top of the list for me, and it almost warrants a complete disqualification of an applicant from my perspective. This is your one chance to prove to the company you’re applying to that you’re a great choice – and you can’t even follow the clearly stated directions? If the instructions say, “submit two applications through two different websites” – I don’t care if one website is poorly designed, if you want the job you’re going to submit it twice. If the instructions say “include your SAT score”, and you don’t because of some sort of moral objection – I don’t care, because apparently you don’t want this job enough to overcome that objection. Please, people. Most companies aren’t trying to make this difficult.
  • Cover letters that make you sound like someone I’d rather throw darts at than work with – Don’t get me wrong. To get hired you’ll probably have to do some gloating. And, there’s nothing wrong with using your cover letter to try to explain away a deficiency or two in your application. But, when your cover letter does nothing but convey either how you are someone who thinks you’re better than all the people around you, I find myself asking, “do I really want to work with someone like you?” and answering “No, I’m going to pass on this one.” It may be a little petty, but remember, its more important for a business to not hire bad people than it is for them to make sure every good candidate gets his/her fair chance.
  • Purpose statements – Your purpose is self-obvious. Its to get a job at the firm you’re applying to. If your resume doesn’t establish that you have the qualifications and passion to do the job, either change your resume so that the “purpose statement” becomes a waste of time/space or don’t apply for the job.
  • Skill: I’m great at Microsoft Office – Really? Unless you are super-super-kickass at using Word and PowerPoint and Excel (and I mean, you could teach the hardcore investment bankers and consultants a thing or two), don’t mention this. Nobody really cares (when’s the last time you heard a company hire a banker/consultant/analyst because of their Office skills?), and everybody knows you’re just pretending to have more computer skills than you actually have.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

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Recruiting lessons

image If the sudden increase in emails from my company’s recruiting staff are any indication, the recruiting season is back in full gear! For many, this will bring enormous amounts of stress, but it doesn’t have to be that way. For starters, I’ve posted a number of tips in the past about:

But, while I’ve focused a great deal in the past on advice for how to land a job you want, I’ve spent relatively little time talking about how to select a job. On that front, I have four tips:

  1. Reputation matters. A lot.
  2. Find out what people actually do. Including the bad parts.
  3. Determine what sort of training and mentorship is available.
  4. Understand the working environment.

The practical minded out there (this blogger has been guilty of this many times) will say, “I’ll worry about that after I get a few offers.” And, on some level, especially in college/business school, that is true. But, the fact of the matter is that recruiting is a very time consuming and tiring process. The cycle of going to company presentations, chatting up people who are constantly sizing you up, preparing resumes and cover-letters, and interviewing took up valuable time which I would have preferred to spend with my friends or on things of greater interest to me. Worse than the opportunity cost of spending all your time applying for jobs you’re not interested in, it can leave you in a position where you, at best, are apathetic towards an offer and, at worse, leave you in a place which can actually be detrimental to your professional development. Instead, I would advise that you focus very early on in narrowing your search so that you can tailor your resume’s, cover letter’s, and conversations to fit the firms you’d actually like working for.

image 1. Reputation matters. A lot: If there is one thing that I learned during my two years in consulting, it is that the reputation of a company is everything. While this may seem a bit obvious, I think what most people don’t understand is the magnitude of the impact that reputation can have. It dictates things ranging from the money that a firm can make for a particular engagement or project to what sorts of engagements a firm will get to handle. Some informal conversations that I’ve had revealed that firms with stronger reputations will not only land more interesting, longer-term engagements (e.g. multi-month strategy projects vs. 2-week fact-finding projects), but that for the same project, a firm with a strong reputation can charge significantly more (I’ve heard gues-timates of pricing varying by over 50% between top-tier/specialist firms and second-tier shops). When you also consider the weight that the reputation of your previous employers has when you’re looking for new jobs (there are quite a few private equity/venture capital firms that require applicants to be from top-tier banks/consulting firms), it should become pretty clear that the reputation should be a very important consideration.

To be 100% clear, this doesn’t mean that you should only focus your time on “big name” companies. After all, while McKinsey is a great consulting firm, they may not get you where you want to go if you’re interested in PR or marketing or even in a specific type of consulting, like IT, or a specific industry expertise. What it does mean is that you should figure out what you want to build credibility around and find companies which can help you do that. This will help you develop your own skills and capabilities and position you well for the next job.

