Posts Tagged ‘Interview’

Ace the Case: How to Flex Your Intellect in a Case Interview

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Case interviews are great opportunities to showcase your smarts. They’re designed to assess your ability to deal with complex problems, to approach an issue strategically and thoughtfully, and to reach intelligent conclusions with the available facts in a short amount of time.

In other words, they’re checking out your judgment, intellect and quick thinking. And those are pretty important skills, so it’s wise to prepare yourself thoroughly for this kind of test.

With that in mind, here are some practical tips for a successful case interview. 

1. Listen Carefully

Maybe this sounds obvious, but it’s absolutely critical: listen very carefully to the problem or case. And make sure that you respond directly to the problem at hand, rather than a side issue. One of the biggest mistakes made in case interviews is misunderstanding the question or answering the wrong one. Try to stay focused.

To avoid any confusion, take the time to repeat the question back to your interviewer. This not only demonstrates your excellent listening abilities to your interviewer, but also ensures that you understand what they’re asking you to do.   

And during the case interview, listen closely for any extra information they give you. Chances are these are helpful clues — so pay attention!

2. Outline your Thought Process and establish a Logical Structure  

Case interviews, as we mentioned, highlight your thought processes. The hiring manager wants to see that you follow a rational, structured approach to problem-solving.

How do you do this? Outline four to five major issues that need to be examined upfront before you can address the big issue. And then describe your overall problem-solving approach to your interviewer. This demonstrates to your interviewer that you can take a complex problem and break it down into manageable components.   

The natural conclusion for your interviewer? That you’re logical, thorough, and mentally organized.

As part of your explanation, share why you are addressing each point, and convey where it fits into the overall problem at hand. If any part of your approach is wrong or missing something, the interviewer has a chance to redirect you at that point.



3. Ask for More Information


If you find yourself needing more information relax it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for clarification. In fact, most interviewers expect you to ask for it. Most of them want you to ask for it.




But, again, make sure you understand where each question fits into the overall picture. Don’t make the mistake of firing off a bunch of questions without understanding where they fit into the bigger picture, or without explaining to the interviewer why you need the information.



4. Talk it out


And this is why you need to talk it out: because the employer is far more interested in your thought process than the actual solution. So do your best to verbalize your mental journey, to walk your interviewer through your problem-solving process.

In some cases, you’ll run out of time before you even have the opportunity to present your conclusion. In these situations, it’s even more important to talk through your reasoning out loud.



5. Step back and Summarize from Time to Time


Take time to step back periodically and summarize the conclusions you have been able to form so far and what the implications may be.



This is especially helpful when you don’t have the time to talk through all the key issues or the entire case. The summary demonstrates to your interviewer early on in the case that you can synthesize information and draw conclusions.



And remember that the whole point of the case interview is to understand your ability to think and reason logically so don’t get hung up on solving the mystery. Rather, pour your energy into demonstrating a logical thought process.



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Three Good Ways to Answer the “What’s Your Weakness?” Question

Monday, July 21st, 2008

It’s the most dreaded question in any job interview. “What’s your greatest weakness?”

Everyone fears it, and no one knows how to answer it. Plenty of us have tried to pass off canned answers like “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or the always popular “I’m a bit of a workaholic.” If you haven’t found out already, these just don’t work.

Chances are your interviewer has heard them before. So she’ll probably turn around and say, “Well, that sounds like a strength to me. Can you give me another weakness?” And then you’re back where you started from.

So, what is the best way to respond to this question? The key is to understand why hiring managers ask it in the first place. More than anything, they want to see how you’ll respond how well you maintain your composure under pressure.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to tackle the dreaded “what’s your weakness?” question.

Tip #1: Only admit to a minor weakness 

Cop to a small weakness — but one that could also suggest an upside. Instead of trying to pass off a blatant strength as a weakness (e.g., the perfectionist line), go ahead and confess a small weakness that more subtly hints at a positive flipside.

Admit, for example, that you are impatient. That’s a weakness, yes, but it also indicates that you’re high-performing (i.e., not lazy).

An even better way to present that weakness: “I work at a fast rate and find that I need to be more patient with those who don’t.”

Tip #2: Admit a weakness that can be fixed

With this tip, we take that advice a step further. After acknowledging a weakness, explain to the hiring manager what you’re doing to address it.

Let’s use the “impatient” example again here. If you admit that as a weakness, follow up by adding that you’re working on communicating expectations with your associates to help make sure everyone is on the same page. Under the right circumstances, this  strategy can really pay off. Because it not only shows the employer that you’re actively trying to improve, it also shows that you take initiative and have leadership skills.  

