10 Likely Interview Questions, and How to Answer Them

Anxious about an upcoming interview? No need to worry! If you do your company research, and practice your answers to some common interview questions in advance, you will be ready to handle anything that comes your way.  Set aside time to prepare for each interview, and you will be confident and poised on the big day.

Here a few common interview questions, and tips for how to answer them:

1. Tell me about yourself.

This question intimidates most job seekers, but it is a great opportunity to talk about your strengths and what sets you apart from other candidates. A strong answer will set a positive tone for the interview, and grab the interviewer’s attention. You know this question is coming, so prepare for it in advance, and your interview will be off to a great start.

2. What do you know about the company?

This is one of the easier questions you might be asked, as long as you are prepared to answer it. Do your research. Visit the company website, search for news mentions, and check out all of their social media accounts.  Make your answer personal. Don’t spout off facts you found online; explain what you like about the company and why you want to work there.

3. What is your greatest strength?

This is your opportunity to stand out from other applicants. The strengths you mention need to be relevant to the position, and you should provide specific examples of how you used them. Your strengths can be both personal and professional attributes, as long as they help prove why you are the ideal candidate for the job.

4. What is your greatest weakness?

Be honest. You don’t have to discuss all of your flaws, but focus on one or two things you could improve. Explain how you plan to address your weakness, and ways you can turn it into a strength. Don’t mention anything that will automatically disqualify you (for example: don’t say you’re bad with numbers if you want an accounting job), but be realistic about your abilities.

5. Describe a challenge or conflict you faced at work, and how you handled it.

Think of a specific challenge or conflict that was unique to you. A vague answer about having to balance projects will your bore your interviewer, and make you look unqualified.  Your answer should reflect your problem-solving skills and adaptability.

6. What is your dream job?

This question helps the interviewer determine if you are a good fit for the position. If you’re interviewing for a financial analyst position, don’t say you’re planning on applying to med school in the near future.  The job duties should align with your future goals.  Even if the position you are applying for is just a stepping stone for the job you really want, focus on why you would be a great addition to the team.

7. Why are you leaving your current job (….or Why did you quit your last job)?

Stay positive. Avoid saying anything negative about your current or previous employer when possible  Express enthusiasm for the position you hope to get, and indicate why you are a better fit for this role instead of the one you currently or previously had.

8. What do you like to do outside of work?

While your technical skills and work achievements are important, so is cultural fit. Always stay professional when discussing your personal life during an interview, but don’t be afraid to show your personality. Your unique hobby might impress the hiring manager, and you will connect over any shared interests.

9. What are your salary requirements?

Benchmark. Set a range. Be flexible. This is a tough question to answer, and one of the most important ones for the candidate to get right. Be prepared to explain how you reached your number (or ideally, your range), and to defend your answer.

10. Do you have any questions for us?

Yes! You should always ask questions at the end of the interview. Asking relevant, thoughtful questions will prove that you are truly interested in the position. Think of a few questions before your meeting, and be ready to adapt them based on the interview.

Good luck at your next interview, and don’t forget to follow up with the employer!

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Why Your Resume Won’t Get You Hired

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You have been working very hard at your resume and cover letter, posting them online and mailing them out. Yet nothing is happening for you. There have been no phone calls to request interviews; not even a phone interview. You realize the economy is not 100%, but it’s not that bad.

You really are qualified and your experience is extensive. Why are you getting passed over and not getting hired? You have excellent performance appraisals and recommendations. All of this is on your resume. Where is the disconnect?

What’s Wrong With My Resume?

  • Outlandish Objectives

Most professional resume writers would tell you not to include an objective at all. If you need to put something at the top of the page, make it an overview of your skills. Don’t write an objective that sounds like you can walk on water and solve every problem a company might have. Don’t use code words like ‘seasoned professional’. Everyone knows that means you have been in the workforce a long time. Don’t make it sound like you will just be using this job to get to the next one.

  • Experience that is Irrelevant

Do not list jobs that have no relevance to where you are in your career now. Do not list part time jobs unless you have never worked full time. Unless you are applying for an entry level position don’t list your high school job at McDonalds.

