Friday, March 16, 2007

Reality check at Mock interview session

Today I had my mock interview session. I got to choose from different industries: entrepreneurship, VC/PE, Banking, General Management/Business Development, Consulting Case. I was put in VC/PE.

I can see several advantages in having the mock interview so early in the process. First, because you're not good, or underprepared, or because the interviewer is especially tough, you get a harsh reality check. Basically, out of 3 participants in my session, none got through the mock interview...

I must say, in many instances, we give the stick to the interviewer, even though I felt she over-read in body language, sometimes.

Here are my takeaways to anybody.
- It sounds ridiculously trivial, but be prepared. Preparation does not mean just doing your homework about a company or an industry, it's 2 things. First, know yourself by heart and be able to answer the basics (qualities, improvement areas, why MBA, why INSEAD...) Second, it's know the words your interviewer wants to hear. They differ from industries/positions. For VC/Private Equity, in case study, do not fear using buzzwords like "management team", "exit strategy", "decision criteria", "risk profiles", ie. use their language.

- Don't storytell, Do pyramid talk. That is, when delivering your message, start with the Conclusion, the Essence, then develop, walk through the whys. For one thing, it is more effective and sounds more professional. Then, if you ever get cut short, you would have delivered the core of your message.

- Frame your delivery. Know what the interviewer wants to hear, expects from you. And frame your message towards these messages. Make anything you say relevant to the interviewer.

- Don't lose eye contact, even when you think, during case studies. Walk the interviewer through your thinking. (Although, in my mind, it depends on interviewers. Some would give great importance to body language, some would not read too much in it.)

I was a bit bummed by my performance. If you're underprepared, don't expect a miracle. It's probably better not to do an interview in that situation, rather than to get a ding which hits your morale.

Talking about dings, let me tell you the sinister INSEAD Ding tradition.
Apparently, INSEAD used to have a bell in the campus. The tradition had it that, whenever participants got dinged in job applications, they would ring the bell. In the darkest moments of the 1990s, the bell rang so much that the Dean decided to stop the practice.

Tomorrow is the big McKinsey dinner. That should be fun.

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