Nailing the Case Study Interview

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Case studies are starting to be implemented into several companies’ interview processes. This is a very different type of interview than the behavioral type (tips on this kind of interview can be found in this article). Instead of talking about your past experiences and roles with the interviewer, you will be talking about a business situation that is presented to you. Since case studies are a lot less common, a lot of you may not have a lot/any experience with them. This article is meant to provide you with helpful tips that will hopefully calm your nerves and prepare you to ace that case study round!

1. Thoroughly understand the issue

Whether you are given the case study prior to the interview or right after you sit down with your interviewer, the very first thing you should do is work to understand the case study. I have seen companies give the case study in paragraph form, explaining the business situation and problem, and I’ve also seen companies just provide a flow chart to analyze. Read through the case study 2-3 times and absorb everything on the sheet. If you don’t understand the case correctly, it will be difficult to continue in the case study process.

2. Ask questions

Asking questions is very important in the case study process. It showcases your ability to communicate with your teammate(s) or client(s) because you will inevitably be put in a situation where you don’t understand a part of the project. No question is a silly question. In the workforce, your manager would much rather you ask a question if you’re confused rather than you do something wrong and then have to redo it just because you misunderstood something. Asking questions also shows that you can be proactive in learning and achieving the goal, so don’t be shy!

3. Frame the Situation

Once you are confident that you understand the case, provide a quick overview of your perspective of the situation. An example of how you can start this part is: “Thank you for all your input. With that the information I have received, I see that..” Think of this like telling a story. You want to set up the background before you get into the details. If you’re having someone explain a solution to you, you want to have some kind of introduction first, right? Get the interviewer on the same page as you before you continue.

4. Summarize Your Findings

After you introduce the situation, briefly summarize what you observed in this case. This can include descriptions of processes, a list of all the gaps in the process, and any issues you saw. Do not talk too long about this; they are the client so they know what is going on first-hand. This just allows you to showcase your understanding and set the stage for the recommendations you will soon give.

5. Dig Into It

If there are specific questions that the interviewer has, start to answer those. Remember to reference the case when you answer the questions with a phrase such as, “After learning about this process…” In other situations, the interviewer might just ask more open-ended questions, such as, “How can we improve this process?” If you are asked something like this, walk them through your solution from the beginning. After answering questions, transition into providing recommendations. In this stage, connect your observations to your recommendations, with the intent of proposing quality solutions. Engage the interviewer in a conversation, don’t give bland statements, and be confident that you know the case well enough to answer the question(s) and give recommendation(s).

6. Look to the Future

After presenting your answers and recommendations, paint a picture of future next steps and results. Are there risks that they should anticipate? What about the costs? What can the client expect to see if they take your recommendation(s)? Don’t just end your interview with your recommendations. You want to persuade him/her that your solutions are worth implementing, so show the value in them. Your ideas are great! Make sure the interviewer knows that!

I remember being terrified before my first case study interview. It’s a lot to take in. This article was a high-level look at the process and it takes practice to get comfortable with it. The two biggest takeaways from this article are: fully understand the case and communicate your thought process the best you can. The interviewer is more interested in seeing how you think and converse with others, rather than the actual solution. Be brave and be smart!

If you have any questions about case study interviews, feel free to reach out to me at heaths4@vt.edu. Good luck!

 

Nailing That Behavioral Interview

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Behavioral interviews are one of the most common interview formats recruiters are using. These types of questions are meant to uncover how you acted in certain situations.  Examples of questions that a recruiter would ask you include “Name a time when you had to work with someone you had a disagreement with,” or “Discuss a situation where you had to work fast to impress a client.” This type of interview can be difficult because it can be hard to quickly dig through all of your past experiences to come up with the perfect answer. Although I can’t tell you what your interviewer is going to ask you, I can help you prepare by teaching you the STAR interview method.

The STAR method is a great way to answer behavioral interview questions. Following STAR makes it easy to discuss your answer in an organized way that is easy for the interviewer to follow. Often times, interviewers will take notes, and if you answer their questions in a concise manner, this will allow them to jot down all of your most important accomplishments. STAR is as follows –

Situation/Tasks: You should start your answer as if you are telling a story. Give background on where you were, who you were with, and what you had to do.  

Action: Go into the specifics of all of the things you did to accomplish your goal. The most important thing about this section is to say “I” instead of “we.” Interviewers are interested in knowing what you did, not what the group did.