  • Faux Achievements

Achievements are important, really important. However, they need to be real and they need to be relevant. If you won the Betty Crocker Homemaker Award in high school, it is not relevant. If you won an honors scholarship in college that may be relevant. However, it is not relevant if you have been out of college and in the workforce for 20 years.

Relevant achievements are the money you saved your company last year. Don’t say “I saved money.”  Instead say, “Cut department’s expenses by 34% , saving the company over $50,000 in 2013.” These are the kind of achievements you want on your resume.

  • Pictures

Some people are advocating putting a picture of yourself on your resume. This is a very European thing to do and most American hiring managers will either not care or be put off by it. Play it safe. No pictures on your resume.

  • Personal Stuff

Don’t put any personal information on your resume. Don’t say you are married or divorced. Don’t say you have 3 children. Religion, political affiliation, or anything else that is purely personal does not belong on your resume and could be held against you. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate based on most of these things. That is why they will not ask you about them in the interview. Don’t volunteer the information.

  • Inappropriate Email Address

You do want to list an email address where the company can contact you. However, if the only email address you have is partynow@partydown.com, then get a new one. Use a Gmail or Yahoo address with your name or initials. Make it professional. This one item at the very top of your resume might be the one thing that costs you an interview.

  • Negative Comments and Stressing Weakness

Don’t offer negative comments or stress your own weaknesses. Don’t point out gaps in your employments unless you can explain them. Don’t ever state that you were fired from a job. Never make negative comments about a previous company or a previous boss.

Avoid these mistakes that will keep you from being hired.

About the Author: Gerald Buck is the editor of ejobapplications.com, a site offering job applications and resourceful information. He is passionate in providing advice to those seeking job opportunities.

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3 Interview Misconceptions

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Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.

When it comes to the job search process, job seekers often have false impressions about how things work.  The interview is no exception, and understanding a few common misconceptions about the process can help you do a much better job – and hopefully put your mind at ease!  Read on for 3 big interview myths:

The Most Qualified Candidate Gets the Job

Okay, this is untrue for a myriad of reasons, with jobs going to individuals who know people on the inside, to those who simply reach out at the right time, and so on.  Bear this in mind during your interview, because it’s important to understand that you need to be professional, personable, and on your A Game at all times.  You can be the most fabulous job candidate on paper and in reality, but if you don’t bring confidence to the table, the job could go to someone who had better people skills and impressed the interviewer.  Conversely, if you know your resume may be lacking in certain areas, make up for it by giving a winning interview.

The Interviewer is Prepared for…the Interview

There are several reasons why an interviewer may not be prepared for an interview.  For example, this could be their first time interviewing a candidate and they may be nervous.  Or they could be bogged down with extra work – perhaps the reason they are hiring someone in the first place – and so they haven’t devoted proper time to preparing for the interview.  Thus, the more prepared you are, the easier the interview is for everyone, and the better impression you create.  Decide what you want to tell the interviewer beforehand, and do your best to find ways to mention your past achievements and what you can bring to the table.

The Interviewer will Ask All the Necessary Questions

Again, the person interviewing you might be distracted and might miss some important points. Or you might be speaking with a hiring manager who doesn’t know as much about the job as the person you will be working for, so the interviewer may not ask all the appropriate questions.  Thus, it is your job to bring up skills and qualifications you have that are specifically pertinent to the job, so that the person interviewing you can report these back to the individual who makes the final decision.  If they are the person who makes the final call, make the choice easier for them by addressing every aspect of the job description in a way that paints you as the perfect candidate.  There may be things that you want to bring up that the interviewer never asks about – if this is the case, don’t brush them aside.  Find ways to work these points into the conversation.

Interviews can be nerve-racking for individuals on both sides of the table.  And at the end of the day, an interviewer is just another human being.  If you can enter the conversation confident, prepared, and personable, you’re sure to impress.

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Prove Your Best Skills During an Interview

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HOW TO PROVE YOUR BEST SKILLS DURING AN INTERVIEW

Whether you’ve recently entered the job market or you’ve been in the workforce for a while, when it comes to looking for a new job, preparation is key for interview success.

As you prepare for job interviews, you want to market your strengths and skills that make you the best candidate for the position. Every job interview is different, but one thing you can do is set yourself apart by selling your strengths. According to CBN.com, only 80 percent of job seekers can prove their skills to employers during job interviews. How can you prove your best skills during the interview?