Tip #3: If you do confess a real weakness, make sure it’s not a red flag

You don’t want to be that candidate who blurts out potentially damaging information by revealing a real, serious weakness. We all have our flaws, but we don’t need to shout them from the rooftops (especially in a job interview)!

The key is not to disclose anything that can make you seem like a problem worker. Saying things like, “I’m not a team player” or “I’m typically late” will set off serious alarms in the mind of the interviewer. Maybe those are obvious. But what if you say essentially the same thing in less direct words?

If you’re frequently late, for example, or you procrastinate, you might dress it up by saying, “I need to work on my time management.” Sure, that sounds a little better than words like “lazy” and “procrastinator”, but your interviewer’s going to reach the same conclusion regardless.

So if you do decide to disclose a real weakness, choose one that is irrelevant to the position you’re up for (e.g., if you’re working with numbers all day, you could say that you’re not a fantastic writer).

Coming up with one answer is hard enough, but I recommend jotting down four. Why? Because I’ve often heard the “what’s your greatest weakness” question come in the form of “tell me your top three greatest weaknesses.” Scary, but true!

Prepare for the worst-case scenario, and hope for the best. And do not forget: practice, practice, practice. Rehearse your answers out loud so you can breeze right through the trickiest question without breaking a sweat.

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7 Ways to Get Ready for Your Phone Interview

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Got a phone interview? Congratulations! This is your big chance to make that all-important first impression.

Yes, there is some pressure. Just because it’s a phone call doesn’t mean it’s any less crucial to you getting the job. You don’t need to stress out over it — you can do this! — but you do need to prepare.

Want some help? These seven steps will get you ready to ace your phone interview.

1.       Set a Time in Advance  You may think you’re being flexible or courteous by telling the interviewer to call you whenever it works for them, but it’s truly better for everybody if you arrange a date and time in advance. That way, you’re both available, prepared and can give your full attention to the other person. Most interviewers prefer this option over a never-ending game of phone tag.


Setting a time also gives you the chance to gather your paperwork, collect your thoughts and find a quiet place to take the call. Speaking of which…

2.       Choose a Good Location

Be choosy when selecting a location for your phone interview. Make sure it’s a quiet, tranquil place, free from distractions. Pick a spot you know well (so you won’t be surprised by unexpected noises or people).

If you’re job-hunting while currently employed — and your boss doesn’t know you’re looking — don’t take the call at the office. No matter how quiet it is, or how careful you think you’re being, the office is out of the question.




I recommend a home office (if you have one) or any room with a door that can shut out most of the noise and traffic around you.

3.       Gather Your Materials

Just because you’re on the phone doesn’t mean you won’t need the usual interview materials. Have a pen and paper handy to take notes, and keep your résumé within reach (if you draw a blank on a question, your résumé probably has the answers).


Your résumé is also a good reminder of how you’ve presented yourself to the person on the other end. Be consistent in how you describe your experience and qualifications, using your résumé as a guideline.

For my clients, I take it one step further. I have them complete my Interview Cheat Sheet ahead of time and keep it in front of them during the interview. (Want your own cheat sheet? Stop by my site




All that talking, coupled with good old-fashioned nervousness, might leave you parched midway through the interview. Keep a glass of water on hand in case you need to whet your whistle or quiet a coughing fit.

4.       Answer the Phone Professionally

Answering the phone is the employer’s first live impression of you — it’s like the in-person handshake — and you must make it count.


I recommend answering “Hello. This is {first name}.” It’s not only professional but it also eliminates the awkward guessing game. The interviewer will know she’s talking to the right person right away.


If you have a shared phone line, let everyone know you’re expecting an important call and that you want to be the one who answers. Now is a good time to make sure your voice mail greeting is professional, too. Because while your friends might love calling your voice mail just to hear that one quote from Zoolander, employers won’t be impressed.

 5.       Dress to Impress

What? You’re on the phone, right? The interviewer can’t even see you!


True, but multiple studies have shown that people who dress professionally act more professionally. Think about it: if you’re lounging on the couch in your jammies, you’re not going to feel like — or speak like— a polished pro.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to bring out your three-piece suit and tie. Find something that’s comfortable without being too casual.



6.       Actively Listen and Talk

Because the interviewer can’t see you, you have to use your voice and listening abilities to communicate your professionalism and interest.

A great way to showcase your communication skills is to use active listening techniques like repeating questions back to the interviewer, and referencing earlier points in the call throughout the discussion.




7.       Land an In-Person Interview

In the simplest terms, the phone interview is just a low-cost way for the company to figure out if you’re worth the time to bring you into the office for a face-to-face interview. So to make the cut, you need to give your interviewer a reason to want to meet you in person.

For instance, if your interviewer asks if you have any questions or comments, let them know that you have some ideas you’d like to share. Tell them you’d love the opportunity to talk more about these ideas in person!




