How to Succeed in the New Age of Interviews

The process of securing an internship at an investment bank is both a daunting and strenuous endeavour. Through research and experiences of my own, I have gathered insights into how to prepare for and succeed in the search for an internship. I began by considering what to do to get an initial foot in the door, and how to set oneself apart from other candidates.

The beginning stages of the application process to a top-tier firm are much the same as any other. Provide your grade transcript, CV, and cover letter. You’re going to want to have top grades and a diverse range of life experiences.  The cover letter is the most important of these initial documents. A desired response from a recruitment manager would be “most cover letters I’m falling asleep. Reading your cover letter, I felt like I knew you.” Try to show your personal voice in your cover letter, don’t give some generic spiel about how you’ve graduated from ‘x’ university with ‘y’ degree. Vary your sentence length. Showing that you’re a good, emotive writer is important. Your cover letter should also be clear and easy to understand, as getting your point across is of utmost importance in the business world. In terms of CV specifications, keep your CV to one page. Write only your most impressive achievements. You want every sentence the manager reads to be a “wow” sentence. Start your CV off with a few sentences that set you apart as a candidate, be it your life background or unique experience set. Follow all of this advice and you might just get to stage two.

Stage two of the process may find you in front of your webcam, coming face to face with the recent recruiting tool developed be Hirevue. This involves being asked questions by a virtual man. You get 30 seconds to prepare a response and then two minutes to address the virtual man through the webcam. Be prepared for some difficult questions, an example being “what is a decision that you had to make in a fast-paced environment”, possibly prompting you to make the ironic response of “just now as I am taking part in this Hirevue process”. Almost certainly that is not the desired response. Whilst making realistic responses, you should also look into your webcam as if it is the eyes of a prospective manager. The webcam will record you, analysing your body language, eye contact, vocabulary, and anything else it can quantify. This will provide Hirevue with data that it will analyse to estimate how likely you are to be a successful candidate before a human even looks at your response. This can make for a very inhuman interview experience, but that is what the world is tending towards, so better get yourself acquainted with these technological advances.

If you continued to impress in step two, you’ll secure yourself an interview with a real human! This will likely be a technical phone interview in which you should have studied the potential terminology and conventions relevant to the industry. Your knowledge will be tested. This will be followed by a behavioural interview in which you give STAR (situation, task, action, result) responses to personal and teamwork questions. Just google STAR interview questions to find countless examples. It is good to have a pool of teamwork experiences to apply to the questions, considering both your internal feelings and external interactions. This step is possibly coupled with an aptitude test. These aptitude tests will assess your reading comprehension, numeracy skills, and logic skills in the form of pattern recognition. Succeed at all this and you’ll have made it to the final step!

The last stage involves being transported to the company headquarters to have face to face interviews. You’ll probably have 2 – 6 different interviews, each interview trying to pick your brain about a different aspect of your personality. These can often veer off script and you’ll do well as long as you have good conversational skills. These interviews are really to gauge your social competency. These firms want good all-rounders, and are looking for humble, kind, personable people. Teamwork skills are key. It is also pertinent that you remember all your interviewers’ names, you may be quizzed on them later in the day.

If you manage to jump through all of these hoops, congratulations, you are in! They’ll be in touch within a few hours to lock you in as you have proven that you are one of the most talented individuals around. Beyond step one all else will take place over the course of around a week, these top firms really do not mess around when securing talent. All of this makes for a difficult, stressful process, but that’s what work for a top company involves! Good luck in your endeavours, keep building a diverse range of experiences and keep on top of your studies and you’ll have a great shot.

Dean Franklet is a third year economics and finance student at the University of Canterbury where he is President of the largest commerce society on campus. Spending his life in Texas and then New Zealand with a few other stops along, he gives a unique global viewpoint to portray in his writing.