Use accomplishment stories to illustrate your skills.

The best way to prove your skills during an interview is to use accomplishment stories to support your abilities and expertise. The goal of the interview is to clearly articulate your strengths to the employer. Use examples from prior work and internship experience where you had to apply your technical skills. When explaining your story, tell the interviewer how your expertise created success for your organization. This will help you sell your strengths and provide the interviewer with an idea of what you can accomplish as an employee.

Include your best work in your portfolio.

Your portfolio is another way to highlight your strengths during a job interview. When building your portfolio, it’s important to include your very best work to help you market your strongest skills. It’s also a good idea to include examples that support some of the accomplishment stories you’ll share during the interview. This way, you’ll be able to provide the interviewer with tangible examples of your work.

Never underestimate your abilities. 

Confidence is key when it comes to proving your strongest skills during a job interview. The best way to be confident during an interview is to make sure you include skills in your resume and cover letter that you can translate into accomplishments. By doing this, you won’t have to worry about explaining a skill that really isn’t one of your strengths. You want to make sure you can feel confident about your skills, so focus on your strengths and never underestimate those abilities.

Don’t forget to sell your soft skills.

Your soft skills are the qualities that can set you apart from other candidates during the job interview process. Whether you’re changing jobs or re-entering the workforce, your soft skills are the strengths your can transfer between different positions. Employers look for candidates who are strong communicators, leaders, and team players in the workplace. If you can demonstrate those qualities during an interview, the hiring manager is surely to be impressed with the soft skills you have to offer.

Remember, proving your strengths during a job interview means explaining how you can help the company or organization achieve success. If you fail to explain what makes you the best candidate for the position, then the employer will lose interest. Allow your strengths shine through with your confidence and, by doing this, you will be able to prove your best skills during your next job interview.

What are your tips for selling strengths during an interview?

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at Come Recommended.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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How Do I Get a Job in Accounting?

accountingAs the global economy continues to recover, accounting is one of the fastest-growing fields. Increased hiring and a rise in mergers and restructuring in other fields, especially in financial services and health care, have necessitated growth in accounting to handle all the new activity. That growth, combined with senior employees retiring and leaving the workforce, has led to a robust job market for accountants.

What career options are available for job seekers with accounting degrees?

 The Big Four

KPMG. PricewaterhouseCoopers. Deloitte. Ernst & Young.

 These are the most prestigious employers for accounting grads. Why? Big Four clients work with Fortune 1000 companies, which means employees are exposed to complex accounting issues. A job with a Big Four firm is a great career move for someone entering the accounting profession. If, instead of moving up the ladder in your Big Four firm, you decide to work for another public accounting firm, take an in-house position in industry or government, or decide to hang out your own shingle, your Big Four experience will shine on your resume.

The central focus of the Big Four firms is audit services: verification of the accuracy of clients’ books. This also includes non-audit lines of business, including actuarial work (risk analysis and management), tax consulting, human resources management, and merger and acquisition advice.

Other Public Accounting Firms

Although the Big Four get most of the publicity, many smaller, less well-known national players and regional public accounting firms do plenty of hiring. Representative national firms include Grant Thornton, McGladrey & Pullen, BDO Seidman, and Moss Adams. There are also strong regional players around the country that usually affiliate themselves with some national network of similarly sized firms. Insiders tell us the hours are often a little better at these smaller firms than at the Big Four, the path to partner a little quicker, and the work more varied and interesting. If you go to a Big Four firm, your only responsibility for three months might be to audit the cash account at IBM. At a regional firm, you’ll be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, with a greater variety of job duties.

 In-House Accounting

Whether publicly traded or not, every company has internal accountants to set budgets, manage assets, and track payroll, accounts payable and receivable, and other financial matters. For mid-sized and large firms, the internal staff works closely with public auditors at the end of the fiscal year and with senior management and IT staff year-round.

Controllers and CFOs at smaller firms often enjoy even more important and influential roles in running and developing the business. These jobs are just as demanding as those in public accounting. Most accountants in the private sector stay in one place, in one job, working with the same colleagues, for extended periods. However, should you choose to move around, accounting skills are very portable.

