I wrote this piece for a short blog on BYU’s internal site for business school students. I thought I would post it here as well for anyone interested in some of my tips at getting a job out of college from my experiences.
There are two basic steps to recruiting: getting an interview, and passing an interview. Although a significant part of getting an interview deals with your resume, there are other things you can do to increase your chances of getting looked at. Passing an interview involves more than just looking good and having a firm handshake.
Here are some of the things that helped me.
Getting an interview
Spreading my net wide
I focused my job search on getting into management consulting, but I applied to just about everything and anything I could find. During my final summer before graduating, after I didn’t land a management consulting internship, I ended up taking an offer to do economic consulting with Cornerstone Research. I never would have expected to even receive an interview with them, but 3 rounds later they invited me to spend a fantastic summer with them in L.A.
I also had the chance to interview with many other firms that I discovered I would probably enjoy as well. Meeting the people and visiting the offices taught me a lot about what to consider as I decided where I wanted to settle. You can’t really know what you’ll enjoy until you experience it, and you won’t really know who will (or won’t) actually give you a job offer. Stay open to possibilities, if for no other reason than to make sure you don’t end up with nothing.
Having a solid GPA
Halfway through one of my internships, one of my coworkers commented on the importance of GPA’s in their hiring decisions. They mentioned that my GPA was a factor in getting their attention, and that they don’t really even look at candidates below a certain point. As I sat in my ergonomic chair doing interesting and well compensating work, I was pretty grateful that I had managed to keep my grades up.
Whatever anyone tells you about how GPA’s aren’t important or how employers don’t care, your GPA does have an impact. Many of the top jobs will either have a GPA cutoff, or they won’t look too closely at someone with a low GPA unless they have something [disproportionately] compensating. I can point to my GPA as a significant factor in multiple offers I received, and even more often to just getting interviews in the first place. As you’re doing your recruiting, get your school work done too.
You don’t need to look far to hear tons of “networking” tips (and I won’t add much here), but reaching out to people really did help me in my recruiting process. I managed to meet several people who mentored me through many case interviews, checked my resume, and helped move my application forward.
Taking unpaid opportunities
Late in my junior year I did an unpaid internship for a private equity firm. It was something I could do from campus, but required enough time that I had to severely reduce the hours I spent at my BYU job. It was a tough financial decision, but having that experience on my resume added significantly to my credibility to employers and business sense as a person.
I also spent multiple summers doing unpaid internships before landing a paid one in my last summer. My finances were tight, but I managed to find grants, scholarships, and other extra-funding that let me break-even on my wage-less summers. Try to get creative as you search for the flexibility to accept offers from the best opportunities instead of from the best paychecks.
Passing an interview
Leading a club
During my freshman year, I started BYU’s Anti-Human-Trafficking Club. This did two incredible recruiting-related things for me. First, it provided something interesting for my interviewers to focus on. Most of my interviews focused around a conversation about human trafficking. I was able to have more meaningful conversations about life, the struggles, and trying to make a meaningful impact on people. People remembered me as the anti-human-trafficking guy, and that was a good brand to have.
Second, leading a club gave me lots of valuable experience and additional opportunities I couldn’t have foreseen. My experience being in charge of an organization gave me first-hand insight into management and other business problems that I was asked to solve in interviews I could tell stories about helping people who were struggling with assignments, motivating volunteers, creating plans where none exist, and trying to manage events. It also gave me a chance to speak at TEDxBYU and connect with many other sharp people with similar interests. My interviews were much more meaningful with the front-lines experience I had taking charge of something substantive.
I also must mention that the greatest value of doing the club was contributing in some way to ending modern slavery, and helping others find their niche in the service of others. I recommend getting involved in something good without thinking too hard about recruiting impact, but we’re talking about jobs so I won’t go too deeply into that now.
Management consulting is infamous for requiring candidates to solve a “case interview.” This involves being given an ambiguous business problem, then clearly communicating a structured, logical way to solve it.
Most people need to practice 40-60 cases before they can consistently perform well on a case interview. For most people, this means 40-60 hours of practice time if you practice efficiently, plus 40-60 hours of giving cases to other people to practice as well.
Even though it was a lot of practice, putting in that time paid off in more than just my management consulting interviews. For one thing, many more employers are using mini-cases as part of their interviews. In one of my interviews for a corporate finance role, my interviewer asked me how I would save costs on the packaging of a certain product. I didn’t know anything about packaging, or the product, but having practiced doing 30 minute cases on all sorts of unfamiliar topics made this 5 minute case a walk in the park. The practices also strengthened my relationships with other consulting hopefuls, many of whom became great friends, and all of whom went on to do awesome things.
My practice didn’t just stop with case problems, however. Even if you’re not going into consulting, you should practice how you’ll answer the basic “fit” questions that show up in all interviews. Come up with well-structured 1 minute responses to common questions or question topics and you’ll perform much better in all of your interviews.
When I have the time, I’m more than happy to help out and answer other questions you might have. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep seeking truth.
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