Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Secrets to Interview Success from a Former HR Professional

Written based on the expertise of Nicolette Johnson, Associate Director of Consumer Marketing – Kelley Graduate Career Services.

Is it the things you said or the things you didn’t say in an interview that come back to haunt you? As a former HR professional who has sat through 200+ interviews, Johnson would point to the latter. She made the transition from the employer side of the table to the person coaching the interviewee two years ago, and she has advice for applicants when it comes to what they miss.

They don’t explain their unique value to interviewers.
In order to describe what they bring to the table, candidates must understand three very important and connected pieces of the story. First and foremost, successful applicants understand who they are. They know their brand and can confidently communicate that to an employer. Secondly, they point to what sets them apart. 

Side note - if you’re struggling to come up with qualities that make you stand out, take time to dig deep and reflect. What have other people told you that you’re good at? Because of how often you’ve heard it (especially if it comes from mom), it can be easy to brush off and look over. But the family, friends, and co-workers who know you best can be great help when it comes to identifying what sets you apart. Another option is to get a fresh set of eyes on your resume. Something that seems trivial to you might be really interesting to someone else.

Finally, and most importantly, what’s in it for the company? Be sure to be clear about how your particular skill set will contribute to their goals in the future.

On a similar note, connect the dots.
Having passion doesn’t mean a darn thing unless you tell the interviewer how that passion will help you be better at your job. Does it mean you’ll dig in more because it’s a topic that interest you? That you’ll be more creative? Or that you’ll work harder? The same goes for experience. If you have ten years under your belt, great. So what? How will the skills and capabilities you’ve learned serve your new employer well? Don’t leave them guessing – be explicit about how your skills connect to what they’re looking for.

When they ask why this company or role, have a real answer.
Real in two forms. First, Do. Not. Be. Vague. You come across unprepared, as though you haven’t done an ounce of research on the company. Not a good look. Secondly, don’t sound packaged either. Dig deep – every company has something interesting. Find that nugget, and run with it!

Under no circumstances should you use the job description as your answer to “what are your strengths?”
Please. Don’t pretend to be the perfect match for what the company needs. Determine your unique strengths first, and then see how you align with the job description. A recruiter can tell the difference between someone who's being genuine and someone who's giving all the right answers to get a job. 

Not preparing for the interview so that it’s “conversational.”
It doesn’t allow you to be “more conversational,” it makes you look like you didn’t take the time to prepare for the interview (because you didn’t). By doing the research ahead of time, you’ll be more conversational because you won’t be flustered when they ask you a question. 

We get it – there are a lot of things to keep in mind when you go into an interview. But take our advice and set yourself apart. And if you do use these tips in an interview, send us a note to let us know! We’d love to hear about your progress. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2 Keys to a Successful Job Search

When deciding on a business school, the quality of companies who choose to recruit on campus makes up a large part of the criteria students evaluate. The Kelley Corporate Relations Team pulls through in big ways, bringing in names like 3M, Bain, and Amazon that most students will end up working for. It’s an ideal situation: these companies are looking for potential employees with a certain skillset, and these students are looking for companies of the highest caliber with meaningful work.

But for others, the big names either don’t hold as much allure, or they have their hearts set on something else. Whichever the case, some students find themselves recruiting off campus in a situation that more accurately replicates a job search, outside the bubble of Kelley recruiting.

Sumedha Makker, MBA ’17, came to Kelley with a desire to change careers and a passion for fitness. When she decided to get her MBA, combining the two was non-negotiable. She landed her dream internship with Glanbia Performance Nutrition and had an incredible summer working in an environment she loved… so how did she do it? At the core, there were two things Sumedha did that made her efforts a success.

It started with using her resources – she first reached out to Ray Luther of the leadership academy, and he provided her a connection who had previously attended Kelley. She was also proactive in her search. Using the powers of LinkedIn, she discovered she had a mutual connection with the CEO of Isopure, Chris Hickey. She reached out to her former classmate, and he introduced the two.

The self-identified factor that made Sumedha most successful in her job search was her genuine interest in Hickey and the company. When she talked to Hickey, her only motive was to learn about his career and how he got where he was. She knew that they didn’t have a program specifically for MBAs and wasn’t expecting it to turn into anything. During the conversation, they connected well, and her passion for fitness shone through. Hickey liked her so well that he connected her to the human resources department at Glanbia, the nutrition giant who was in the process of acquiring Isopure.