2. Find out what people actually do. Especially the bad parts. The recruiting process is as much a process for companies to find out more about their applicants, as it is a process for prospective applicants to find out more about the firm. This means that you shouldn’t be the only one answering tricky questions.

While you can ask direct questions like “what do you do?”, “how much travel do you do?”, and “what sort of hours do you work?”, you should be aware that any firm with a half-decent recruiting process will have already prepped its people with answers to those questions. While those answers won’t be outright lies, they are oftentimes couched in “spin” to mask un-pleasantries about the job and are generally too unspecific to help you understand what you really need to know about a job to determine if you like it (or, perhaps more correctly, if the rewards outweigh the bad aspects of the job).

Instead, ask strategic (“tricky”) questions, like:

  • What were you doing last week/month/yesterday at work? (More difficult to “apply spin” when you’re trying to recall something specific)
  • What do you do for fun outside of work? (Indirect way to get a sense of what sort of control people have over their work-life balance)
  • If you could change one or two things about your job, what would they be?
  • What was your best day at work? (Get a sense of what sort of on-the-job rewards, responsibilities, and recognition are possible)
  • What was your worst day at work? (High probability of “spin” in the answer, but still valuable to understand)
  • How many people stay at the firm for longer than 3 years? Why? Where do they go? (Good measure of whether or not people like the job and why)
  • Where do most of your non-college recruits come from? (A good way to assess what sort of person fits in and what sort of skills the firm can help you develop)

image 3. Determine what sort of training and mentorship is available. Success in your career is highly dependent on what sort of skills you can pick up over time and what sort of opportunities you choose to pursue. To that end, understanding what sort of formal training programs are available and how the firm’s more senior members think about mentoring is something that should be on top of every recruit’s mind.

I personally did not even think about mentorship when I did recruiting in college, so I am very lucky that I wound up at a firm with a wide range of training programs and where partners and managers place emphasis on providing advice and coaching to more junior folk. This sort of luck is not something you (or I) should ever count on, and I would highly advise you to find out:

  • Does the firm have ongoing training programs throughout an employee’s career? What sort of training? (Or are there just introductory programs at the start of employment and routine training on rules?)
  • Who conducts the training? (This can help establish whether or not the firm values training and mentorship enough to take senior staff away from their day jobs to do it, or whether or not training is an after-thought)
  • Who do individuals at the firm turn to for advice about their careers? (Is management willing and able to help their workers?)
  • Does the company let employees switch between different roles/divisions? (This is usually a good sign that the firm cares about developing its people by exposing them to more things)

4. Understand the working environment. There are a lot of little things which really can impact how you feel about a job. The challenge is identifying these things. Below, I’ve attached a list of things which I didn’t realize would matter to me so much:

  • Dress – Being required to wear a suit and a tie every day would be a nightmare for me, and so I am fairly grateful that my firm only requires me to dress semi-formally.
  • Location – I love the Bay Area. If you want me to work for you, you better be in the Bay Area.
  • Food – I strongly believe that offices should have breakfast cereal available. Some of my coworkers could pass on breakfast cereal, and complain that we don’t have enough in-office lunches. To each their own.
  • Face-time – Some people (like this blogger) would rather leave the office early to work from home, while some people want work to be only conducted in the office. And some people would rather not show up at all. Understanding where you lie on that spectrum and where the company you’re interested in working at lies on that spectrum is important.
  • Non-business Internet use – Consulting hours are very variable. Some days you’ll be in a rush all day. Some days you’ll have nice valleys of work intensity. As a result, at least at the firm I work at, nobody really minds if you’re on YouTube or Facebook or an RSS reader, as long as you get your work done on time. Some companies do mind. I don’t think I could work for one of those.
  • Socializing at work – Different firms have different approaches to socializing at work. And sometimes, within the same firm, different divisions and groups have different unofficial policies on socializing. If you are the type of person who can’t socialize at work (or stomach other people socializing while you’re working), then you definitely need to know these things.
  • Parties – Are company parties loud and crazy? Or soft and subdued? Are employees friends outside of work?
  • Start/End of day – Some companies have no set start time. Other companies expect you in by 8 AM. Other companies don’t mind as long as you’re in by 10 AM. Depending on how far you plan to live from the office and how late you wake up, this may be an important criteria.

