Sunday, January 17, 2010

Advice for Sophomores wanting to break in, nailing the "weakness" question, and more

Today I'll be answering readers' questions, which are really helpful for those going through interviews -

1. I am sophomore at an Ivy League School and have a 3.4 GPA. I know there are no consulting internships for sophomores and good marketing ones are hard to come by. I am open to doing banking but it isn't where my true interest is--honestly I don't find the material that fascinating. What do you recommend I look for in a market that truly prefers juniors?

If your end goal is to land a summer internship as a junior or full time job at McKinsey / Bain / BCG, here's a list of what you should look at, in order of priority:
  • Look at consulting boutiques in every industry -- marketing, management, operations, technology, and so forth. By having consulting experience under your belt, the top management consultancies and marketing firms can see demonstrated interest and that you are serious in pursuing it as a career. Also, by having prior consulting experience, McKinsey / Bain / BCG and other firms will recognize that you are NOT one of the thousands of Ivy Leaguers who applies without knowing what consulting is. Many times some top boutiques do the same work as MBB but in a specialized industry (i.e. just healthcare, just media, you get the idea). So the type of exposure you'd be getting is similar to that at MBB and will prepare you well for junior year recruiting.
  • Second, management consulting firms look very highly upon finance internships, and in particular investment banking internships. This is because those with very strong quantitative skills tend to do very well in consulting -- it is an industry largely filled with those who can demonstrate linear, structured thinking to clients. I'd say as a consultant you are bound to work on a case where you need to make financial projections, and those coming from investment banking have familiarity with doing that.
Something to note here is that, if you can, you should really aim to get a position at a well-known firm, or a bulge bracket for finance, since it will do more to get your resume noticed and selected for a first round interview. A top notch internship will often overcome concerns about an average GPA.

In other words, if there are two candidates, MBB will often choose the 1st person over the 2nd.
Person 1. Ivy League, 3.5 GPA, junior summer internship at Goldman Sachs Tech, Media, Telecom Banking

Person 2. Same Ivy League school, 3.9 GPA, spend junior summer doing science research at school

2. How do you answer "what is your greatest weakness" in an interview?

First off, choose a real weakness -- don't try to twist a weakness into a strength because they know you're bullshitting.

Choose something distant (at least a year back) and something that doesn't reflect badly on how you would do on the job. Make sure you address how you have taken steps to improve.

Be anecdotal so that the interviewer understands clearly and easily what you are saying. Being specific also lets the interviewer know you are being sincere.

For example, for sales & trading, one student talked about a group project at school. He said that he is a hard worker and at times very intense, to the extent that sometimes he can be short to others and come off as abrasive. He then added that ever since that group project he has taken effort to develop good working relationships with others early on, and then was able to drive stronger results as a team.

3. How do I answer the "Why consulting / Why IBD / why finance?" question?

Your answer should be unique, as I've written about before.

Beyond that, stylistically, you should be as linear and clear as possible.

It should be logical, well thought-out, self-aware, and really hit home the elements of a firm's culture, work, and employees (to show that you've done due diligence on the firm).

At the same time, don't "spin" too much because you may seem naive and insincere.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Chase Us, Break In!