When she arrived at Glanbia, Sumedha says it was the MBAs within the organization who helped create the norms and expectations for the position. Looking back on her time there, something she wishes she had done differently would be to sit down and have a formal conversation before jumping straight in. “I ended up working a lot over the summer, which was great, but by the end, I was exhausted.”

For others looking to recruit off campus, there are a few qualifications Sumedha would give. First, be okay with not knowing what to expect. Most companies don’t know what they’ll be hiring for as far out as companies who specifically set out to hire MBA’s. There will be extra waiting time and likely a lack of organization. The extra waiting applies on the back end as well; these companies participate in more of a just-in-time strategy, so you have to be okay with not having a full-time offer when it’s all said and done.

She would also advise students to feel like they are able to negotiate. “It’s challenging when it feels like the company is doing you a favor since they don’t normally hire for MBA-specific roles, but balance that with the fact that you are bringing value to the company and should be fairly compensated for it.”

In the midst of the search, it’s easy to put those blinders on and focus on the task at hand. Resist that temptation and use your resources – particularly those within GCS as the launching point for your next career move. Kendell Brown serves as the associate director of alumni relations, offered to all Kelley alumni at any point in their career. Reach out to her for more information or set up an appointment.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Stop Tripping - 5 Actionable Steps to Get Out of Your Own Way

Based on the expertise of Christina Schmidt, Associate Director of Business Marketing – Kelley Graduate Career Services

Getting a full-time MBA requires a lot of sacrifice, but you already know that. If you’re uprooting your life and taking two full years off of work, I bet you’re willing to do everything within your power that will help you succeed. No matter how great your academics are, how many extracurriculars you participate in, or even how many people you meet, the one thing that will sabotage your efforts (if you’re not conscious) is you. Take a look at the following list and make a note to be mindful: these are things coaches see happen on a regular basis.

Not saying thank you. Kelley career coaches cite this as the number one blunder students commit. As incredibly simple as it sounds (and the minimal effort it requires), not saying thank you is one of the most foolish and quickest ways to make people turn away. It doesn’t matter if it was “only” an informational interview; anytime someone willingly gives up their time in an effort to help you, a small gesture like a thank you goes a long way in communicating what you think about them. If you want to take it a step further, The Muse has three tips on writing a thank-you note people won’t forget. 

Coming across unprofessional. Recruiters are used to corporate environments where many people are vying for their attention. In light of that, be sure any written material that you send uses proper English – spelling and grammar. When going through a pile of resumes, glaring errors make it an easy decision as to which ones will be tossed out first.
Unprofessionalism can also come across verbally. Particularly for those whose first language is not English, practice is key. Although it can be a challenging language to learn, if recruiters see you’re making progress with each interaction, that sends them the message you’re willing to make the effort to be a better employee. On a similar note, when you are having a conversation with someone, be conscientious of things like personal space and cultural norms.

Taking the summer off. Yes, you may be back in the working world, but this isn’t just a time to apply your new knowledge from the classroom. It can be easy to jump back into old habits, but don’t slide backward; continue networking the way you did when you were looking for a job. As GCS Director Eric Johnson would say, never eat lunch alone. 

Being timid at your internship. We hear you – being the low man on the totem pole can be intimidating, but being too nervous to speak up or ask questions sends your boss the wrong message. Use your words to figure out the details of your project, but don’t stop there. Go beyond the objectives and ask questions that will clue you in as to how the office operates. Your offer is likely contingent upon whether or not you know whom to impress. Figure out the office dynamics and get a feel for who the key influencers are.

Only talking to companies you’re interested in. It may seem counterintuitive, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. By holding a conversation with someone from a different company, you just might hit it off. And even though that might not change your mind about their company, it makes them much more inclined to leverage their network and reach out to a contact they have at a company you are interested in. Everyone has value, and by writing off someone who isn’t in your “plan,” you’re closing yourself off to opportunities you haven’t yet imagined.


