Monday, September 24, 2012

Preparing for a job interview

Recruiting season is here.  I attended my first Meet the Firms last week.  Students - are you ready to interview for internships and full time positions? 

I've put together some of my thoughts to help you prepare.
  • Know yourself. There are a lot of great firms to choose from, but each one is a little different. One firm might deal with SEC clients exclusively, another focus on family owned businesses. One firm might be extremely casual, another more formal. One firm has formal audit/tax tracks, another might organize by client industry.  Understanding these differences can help you find the best firm for you. But, that only works if you know yourself. What is your ideal working environment? Why? What types of technical issues got you excited in school? Why? How do you like to solve problems? Why? How best do you learn? Why? Really think about who you are, what makes you tick and what gets you excited. Then, ask questions in the interview that will help you identify firms that will be a good fit.

  • Do your homework.  As a recruiter, I expect you to know about my firm.  I shouldn't have to tell you how many offices we have or where they are located.  Check out the firm's website, Facebook page, and LinkedIn site to gather information.  Attend recruiting events.  Ask your classmates, professors and friends about the firm.  Then, use that information to ask targeted questions about the firm.
  • Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions.  The website and social media platforms are marketing tools.  All firms have smart people helping design the content to appeal to candidates.  That is all well and good, but you should be interested in story behind the sites - the day to day culture and experiences.  Challenge the recruiter about how a specific program is implemented, how many people participate in the program and how the firm and employee benefited from that program?  Don't just ask what our employees like about the firm, but also what they would change and why.  Ask staff about their biggest challenge and how they overcame it.  Dig a little deeper.  Really figure out who we are.

  • Bring a list of questions, but have a conversation.  I love to see candidates with a list of prepared questions.  It shows me the candidate is invested in the process.  Don't be afraid to bring it out during the interview.  I have my list too!  What's really impressive is the candidate who can use the list of questions, but also have an ongoing conversation.  So, after asking a question and hearing my answer, the candidate asks a followup question to clarify or dig deeper.  The questions aren't a checklist to be completed, but a tool to help you figure out which firm is right for you. 

  • Be yourself.  Ultimately, you want a job that appreciates you for you.  You won't last long in a position that requires you to pretend to be someone else.  By being chosen for an interview, you stood out as a potential hire to the recruiters.  So, be confident and be yourself.  Let us know who you are and what motivates you - inside and outside of work.  Find common interests with the recruiting team.  You'll be spending a lot of time with these people - it's much more enjoyable if you like them.  And, remember, after we look at GPA, qualifications and experience, we make our final decision based on the connections we make with the candidates. 

  • Dont' forget the basics.  Show up on time, dressed appropriately and with a firm handshake.  Look the recruiters in the eye.  Smile.  Be professional, but real.  Bring any paperwork requested.  Followup with a thank you note (hand written notes really stand out).  These are the foundation of the recruiting process.  You stand out when you don't do them.

  • Ask for feedback.  There are a lot of quality candidates and recruiting is a competitive process.  Not every candidate will receive a job offer from the firm of their dreams.  If you don't get an offer, ask the recruiter for feedback.  I always remember the candidates that do this.  Often, I will give the feedback and ask the candidate to keep in touch.  If I see improvement, the candidate will be top of my list when I have another opening.  Don't give up.  Be persistent and professional. 

I hope these tips help you prepare for upcoming recruiting season.  One more - enjoy the process!

The article below has some other thoughts for getting ready for an interview.

CBS News - 9 tips to prepare for a job interview

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