 Government

The government hires a lot of people with accounting skills. Traditionally the biggest federal employers are the Department of Defense, the Government Accountability Office, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service. In addition to monitoring individual and corporate tax returns, government accountants at the state and federal levels formulate and administer budgets, track costs, and analyze publicly funded programs.

Independent

You can always hang out your own shingle, individually or in partnership with other accountants, especially once you have your CPA. There is plenty of business preparing tax returns and advising small businesses, provided you have relevant expertise, such as a thorough knowledge of tax law. You also will need to market your services and manage your own business— time-consuming activities not everyone enjoys.

Some independent practitioners make a nice niche for themselves by specializing in a particular industry. For instance, an accountant specializing in tax prep for people in advertising and creative services may reap many referral benefits by virtue of their specialty. But beware: This kind of specialization can breed monotony because you’ll be working on the same types of issues day after day.

 

 

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Major Resume Myths

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1) Your Resume Can Only Be One Page

This is amongst the most common and hard to break myths surrounding resumes. The contemporary job applicant is dealing with filtering systems and various other unique technological advancements that were not in play within the recruitment field even 5 years ago. These variables have a direct impact on the response to this inquiry.

Resumes should be condensed and focused solely on key information that is from a relevant time span (ie. 10-15 years of recent experience). With that noted,resumes can absolutely expand beyond 1 page. From entry-level to C-level professionals, some applicants simply have too much information to effectively condense without hindering representation of their background. Additionally, inclusion of added content allows applicants to better optimize their document for Applicant Tracking Systems. Finally, certain industries, such as federal/government capacities, require more in-depth responses. For these reasons, 1-2 pages is now considered the standard amongst all recruiters.

2) Nobody Will Read Your Resume

While filtering systems are a reality of the contemporary workplace, simply filling a resume with keyword-optimized content isn’t doing an applicant any favors in the long run. Ensuring cohesive and seamless integration of keywords with professionally crafted content helps in all stages of recruitment, not just the earlier ones.

Make sure your resume passes the human test.

3) Your Resume Should Be Exhaustive

This is very common and one of the unfortunate mistakes made by the average applicant. Resumes are not intended to be exhaustive lists of past work experience. Instead, they should focus on the most 10-15 recent years of employment. Skills and accomplishments maintained during this time frame carry more significance for recruiters. Those are the positions that should command the most real estate on one’s resume, rather than referring to an older position over 15 years in age.

4) Your Resume Should Have an Objective Statement

Despite what may have been standard with past template-based resumes, objectives no longer have a place in the contemporary resume. Recruiters manage such a high volume of orders that they needn’t be told what the applicant is looking for in an employer. The recruiters want to know how you can benefit their company. Opt for a career summary, highlight achievements, and use this section to sell applicable skills.

About the Author: Sebastian King is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches and a Doostang Resume Expert.

 

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What Questions Should I Ask in an Informational Interview?

25 Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview

The informational interview is one of the most underrated networking techniques. You can meet someone new in your industry, at a company where you’d like to work, or someone higher up in your own company and learn some truly valuable insight for your own career. It’s all about building a relationship with the other person. If it goes well, you may even land a new career mentor.

Informational Interview

Image Credit: Job Interview from Bigstock

Unlike a job interview, in an informational interview you will be asking all the questions. Once you decide your goals for the meeting, make a list of questions you’d like to ask. If you don’t know where to start, here are 25 examples of questions to ask when conducting an informational interview:

Ask questions about their career.

  • How did you land your current job? How did you get to where you are?
  • What do you do during a typical day/week? (If they say every day is different, ask them to describe any recent day they had.)
  • What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
  • What do find most enjoyable?
  • What is the culture like at your company?
  • What do you like most about your company?
  • What do you like least?
  • How has your job affected your lifestyle?
  • How is your company different from similar ones?
  • What is job growth like at your company?

Ask questions about the hiring process in their company.

  • What entry-level positions are available in the industry?
  • What kind of experience would you look for when hiring?
  • If I were applying for a job with you, how would you assess my experience so far?
  • What would make me stand out as an applicant?
  • Do you recommend I join any professional organizations?
  • What are some important keywords to include in my resume?
  • What do you wish you knew when you were in my position?

