Recruiter Q&A: How to Nail an Entry-Level Business, Finance or Marketing Interview

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Last week, we dove into the world of tech and gave you insider advice on how to nail an engineering interview. This week we’re hopping coasts and talking with an expert on landing entry-level business, marketing and finance jobs in the new-grad mecca of New York City.

We sat down with Anthony Graziano, a regional managing director at Randstad USA, one of the largest recruiting and staffing agencies in the country. Graziano has worked with dozens of employers and countless students and understands what both parties are trying to achieve. Read on for how to make a strong first impression, make your classwork relevant to the job and more.

NerdScholar: You’ve worked with a ton of different employers. What qualities and skills are most of your clients looking for in candidates, given that recent grads don’t have a long work history?

Graziano: Computer skills like Excel are very important, but in terms of softer skills, most employers are looking for three things: people that are going to be good listeners and going to take direction well, someone who is ambitious and someone who they can spend 12 to 14 hours a day with, so their social skills matter.

Knowing how to present yourself in an interview is one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of the job hunt for students. Tell us more about that.

The first thing to do is research the company. Go on LinkedIn and get a sense of the people you’re meeting with. See if there are any common connections. The other things that are super-critical are how you carry yourself in the interview and how you present yourself. You always want to dress professionally, even if the firm is business casual. First impressions are everything.

Based on all of the student interviews you’ve done, what other interview strategies or approaches have you seen that help candidates?

Most people doing the interviewing are not professional interviewers. They are going to ask every person the same set of questions, then hear the same set of answers over and over. You can differentiate yourself by asking good questions that are specific to the job and company.

Also, be prepared to answer the questions: Where do you see yourself in five years? What are your strengths? What are you weaknesses? I would say 5% of students have done this amount of preparation.

How should a student incorporate his or her classroom experiences into the interview?

In school, most classes that you take are in group settings or involve group projects. Being able to speak to how, for example: ‘In the marketing class I worked on a group project, and I was actually the leader of that project, and this was how we split up the work, this is what we tasked each other to do, this is what my responsibility was,’ that’s important.

I have also had students bring in specific examples of models that they built or marketing plans they put together for a class that have relevance to the job. I thought that was good of them to think about doing that.

What advice would you give liberal arts students applying for entry-level business positions?

It is a bit challenging if you are coming out with a history major and trying to get into the business world. What people have to do is connect the dots and say, ‘OK, I’m a history major, but I’d be good at marketing because my writing skills, my research skills, those things will be very applicable there.’

The reality is that certain careers have very specific career paths that you must go down. For example, if you are going to be an investment banker, you have to go to the right institution. You have to take the right classes. You have to get the right internships.

What’s the best thing that an interviewee can do to make a good first impression?

To not take the little things for granted. Be prepared. Have a firm handshake. Look your best. Ask the good questions. Do the follow-up. If you perform well with all of those little tasks, you are increasing your probability of getting the job.

Are there any interviews that stand out in your mind, either good or bad?

I think the ones that are really great are the ones where the people come in and show a lot of enthusiasm, they ask very good questions, they are very insightful, and they show that they are prepared. People who are self-aware, very confident, those are the ones that I have always found to have good strengths.

When it comes to the bad interviews, they tend to be people who feel entitled or people who come in and are a bit overly ambitious. Those are the ones that typically didn’t work or didn’t participate in some sort of sport or activity.


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