These are just a few examples of things to ask about. What’s important is that you consider what sort of working environment you need to be productive, and find out whether or not the firm you’re talking to can deliver that environment. If they can’t, then it doesn’t really matter how much you like the company: if you’re unproductive, your career will suffer.

Hopefully these four tips help are helpful for people pursuing recruiting. Anyone else have any other tips on how to identify companies that fit you?

(Image credit – Freaking News) (Image credit – gossip) (Image Credit – Mentor)

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Employer social networking

Did you read my post on the pitfalls of having Social Networking profiles while maintaining a profession identity and think, “Ben’s just exaggerating”?

imageThink again (HT: Christine), a CareerBuilder.com survey found that over 20% of employers do look (and an additional 10% will start looking soon) for the social networking profiles of jobseekers, and, in fact, 1/3 of employers have found information which caused them to drop a job candidate.

But, as I mentioned before, instead of thinking of this as a reason to restrict access to your Facebook account to only those who know your magic 52-digit password, think of it as an opportunity to put your best foot forward. After all, 1/4 of employers found information on social networks which helped convince them to hire a candidate.

So, what to do? First step, clean out your profile pages of:

  • Drug/alcohol use: Yes, it’s cool that you drank your weight in beer at that keg party, but that’s really not what your employer wants to see
  • Inappropriate photos: Unless you’re interviewing for a position as an adult film star or a mafia enforcer, leave out those “compromising” pictures
  • Examples of poor communication: “I’s am can communicateding really goodly” and other less dramatic examples of poor spelling and bad grammar don’t reflect well on your attention to detail or your ability to communicate with your coworkers, clients, and superiors
  • Bad-mouthing people at work: It doesn’t matter how bad the boss or how obnoxious the coworker, bad-mouthing them on a public forum reflects very poorly on you and your professionalism.
  • Evidence that you misrepresented yourself on your resume: Writing on your resume that you have an MBA from Harvard doesn’t make it true, especially if your Facebook profile says you’re a high school dropout.
  • Confidential information about past employers: This is not only stupid, but illegal.

Second step? Add some information to present a “more balanced” view of you online:

  • “Compatible” interests: Nobody expects you to be super-interested in everything your employer (current or prospective) does, but you should be able to show some baseline level of enthusiasm for the job that you’re trying to land.
  • “Professional” photos: As much as employers would deny it, a lot about a first impression is visual. So, while you don’t need to take down all the pictures of you from your trip to Cancun, you should definitely make sure there are pictures of you up there looking sharp and presentable.
  • Depth of thought: Want your employer to think you’re smart and goal-oriented? Put something on there that makes them believe it. Link to interesting and thought-provoking articles or blogs. Include quotes which convey your personality the way you want to be thought of.
  • Evidence that your resume is accurate: It never hurts to befriend real coworkers or classmates, or join online communities/groups which reflect the accomplishments on your resume.
  • Get Linkedin: I used to think that LinkedIn was just Facebook, but for a slightly older demographic. But then, I read Guy Kawasaki’s great list of ten ways to use LinkedIn, and then watched consultants at my firm use it to get access to interviews and sources of information which I had thought inaccessible. It’s real and has a ton of value.
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They’re watching

As promised, here is some (additional) advice to the countless people out there searching for jobs (esp. those in the consulting industry). To a lot of you this might be obvious, but it’s so important that I’m going to underscore it again.

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Think of that Sting song — every firm that you apply to will be watching you. This watching comes in two forms, both of which you need to be aware of:

  1. Big Brother The firms you apply to will be checking your online presence — meaning, they will be looking at your Facebook account, your MySpace account, any associated blogs, your LinkedIn account, etc.
  2. Every interaction you have with the firm up until the moment you are hired (and sometimes even after) will be scrutinized and (at least at my firm) recorded so that the firm will have a good repository of information on your motivations and behavior.

