Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Workshop in interviewing skills held for SDM students

By Mona Masghati, SDM ‘09

I recently conducted a one-hour workshop on interviewing skills for my fellow SDM students. Its purpose was to emphasize the basics that can actually make or break a job interview. Here is an overview, along with links to resources referenced during the workshop.

I chose to conduct this workshop because too often we focus on the meaning of the MIT SDM brand and may neglect some critical aspects of a successful job interview. The MIT brand is a rather strong signal that we are smart and technically savvy. Furthermore many of us have a very strong technical work experience. Knowing this, interviewers will often try to ascertain how well we can lead inside the organization and whether we can be put in front of the board of directors and senior executive to present our ideas.

Because visual presentation is so very important, I recommend that both men and women get assistance in choosing a conservative dress suit and complement that with clean, sharp grooming. Here are some tips:

When in doubt about what to wear, always choose the suit. If you are not sure of what to wear, you may inquire before the meeting. If you are fortunate enough that a contact you met on an informational interview or by networking has hand-delivered your resume to the hiring manager or otherwise made an introduction, you may ask them for their advice. However, no matter what you wear, it is imperative that your appearance conveys that you can be put in front of the CEO and the company’s most important customer and deliver a killer pitch. I therefore believe that the suit works best, even for an interview with a start-up. Here is a recent study by Duke University on why looks matter for CEOs.

There are two types of interviews: behavioral and the case method.
Behavioral interviews assume that you are fluent in the STAR method. Have your answered rehearsed clear and to the point. Practice your answers. Get feedback on them, then refine and practice, practice, practice.

This is important for any situation but it is even more so for a job interview. Learn about active listening. Your job is to read between the lines, understand what the interviewer is looking for, and then respond appropriately.

The case method is not used only in interviews for jobs in management consulting. While it was not covered by this workshop: here are some resources and tips:
  • Practice for months beforehand – an average of 6 hours per week. Without a foundation in economics, you will need to practice even more.
  • Find some practice buddies and set up regular times to work together.
  • Join the MIT Sloan Consulting Club and the MIT Consulting Club.
  • Get really good at Mental Math
  • Read and practice with this book: Case in Point
  • Your notes and thoughts must be structured and count during the interview.

Finally, a few topics that emerged from the Q&A:
  • Case interview preparation will be held during the summer 2010 business trip. Attend this session!
  • Set-up a buddy system to practice at least 2-3 cases a week.
  • Management consulting firms start the hiring process in late August.
  • Some companies pay to come as early as possible on campus to scoop up the smartest students. Find out who is coming on campus, be entrepreneurial and take the initiatives to make contacts.
  • Do not assume that jobs for MBAs are for people with less experience than an SDM has. Check them out!
  • Network with everyone you meet at school, on the soccer field, in a pub, at church, etc.
  • During career fairs, go to every booth even if there are no jobs for experienced candidates. Get a name, contact info, and follow-up by making a connection.
  • Informational interviews and networking are part of an on-going process!
  • There are delays: efforts started in the fall may take until the summer to turn into a job. You never know which connection will really matter.
  • Leverage your thesis to learn or add a skill that is marketable, such as expertise in pricing, project management, or an emerging new technology.
  • Take classes with professors who are connected with industry.
  • Read jobs descriptions carefully and tailor each resume that you send accordingly.
  • If you need a job in May 2011, start looking now!

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