Saturday, February 13, 2010

How to make the most of a rejection

Summer internship interviews are well under way.

Those who will interview at bulge brackets and management consulting firms have most likely received the good news.

Some firms receive over 1,000 applications from a target school for a summer internship position. They don't even bother notifying rejected applicants of their status.

How do you get a response?

Human Resources may have passed up your resume/cover letter. When deciding who to interview, the recruiting team divides candidacy into three groups:

1. Definitely interview
2. Interview time permitting - the wait list
3. A definite no

Those who are in the waitlist bucket often did not know that they just fell short of getting the interview. It happens that one student we've worked with was in the waitlist queue at several firms.

How did he find this out? He emailed a contact he had made at a networking session about his candidacy, and followed up with a phone call - asking for his status. The contact got in touch with HR and found out that he was on the wait list. This may have been a "nice no", but the student followed up a week later and asked if he was still in the running. He didn't get the interview slot.

BUT he made the effort to ask what he could have done better. He didn't have finance experience and those who received interviews did. The student made a point to get an unpaid internship that summer, and come full time recruiting, emailed the contact he had made to let him know how his internship went. He received the full time interview, second round invite, and the offer.

I'm surprised at how few people - if any - reach out to their interviewers or recruiting teams and ask what they could have done better to get selected. Most banks and consulting firms are looking for a similar skill set, give or take, and you would have no clue how they perceive the strength of your candidacy had you not asked.

If you were just short of receiving an interview invite or the offer, follow up and ask what you could have done better. Not only does that give you the opportunity to improve for the next recruiting cycle, but I guarantee someone - HR, an alum, a contact - will remember you, and most likely give you another shot over someone they don't know.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Second Round interviews at McKinsey, Bain and Boston Consulting Group

Congratulations to those who are preparing for final rounds for the super selective summer internship spots at MBB.

It's been stated how few the spots are at these firms. There are literally only a handful at some of the smaller regional offices.

So this is what you should expect to position yourself optimally to nail the final round:

1. The second round case interviews will be more in-depth and complex in testing your business sense. The structure or framework that you use to attack the problem will have to incorporate more concepts exhaustively - being MECE will be more difficult, as the case will not be straightforwardly a declining profits, increasing cost, or merger strategy case.

2. Since the second round interviews are longer, there is more room for error in how you set up your initial plan of attack. For example, if you get a market sizing question, there will be several ways to answer it, and having the right approach is essential to doing well. These are not cut and dry the same as the Case in Point examples, as you want to essentially replicate or refine upon the market sizing approach the consultant used in his/her actual work.

3. The people interviewing you will be more senior at the firm - you are guaranteed to meet with at least one manager or partner. The more senior people will have insight on the continuity of certain people they want to hire. So, utilize the resources the firms provide you - they often give you an alumni contact or interview buddy who will go over mock interviews. They will emphasize to you the core competencies the particular firm is looking for. Thus, it's essential that you not only hit home those points, but also convey an understanding of how McKinsey is different from Bain/BCG, and vice versa.

4. Nailing the behavioral part of the interview becomes even more important in the final round. The firm is potentially hiring you as a full time employee, as the conversion ratio from internships to a FT offer is incredibly high - from 90 to 100% according to office and year. So, you need to get along with the interviewers on a more personal and conversational level.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Behavioral interviews at McKinsey, Bain and BCG

Nailing the case is necessary but not sufficient for landing you the offer, especially since there are an extremely small number of internship spots open.

The behavioral interview is just as important.

Behavioral questions are designed to see how you will perform in a professional, team-oriented environment. They also give the interviewer an opportunity to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are.

The format of the behavioral interview varies according to firm:

McKinsey has the most structured behavioral interview. The interviewer will ask you to go in depth into a leadership experience, and he or she will probe you on all the details: how others reacted to your ideas, how you were able to overcome resistance to your leadership, what the ultimate impact of your work. There are other common behavioral questions that will be asked, as leadership is one of them

Bain will take an experience off of your resume and ask you pointed questions on what you did, in the same vein as McKinsey's interview.

Boston Consulting Group asked the most questions on different experiences off interviewees' resumes. These questions were less in-depth than the previous two. These questions seemed the most "rapid fire", as the interviewers were very precise in their questioning and were looking for clarification or explanation on specific traits - leadership, collaboration, discipline, public speaking skills.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ace eight common technical questions for finance

In preparation for those interviews, here's a list of the more technical questions you should know how to hit a home run on. These were actual questions asked at numerous bulge bracket investment banks in the past two years.

Especially if you had a behavioral / all fit first round interview, you can bet that the second round will have more technical curve balls. These were asked in both sales and trading and investment banking positions.

Share your mock answers in a comment, and we'll critique them.

1. What are the ways to value a company? Which method generally offers the highest valuation for companies?

2. How have deals in the industrials [or any other] industry been financed in the last two years? How do you predict that financing will change in 2010?

3. Explain the percentage of debt and equity used in a current M&A deal. What valuation did the target have? Do you think this was a reasonable valuation? What changes to this valuation would you have made? Why?

4. Which industry would you go long on for 2010? Short on?

5. What omissions on the financial statements led investors to believe that Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and other firms were not only illiquid but insolvent?

6. What is the difference between a firm that is illiquid and one that is insolvent? Which problem was more prevalent in late 2007? Which problem is more prevalent in 2010?

7. What will be the Fed's response to continued weakness in the economy in early 2010?

8. What are regulatory problems governments are trying to resolve with impending legislation?

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