While some of you will (naturally) respond by attempting to restrict all such access to your personal life, let me suggest an alternative approach:

  1. Instead of thinking this as an invasion of your privacy, think of this, instead, as an opportunity to put your best foot forward. Instead of clamping down on access to your Facebook/MySpace account, clean the account of less “savory” material and then present a selective slice of your profile — showcase what you would want a recruiter to see: interests and books which reflect your depth of intelligence, quotes which suggest depth of thought, etc. And, this is a perfect time to revamp your LinkedIn profile — get recommendations, show off connections, etc.
  2. There’s little you can do that’s proactively good about the fact that a lot of these firms are recording and observing every detail of your every interaction with them, except to be aware. Too many people don’t put their best foot forward (e.g. saying stupid things while tipsy on the company dollar) — long story short: DON’T BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE.
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It’s beginning to look a lot like September

What does September mean? To countless parents out there, it’s time to for your good-for-nothing kids to head back to school. But, to the select group of college/MBA students out there, it’s something much more horrifying: recruiting.
Last year, I posted a brief sketch on how recruiting works and some general tips on how to improve your chances. I’ll probably extend the series somewhat this recruiting season, but to get everyone off on the right foot (and more or less give away a pretty key hint), here’s a brilliantly constructed video from consulting firm Deloitte:

Yes, it can really be that simple.

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CTLs

One of the most challenging things about the shift from one field to any other field is dealing with jargon mismatch. What’s especially jarring is trying to learn new meanings for acronyms that I already learned different meanings for.

Case in point: at my firm, consultants with MBAs who’ve proven themselves and are on track towards promotion are called Case Team Leaders — signifying their emerging role as workstream leaders in our case teams. Seeing as consultants love their TLAs (three letter acronyms), Case Team Leaders are of course called CTLs.

image On the other hand, in immunology, where I spent a reasonable chunk of my scientific time, CTLs refer to cytotoxic lymphocytes. These cells are oftentimes called killer T-cells, because of their role in seeking out and destroying cells which have been taken over by viruses or cancer.

And, even though the only thing remotely similar about the two different CTLs is a propensity to kill things that don’t quite fit :-), it still takes a reasonable amount of effort for me not to laugh when I hear that acronym being used to describe my supervisors.

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More Recruiting Tips

Hat tip to fellow consultant and recruiting buddy S. Chen who not only presents a lot more useful advice but also an amusing tidbit which I’m sure too many students undergoing recruiting can probably also relate to:

It’s okay if you fell asleep at a company presentation — I did that for my own company’s during the process! I know, so sad, but try to sit in the back if you’ve been having a rough day.”

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Recruiting Tips

With recruiting season kicking into full speed in campuses across the United States, I felt it might be helpful for consultant-hopefuls if I share some tips I picked up, divided into the four phases I enumerated last time.

Phase 1: Presentation

  1. Go to the presentations – practically, there is not much you can do to improve your odds of getting a job offer by going to a presentation, but there is a good chance that you’ll learn something about the company which will help when you are trying to pick where you actually want to work once you’ve received your offers.
  2. Ask questions – The more you know about a company, the better position you’ll be in to talk in an interview about why you want to work for that company — even if it’s mostly bullshit….

Phase 2: Resume Drop

  1. List academic awards – If anyone’s ever told you that “GPA doesn’t matter”, guess what, they lied. The truth of the matter is, most firms get thousands of applications, and they don’t have a good way to distinguish between applicants. Therefore, one of the first filters they apply on the resumes is a GPA screen — it’s the only way they can guess at who worked in college (and thus might actually show up to the job) and who’s “smarter than average”. Of course, if you’re working on your resume, it’s probably too late to up your GPA, but listing academic awards can quickly boost one’s “apparent smart-ness” and may win you just enough distinction to be taken seriously.
  2. Use action words – Look at your resume. If every bullet point does not begin with a verb explaining something that you did, then either delete or fix it. If the action word is something like “assisted” or “helped” or “attended meetings”, then replace it. When a resume reviewer reads that, one of the first thoughts that come to mind will probably be “so instead of actually doing something, you sat on your hands and watched/attended a meeting?” Yes, it is a hasty generalization to make, but tough luck, you’re dealing with people who can only make hasty generalizations about you, so make them good generalizations. Make sure all your points are full of action words. Real action words.
  3. Give specific numbers – Nobody really believes the numbers that they see on resumes. But, their emotional impact and the boost in one’s credibility are real. Do I really think you managed that $10,000 budget all by yourself? No. But do I think its impressive that you were involved in the budget effort of a group that had $10,000? Probably. Using a number tells the world, “hey, the job I did, even if it was just deliver coffee, was important — and I’m so confident in myself that I’m willing to tell you all about it.”
  4. Don’t make dumb mistakes / omissions – Many resumes from otherwise great applicants are rejected for very basic reasons. Grammatical mistakes. Spelling mistakes. Not following the instructions. Seriously, if the instructions say, “tell us your GPA and your mother’s maiden name.” They both better be there. Failure to do so says that you’re sloppy, can’t follow directions, and will probably be just as sloppy and incapable of doing what’s needed in a job setting. Make sure that you read, and re-read your resume. Then make sure that your friends read it. That your career counselor reads it. And then read it some more. Incidentally, make sure you do the same thing for your cover letter. Its incredibly rare for a cover letter to have real positive weight, but dumb mistakes — like using a competitor’s name or making clear grammatical or spelling errors — do have real negative weight in the process.
  5. Use the largest font and the largest margins you can. LaTeX embodies good text output. And it uses huge margins and large font. While this isn’t always possible in a resume which you have to cram your life story onto one piece of paper, it should be noted that even the most rational of human beings is positively swayed by clean, clear layout. So, use big font and big margins.