Ask questions about sharpening your own skills.

  • What hard skills are important for your job?
  • What soft skills make someone excel in this industry?
  • What courses would you have taken in college if you could have?
  • How do you stay updated on industry trends?
  • What industry blogs or publications do you read?
  • Who do you follow on social media?

Wrapping up the interview.

  • Is there anyone else you can refer me to talk with?
  • Do you have any last advice as I enter the job search?

There are hundreds of questions you could ask in informational interviews. Find out how much time you will have with the person and write a list of questions with your most important ones first, so you have enough time to hit them all.

Whatever you decide to ask depends on what you want to get out of the experience. Think about your job search and career goals. Because an this interview is not the same as a job interview, you need to think about the long-term. Build a relationship.

What are some other good questions for informational interviews?

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at Come Recommended.

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Do Your Homework: I-Banking Interview Prep

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Everyone says I’m expected to “do my homework.” What exactly does this mean? How much will I be expected to know about each company with which I interview?

First and foremost, “doing your homework” means that you genuinely understand the role of an investment bank and can clearly articulate the distinct roles of its various functions and that you have devoted some time to distinguishing among the major players. It means you’ve considered all of this information and shaped an idea of which firm you’d like to work for, and in which general area. It means that you’ve developed reasonable job expectations, done some good old-fashioned soul searching to decide whether or not the inherent sacrifices are worth it to you, and determined the specific benefits you’d hope to gain from the analyst or associate experience.

The homework bar is higher at the MBA level than it is at the undergraduate level. In general, interviewers are more forgiving of analyst candidates for two primary reasons: First, no one expects a 22-year old interviewing for his first job to know for certain that his destiny lies in investment banking. Second, investment banks typically hire analysts for a two- to three-year time horizon, after which they expect many will go on to business school or other jobs. Nonetheless, firms will expect that both undergraduates and MBA candidates alike can articulate solid reasons for pursuing a job in the field, and they will expect to see evidence that you’ve invested some serious time determining whether this career-and this firm in particular-is right for you.

Regardless of the specific position for which you are applying, “doing your homework” has two primary components: understanding what distinguishes the firm in its industry, and understanding what distinguishes the firm as a place to work. The first of these relates to the firm’s position in the financial marketplace, while the second has to do with its “employment brand”-the unique way the firm positions itself to prospective employees.  Our Seven-Step Homework Guide should help you to learn about both distinctions:

1. PARTICULARLY IF YOU’RE AN UNDERGRADUATE WITH LITTLE PRIOR EXPOSURE TO INVESTMENT BANKING, MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT AN INVESTMENT BANK DOES AND HOW THE VARIOUS FUNCTIONS OF A SECURITIES FIRM FIT TOGETHER.

We’d recommend that you start with WetFeet’s Insider Guide to Careers in Investment Banking. Mariam Naficy’s book The Fast Track: The Insider’s Guide to Winning Jobs in Management Consulting, Investment Banking, and Securities Trading also provides an excellent overview. As the name implies, this book is a particularly good resource for those candidates comparing potential opportunities in multiple areas.

2. ONCE YOU’VE DETERMINED WHICH FIRMS YOU’LL BE INTERVIEWING WITH, CHECK OUT ANY FIRM SPECIFIC LITERATURE YOU CAN FIND.

This includes the WetFeet Insider Guides to investment banking firms (see the list at the end of this book), which provide insights into the firms’ areas of relative strength and insiders’ perceptions of the companies’ culture. In addition, be sure to review any recruiting literature on file at your campus career center. This information is likely to be general, but it will provide a useful overview of each firm’s organizational structure and respective recruiting processes. Also, these materials will give you a general sense of the “employment brand” that the firm is trying to convey-in other words, you’ll get a sense of how the firm distinguishes itself from other firms in the marketplace that compete for talent.

3. CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE OF EACH FIRM WITH WHICH YOU’LL BE INTERVIEWING.

This does not mean that you’ll be expected to memorize and regurgitate either the company’s financials or its business principles in the course of the interview. However, if you’re interviewing with a public company, at least take a gander at the firm’s annual report (generally available through the Investor Relations section of the firm’s website). In addition to providing detailed information on the company’s financials, the annual report highlights the key transactions in which the bank was involved over the course of the previous year and summarizes the relative performance of each of its major revenue-generating areas. Also, check out the most recent press releases for any noteworthy developments that have taken place since the last annual report went to press.