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5 Steps To Securing a Consulting Internship

Few internship schemes are as competitive as those offered by top management consulting firms – for many good reasons. Instead of making coffee, you will work on challenging projects as part of a team. Your salary will be more than decent. And even if you find out that consulting is not for you, the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired will be highly appreciated by any employer around the world. To get an internship though, it is important to know what to expect from the application process and crucial to prepare before it’s too late.

Here are 5 steps that will help you secure your dream internship:

1. Get to know the firms you’re applying to

At first glance, a lot of consulting firms seem similar and they all promise to solve their clients’ business problems in the most innovative manner. Once you do your research though, you should be able to figure out what sets them apart from one another. Who are their clients? Do they serve specific industries or do they have functional expertise in certain areas? Do they work on the client site or from the home office?

More importantly, however, you should get to know people at each firm. Most consultancies hold company presentations, networking events, or workshops for students at target universities, which enable you to get to know them better. If they don’t, you can try to contact alumni from your school or university who now work in consulting and arrange a phone call with them. Nothing tells you more about a firm than meeting the people who work there – the notion of a ‘company culture’ may sound like a cliché at first, but it genuinely provides insight. If you don’t like the people at the firm, will you really be able to spend long days working with them?

2. Spend some time perfecting your CV and cover letter

Consultants and recruiters often spend no more than a few seconds looking at your application when shortlisting interview candidates. To stand out among other applicants, you should not just meet most of the screening criteria – such as a good academic track record, relevant work experience, extracurricular activities and interesting hobbies – but should also show that you know the firm you’re applying to. Research what each firm is looking for in a candidate and adjust your CV and cover letter to match that profile. Think about why the firm you’re applying to attracts you and resort to the conversations you’ve had with its employees if appropriate.

3. Practice aptitude tests before taking them

In many countries you will have to take aptitude tests after you’ve sent in your application, either online or as part of an assessment centre. If you are naturally good at these numerical, verbal, and logical reasoning tests, don’t worry too much about it. If you’re not as confident though, then it should definitely not stop you from getting your internship! There are plenty of free practice tests around, so make good use of the resources available to you and be sure to analyse the correct answers. Soon you will discover certain patterns and learn what to look out for.

4. Get comfortable with case studies and develop your own style

Case studies are business problems you have to solve with the help of your interviewer and they are arguably the most difficult part of the application process. They involve coming up with a structure, calculating relevant business figures, and developing recommendations for a hypothetical client. Given there are hundreds of websites out there explaining how case studies work and how to approach them, I will not go into any details here. I will, however, stress the importance of practising them with others: Reading a case at home and doing it under time pressure with another person staring at you while you calculate large numbers in your head are two completely different things. Try to find other aspiring consultants in your area and set up meetings with them. If you can’t find anyone, use websites such as PrepLounge to find case study partners and start practicing at least a few weeks before your first interview. While you should definitely not overdo it – ultimately, your interviewers want to see how you think and not how well you can memorise solutions that may not even fit the case given – practicing case studies will help you develop your own way of structuring the problem and working towards the solution. Using your own methods instead of blindly following common frameworks will definitely help you stand out among other applicants.

5. Think about your past achievements and prepare for tough competency questions

Case studies only make up about half of each interview. The other half will be spent talking about your CV, your skills, and your attitudes towards topics such as teamwork and leadership. Of course, this part of the interview can vary significantly depending on your interviewers as well as your individual story, but it is worth thinking about some potential questions beforehand. Make a list of skills your potential employer may be looking for and write down one or two examples from your past where you have showcased each skill. Also think about problems you’ve had to face during past ventures, why they occurred, and how such situations could be solved. It is likely that your interviewer will drill far beyond the surface, so be prepared to discuss each statement you make in great depth.

If you’ve followed all of these steps, there’s only one more thing you can do to get your dream internship – show up on time, be confident, and rock your interviews. Good luck!

Max Kulaga is a finalist reading Economics and Management at the University of Oxford. As a former intern at L.E.K. Consulting in London and President of one of Oxford’s largest business societies, the German-born is keen on sharing his experiences and knowledge about the consulting industry.

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