Phase 3: Who Got the Interview?

  1. Relax. There’s not much you can do after you submit the resume, so there’s no point stressing about it. There’s no point getting angry at people who got interviews that you didn’t. And there’s no point in doing anything but relaxing. A few months later, you won’t even remember the names of the firms that rejected you.
  2. Practice. If you’re doing a consulting interview, go buy Marc Cosentino’s Case in Point which was written by a Harvard career counselor and is essentially the bible for consulting interviews. It gives a quick-and-easy overview of the consulting interview setup and has many practice cases you can do with friends. Regardless of what job you’re applying for, however, practice. Practice delivering answers to standard questions that you should NOT trip up on (e.g. “why do you want to join this firm?”, “what’s your greatest strength?”, “why consulting?”, etc.). Practice doing quick mental and pen-and-paper math that almost every firm will throw at you in a college-level job interview. Practice doing case interviews. Practice — it will make you less nervous during the real thing, and it will make you better.

Phase 4: Interview

  1. Be polite. Unless you’re Albert Einstein brilliant, you won’t be able to get away with being rude. And, let’s face it, quick 30 minute interview rounds rarely give you enough of a chance to be brilliant. So, while showing basic courtesies won’t get you the job, failure to do so will almost certainly disqualify you because everyone else is on their best behavior. So, no offensive jokes, and make sure you thank your interviewers verbally and by email after the interview.
  2. Slow down. As a debater in high school, I found that speaking really quickly and still being clear and intelligent were not mutually exclusive. Most people don’t feel the same way. If anything, most people find the speakers who are able to speak deliberately (although not painfully slowly) sound more confident and intelligent. So, take a deep breath and speak slowly — you’re probably nervous enough that it’ll speed up to just the right pace.
  3. Get sleep. It’s commonsense, but most college students don’t. So it’s worth mentioning here. It’s hard to seem intelligent when you’re sleepy — instead, you may seem bored, lazy, unsure of yourself, or just plain sloppy.
  4. Hand gestures. When in doubt, leave your hands on the table. If you’re the type of person who can’t control what your hands are doing when you’re nervous, keeping your hands on the table will prevent wild gesticulations. If you can, then ignore this advice.
  5. Write stuff down. Two reasons for this. The first is that nobody wants to speak to a dis-interested audience. Writing stuff down while the interviewer talks is a good way to show that you are interested (even if you’re not). The second is that it makes sure you are paying close enough attention to be able to answer the questions being posed to you.
  6. Treat the interview like its an episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Say out loud what you’re thinking. Even if its trivial — it helps creates a personal connection between you and the interviewer, and it lets the interviewer know where you’re going so that they can either (a) be impressed by your clear thought process or (b) direct you towards the right answer (which is what they’re all trying to do).
  7. Let the interviewer help you. Real business problems are difficult. That’s why consultants get paid reasonably well. The interviewer knows that he/she will have to guide you to the right answer because any problem can be tackled from many different vantage points. A candidate who refuses to listen to the interviewer’s hints is not only hurting him/herself, but is also demonstrating a lack of understanding of nuance.
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Recruiting in a Nutshell

Senior year in college. For many students, it’s a time of joy and a time of reflection. But for those intending to join the finance or consulting worlds, it is potentially a time of stress and turmoil. At the major universities, future workers flock towards their career counselors, dust off their resumes, and prepare for a a few months of recruiting drama and stress.