These five helpful hints aren’t earth-shattering – we totally get that. But we do promise, they happen a lot more than you’d think. Whether you’re getting an MBA, applying for a new job, or are just out in the working world, make a conscious effort to be mindful and put these into practice. It might open up a few more doors than you’d expect. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pack your Bags and your Briefcase: Six Essentials you can't Afford to Forget

Based on the expertise of Megan Alwine, Associate Director – Kelley Graduate Career Services

Have you ever packed for a road trip, loaded up the car, driven away, and then remembered all of the things you forgot to bring? Networking can be like that, too. “We had a good conversation. I sent a LinkedIn invitation. We’re getting together for coffee next week… Uh oh! Did I send a thank you?” So many times, it is easy to forget the little things when it comes to networking. And these are the little things that can go a LONG way. Here’s what should be on your mental “do not forget” checklist.

Things you might forget:

#1. Toothpaste: Talk to everyone
Forgetting your toothpaste can make you shy away from any conversation. Unfortunately, that timidity, when not from a lack of brushing, can yield missed opportunities. If you’re at a networking night, and [company] is only recruiting for their marketing department, do not write them off. This particular person might work in the marketing department but might know a good contact in the department you are interested in. If you make a good impression, they’ll probably pass your name on. In other words, you are always making an impression, so make it a good one.

#2. The GPS: Make it easy
Have you ever been on a road trip where your GPS has failed? When you don’t provide context for your connector, they’re forced to bust out the old-school map; it’s possible but not preferred. When you are asking someone to reach out to a contact to you, make it easy for them! One of the best ways you can do this is to write your email explaining exactly what you want. For example, “Hi Megan. I saw you are connected to John on LinkedIn. I’m extremely interested in [industry] and would love to get in touch with him to talk about [topic]. Would you consider introducing me to him?” By using this format, Megan is able to forward the message with minimal effort to connect you with John. Bonus: John sees you’re prepared and intentional about why you want to speak to him.

#3. Your itinerary: Define the ask
The planning and effort you put into your itinerary make the trip run smoothly. While networking, the ask clearly outlines who, what and when. A word of advice: when you’re requesting someone else’s time make it as simplistic and clear as possible. If they have to work to get time with you, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot. Make suggestions to take out any extra steps. For example, rather than email back and forth about times that would work, acknowledge their time is precious, ask for an allotted amount of time within a larger time window (i.e. Would you be available for a phone call between 3 and 5 pm this Friday?).

#4. Confirmation number: Maintain control of the follow-up
Without your confirmation number, all you can do is hope the hotel got it right. Print your confirmation number in formatting your follow up. In The Two Hour Job Search, Steve Dalton gives many great pieces of advice, but one of his best pertains to the follow-up. The template given in the book is as simple as this:
“I know time is a resource, so if we are unable to connect by email, I will try to reach you next week to see whether that is more convenient.”
By structuring your follow up this way, you give yourself an opportunity reach out (next week) if you haven’t heard anything back within a certain time. And, you know what? You’re actually showing the recipient that you’re accountable. You said you would follow up in 1 week, and then you do!

#5. Paying your credit card bill: Send a thank-you
Just like forgetting to pay the tab from your vacation can damage your credit score, don’t let forgetting to send a thank-you damage your reputation. Although sending an email to thank them for their time will protect you from damaging your reputation, does that convey how valuable you consider their time? One effective but often forgotten art is that of the handwritten thank-you note. While this doesn’t replace the email for the sake of a timely follow-up, it does speak to the receiver and sets you apart.

#6. Phone charger: Give an update to your connector
Your cell phone charger is just a small piece of equipment, making it the easiest but arguably the most important thing you can forget. Without your phone charger, you’d be cut off from the outside world (and Google maps which would be a disaster on a road trip). When you leave your connector in the dark, they might feel cut off, too. Someone you know generously agreed to tap into their network for you, something they were absolutely not required to do. (But luckily most people are super great and love helping others out.) Here’s the kicker – they want to know about what happened after they helped you out. Did the contact they set you up with work out well? Awesome! Let them know. Was it kind of a dead end? That’s too bad it didn’t work out this time. Still, tactfully let them know. Regardless, make sure they know you didn’t take their contact or effort for granted.


