15 – Interviewing

15 – Interviewing


Let’s say your resume has landed you the interview. Now you are faced with as little as 30 minutes to sell yourself, learn about the company and figure out if you are a fit for the job.

To get ready for situations like this, today’s podcast provides advice from various business experts on how to make the most of every interview experience.


Melchiorre: The minute you open your mouth and you introduce yourself and shake hands and look someone in the eye, that is when it starts.

Calpeter:You are articulate, you are crisp, and clear in you answers when people ask you what it is that you want to do or about yourself.

Kohl: It makes you stand out as an interviewee when you make it more of a dialog. Because the interviewer equally gets set more at ease.

Kristen: Welcome to “Sound Advice” – the brief audio download that brings the best of eClips to you. I’m Kirsten Barker.

Let’s say your resume has landed you the interview. Now you are faced with as little as 30 minutes to sell yourself, learn about the company and figure out if you are a fit for the job.

To get ready for situations like this, today’s podcast provides advice from various business experts on how to make the most of every interview experience.

We’ll start with a comment from Candace Kohl. Kohl is a Campus Relations Manager within the Credit Suisse organization. She comments that the first step of any interview is preparation. More specifically, it is critical to research the company before you step into the room.

Kohl: For me the thing that I have found the most successful technique for when interviewing was to realize that an interview isn’t just about the person interviewing me to find out about me. But for me to find out about the organization. And I think by taking that approach, when I went to an interview, it just ended up being a more rewarding process for both the person that was meeting with me and for myself. Because one, I came in eager. And I came in prepared. And I came in really with some good questions because I wanted to find out just as much whether this role would be a good fit for me as you know – as I would have if I had just kind of you know come in and said all right. I need to be prepared for this person to ask about me. Which yes, you need to be prepared for that. But you also need to be prepared to find out about the organization. And I think it is something that doesn’t kind of happen until you have interviewed a little bit until maybe you are interviewing for your third or fourth role. Because when you are first getting a job, you are just like, I want a job. I want a job. You don’t think about the fact that I want the right job. And then once you have had a role and you realized that that role wasn’t right for you and you are interviewing maybe for your second or third job, you are realizing I don’t just want any job. I want the job that is going to be fulfilling for me.

Kristen: It isn’t only important to know about the company. Knowing basics about the industry in which you will be working is critical as well. Marlene Sawhney works in the Debt Capital Markets group at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). She shares her expectation that job candidates should know the basics about current events within the finance industry when interviewing at her organization.

Sawhney: I wanted people to at least pick up the Wall Street Journal and like stare at it for 30 seconds. I mean I’m not saying read the whole thing but students would come in and not know who the fed chairman was or a past fed chairman or wouldn’t know a headline in the newspaper and I’m not saying that anyone needs to know whatever is going on because when I was in college, I didn’t know what was really going on but at least I knew generally, sort of in a very grey area, what was going on and I expected that.

Kristen: To follow Sawhney’s advice, some simple steps are to read the paper or access online sources for information about current events in the industry. But how do you get good information about what it is like to work in the industry or the company? We’ll hear a suggestion from Lois Baldassari-Mather, a systems engineering manager at Lockheed Martin. She recommends building a network of people who can share personal experiences from the industry. Conversations with individuals from the right network can even lead to a job….

Baldassari: Find someone in the field that you think that you want to go in and you know, try to get a little bit of their time somehow. Maybe it’s a professor, maybe it’s someone in your family, maybe it’s a family friend. Ask for a little of their time and not that you say that you want a job from them but that you’re trying to get information about their field, okay. Can you tell me a little bit about the hotel industry? How did you prepare yourself for the job that you had today, what kinds of education would you need to do this kind of job? What kinds of experiences do you need for this kind of job? So it’s very much not intrusive but it’s just asking people to talk about themselves and people like to do that. Also I think it’s a good idea to ask them for another contact. So maybe like course of the conversation you might say, you know, do you have any suggestions for any other folks that you think that I should talk to and very often people will be able to direct you to the next person in the line and hopefully after a while you start to get to someone who is a hiring manager and could get you a job but in the beginning you’re sort of building an outer network of contacts…

Kristen: Now you’ve done your homework and have developed a better understanding of the industry and company to which you are applying Are you ready to put on that suit and head out the door? Not quite yet according to Alison Paskert, a recent Cornell graduate working as an analyst for Morgan Stanley. She comments that preparation also includes coming up with and practicing responses to questions the interviewer will ask.

