Mastering the Business of Finding a Job One Interview At A Time

By: Emily Tesoriero; edited by Helen S.

As students in the MBS program, our ability to translate our science into business impact is the number one marketable skill we need to master.  It is a powerful skill and makes us stand out.

Before we can exhibit this skill, we first need to secure a job interview. There are a series of interview steps. Not all roles will require all of the following steps:

  • The initial screen
  • The phone interview
  • The key stakeholders interview – either individual or panel
  • The hiring manager
  • The initial offer – the negotiation process
  • Your acceptance

All are important and require thought. In this article I’ll flesh out the first two steps, the initial screen and phone interview, since they are the bottleneck where most applicants are ruled out.

The initial screen process is now more automated.  Most positions require you to submit your resume and application on line. The application might not even be seen by a person - many systems will use a key word search to decide whether your resume is relevant to the role.  A rich, customized resume is the key.  Take your experiences and reflect how they add to you being the “right” candidate for the job.

The phone interview is the first (virtual) human interaction in the interview process, and is your chance to make your experiences and desires known.  It is also the part of the process where you as the candidate begin to align your expectations with the position – is the role and the organization what I think it will be?  Portraying excitement, showing charisma and displaying technical and business acumen to HR personnel and members of the teams we have the opportunity to work on is the balancing act to be completed in 30 minutes or less.

Speaking as a member of the Analytics concentration, here are some of the questions I have faced during my most recent phone interview:

  • Tell me about yourself. 
  • Tell me about your experiences that make you a suitable candidate for this position.
  • Tell me about a time you worked on a team and accomplished something?
  • Tell me about a time you had to convey technical ideas to non-technical people.
  • Define mean and variance.
  • What is your experience with Excel, SQL, R, Python?
  • Where do you see yourself in five (5) years?

Answering questions.  Most people dread the tell me about yourself question.   This is your chance to tell the interviewer anything you want.  Ask yourself: what is relevant for them to know about you as it relates to this job.  You can include one interest or hobby to show them you are multifaceted.

After experiencing multiple phone interviews, some with good outcomes and others with poor outcomes, I’ve learned what to focus on and how to avoid the typical pitfalls:

  • Know the stories you want to share.   In regards to technical questions I suggest reviewing your resume, note the skills listed and have some anecdotes about how you incorporated that skill.  Do not just say I’m great with Excel, instead note some formulas/functions used, such as how you used pivot tables and what information you extracted from those pivot tables for a project.  Use stories, projects and assignments to convey you are right for the role.
  • Know the relevant skills and experience you need to share.   Spend some time thinking about your skills and experiences.  Try to anticipate questions the interviewer might ask based on your resume.  It is very likely that some aspect of your experience is related to what hiring managers and teams are looking for in a candidate. 
  • Asking questions.  Stay present in the conversation.  It is best to have 10-12 questions prepared, but pay close attention to what the interviewer is saying.  It is easy to get caught in the trap of thinking about your next question while they are answering your initial question.  Use their comments to create questions.  If you get flustered or cannot think of a follow-up question, go back to your list
  • Ask about the culture.  There are plenty of candidates who can fulfill the responsibilities outlined by the job description in question.  Employers will also want to know if you are a good fit for the culture.  The challenge is two-fold:
    1. To come across as a personable scientist while keeping the energy high through to the other end of the phone. 
    2. Believe you are a serious candidate for the position.  The employer would not waste time speaking with you if there was not something attractive to them in your resume or cover letter.
  • Demonstrate your passion.  If you feel like the energy is low during the phone call remind yourself to be enthusiastic.  The interviewer is representing their company, and loves what they do.  Show that you want to know why, and that are excited to be a part of it as well.
  • Remember to be you.  The interviewer is looking to hire the best candidate for the job.  When you know you want the job, that you can do the job and have the experience necessary to demonstrate your abilities, then it is you they are looking for. 

As students in a master's level program we are each other's best resources.  We have similar experience, worked on projects together and all want to impact the business world with our science knowledge.  To help each other continue to grow and land our dream jobs I ask you to share your input!  Please share your sample answers if you have been asked questions mentioned in the article.  In addition, if there is a question you have encountered that you had a superb answer for or want some feedback on share that too!  It will be discussed in the next article. 

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