Winning! Interview Tips from a Career Advisor

by Sachin Kashyap '15

Sachin Kashyap '15

Sachin Kashyap '15

Suit? Check.  Booth-branded portfolio? Check. Case prep/stock pitches/company research?  Double check. Excuse me, Sir or Madam, while I dominate this interview.  

Not so fast!  Interviews are difficult to fake, and the questions are hard.  Eye contact, smile warmth, posture, grooming, dress, tone of voice – these first-impression factors are critical, of course.  Substantially less attention is often paid to knowing your value proposition.  Work from the inside out in order land your dream gig.  

Who, me?  Yes, you!  It is important to use your resume as a springboard into your unique story.  Your may be asked about a specific project that you led on the consulting engagement for Company XYZ; more likely, questions will relate to the Company XYZ business strategy, management team, or latest deal. Answers should inform why your perspective is differentiated - your investing style, projection management framework, or leadership philosophy, for example.

I want you…to want me!  You were a high-flying executive at your previous firm, but now your interviewer is interested in what you can bring to their business.  Career switchers should remember the 80%/20% rule – you will spend 80% of the interview talking about 20% of your experience, and that’s OK!  Your interviewer wants to know how your skills are relevant to your prospective career, not your past.  

Speak less, say more.  The typical MBA is a silver-tongued go-getter that is not used to failure.  Booth stands out remarkably for being a tools-based program which enables our students to do the hardest work rather than just talk about it.  Don’t let nerves or your lack of understanding come out as, for lack of a better term, bull #%&!  It’s ok to pause before you answer a question.  It is more important to appear thoughtful than to appear fast.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Your last interview is going to be your best.  From start to finish, you are going to get stumped, have challenging interviews and easy ones; as with most endeavors worth pursuing, interview excellence comes with practice.    Ask your second years for help, attend wInterview, and don’t let your top firm be your first interview.  

Question master.  Just as in Kings Cup, predictable questions are ineffective in pursuing your goal.  Use this opportunity to get some insight into your interviewer as well as the company.  Questions which appear engineered to impress are likely to come across as disingenuous; limit your questions to those topics which you are truly concerned about.  And, remember, everyone’s favorite topic is themselves, and mentors make the best cheerleaders.

Close the deal.  Your interviewer is responsible for bringing in the candidates with the highest probability of success. If you are interviewing with one of your top choices, close the interview expressing your interest in the company.  If the company is your absolute top choice, say so!  In the latter case, be ready to accept an offer if you receive one.

Get lucky.  As with many opportunities in life, you can create your own luck by preparing for opportunities.  However, you should balance a healthy dose of self-criticism with an appreciation that outcomes are often unpredictable.  If you are at Booth, you are probably already pretty tough on yourself  – don’t let interview season become your worst enemy.

Thank you.  Your parents taught you this, but it deserves repeating – always follow up with a thank you note.  Don’t expect a response but do expect that you will be on the interviewer’s contact list if the company is interested in pursuing your candidacy.

May the odds be ever in your favor.