The general process for recruiting at these firms consists of four main phases:

Phase 1: Presentation

The beginning of the school year at major universities brings a multitude of interested employers to campuses teeming with legions of students hoping to grab gainful employment. At these events, major employers shell out a pretty penny to rent out campus auditoriums, hotel conference rooms, and space in local restaurants in the hopes that the spectacle will be dazzling enough that the really smart, hard-working soon-to-be-graduates will be interested in checking out the firm. Words like “exciting”, “room to grow”, “fun place to work”, and “great way to start a career” flow freely as company representatives shower students with confidence-boosting praise. In this day and age, the prospective employers will also attempt to portray themselves as youth-friendly, talking about how often their firms hold parties and “fun activities” and stressing their commitment to diversity (although ironically not necessarily represented by the people who lead those companies / who show up to recruiting events). At the same time, students, drawn by free food and the hope that they won’t be begging for employment next year, attend these sessions hoping to get their foot in the door with the right people and say the right thing at the right time.

It is my experience that with the exception of the really stellar firms and the really amazing individuals or the individuals who already had a “foot in the door”, it’s pretty rare that these events succeed for either party. Students almost never get a real leg up in the recruiting process, and the most any student can hope for is an assessment of whether or not a firm is the right fit for him/her. Firms which lack stellar names, alas, don’t attract the talent they are hoping for and may simply be wasting good shrimp cocktail. But, because every other firm does this, and because every other student is trying this, both students and firms find themselves forced into this sort of pageantry. Thankfully, these events have enough free food and enough interesting people that, provided you don’t get too stressed out, can be fun and interesting.

Phase 2: The Resume Drop

Following the presentations is, unfortunately, the horrible process of compressing your life into a single page. It leads to many tears as students realize that, had they partied a little less, studied a little bit more, or maybe taken that one extracurricular more seriously, that their paper representation of themselves would look more impressive. The resume crafting also leads to existential angst as countless students see the past couple years of their life condensed onto a single, flimsy sheet of paper and wonder — “was that it?”

Yes, really, that was it. And then, the hour of judgement is come… (PS: nobody really reads your cover letter — stop working on it and go do something that will actually be covered on the paper people actually read)

Phase 3: Who Got the Interview?

There are some people who have truly spectacular resumes. The kids that were made fun of in class for always answering questions in section, always going the extra mile in their extracurriculars — they’re the ones who’re laughing now.

The closest to describing what this phase is like is seeing who made the cut after sports tryouts.

Phase 4: Interviews

This is the meat of the recruiting process. At this point, the exact nature of the interview structure varies from industry-to-industry and from firm-to-firm. But typically there are two rounds of interviews. The first round typically occurs somewhere on campus or nearby (aka you haven’t proven yourself yet, so why should they fly you anywhere). For consultants, the interviews are 2/3 case interview, 1/3 fit interview. The former means that interviewers will give students a simplified business problem to solve whereby the student will have to demonstrate some semblance of fluency with numbers, some ability to cope with sudden changes in context or circumstance, and critical thinking ability. The latter is a basic assessment of the candidate’s leadership potential, fit with the firm culture and goals.

For those who did well enough to move past the first round, there are subsequent rounds of interviews which are usually held in nicer places and, oftentimes, in the very office that one is hoping to land a job in. It is more or less the same thing as the first round, except the questions are more challenging and the interviewers tend to be of higher tenure and level than those from the first round.

With these interviews, its helpful to remember that the goal is not to stump you, but to understand what it would be like to work with you. Practice talking about yourself / your resume in an articulate manner conveying both maturity and relatability and answering case questions without getting flustered will be far more valuable than cramming any specific knowledge.

If one survives the grueling experience of back-to-back interviews, and is, possibly good at it, then he or she is rewarded with the highest privilege of being a college student: servitude to a corporate entity in return for a paycheck and the ability to inflict this process on the next crop of recruits!

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