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.