Getting an interview is tough. You have already stood out from the crowd. You have cleared space on a very busy calendar and have been given the opportunity to back up what you have on paper and present yourself to a potential future employer. This shouldn’t be taken lightly. Make the most of it - It is, after all, your time to shine! There are a various types of interviews and each one has unique characteristics and therefore you must approach each one in a different way.
Informational InterviewsOne of the best ways to learn about any industry is to arrange a few informational interviews, hosted by someone already established.
Informational interviews are essentially another means of networking; allowing you to meet people doing the work you eventually want to be doing. That's one part of it, the other is the exposure you get to a firm, an industry, a group of people who may, later down the line, be in a position to offer you a job. But it's critical to remember, an informational is not an interview - it's your chance to show off a little but more importantly to ask the questions you need to know the answers to before you have an actual interview.
Informational interviews can be initiated in multiple ways ranging from a referral through friends and family, a LinkedIn or Facebook message or a direct e-mail or phone call to a contact of interest, maybe from among your school’s alumni. These all offer insight to the industry and specific companies, and sometimes direct access to recruiters.
Identify your contact of interest, and then send a brief letter or email requesting 20-30 minutes of the interviewee’s time. It's best to suggest a few possible times when you'd like to meet; this gives the person ample opportunity to coordinate schedules and shows that you are serious and proactive.
Asking for an informational interview is not an opportunity to push your resume to be circulated within the company. It's nice if it works out that way but don't go in there expecting it.
General Interview Tips
Think before you answer - This may seem obvious but forcing yourself to take a few seconds before you answer a question will help you formulate a well structured response. It also buys you some time for when the questions get really tricky.
Don't talk at them - Try and have a conversation, it will make for a much more enjoyable experience if you feel like they can talk to you and vice versa. While you should have planned questions ready, remember that you are having a fluid conversation in which you are building a relationship with someone who may play a significant role in the progression of your career.
Be active - Listen to what is being said. This is your opportunity to determine if the organization is going to be a good fit. Ask about the culture of the firm; ask what characteristics they value - the interview is an opportunity for you to work out if this is a place you see yourself coming in to every morning for the next couple of years at least.
Sample Questions and Topics for an Informational InterviewThe subject areas that are typically covered in an informational interview include:
- Work environment - Ideal skill set and qualifications
- Industry trends - Lifestyle
- Career Path and advancement - Challenges and Rewards
Open-ended questions that will stimulate discussion include:
- How did you get to this position?
- What do you like most about what you do, and what would you change if you could?
- How do people break into this field?
- Are there particular skills or personality traits that you think are needed in your kind of practice?
- What are the types of jobs that exist where you work and in the industry in general?
- What does a typical career path look like in your industry?
- What are some of the biggest challenges facing your company and your industry today?
- How do you see your industry changing in the next 5 - 10 years?
- What do you read to keep up with developments in your field?
- Describe a typical day at work.
- How many hours do you normally work in a week?
- What is unique or differentiating about your company compared to other companies you have worked for?
- What can I do now to help me find employment in this field?
- What do you suggest as the best way for someone with my experience to approach prospective employers?
- Can you think of anyone else that I should talk to? (Remember to request permission to use the interviewer’s name when contacting whomever is recommended)
After your informational interview session is scheduled, make sure you are clear about what you want to accomplish in the interview. Use these sessions to narrow your focus on a discipline, company, or industry. Don't ask superficial questions to elicit answers that could be found on the internet or just for the sake of asking. While this isn't a job interview, you never know where it may lead.
In a nutshell, case interviews are used by consulting firms to understand your ability to structure your thoughts logically and concisely, by asking a candidate to provide responses to situational cases much like one would encounter when engaging a client. The case interview will allow the recruiter to assess your problem solving skills when dealing with complex or ambiguous issues and gauge your ability to make sound conclusions with limited facts in a short period of time.
Case interviews may be one-on-one, in a group setting or set up in a presentation format, but they all have the same goal - to assess a candidate’s ability to reason and defend a solution, but also being flexible enough to recognize if your solution is not ideal.
During case interviews, interviewers are generally looking for the following skills:
- Quantitative and qualitative skills
- Communication and presentation skills
- An inherent ability to ask probing questions
- Business skills and commercial acumen
There are a ton of resources available online and in bookstores to help you study and prepare for case interviews. We've picked a few of our favorite books to get you started:
- Ace Your Case!: Consulting Interviews: The WetFeet.com Insider Guide
- Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation
- How to Get Into the Top Consulting Firms: A Surefire Case Interview Method
Be sure to check out firm websites as well. Some consulting firms have their own prep tools, for example:
- Deloitte - http://careers.deloitte.com/united-states/students/students_internships.aspx?CountryContentID=13912
- Boston Consulting Group - http://www.bcg.com/join_bcg/interactive_case/default.aspx
- McKinsey - http://www.mckinsey.com/en/Careers/Apply/Problem_solving_test.aspx
Fit or Behavioral Interviews
In a fit interview, candidates are asked questions that relate directly to their experience in other positions or situations. You will be asked questions that will require you to cite specific examples from your professional and personal life as a response (see Deloitte's tips and tracks below), be prepared. They will also want to see what candidates are passionate about and frankly whether or not they like you and could see working with you day in and day out.
Having the best analytical skills, but not fitting with company culture or not giving the impression that you would represent the company properly in front of a client will not get you very far in the interview process; hence the importance of the “fit interview.”
Expect to be asked questions about:
- Leadership experiences
- Conflict management skills
- Challenges and stressful situations or persons you have had to face and how you have addressed these issues
- Your strengths and weaknesses
- Examples of your ability to work effectively in teams
Take the fit interview as an opportunity to have a general chat about your interests, talk through your resume, and provide the interviewer with a picture of who you really are. Never lie or exaggerate when answering questions; never talk about a bad experience with another company or boss. Always spin negatives into a positive; if you have to mention it at all or think it fits as a response to a question, think about how you overcame the challenge and what you learned. For example: if you've had a tough or painful experience with a former employer, or the question is something along the lines of "have you ever changed someone's opinion?" your answer may be along the lines of refining your approach to an issue or a personality, developing a more diplomatic method of communicating and so on. Remember to answer confidently and demonstrate energy. Be ready to show that consulting is a good fit for you and you are a good fit for the company.
Deloitte's Student Career section has some valuable resources, among them "Behavioral Interview Tips", here's what they advise:
The behavioral interview is the time to showcase your achievements and experience, as well as present your communications and interpersonal skills. It’s your opportunity to demonstrate your technical and functional capabilities, intellectual curiosity, and passion for making a personal impact. It also helps us understand how you’d fit in our culture, how you’d fit as a consultant, and your potential in a consulting career.
Tips for Success in the Behavioral InterviewWe encourage you to:
- Share personal experiences to illustrate your critical skills and success
- Describe experiences and career/life periods reflected in your resume
- Focus on the positives of all your past experiences and remain optimistic
- Use this discussion to learn more about Deloitte
- Relax, be yourself. and help us get to know you
- Use your time wisely; it's your time, make sure you get your points across
- Be specific: give specific examples where you had an impact and made a difference
Comparison of Traditional- versus Behavioral-Style QuestionsTraditional: “Tell me about a class project.”
Behavioral: “How did you go about deciding on your class project recommendation?”
Traditional: “What was the most difficult decision you had to make as an officer in…?”
Behavioral: “Give me an example of when you had to deal with adversity. How did you resolve it?”