Tuesday, December 11, 2012

MBAs Gear Up for Summer, 2013

Now is the time to prepare for interviews
Most MBA students know that to secure the right job in financial services, you can't stroll out of the classroom, jump into an interview suit, and glide into a round of interviews.  Preparation is critical. You don't secure the dream job with a few practice sessions of the elevator speech.

One of the best ways to gear up and prepare for the rigors of recruiting season is to have a useful framework, one that you can use to formulate a strategy, demonstrate expertise, and express a self-brand. The goal is to get from campus to a significant summer internship in finance in investment or corporate banking, investment management, private equity, asset management or corporate finance.  Indeed in the post-crisis environment of 2013, the world of finance has emerged from the abyss, but opportunities continue to be fleeting, segmented and scarce.  Approaching interviewing season with strategy, framework, optimism and unbridled confidence can go a long way. Not to mention a proven mastery of technical skills.

The Consortium Finance Network hosted its second annual fall webinar on "Internships and Recruiting" Dec. 11 to help first-year Consortium MBA students in finance plan for the upcmoing interviewing season and emerge with offers from their top-choice institutions.  CFN hosts Camilo Sandoval, D-Lori Newsome-Pitts and Tracy Williams welcomed panelists Eric Lane and Mark Santos, recent Consortium graduates and led an hour-long discussion to launch the 2013 recruiting campaign.  For the MBA students participating, panelists provided stories and advice from their own successful campaigns to win job offers.

Lane is an associate in M&A and equity finance at Loop Capital in Chicago, a mid-size investment bank. Santos is in corporate finance at Dell, the computer company. Both entered business school at the height of the crisis and were able to use effective strategies to get from campus to positions in finance during a time when it seemed as if nobody was hiring.
CFN's framework for approaching interviewing season revolves around the MBA student demonstrating competence, experience or expertise in five pillars:

(a) background, 
(b) interest, 
(c) drive, 
(d) capability and 
(e) insight.  

The financial institution, whether it's Morgan Stanley or Loop Capital, is evaluating the candidate, in most cases, in those five broad categories. The successful candidate demonstrates excellence across the board throughout the process. The process includes information interviews, first-round interviews, and call-back, on-site interviews.

CFN, during the webinar, showed how MBA students, in numerous ways, can show excellence in each area.  Knowing that interviewers, for example, are seeking to detect interest and drive, MBA students should seize the process, demonstrate interest and drive and do it frequently.

Lane advised MBA students to look beyond the better-known institutions, the bulge-bracket firms such as Citi and Goldman Sachs, and explore working, too, at niche firms, regional firms, and boutiques.  Loop Capital is an example, as well as such firms as Lazard, Greenhill, M.R. Beal, and Evercore. Opportunities may exist outside the well-worn paths and may afford visible, broad roles for first-year MBA associates.

Santos advised MBA students interested in finance to take steps even beyond financial institutions and examine roles in corporate finance, corporate development, M&A and strategy within client companies--the industrials, the manufacturers, and the technology companies, such as, say, Dell, IBM, Pepsico or Eli Lily.  The companies have critical roles in corporate finance and ultimately choose to work directly with investment banks for advice or financing.

The formal interviewing season for MBA summer internships usually starts immediately after fall exams. The process accelerates in January. Major financial institutions have already identified some candidates they covet and desire to see on interview lists. They will inform some of them they have been invited to interview on "A" lists.  Candidates not on these lists can still seek interview slots in other ways. Smaller firms and corporates proceed with a different recruiting agenda and timetable-- partly because they have fewer slots and opportunities. 

Second-round interviews, where MBA candidates are brought on site, can occur from mid-winter until early spring. Many MBA graduates have told legendary stories about their interviewing experiences--often unique, sometimes memorable--to convince a Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, or Wells Fargo to hire them. Some have told about enduring sessions to show how they "think on their feet," how they would manage a trade or deal transaction, or how they would respond in a market crisis.

Throughout it all, successful candidates in the past had a few things in common:  a clear goal, a workable strategy, and a useful framework, all on top of networks, mentors, and special ties inside some institutions. Most successful candidates also had a passion for finance, boundless knowledge about markets, trends and products, and glowing confidence.

During the webinar, panelists and hosts reminded students of the importance of demonstrating knowledge and polishing it with rational viewpoints about markets, past transactions, and economic trends. An informed opinion shows candidates have thought about the topics of the moment and conveys leadership potential. Panelists also reminded students to concentrate on how to stand out and differentiate among others vying for the same spots. Demonstrate excellence, but distinguish yourself. However you look at it, it's a competition.

The webinar presentation and recording will be available to students who registered for the event and to others upon request (through the CFN's Linkedin page).

Tracy Williams

See also:

CFN:  Internships and Recruiting, Fall, 2011
CFN:  MBA Job Hunting, No Need to Panic Yet, 2012
CFN:  The Toughest Interviewers, 2012
CFN:  Mastering Technical Skills, 2010

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