Paskert: If you’re interviewing at larger firms and they have interview questions listed and there might be something as you know, seemingly easy as a response … what are your three strengths and what are your three weaknesses but if you don’t have something in mind when you come in there and you can’t rattle something off, it’s you know, you get … you get all fumbled and then there goes the interview. So I wrote out answers to questions like that you know, what I thought my strengths were and you know, experiences where I held a leadership role and those kinds of things in addition to understanding where … you know, what the firm story was, what the division story was, you know, kind of what the role was all about . So that was really helpful and I would verbally, you know, out loud with my friends, you know, have them interview me and as silly as that sounds and as … you know, sometimes you feel like an idiot, you know, telling your friend about your strengths and weaknesses but really helped and I also used the career services center a lot. I had them review my resume. I did the mock interviews, I also used like the Cornell alumni links to just get people’s opinions or descriptions of their jobs, that kind of thing. So I used a lot of the resources available on campus.

So what is the best way to sell yourself and your experiences in a short timeframe? Megan Gentilesco, an Associate at JP Morgan, shares a great piece of advice for how to structure responses to interviewer’s questions…

Gentilesco: When I was a senior somebody actually send me to interview and they gave me a really good tip, I think and I want to share it and it’s called remember star… s-t-a-r. So when you’re answering a question, to help organize your answer you can think of it in terms of setting. So I was at Cornell or I was on my last internship. Timing, it was two years ago, it was last week. Action, so what did you actually do. I developed a newsletter that went out to 800 alumni. And results, you know, what happened. We got you know, a 30% increase in donations, blah… blah… blah… and not like you have to sit there and be like the setting was… It helps to think through it, and I would not have thought to organize it that way and I think that that structure resonates a lot with potential employers. So it will help them sort of get what you want them to get out of your response.

Kristen: In addition to providing well-structured responses, Angela Mwanza, Vice President at Lehman Brothers Private Investment Management, discusses the importance of sharing anecdotes that make your comments about yourself seem more authentic .

Mwanza: For undergrads and graduate students alike, tell anecdotes, tell stories, don’t you know, yes, you can tell me you’re a people person, I have half an hour with you, I’m probably not really going to get it up, if you tell me some anecdotes, if you tell me some stories based on your resume that will show me the attributes that tell me that you’re a people person, that’s so much more valuable, and you know what, when I’m quantifying why you’re a great team player and why you have leadership skills and why you’d be a great candidate for Lehman Brothers, you’ve basically told me.

Kristen: So you’ve prepared and rehearsed and the day of the interview is here. Cheryl Melchiorre, a Manager at Deloitte Consulting, urges applicants to remember that the interview always starts with the first impression.

Melchiorre: But in my mind the interview starts now. The minute you open your mouth and you introduce yourself and shake hands and look someone in the eye, that is when it starts, and whether or not you go through a formal channel of recruiting here on campus or through a contact that you met at a career fair or through a parent’s friend, the minute you present yourself you need to have presence, you need to have confidence and you need to understand exactly what your goals are. So if you can communicate in three sentences or less, this is where I came from, this is what I’m doing now, this is where I’m going and this is how they’re linked, someone’s willing to listen to you.

Kristen: The ability to be articulate and clearly communicate is the be all and end all according to Lynn Calpeter. Calpeter is the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of NBC Universal. She believes that preparation will translate into the ability to sell yourself.