4. REFINE YOUR INDUSTRY-SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE AND REVIEW THE MAJOR TRANSACTIONS IN WHICH EACH FIRM IS INVOLVED.

Trade journals such as Institutional Investor, Investment Dealers’ Digest, and The Daily Deal provide a wealth of timely industry-specific information. For example, Investment Dealers’ Digest (www.iddmagazine.com) offers an excellent online database for subscribers, which includes league table information, recent deal flow activity, and information on the biggest transactions in various areas (M&A advisory, high-technology, energy, etc.). Unfortunately, an annual subscription to this little gem costs a hefty $995, but full-text articles from the print publication are available through Factiva, a comprehensive online news database; if your business school library offers Factiva access (and it’s worth checking into), you may want to take a look. If not, Investment Dealers’ Digest occasionally offers trial subscriptions at little to no cost. In all likelihood, you won’t ever be asked about a particular bank’s league table standings, but it doesn’t hurt to develop a sense of who does what on the Street.

5. KEEP ABREAST OF CURRENT EVENTS-THOSE RELATING TO THE FINANCIAL MARKETS AND OTHERWISE.

Even if you’re not ordinarily a faithful The Wall Street Journal reader or subscriber, it may behoove you to become one, at least during the recruiting season. The publication’s online edition is particularly user-friendly and is available to students at a significant discount (as is the print version). The Financial Times (WSJ’s European equivalent) is another excellent source of financial news and not surprisingly provides a more pronounced international focus than the The Wall Street Journal. At a minimum, know the major developments and trends characterizing the investment banking industry. In particular, the increasingly widespread practice of “bundling” investment and commercial banking services and the intense scrutiny over firms’ investment research franchises are two trends you should feel comfortable discussing in an interview. Also, be sure to have at least a general sense of movements in the major indices (investment banking interviewers have been known to ask what the Dow closed at the previous day) and the events that most directly affect the financial markets.

6. ATTEND THE ON-CAMPUS INFORMATION SESSION.

Trust us: The hour that you spend at each firm’s on-campus meet-and-greet will be time well spent. At the information session, the company will undoubtedly address the topic of what sets it apart from its chief competitors-its competitors for business and its competitors for talented people. Pay attention to what the firm’s representatives stress as its key selling points: whether it’s the firm’s untrammeled dominance of M&A activity, its unique rotation program for incoming analysts or associates, or its unparalleled reputation as an employer of choice. In addition, these information sessions provide an opportunity for you to meet current analysts and associates and to hear them answer the questions that you’ve been formulating throughout the course of your research.

7. TAKE THE TIME TO SPEAK WITH INSIDERS!

There’s really no substitute for good old-fashioned informational networking (a process which should be relatively easy for current MBA students, who have a considerable network of b-school students, former analysts, summer associates, and alumni to consult). If you’re an undergrad with fewer
industry contacts, check out your career center’s alumni database for the names and contact details of current firm employees (preferably within the division to which you’re applying). At the very least, contact the individuals who represented their firms at the on-campus information sessions (analysts and associates, please-firms may send VPs and the occasional MD to information session, but bankers at this level aren’t likely to return your call-remember our discussion of the hierarchical structure earlier in the guide?). Not only can these individuals generally answer your most pressing queries, they can typically put you in touch with other people at the bank who can provide you with a broader perspective on what it’s like to work there. Not only will this help you learn about the specifics of each firm’s culture, but it will give you some real-life insight into the life of an analyst or associate.

Make no mistake: Preparing for interviews is a time-intensive process. If your schedule is already filled to capacity with academic and extracurricular obligations, it’s particularly tempting to gloss over interview preparation in favor of the more immediate demands on your time and attention. This is a dangerous trap, and one that you should avoid at all costs. In this case, it’s better to take a long-term view. As one recently hired insider advises, “Take a light course load that semester if you can. The time you spend researching companies and talking to insiders is time well spent, and definitely worth the investment in the end.”

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