November 7, 2019

So What Questions Do You Have for Me? How to Ace this Part of the Interview

Now that on-campus recruiting season has winded down, I have been debriefing with students about their interview experience. As graduate students, many are looking to make a career change, and for some, this is their first time interviewing in the US. The one topic that keeps popping up as an area of development is questions candidates have for the interviewer. Here are some common questions that students have asked interviewers and my suggestions on how to make them better.

Question 1: What are the day-to-day duties of the position?

Oof. Why don't I like this question? Because you should know what those are already! A way to make this question better is to rephrase it. Say something like, "Based on my understanding of the job description, I would be working on X and Y. Can you tell me more about X and/or are there other important projects coming up that are not listed in the job description?"

Question 2: Can you describe the company culture?

I am sure either you have been asked this question, or perhaps you have asked it yourself. The problem with this question is that it is too broad, too vague. Company culture means so many different things. Identify what piece of company culture is essential to you then zone in on that. Something like, "I value receiving feedback as I place high importance on growing professionally. Can you tell me how performance is evaluated here?"

Question 3: What are the biggest challenges you are facing?

This question is OK as it helps you learn more about the person, organization, and/or the job itself. What would make it better? Try to be more specific by tailoring the question for the person. (Side note: always ask for the name of the interviewer beforehand so you can look them up on LinkedIn.) If you looked up the person, you could ask about challenges based on something you have observed in their profile (an industry change, a function change, etc.). For people that you would be working with regularly, challenges related to job requirements may be best. Whereas interviewing with a more senior team member may provoke a question around more macro-level challenges facing the business and/or industry.

Lastly, have your questions prepared ahead of time. Written down is fine if it makes you more comfortable. It shows you are prepared and signals a positive indication of how it would be to work with you as a colleague. Need more? Here are three last-minute interview tips: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/help-3-last-minute-ways-prepare-your-interview-lindsey-plewa/

What are some other ways these questions could be better? Comment below.

Lindsey Plewa
Associate Director, Graduate Career Management Center, Zicklin School of Business
Lindsey Plewa has coached thousands of students on how to successfully navigate a job search for over ten years. She is currently the Associate Director of Career Advising at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College.  She holds an MA from New York University and is pursuing her EdD from Northeastern University.

October 1, 2019

Students on the Blog: Site visit to Nasdaq

By Anna Baturina
MBA ’21 Concentration in Finance

Long before I became an MBA student, I had been curious about how companies raise capital, especially through an Initial Public Offering (IPO). What constitutes a successful valuation that helps to identify the right price point? Having pondered these questions for some time, I was eager to take part in a site visit to Nasdaq in August that was organized by the Graduate Career Management Center.

Zicklin Site Visit to Nasdaq
I imagined Nasdaq to be a typical Wall Street firm that comes with a grueling work schedule, enforces a strict dress code, and provides little room for its employees to find their voice or make an impact within the organization. What I learned from the experience was that my preconceived notions were totally wrong.

When you think of Nasdaq, you might think of all the companies listed on its stock exchange, such as Microsoft, Apple and Netflix. But Nasdaq is more than simply a stock exchange. Helping many tech companies go public, Nasdaq considers itself a tech company in its own right. In my opinion, it is a reflection of the tech industry. In 1971, when the majority of processes on stock exchanges were manual and costly, Nasdaq launched and pioneered a computerized trading system. Today, Nasdaq continues to “Rewrite Tomorrow” by creating new opportunities across 50 offices around the world to reimagine the markets.

Zicklin Site Visit to Nasdaq
Nasdaq takes pride in empowering employees and interns to contribute in meaningful ways, while allowing them to continue learning through education, spend quality time with family, and generate new ideas. A number of their current projects were first presented as suggestions by junior employees and have since been implemented. Nasdaq values growth and sets no limits. Even interns can make an impact, and in fact the firm’s CEO, Adena Friedman, one of the few female CEOs in the industry, started at Nasdaq as an intern.

At Nasdaq, we received valuable advice from our hosts, which included a number of Zicklin graduate alumni. One piece of advice was to strive to be the best at something, which will help you stand out. Networking with your coworkers, and increasingly knowing programming languages, are crucial for success. While many might think that programming is not a necessity for their target career, some knowledge of SQL, Python or R can significantly broaden the list of positions students are qualified for, as well as open new opportunities that they might not have been considering.
Zicklin Site Visit to Nasdaq
Starting my MBA with a concentration in Finance, I'm still seeking to get exposure to the IPO market as a summer intern. I left Nasdaq’s offices feeling inspired. Inspired to take advantage of the opportunities in front of me, as well as to learn the most I can during my MBA to help propel me forward.

September 7, 2019

Students on the Blog: Site visit to Neustar

by Alexandria Bottiglieri
MBA '21 Concentration Analytics and Quantitative Modeling

As a graduate student studying analytics and quantitative modeling, I am continuously fascinated by the ways in which data is utilized to help organizations make strategic business decisions. Meeting the modeling team at Neustar on a site visit with other Zicklin students in August offered more insight into how data is used within the business sector, and how companies can leverage data in myriad ways. Coming from a technology background myself, I was excited to learn more about what professionals are doing within this field, since it's where I will be in the future.
Zicklin Site Visit to Neustar

I am pursuing a graduate degree in business analytics to learn the ways in which corporations use quantified data in order to better serve and understand the needs of consumers. My career goals include utilizing scientific processes to help streamline business operations and create product innovations. Areas of interest also include artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data.

