Kunal Jain, a post graduate from IIT Bombay in Aerospace Engineering, has spent more than 6 years in field of Business Analytics. His work experience ranges from mature markets like UK to a developing market like India. He writes a regular blog on Analytics Learning.
Campus interviews can be very competitive, especially so, if you want to secure a job with the best companies. Further, if you are a fresher, the experience of giving interviews can be unnerving at times. The combination of these factors can make even the best analysts falter when being on top of the game matters the most.
How do you ensure that you excel in campus interviews?
Thankfully, you can train yourself to make sure that you present your best when it matters the most. The purpose of this post is to provide tips, using which you can blaze through any analytics interview:
First and foremost, how are analytics interview different from other interviews?
Interviews for analytics positions could be quite different compared to interviews for Sales or Operations. This is because the skills required for success in analytics are different from the ones in other functions. Analytics interviews for freshers are typically meant to test some (if not all) of the following skills:
- Structured thinking
- Attention to details
- Numerical skills
- Problem solving capabilities
- Communication skills
Hence, they differ in design and assessment compared to other interviews. In order to test these skills, companies rely on case studies, strategic / analytical role play, puzzles and aptitude tests.
Lay the ground work and train yourself
The pressure to get your first job could be immense and hence it makes sense to be fully prepared for what you are likely to face. Your preparations should begin at least 3 – 4 months before your placement season starts. You need to prepare and train just like an athlete does for his / her competition.
Following are list of activities you should complete before even applying to a company:
- Prepare your CV: Your CV is your window of opportunity to get shortlisted. While preparing a good CV is not the focus of this post, I would want to highlight 2 points for making your CV better:
- CV should ideally be 1 pager, maximum 2.
- Highlight the impact of your projects, internships and contributions through numbers. How much profit did the company make because of your contribution? What was the impact of your internship?
- Identify and prioritize your target companies: Identify the companies you would want to join before hand. Check if these companies are coming to your campus. If not, you should reach out to the right people in these companies and find out how you can apply? Once identified and prioritized, go through the website of these companies, past annual reports and recent press clippings (if any)
- Revise MBA concepts and frameworks: If you are passing out of a B-school, this should not take any extra effort. However, if you are a non-MBA graduate, go through and understand some of the common business frameworks. Some of the famous ones are 4Ps, 3Cs and Porter 5 forces. Keep special focus on frameworks which can have numerical part (e.g. Profit = Revenues – Cost). While there is no need to memorize these frameworks, you need to apply these frameworks to solve business problems.
- Solve Case studies: If you are a non-MBA graduate, get some of the B-school case studies and apply the frameworks mentioned above to solve these case studies. I would suggest smaller case studies (which can be completed in an hour or so) rather than elaborate ones. Also, don’t ignore the numerical part of these case studies, it is as important as strategic thinking. Spread these case studies over days rather than doing all of them in a go.
- Form an interview group: A lot of these activities are best done in groups. You can ask your partners to take a case interview, perform a role play, pool puzzles and case interviews etc. Needless to emphasize the importance of right group here. Try and get people from diverse background but common aspirations.
- Pool interview puzzles and solve them: Arrange as many interview puzzles as possible and then solve them with your group. Discuss them and see if you can find a shorter way. What could you have done better to reduce time?
- Solve aptitude tests: Taking up aptitude tests which score you on logical reasoning and numerical skills is the best way to brush up your numerical skills. They not only simulate a possible round of interview, but also create an environment of pressure. Finding and taking mock CAT and GMAT exams could be a good way to do these tests.
- Read about analytics: While this may or may not have a direct impact on any of the rounds you face, it will provide you discussion points after the interview. They can also be used to answer some of the questions like “Why do you want to enter Analytics?” or “Why does Analytics excite you?”
- Finally, get into the routine: Your mind needs to be on top of its productivity during the interviews. If the interviews are expected in evenings or over the weekend, solve your case studies and perform role plays during same time. Try and simulate similar environment so that you are at home on the final day.
- Take good sleep the night before: On the night before, take a sound sleep. If you have not read or prepared some thing yet, there is no point of preparing it now. Your mind should be in its best productive state during interview, so a night out or late night coffee would not help.
- Dress up comfortably: Wear the dress you are comfortable in. If the shirt is tight, change it (but keep it ready in time).
- Reach the venue before time: There is no point in creating hassle in your mind by getting late or rushing at the last minute. Plan your time for commute, keep buffer for traffic jams and reach the venue with a relaxed mind.
During the interview
- Enjoy the process: You should judge the interviewer as much as they are judging you. Enjoy this period of interaction as much as you can. Anticipate
- Focus on framework & interpretation of numbers: For case studies and role play, focus on the approach and framework. The interviewer would be interested in your framework and strategic thinking. Numerical accuracy is important, but not the most important thing. Also, try and interpret the numbers thrown at you. Is the cost higher than revenues? Is the company making operation loss or profit?
- Be honest and call out assumptions: One attribute every manager wants in his analyst is honesty and integrity. No one expects you to know solution to every problem in the world. So, if you don’t know the answer, say so. If you are making assumptions, say so. There is no point in bragging about something you don’t know.
- Think out Loud: In evaluation of case studies and role plays, your problem solving approach has higher weightage compared to the actual answer. Hence, it is important that you always keep interviewer up to date with your thought process. As a good practice, layout the approach in front before actually proceeding with the case study (or a part of). So, even if the answer is wrong, interviewer understands that the approach was right.
- Take notes / solve the case by laying out things neatly on paper: One of the best ways to make sure you follow a framework is to lay out things neatly on paper. For example, if the question is to see how a company can become profitable, I would say that the company has 2 options: Reduce cost or increase revenues. Then I’ll divide the paper in 2 half and list down various levers for each part accordingly. You can then discuss each lever. This not only ensures that a framework is followed, but also that you look at the holistic picture.
- Ask questions whenever you can: If you are not clear about any thing, ask! There are times when questions are kept vague deliberately. It is to test how do you deal with ambiguous situation. Towards the end of the interview, ask questions which can help you understand the role better. What is the role? How does a typical day or week look like? What is the profile of people in team are some good questions you should ask if you don’t know the answer to.