Tuesday, February 19, 2013

“How I survived On-Campus Recruiting with Career Advancement’s Help” –by Elaine Gu

As a senior at the University of Chicago, I recently survived the fall on-campus recruiting season. Seven very stressful weeks, 14 first-round interviews, and four final-rounds later, I am overjoyed to have gotten an offer to be a consultant (my dream profession) in New York City starting next September.

Reflecting upon my recruiting experience, I have some tips for those of you who will be going through the same thing in the future. It’s an extremely hectic process, but it’s all worth it in the end.
  1. Network – while it’s nice to believe that things in life are based on merit, that’s unfortunately not how recruiting works. You might have an almost perfect GPA and a stellar extra-curricular track, but if you don’t network, you could lose an interview/position to someone with much less impressive accomplishments but engaged in extensive networking.  Unless you come from a very well-connected family or you have some powerful friends, the employer information sessions at Career Advancement are your best source for networking your way to that initial interview. 
  2. Work those information sessions – don’t get distracted by the tempting food that employers bring, you’re there on a mission. Try to talk to a variety of people, from the big shots to the recent graduates to the recruiters (depending on the firm, each of these types of people has varying power in deciding who to interview). Be aggressive but not overly dominating. Don’t ask dumb questions (yes, those do exist) and introduce yourself before you speak so that people can remember you. Also, ask for business cards so you can follow up afterwards.
  3. Contemplate your life – during an interview, all questions are fair game. You might be asked anything from the standard “why did you choose to major in ___” to questions that will take you back, like “if you were a superhero, what power would you want?” (And yes, that was an actual question that I received). Think through the motivations behind all the major decisions you’ve made in life, be able to back up every flaw, strength, and favorite class with multiple examples, and think of some quirky knowledge so you can be prepared for the “I’m just going to sit here for five minutes. Entertain me/teach me something” question. 
  4. Know your resume – while you should know the motivations for everything decision you made and all you have accomplished in life, you should especially know everything that’s on your resume. That means if your resume says you helped a company increase sales by 38.4% or taught English to a class of 27 students from June-Sept. 2011, you better not say a different number/date during an interview. You will lose all credibility if what you say conflicts what’s on your resume. Make sure to schedule an appointment with Career Advancement for a resume review. You can log into Chicago Career Connection to make an online appointment with an advisor. 
  5. Research the company – always do your due-diligence on the firm before going into your interview. That means going on their website, talking to employees, reading employee reviews online, etc. Find qualities unique to each firm and know what each pride themselves in. When that “why do you want to work for us?” question comes up (which it has in about half my interviews), a generic answer like “it’s got a collaborative work environment with excellent growth opportunities” is not going to win you brownie points with the interviewer. 
  6. Research the role – know exactly what your role entails before you go in. If you’re interviewing for an investment banking analyst position, don’t say your weakness is Excel or that you think formatting is a waste of time. If you’re applying to a consultant position, don’t talk about how much you fear flying in airplanes. Know the position and fit your strengths/interests around it.
  7.  Practice, practice, practice – they say practice makes perfect, and this is especially true when it comes to interviews. A lot of people do practice interviews with their friends, but if you find that awkward (or don’t want your friends to judge you), schedule a session with a Career Advancement practice interviewer.  Simply call the Career Advancement main line at 773-702-7040 Depending on your specific needs, you can book a session with an interviewer who specializes in a particular industry or schedule a general behavioral interview. Not only will the interviewer lead you through a mock session, they will also provide constructive feedback at the end.
  8. Brush up on industry specific knowledge – being personable and eloquently answering behavior interviews will take you far, but more often than not (especially if you’re interviewing for business/consulting/finance/IT industries), technical questions will come up. If you’re applying to be a trader, practice mental math and read through the top 20 most frequently asked brainteasers. If you’re applying for consulting, know about general business strategy and practice market sizing. Again, the Career Advancement practice interviewers will be extremely helpful if you want to practice for technical interviews by calling Career Advancement and scheduling a practice session.