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Interview Tips Part 2

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Here is the second half of our Interview Tips:

1.  When you arrive at the office make sure that you treat everyone you meet with respect and consideration. You need to make a positive impression on everyone for you never know who has a say in your candidacy.  I actually know one firm which will question everyone who meets the candidate from the receptionist up, and all of their input has value.

2.  When you meet your interviewer make sure to look them in the eyes and greet them with a firm hand shake.  Remember your manners. In today’s world they can set you apart from your competition.

3.  When you meet your interviewer make sure to look them in the eyes and greet them with a firm hand shake.  Remember your manners. In today’s world they can set you apart from your competition.

4.  Show your passion for the investing.  People want to hire people who have the passion for the same things.

      5.  Always remember to write a Thank You note and yes they can be emailed, emailing the note does get it to the recipient much quicker then any other method which can show passion and keep you fresh in their mind. A hand written note goes very far in today’s world if it is received within 24 hours and is readable. Try to write a thank you note to everyone you meet with for at least 10 minutes, so make sure to get business cards.

Interview Tips Part One

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

For today’s recruiting focused Blog I wanted to offer some Interview Tips which in today’s market seem to be even more important because you need to set yourself apart from the competition in order to get that exciting new job.

  1. Always be prepared for your interview.  Prior to your interview visit the firm’s website and carefully review the entire website. This also includes reading the papers the morning of your interview or searching the web to see if any articles have come up regarding the firm where you will be interviewing.  If you have access to a Bloomberg machine I would suggest looking up the firm right before your interview.  In the case of most Hedge Funds this will require you receiving a password from the firm prior to the interview.  Most firms are very open to providing you the password if you ask, so ask!

  2. Plan to arrive 5 to 10 minutes early to any interview.  This provides you some extra time if something should go wrong.  As well if the firm requires you to fill out an application this will enable you to start the process earlier and not be rushed.  If an application needs to be filled out complete it to the best of your ability at that time, if need be send a follow up email with additional information.

  3. When reviewing the firm’s website make sure to read the bio of the individual who is interviewing you if available.  Your goal is to find a commonality between the two of you which you can offer during the interview. This shows that not only have you reviewed their website, i.e. done your home work, but also when you leave he will have something meaningful to remember you by.

  4. Try your best to be properly dressed for the interview; this has become much harder in today’s more casual marketplace.  Some firms still wear suits while other have gone business casual.  If you can identify the environment of the firm feel free to wear what ever is the firms environment but otherwise I would always suggested wearing a suit.  If you are worried a suit may be too formal, put a fun tie into the outfit, this will show your personality, and most likely one of your passions.

  5. Ask well thought out questions, questions which show you have prepared yourself for the interview.

Tip’s 6-10 next week!

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Internship – Part II

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

In my first posting, I posted five of my top ten tips on “How to Make the Most of Your Summer Internship.”  If you didn’t check it out, do it now!  It has great content for both summer interns and working professionals alike.  And if you don’t, you’ll be missing some great advice!  So, without further adieu, this week, I’m polishing off the top ten list with tips #6-#10: 

Tip #6  Conduct Informational InterviewsNot only do informational interviews serve as an excellent avenue for primary industry and company research, but one that is well planned can even lead to potential job interviews.  So reach out to colleagues and other professionals within your organization and conduct informational interviews with them to learn more about their positions.



Tip #7  Build Your Professional NetworkIn your internship, you’ll be surrounded by professionals in your field of interest so take the initiative and network with them.  Ask them to lunch.  Attend social networking events.  Be a presence at intern socials.  Now is the time to make the important connections that could lead to a full-time job offer so don’t miss out on your best opportunity to build your professional network.



Tip #8  Solicit Professional References and Letters of RecommendationYou should solicit professional references and letters of recommendation before the end of your internship as you’ll definitely need them during the interview process for a full-time position and even for future internships!  Be sure to only ask individuals who can provide you with a positive recommendation and can give specific examples of your performance and character traits.  And try to use an indirect approach when soliciting them.  Doing so politely provides individuals with the ability to decline if they feel they cannot provide you with a positive recommendation or reference.



Tip #9  Prepare for Your Exit InterviewThis is not only your opportunity to receive constructive feedback on your overall internship experience from your supervisor, but also your turn to re-cap your internship highlights to them and discuss potential “next steps.”  To do so, you’ll need to have an updated copy of your résumé that showcases all of your internship accomplishments, responsibilities, and completed projects.  So be prepared and get your résumé together in advance of this meeting.



Tip #10  Leave on a Positive NoteLeave on a positive note by hand-writing a “thank you” note to your supervisor and colleagues.



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