Results: Numbers, numbers, numbers! It is important to give a quantifiable result so that the interviewer can see how successful you were in reaching your goals. If your result was more situational and did not have a tangible result, go into the specifics of all of the positive things that resulted from what you did. If something good happened, say it! You never want to leave an interview feeling like you could’ve said something else to impress the recruiter.

Now that your know STAR, the most important thing to do is prepare! Think about all of your past experiences that yielded a positive result that interviewers would be dazzled by. I recommend coming up with between 10 to 20 STARs. The odds of an interviewer asking you that many questions are very small, but at least you will have an answer for any situation you are asked about.  

A lot of students believe that their answers have to be from past work experiences. Many of us are so early in our careers, it would be incredibly difficult for all of our answers to come only from our professional background. Interviewers know this, so it is totally okay to talk about results from extracurricular activities or group projects.  As long as you choose a situation that answers the question and has a notable result, the interviewer will be happy!

Good luck at Business Horizons, CWIB! Interviews can be stressful, but do not worry. As long as you prepare and know your STARs, you will do fantastic!   

 

Getting Ready for Business Horizons

The buzzword around Pamplin nowadays has been “Business Horizons.” Whether you are a freshman who has never heard of a career fair before or a senior who has been awaiting this day to secure that full-time job, all of us can benefit from going to Business Horizons on Thursday. If you do plan on attending (which you should!), here are some tips I have for all you CWIB members!

  1. Do your research!

The best thing you can do to prepare for Business Horizons is research the companies that are going to be there. This will help you target the companies you actually want to talk to. Also, doing research about the company’s mission, goals, latest projects, and notable employees can give you something to leverage during your conversation. Let me tell you a horrifying experience I had at Business Horizons a couple of years ago. As a sophomore, I went to the career fair to see what opportunities they had for younger students like me at the time. I barely did any research. Unfortunately, I went up to a company I had never heard of before and said, “Oh, you do consulting work, right?” The mood between the recruiter and I suddenly shifted as he responded with, “No, we are a marketing company.” I was so embarrassed! Lesson learned: go to the official Business Horizons website and learn more about who will be there before Thursday.

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  1. Look prepared!

    The first impression that recruiters will get of you is from your appearance. Check out the last CWIB Chronicles article to make sure that your ensemble is appropriate for Thursday! Business Horizons is a business professional event, so come decked out in your best suits and other professional attire! In addition, make sure you have a pad-folio or folder to keep all of your resumes in, and a pen to jot down notes. I suggest having ~20 copies of your resume, but of course, that number can change depending on how many companies you plan on visiting.

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  1. Get your nerves out

One of the best tips I got for Business Horizons is to start out by talking to a few companies that you aren’t that interested in and then go to your top companies towards the end so you can get your nerves out. Also, you could step out of Commonwealth Ballroom for a couple of minutes to get a sip of water or chat with a friend to relax for a bit. Walking into career fairs can be intimidating and stressful, so make sure to build your confidence throughout the day!

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  1. Master your elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a quick, ~30-second blurb about yourself that you recite to recruiters and any other professional connections you encounter while searching for a job. There are several different variations of what an elevator speech is comprised of, but all of them should include some combination of the following: your name, grade, major & minor (s), past work experience, leadership roles, and interests. Tailor your elevator pitch to the job you want. For instance, if you are looking for a marketing job, mention any roles you’ve had where you’ve designed graphics, created a business plan to strengthen a company’s brand or events you’ve put on to market a product/service! Show the recruiter that you have the skills for that job!

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  1. Be yourself!

All of you CWIB members are strong, intelligent, and accomplished young women with excellent grades and impressive work experiences. That kind of information can be shown on your resume and/or in your elevator pitch. When you are interacting with a recruiter, make sure to be yourself. He/she wants to get to know the real you and determine if you would be a good fit for their company. If you act like someone you’re not, they won’t get an accurate picture of what kind of person you are. Remember, stay professional, but don’t feel pressured to act so robotic that you hide your wonderful personality behind your padfolio.

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  1. Follow up

The conversation doesn’t just end on Thursday after Business Horizons. If you are really interested in a company, ask for a business card from one of the people at their booths and email them within a few days of the career fair. Reaching out to them will showcase your interest and help you stand out among other candidates. Think about how you feel when someone reaches out to you with a short, thoughtful note after you see them. It works the same way in the business world!

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Good luck on Thursday, CWIB! If you need more help with Business Horizons prep, come to our Accenture Workshop tonight at 6 PM in NCB 230 and our Protiviti Networking Event tonight at 7 PM in NCB 160!

 

Dressing Professionally as College Students

Having the proper business clothing is essential for looking and feeling professional at campus career fairs, company networking events, CWIB treks, and other professional events. Here are three business clothing tips to help you feel confident and make good first impressions on those recruiters!