There you have it – six things to add to your mental networking list. Talk to everyone. Make it easy. Define the ask. Maintain control. Send a thank you. And give updates. These seemingly small changes might just have the biggest impact. 

This is the first in a series of blogs entitled The Career Life Cycle. Join us every other week as we cover a different aspect of the cycle. Stay tuned! Our last post includes a chance at an exclusive giveaway with one of Kelley's certified graduate career coaches.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Job Seeker’s Guide to Dealing with Rejection

Based on the expertise of Christina Schmidt, Associate Director of Business Marketing – Kelley Graduate Career Services

Clich├ęs like, “It’ll all work out”, or “Everything happens for a reason” are a whole lot easier to say than to hear, aren’t they? But at some point or another, failure is inevitable, and you won’t get exactly what you had hoped for. The supportive, caring people in your life will listen, sympathize, and then throw out something along those lines intending to cheer you up. Often those phrases can have the opposite intended effect, but don’t let a bitter reaction tarnish the truth in those words. Remember, you always have a choice – even when those choices aren’t about which job opportunity to pursue. When your only choice is how you’ll respond, consider the following before reacting.

You’ve built a network. This is extremely valuable, so work to maintain it. Maybe there was someone just *slightly* more qualified for that job. But what about your dream job they’re just about to post? Chances are, employees on the inside know of roles coming open before everyone else. By working to maintain your network, your internal contact might be able to 1) tell you about the position before it’s made public, or 2) say they know someone who would be a great match for the role.

It’s a chance to improve. Around Kelley, we call this an after action review: figuring out what went right and what went wrong. The key to this one is honesty. You have to be honest with yourself or whomever you’re talking to about why you truly didn’t get the job. There are a million and one excuses in the book. Don’t be someone who makes excuses. Be someone who takes responsibility for what happened and takes action to never let it happen again.

Use the opportunity to take a break. Sometimes we can get so focused on the job we applied for that stepping back from the situation to get yourself in the right frame of mind will do much more for you than hours of interview prep ever could. What’s your favorite escape from reality? Listening to a TED talk, working out, reading a book? The important thing to realize is it’s only a break. Don’t quit. When you’re ready, come up with a plan of action in how you’re going to move on. Don’t go it alone, either – this is a great time to bring in a coach, industry professional, or mentor you trust to bounce ideas off and hold you accountable.

Rejection’s never easy, but don’t let missing out on one opportunity lead to squandering two. By using rejection to fuel your progress, you’ll end up in a place better than you ever imagined!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

MBA Talk: Why Kelley?

Each year, aspiring business leaders from all over the world choose Kelley for their MBA. We asked them why.

Six current Kelleys from the Class of 2017—Lauren Maggion, Aaron Millicans, Guillermo Kalen, Erica Smith, Paul Carlson and Ryan Bradley—reveal what clinched it for Kelley in their MBA search.

Support at all Stages:

Lauren Maggion
“I initially stumbled on Kelley when I moved my friend to Bloomington for her Ph.D. I emailed the MBA program office to see if anyone was around, and they immediately responded that they would be happy to visit with me even during the summer! The visit to campus was great and solidified my interest in certain program aspects – the core, the small class size, and the post-grad opportunities. Once I applied, the outreach I received from current students was awesome. I was able to meet with alumni in New York City, and a lot of them reminded me that it is totally possible to be on the East or West Coast despite going to school in the Midwest. I visited Kelley once more during experience weekend and really decided to attend because of the fit of the Kelley Family. From everyone I spoke with, there was an innate sense of collaboration, and people that wanted to help me succeed.” –Lauren

“The culture of Kelley is very difficult to summarize, but it can be boiled down to supportive and flexible. Kelley has a very supportive and understanding attitude that allows all students to pursue a career of their choice. Regardless of industry, role or location, the Kelley faculty and staff want to understand your goals and aspirations in order to make them a reality.” –Aaron

“Collaboration is something you feel from the moment you make contact and then confirm again later at interview season, surrounded by colleagues/competition that are supporting you, and you supporting them. [Kelley] is a place where you master team building and learn about the power of relationships. You experience this with your colleagues, the amazing alumni network, your faculty and staff.” –Guillermo 

A Proven Track Record:

