Saturday, June 4, 2011

How NOT to Get Hired as an MBA

The last two years of working with bright, talented MBA students has taught me a lot about so many different things – from how to kill a case competition, land a dream job, to how to rock a post-graduation vacation. The job market has certainly had its moments over the last two years. While we are seeing hiring trending positively, that still doesn’t mean it’s a cake walk to get a job. Here I’d like to share with you three great tips for how NOT to get hired as an MBA (there are many more, but these three come top of mind).

#1 & #2 – Lack depth and focus on technical strengths

As an MBA, employers expect that you not only come with certain degree of technical/functional prowess, but they also need you to showcase your potential to move beyond. Many MBAs come back to school so they can ultimately move up in the organization (it’s not the only reason by any means, but certainly a popular one). What is often missed during this quest is knowledge of what company leaders actually do. General Managers not only have to run the business, they need to strive for ways to improve operations – which can mean process improvement. In the interview, if you only talk about your past technical successes and show how you can (or better yet, have) improve processes, you are likely to come across as having a lack of depth.

So, how do you overcome this you ask… My recommendation is to be curious and inquisitive. When you see a process that seems out of whack, ask questions to help you understand why it is the way it is or who owns it and what’s been done to overcome it. Ask your seniors what they most love/hate about their roles. The bottom line is this – don’t forget the informational interviewing skills you learned in your 1st year of the MBA program when you were looking for a job. The mission is different, but the concept is the same – exercise these skills throughout your career will pay dividends.

#3 – Be unable to demonstrate leadership capability
When you’re hired as an MBA, the expectations are higher and you are likely to be given more strategic work, which then means you are likely being targeted for future management roles. In order to be successful in these management roles, your employer wants to be reasonably confident that you have the capacity to think and execute at the leadership level. If you need to go back to your 1st year undergrad student club secretary role to demonstrate leadership, you aren’t likely to get hired… And, you might have your interviewers saying – “he could have at least talked about organizing a company picnic or volunteer event. That would have been better than going back to 1st year of undergrad.” (True story by the way – and the candidate had at least 6 years of professional work experience at the time of the interview.)

So, how do you overcome this...? Stretch yourself in your current role, whether it is an internship or your full-time job. Stretch yourself to take on new challenges, especially the ones others think are too tough (highlighting initiative, and potentially stupidity, when completely insurmountable). The short answer is – don’t take the easy way out. The top leaders across all sectors are at the top because they work hard, take initiative, and go above and beyond what’s expected. Now’s your chance – take it!

There are so many things you can do in order to land the dream job - and it will differ for each of you. What's your secret to success? Drop us a line, we'd love to hear from you!

p.s. And one final tip, don’t wear too much of the hotel lotion…it makes your palms feel weird, and it usually has a really strong scent...



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