Alumni Offer Tips to Shine in That InterviewAlumni Offer Tips to Shine in That Interview
School of Business alumni share their tips to stand out in an interview and snag that internship or job.

Stew Leonard Jr. ’76 learned the primary lesson about job interviews many years ago. He would sit in on various interviews with his father, Stew Leonard, who founded Stew Leonard’s grocery store chain in Connecticut in 1969.

“Afterwards he’d say, ‘Stew, did you notice how that candidate did their homework on Stew Leonard’s? That was impressive,” recalls Leonard Jr., who became president and CEO in 1991.

Anyone who has participated in a job interview agrees: The most important preparation for the applicant is to learn as much as possible about the company.

“Sometimes a potential candidate will show up and I’ll ask them, ‘Did you walk through the store?’ They would say, ‘No.’ That makes my interview very short. Why would I want to hire someone who shows little interest in our company?’’ says Leonard Jr.

At his interview with Thomson Reuters, the financial data company, Tim Rourke ’06 remembers, “I asked if the company was facing pressure from free financial data providers such as Google Finance and Yahoo! Finance. They thought this was an excellent question and responded that while they realize data is becoming more of a commodity that the level of data sold by our company will never be available on a free basis.”

Rourke, an account manager for Thomson Reuters, says, “To demonstrate to the interviewer an intimate knowledge of the company and how you can contribute is what will make an applicant stand out.”

He now sits across the table interviewing applicants and offers a second key quality: a smile.

“Walk into the room tall, smile, and have a firm handshake,” says Rourke. “I am always most impressed by people who look me in the eye and smile. I can’t stress the smile part enough because if you look too serious it can also come across the wrong way.”

Good social skills are vital in any organization, says John Baumann ’72, managing director and institutional regional client group head for JP Morgan Asset Management. What impresses him as he interviews a student or recent graduate?

“Someone who smiles, is enthusiastic, and shows confidence with humility. Good social/people skills, meaning they ask good questions, listen intently, and they make the interview more than just about them,” Baumann says.

To prepare for an interview, he says, “Do some practice interviews, on camera, to watch and listen to yourself.”

Michael Mattiello ’04, who works in global wealth management for Merrill Lynch, interviews primarily candidates for internships. “Three things that stand out are persistence, a clear goal, and adding life to their resume. All make my job much easier,” he says.

He stresses that “the student who follows up relentlessly will stand out.”

Sending a resume is not enough:

“The resumes that get moved to the top of the pile are the ones that follow up with a phone call. If I’m busy, it’s the ones that follow up with a second phone call. Using phone calls and snail mail as a complement to email is a big positive. I have 30 emails in my box before I walk in the door. I get maybe five pieces of mail. All of my mail gets read. I just deleted six emails as I’m typing this.”

A good interview is a lively interview, so Mattiello suggests interviewees consider these questions: “Why do you want to do this? What got you interested? What makes you different? Why are you passionate about this? Basically, what’s your story?”

Without work experience, college students will struggle to make themselves stand out from among all the other applicants. So they should “think about the things they have done and how they can make them relate to ‘work’ situations,” says Richard Kirk, a communications directorate branch chief for the Army at Fort Monmouth, N.J.

This could be any experience like being a scout leader, teaching a class at church, filling a role on a college project, or participating in a charitable function, Kirk says: “Things that, in fact, indicate leadership, planning, decision-making, and follow-through to completion. Becoming a 32nd-level elf-wizard in a video game, while clearly a major accomplishment, doesn’t usually count for much.”

And remember how your resume reads, says Erin Molloy ’09, who works in investor relations for Gruss & Co. in Manhattan. “It’s very important to be able to explain your resume in the same order as it is outlined on paper. This way, the interviewer isn’t distracted by jumping around your resume in order to follow along.”

Plan how to explain the accomplishments the resume lists. Molloy recommends the STAR format: Situation, Task, Action, Result:

“This way, your answer is concise and to the point. So before an interview, write down the situation, task at hand you were given, the action you took to accomplish the task, and the final result.”


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