Erica Smith
“I chose to pursue my MBA at Kelley because I was confident that its program would help me achieve my career goal of becoming a world-class brand manager. In my eyes, the significant presence of Kelley alumni at premier companies such as Procter & Gamble and General Mills demonstrated that a Kelley MBA is well-respected within the consumer packaged goods industry.  I also saw that several Kelley women alums have risen to the rank of chief executive officer of marketing-oriented organizations like Popeye’s and Quiznos—which made me feel like I could walk in their shoes one day. Given the success of Kelley’s vast alumni network, I felt that a Kelley MBA would equip me with the skills to not only manage a brand but lead an organization one day.” –Erica


“The staff not only is collaborative, but highly prepared. Kelley has repeatedly ranked in top positions for its Graduate Career Services, and the majority of its students have great jobs before graduation. As an international candidate, I considered this to be essential if I wanted to have professional experience in the USA, since companies are looking for a highly prepared individual, both academically and professionally.” –Guillermo

Kelley Culture:

“One of the aspects of the Kelley MBA Program I have enjoyed most is the opportunity to meet and work with students from all over the world. During the Integrated Core during my first year, I worked on a team with a student from Bangalore, India—who is the most brilliant person I’ve ever met. The cultural and technical learnings he has imparted to me during our time together have been invaluable, and I know our bond with last through the years to come. I also had the opportunity to work on a consulting project for a small bakery in Ghana called Ladl Patisserie during my first year—which was another international, interactive learning experience I truly enjoyed.” –Erica

Paul Carlson
“I was attracted to Kelley because of the family-like culture, the academic structure, and the potential network that I could leverage to help support my transition out of the military. My family and I felt welcomed, valued, and part of the community.  The size of the classes and the number of veteran students were also contributing factors because I felt like I could create strong professional and personal bonds with my peers, professors, and staff.”  –Paul

“I was nervous about returning to Kelley since I had already experienced Kelley and IU as an undergrad.  I was worried that I wouldn’t get a unique academic experience the second time around.  I was worried that recruiters would find two degrees from the same institution pointless.  I was worried that IU basketball games wouldn’t be as fun in my early 30s as they were in my early 20’s. Looking back I can’t believe I even considered going anywhere except Kelley….especially because basketball games and football tailgates are DEFINITELY as enjoyable the second time around!” –Ryan

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Consortium and Kelley: Enhancing Diversity in Business Starts Here

by Ruby Jones, MBA’18
Consortium Fellow
Winner of the Wallace L. Jones Fellowship

Ruby Jones
On Tuesday, March 8, I received a beautiful cream and crimson box announcing my acceptance to the Kelley School of Business as a Consortium Fellow. Four hours later, I quit my job.

Quitting was not on my “To Do” list for the day, but I was so overcome with emotion and excitement that I couldn’t wait any longer. I should clarify that by “quit”, I mean I gave a four-month notice, but after nine years with the same employer four months can seem like a short notice. As word of my departure spread, I was bombarded with questions: What is the Consortium? What is a Consortium Fellow? Why an MBA? Why now?

What is the Consortium?

The mission of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management is to enhance diversity in business education and leadership by helping to correct the serious underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in business schools and corporate management.  

In its 50th year, the Consortium assists in recruiting promising students, of any race, who show a commitment to its mission, to attend 18 of the top business schools. In exchange for their commitment, students receive access to a close-knit on-campus family, a powerful network of more than 8,500 alumni, early exposure to internship recruiters and, for many, full-tuition fellowships from their respective universities.

What qualities define a Consortium Fellow?

My commitment to the Consortium’s mission began before my knowledge of the organization. As a child, I pledged a portion of my allowance each year to support the United Negro College Fund. Although I did not fully understand the impact, I knew I was helping students who looked like me attend college and join the workforce. This support of diversity grew throughout my undergraduate studies, AmeriCorps Vista service and work experience.

At Kelley, this commitment has continued through accepting a leadership role on campus with the Curriculum Advisory Committee and participation in Kelley Consortium activities. In the coming months, there will be various opportunities to assist Consortium candidates in navigating the admissions process. Although work is abundant and time is limited, I will make myself available to those candidates, because the ability to build and support diverse leadership is critical for future success.