Zicklin Students Networking with Alums at Neustar
While listening to the discussion of Neustar panelists, most of whom were Zicklin alumni, I learned that there are many teams within the company that cover an array of specialties in order to best support client needs. These teams offer assistance within the data, modeling, tool configuration, support, and consulting fields. It was interesting to learn how Neustar’s product specialists utilize statistical analysis tools such as marketing mixed modeling to compile critical decision-making information in a meaningful way, and forecast impacts on client priorities, from sales to brand awareness.

Neustar Zicklin Alum Panel with Students
The site visit to Neustar was particularly important for me. During my MBA, I want to learn computer-based statistical analysis tools such as SQL, SAS, R, and Python as well as strengthen my knowledge of corporate strategy. In addition, my summer internship aspirations are to bring my skills to a data and modeling team at an information technology company. I want to help clients understand the impact of their marketing tools, how customers interact with their platforms, and ways clients can create unifications across applications. I also hope to work alongside data scientists who research and work with computational tools in order to collect and formulate data in a meaningful way.

Hearing from Toshi, Sid, Barbara, Lisa, and Simon at Neustar expanded my understanding of the diverse ways information systems can be used within business, and I look forward to my next steps into this area of business. Thank you to the Neustar team for the opportunity!

August 8, 2019

GCMC Podcast: Episode 4 - Why Curiosity is Important - Elyse Kane


Hiring managers talk all the time that they want “curious” people on their teams. If you even Google “importance of curiosity,” you’ll get pages of results from places like Harvard, videos of thought-leaders like Bill Gates, and articles from psychology blogs about why it’s important for individuals to “be curiosity.”

Many of us have a sense of what “having curiosity” means, but what is curiosity and how can you make sure you are and stay curious?

In this episode, we speak with Zicklin alumna Elyse Kane (MBA ’87), who was most recently Vice President, Insights and Analytics, North America at Colgate Palmolive. With a professional background in consumer research as well as experimental psychology, Elyse discusses curiosity with us, including:

  • Why hiring managers want curious people on their teams
  • Why it is so important to be curious – both for you personally and for your teams at work
  • How curiosity is tied to making the world a better place
  • Ways you can flex and maintain your curiosity

Click here to listen.

June 25, 2019

Networking Not Working?


It’s reported that 85% of job openings are filled through referral. This means your network is a critical factor when it comes to advancing your career. Yet, for so many job seekers, networking is one of the scariest aspects of the career process.

Why does it induce such fear? From my experience, it boils down to how networking has traditionally been viewed from a career perspective - to schmooze when you need a job. This approach treats other human beings as a means to an end, a way to gain favor. And since for most people it feels icky to use others for their own gain, they resist networking.

If this is networking, I would rather mindlessly watch Netflix than interact with others too.

Fortunately, it’s not. You see, the reason networking is emphasized ad nauseam is because statistics prove that most jobs come through a person's network. What many overlook, though, is that the contacts through which these jobs came in most instances were not people job seekers were using to get a job but those with whom they already had an established connection. When networking is done right, it’s about connecting with people from a genuine place. A secondary effect is that the people in your network look out for your best interests because of how you treat them and how they view you

Simply put, networking is creating and developing relationships. You already know how to do that if you have friends, people you care about and share common interests with by being yourself. When it feels difficult, it's usually because you’re forcing a connection by having a self-serving agenda and compromising your values to get an outcome.

Every job I’ve held in my career was the result of networking. But it never felt like a sleazy activity where I was reaching out to random strangers to ask for a job. In fact, my contacts reached out to me because we were friends, they were confident in my ability, and they knew it was a fit. My internships while I was a student at Baruch came through my professors and peers, where we already had friendly relationships built on trust and credibility. I see students bypass these low hanging fruits to reach for the top branch and fail over and over because they're single-focused. As a result, they form the belief that networking is hard and leads to rejection, avoiding it altogether.

That belief is not true. Networking is an ongoing process without an end point, where you nurture relationships which resonate with you. It requires considering the needs of others rather than only viewing the world through your agenda of getting a job. An agenda minimizes others, which backfires when the other person feels unseen and reduced to an object for your gain. Think of your reaction when you feel used by someone. It's obvious, right? You move away from that person. Why would it be any different in the career process?

While networking is the big buzzword, all it means is that investing in relationships plays an important role in getting where you want to go. This is why building connections is a skill which you cannot overlook. And how do you do this on the regular? By relating to others: looking for commonalities to bond over, by taking a genuine interest in their needs, by offering value, by being curious, and by expressing sincere appreciation when you feel moved by the actions of someone.This also means being clear about your boundaries and values when it comes to your relationships.

Networking can be applied to anyone - from the stranger waiting with you for the elevator to the CEO of a Fortune 100 company you meet at a conference. It’s about seeing and validating other human beings regardless of whether or not they can do something for you. You never know from which of these connections the next job opportunity is going to come, even though that's not the point.

In the end, networking is never about applying a 5-step robotic formula that's disingenuous. It’s about who you're being in any given moment. Are you open? Are you resourceful? Are you appreciative? When you take this approach, you’ll start to see every human being as an opportunity to become curious and add value (in your control) rather than getting them to do something for you (out of your control), which introduces the fear of rejection. It is this fear that paralyzes most job seekers and keeps them from advancing in their career. The fear is only there, though, because of how you’re approaching networking. You can easily change that by dropping the agenda and broaden your scope to include others.