Even if you’ve spent some time reflecting on your goals, the first year of an MBA is so full of networking events, coffee chats, meet and greets, applications, and interview prep that your time management skills are quickly put to the test. Managing these endeavors, as well as class and social responsibilities, can be challenging, and knowing what to prioritize is key. I’ll be chatting with my fellow classmates and asking them to share insights, experiences, and advice to help you navigate the process when the time comes. I’ll post a series of blogs, each covering a different industry/function.
This part of the series focuses on corporate finance recruiting. I asked Rachel Sege and Rubi Vinnitsky, Class of 2021, Corporate Management Group (CMG) Co-Chairs, to share their experience and provide some advice about how they navigated the recruitment process. Rachel interned in PepsiCo’s Strategic Finance department and Rubi interned with Amazon’s Finance Leadership Development Program.
Career Services offers both on campus and specialized searches for recruiting. Which did you utilize?
Rachel: I did both, probably about two-thirds campus recruiting and a one-third specialized search.
Rubi: I did both as well. I attended the corporate conversations and meet and greets organized by Career Services and applied to companies that recruited on campus. I also found the specialized search workshop that Career Services put together to be very helpful in understanding how to build my specialized search strategy.
How many companies do you think someone interested in corporate finance roles should focus on?
Rachel: This is going to totally depend on your specific situation. For me, because I had corporate finance experience and knew pretty specifically what I wanted, my list was on the smaller end (networked with 10 and applied to 15 places). However, those who wanted to cast a wider net looked at twice as many (or more!).
Rubi: International students without sponsorship should broaden their list. While I don’t have an optimal number, my advice is not to limit yourself to a specific group of companies or industry.
Did you need to network to get an interview invitation?
Rachel: Each company is different, but most companies want you to connect with them in some way beyond just submitting your resume and cover letter. Some companies come to campus several times and make their Booth alumni available for networking chats and expect applicants to take full advantage. Others are a little harder to get to know, but the effort is certainly rewarded. Booth also maintains a thorough alumni directory which was very helpful when I was looking to connect with companies that didn’t formally visit.
Rubi: Definitely! As an international student the concept of networking was relatively new to me. However, throughout the process I realized that networking is essential for writing cover letters, receiving referrals, having stories for interviews, and learning about culture and fit.
Any tips for making a strong and memorable impression?
Rachel: For networking the more repetition, the better. It’s ok if your first few conversations are a little awkward! I learned so much about my target companies through coffee chats and it made the whole process easier. Whenever I reached out to a Boothie, the response was so enthusiastic! It was really encouraging to see how the community remains strong after graduation.
Rubi: Think hard about your story and make sure that it is clear and well-reasoned. Also, reach out to second-year students and the Booth alumni community.
How did you orient the academic experience at Booth? Were there classes you selected to help improve your skills/knowledge?
Rachel: The relevant class for my internship was probably Data-Driven Marketing. It was all about using big data to make marketing decisions, and they used a lot of retail examples that were directly relevant to my role at Pepsi.
Rubi: Corporate finance and accounting classes can help with the technical parts of corporate finance interviews.
So, you managed to secure an interview. What can you expect?
Rachel: From my experience, most companies lean heavily towards behavioral questions, with a brief case component. The case typically asks applicants to look at financial tables, interpret the results, and then discuss the strategic implications. The behavioral questions are all about getting to know your story, and why you would be a particularly good fit for the role.
What’s the best way to prepare for the interview?
Rachel: Practice helps! It gets so much less scary to answer the “tell me about yourself” prompt once you have done it a bunch of times. For the behavioral component, I practiced a lot with my CMG family and my friends. My roommate and I were both recruiting for corporate roles, and it got to the point where we would stop in the middle of conversations to say, “Tell me about a time you faced a challenge,” or “Tell me about a time you used data to solve a problem.”
For cases, I tried to learn about the company and its industry. First, I would skim 10-Ks and/or 10-Qs. Although you don’t need to understand every section, it helps to see a formal overview of the company, as well as the ways they segment their business and how they are doing. A couple of times, I was interviewing at competing companies (Target and Walmart, for example) and I found it really helpful to look at both 10-Ks next to each other, to hone in on the differentiating factors between them.
Beyond SEC reporting, I would also read the company website to find out how they talked about themselves, and I’d use Google to find recent news about the company. Finally, for industries I was less familiar with I looked at industry publications and newsletters to get an idea of what was happening in those sectors.
After my research, I brainstormed specific questions for the interview, which helped me get into the mindset of what types of questions could get asked in the case. They came in handy for the Q&A portion of the interview as well.
Rubi: I found my CMG interview family to be extremely helpful. It provided me with a structured environment where I could practice and receive feedback. This year CMG will provide even more support through those families so, I highly recommend joining. Additionally, I also felt that mock interviews were very helpful in preparing for the real interview. A mock interview forces you to deal with a formal interview setting, get real feedback, and understand what areas you need to focus on in your preparation process. Do as many of those as possible. You can sign up for them via GTS.
I hope Rachel and Rubi’s perspective is helpful to all of you thinking of recruiting for corporate management internships. If corporate finance isn’t your path – you can tune in to other parts of this series.