Calpeter: You’re prepared, you look like you want to be there, okay. You are articulate, you are crisp, and clear in you answers when people ask you what it is that you want to do or about yourself. Make sure that you are clear and that you have great examples of what you’ve done, projects that you’ve been on, teams that you’ve been on, things that you have done so well. Things that you do well, they are going to ask all these things and you got to be confident and clear in your ability to explain why you are best for that role. Be curious, ask good questions. You’re going to walk out of that interview and you should ask a good question or two, so that the last thing in their mind is that this individual is curious, they sounded like they knew what they wanted. They had done their homework…and I think may be one final point, be confident. You guys are selling yourselves in these interviews. You’ve got 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour. You know yourselves best. Nobody else knows you like you know yourselves. There is no reason that you shouldn’t be confident in these interviews selling yourselves…okay. So, with that I say to you best wishes.

Kristen: To continue on these ideas, We’ll hear again from Candace Kohl – who also stresses the importance of asking questions. Not only do good questions underscore your preparation but they also make for a more conversational interview and allow you to showcase your ability to work in a team setting .

Kohl: It makes the interview process more of a conversation and more of a discussion with the interviewer when you start to ask questions as well. And when you respond not just to the questions that they ask, but to the responses they give with your own comments and questions. I also think it makes you stand out as an interviewee when you make it more of a dialog. Because the interviewer equally gets set more at ease. And they kind of begin to enjoy the process. And you know realize that this is someone that I can really sit and talk with and just have a discussion which you know, investment banking and a lot of other industries, you are working so much in teams. We’re looking for people that you can sit and talk with and can you know throw ideas off of and can feel like is a counterpart and not just you know someone that you are throwing things at. So I think that can really set you apart as an individual when you have done those things. Additionally you know, by preparing those questions and by having a sense of what you want to find out, you are putting yourself apart as someone who has really done research. Who has prepared themselves. Who is familiar with the industry and what is going on.

Kristen: The formal interview is over and now it is time to head out for lunch or dinner. You’re done, right? Not at all – shares Erica Retblatt, Human Resources Manager at Hillstone Restaurant Group. She states that even when you move out of the formal interview setting to the informal part of the process, you are still being evaluated

Retblatt: When you’re at a meal in an interview setting that’s not carte blanche to just let it go and be extraordinarily casual and you know, drink a lot. You’ve got to realize that you’re still on stage, you’re on stage in an interview process whether that’s in the taxicab or the car on the way to the meal when you’re with your interviewer or if it’s at the table just remember that you’re on show and they’re watching you at all points. So just … I think that sometimes people get a little bit relaxed in more casual social settings, a lot of times there’ll be cocktail receptions as part of interviews and just understand that people are looking at your professionalism at all stages of the process.

Kristen: What about the tough interview questions? There are bound to be a few thrown at you during the interview process and the main issue isn’t getting the “right” answer – but rather handling your response well. We’ll close with a comment from Mac Cummings, co-founder and CEO of Terakeet Corporation. He shares one of his favorite “tough questions” and how he would respond…

Cummings: Someone was interviewing today and the question I love to ask is, do you lie? There is nothing that will put somebody back on their heels or make them feel more uncomfortable than the question, do you lie? Because how do you answer that really. Do you lie? He says everyone lies. Well most people that we ask that question say, no or not lately, I don’t think. I was asked that question and the best answer I could give was I try not to. But I guess everybody lies but that’s a good question to ask because if somebody says no they are lying, so kind of got blown out of the water on that one, and if someone says yes then you know that’s a little sketchy too because you start asking what are you lying about.

Kristen: Thanks for listening to this segment. If you are interested in hearing more from any of our featured speakers, or would like to hear more advice from our experts on how to successfully navigate the job search process, please check our website at eclips.cornell.edu.

That’s E-C-L-I-P-S. cornell.edu.

And remember, if it is a business topic of interest, eClips will bring you “Sound Advice”…

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