1. Be knowledgeable

First, knowing what type of business attire the event requires is important when planning what to wear. The dress code will vary based on the type of event. There are two categories of business attire that are commonly used: business professional and business casual. Business professional is formal business attire and usually calls for a suit jacket or blazer, a collared shirt or blouse, dress pants or a knee-length skirt, or a professional dress. Business casual attire is presentable, yet less formal than business professional attire. There are many types of clothing that can be considered business casual, such as chino pants, blouses, sweaters, and more. Avoid clothing that is too casual such as, leggings and t-shirts. Remember, what you wear is the very first impression a person gets of you when you meet them. Looking professional is the first hint that you CWIB members are what the recruiters are looking for!

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CWIB leadership team dressed in business professional clothing

2. Be bold

Dressing professionally doesn’t have to be boring or something you dread. Adding your own unique touch to your business outfits is a great way to show off your personality! Some examples of subtle ways to spice up your outfit are wearing a maroon blouse under your blazer (Go Hokies!), sporting a light blue ring if that’s your favorite color, or tying a simple handkerchief scarf around your neck. Remaining professional while doing so is important, so try to avoid clothing that is bright and flashy.  

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The 2016-2017 leadership team adding some personality to their business casual outfits at a monthly meeting!

3. Be comfortable

Many professional events keep you on your feet for long periods of time. Lines to talk to popular recruiters at Business Horizons can be long, plus you have to walk around Commonwealth Ballroom multiple times. Therefore, try to wear clothing and shoes that you are comfortable in. Pick stretchable or loose clothing and short-heeled or flat shoes so you’re not worrying about your outfit while trying to get a job!

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Networking events, like Power Panel, require a lot of standing!

Dressing professionally as college students should not be something to stress over! If you’re lost, obtain some basic business clothing pieces to have on hand and slowly add to your professional wardrobe once you learn what works best for you! Next month has a lot of different professional events going on, so make sure you have the appropriate attire ready!

One Last Time

With a new school year comes a lot of exciting new experiences and opportunities. This is especially true for seniors, who will be graduating in about 9 months. Seniors need to find a perfect balance between making the most of their last year and thinking about the future. Although this is a very exciting time, it can also be very overwhelming. To help ease any concerns you seniors have, I asked some CWIB alumnae for advice they could offer to current seniors to make this the best year yet!

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Madison Blevins, Class of 2018, had some great advice to offer regarding making connections for the future.

“Prioritize relationships! The friends you make and people you meet at career fairs/professional events are your future network and can be really valuable in the next season after college.”

Ashley Roberts, Class of 2018, offered a tip for those moments when senioritis hits a little too hard.

“Think about your plans for the future and what you want to achieve. When I needed some extra motivation, I would look at apartments in Richmond (where I’ll be moving to after graduation) to see what I had to look forward to.”

Annie Bokulic, Class of 2018, thinks CWIB is going to be a valuable resource for your last year, and I have to agree! “Go on a CWIB trek before you graduate. You won’t regret the experience.” CWIB treks are great for networking and making connections. You will also be making lasting memories in different cities with fellow CWIB members. Be sure to stay tuned for more information on the handful of treks that we have planned this year! The first one is to Nashville, TN from September 20-23rd!

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Ashlin Webster, Class of 2018, thinks that preparing for your life post-graduation will save you from a rude awakening in the months after you leave Virginia Tech.

“Treat it [senior year] as practice for the real world. Go to sleep early and wake up early. Your body will thank you later.”

Shannon Cabrey, Class of 2018, made a fantastic point about not limiting yourself just because you think your life should be perfectly mapped out. “If you find something that interests you and you’re passionate about in an area of your studies or work, take a class in it, or look for more ways to get involved.” It is never too late to do something that makes you happy!

Catie Kidwell, Class of 2016, gave tips about not limiting yourself to what you think you are supposed to do. “There were so many other jobs and opportunities I didn’t pursue because of fear of failure and perceived ‘lack of skills/background’ – if I were to do it again I would apply to so many more jobs and think of them as learning opportunities.” Catie was kind enough to pass along her email (ckidwell@deloitte.com) if any of you would like to ask her questions about the consulting world, Deloitte, and life post-graduation.

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CWIB is so fortunate to have a successful and passionate alumnae network that is still willing to help out current members. Thank you to these co-founders, past CEO’s, and other former CWIB leaders who took the time to give these valuable pieces of advice.

Seniors, make the most of this year! There is one year left at this amazing university, so don’t walk away feeling like you could’ve done more. Good luck to all of you amazing young women!

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Networking 101

Networking can sometimes seem daunting and even stressful, especially if you haven’t done it before. It can be difficult to know which relationships to form and how to start them. However, a professional network is extremely helpful and rewarding. Whether you have yet to start a conversation or just feel a little shy putting yourself out there, reading this article will hopefully lead you to build a strong network in no time.

When it comes to networking in person at events like Business Horizons or on treks, the first important thing to remember is that everyone is a little shy at first. If you’ve never tried to build your professional network, of course, you won’t be a pro at first. It might take a little time to learn which questions to ask or how to start conversations in general. Start with an introduction and find common ground. By finding something in common with the person, you form a connection. Asking a couple genuine, get-to-know-you questions before diving into the career ones will help to build a relationship that will last beyond your conversation at the event.

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Ask the right questions. It’s best to prepare thoughtful questions you would like to ask before a networking event, to make the conversation more interesting and meaningful to both parties involved. Write them down in a notebook or padfolio so you can reference them while you are having the conversation.

LinkedIn is a great tool for networking. If you haven’t already, make an account! It takes a few minutes and is simple to use. After you speak with someone at an event, make sure to connect with them on LinkedIn. This is great for staying connected with all of your peers.

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Stay in touch. Your professional network is like a plant; it doesn’t grow overnight and needs nurturing to flourish. Try to meet up with people in your network to continue the relationship and build a stronger bond. Meet up for coffee, ask for help with your resume, or get advice for “firsts” in your professional career once you’ve got a job.

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Having a professional network has many benefits. Utilize relationships you currently have and brainstorm how you can build other relationships off of those. Always keep an open mind and make sure to keep those connections on hand for when you may need them. Who knows, maybe a relationship you’re building right now will help you to get your first job or a promotion later in your career!

Make sure to come out to the Accenture Business Horizons Workshop and Protiviti Networking Event on September 4th to practice your networking! The other CWIB members in attendance will be glad to offer any advice and guidance we can!

 

Start the Year Off Strong

How to Start the Year Off Strong NEW

Welcome back to Blacksburg, CWIB!

I hope each of you had fun, productive, and relaxing summer! Now that the days of beach trips and summer jobs are over, it’s time to turn our attention back to school. I know a lot of you are going to be juggling tough school schedules, part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities, and job searching. To help you start the year off strong, I have a few tips for all of you:

  1. Start Scheduling– Once you receive all of your syllabi and any other documents containing important dates, write them down somewhere. Having these dates laid out for you will help you easily keep track of your future exams, project deadlines, meetings, etc. You can utilize a traditional planner or the modern Google calendar to help you organize all of these dates. Whatever method you choose, make sure it’s one that you see yourself keeping up with!
  2. Don’t Fall Behind On Work– Syllabus week is arguably the most relaxed week of the semester. Just because this time is not busy, doesn’t mean you should just lay around and watch Netflix all day. Stay on top of the homework that’s assigned and if you have time, get ahead. As the semester starts to pick up, you’re going to have more things added to your plate. Don’t bring more stress upon yourself by slacking off on homework now because it will catch up with you!
  3. Get Into a Routine– Adapting a daily routine increases productivity because you get used to doing certain things in a certain order, which minimizes laziness. Get up at a reasonable time, prepare for your day, then go at it! Of course, things come up that may alter your schedule, but forming a steady routine will help you stay focused during the week so you can continuously complete the tasks you have to get done.
  4. Learn About More Opportunities The beginning of the semester is the best time to join new clubs and programs. Whether you go to a big event like Pamplin Picnic (which is THIS Friday at 4 PM!) or stop by the numerous booths around campus, don’t be afraid to learn about opportunities that interest you. Virginia Tech does a great job at providing students with a variety of organizations that aim to help students achieve their goals. Do this now instead of at the end of the semester!
  5. Find Some Time To Relax– I know that all my previous tips have emphasized being productive, but it is important to maintain a work-life balance as well. Make sure to leave some time for yourself every day to do something that you love. Watch an episode (or two!) of your current Netflix show, get dinner with your friends, or go on a long walk. Taking time for yourself is essential for your mental health, so make sure to work it into your day as well.

I hope that you found these tips to be helpful to you and that you choose to adopt at least one of them! Make sure to stay up-to-date with the CWIB Chronicles throughout the semester for more beneficial articles like these! If you want to read about anything specific, feel free to reach out to the team!

Good luck this year, CWIB! You are all going to do great!