Ryan O’Sullivan was an officer in the Intelligence Corps and left the Army in 2016. A degree in Economics and Finance led him initially to financial services and he was successful in applying to the Citigroup programme. He recently switched focus to consulting and landed a job in March with Bain. Despite starting in March, he has yet to set foot through the door of the offices. His on-boarding has been done remotely and he has also been working on some case work. He shares some of his secrets to success with us.
The way I approached my interviews for Citigroup and perhaps more so for Bain revolved around a process with 7 steps labelled below. I think the road to good interview technique starts well before your interview and revolves firstly around understanding what it is you want. Secondly finding out as much as you can about what is needed to be successful and finally prepare, prepare, prepare and then apply for the role.
1. Choose an industry or sector you actually want to work in –
a. It sounds obvious but I have met people that apply to different sectors and industries and are not successful and I think it is because they are casting their net too wide and do not really know what they want to do and are therefore ill-prepared in what is a highly competitive job and interview environment. If you do not know what you really want, it is likely that that will come across in the interview.
b. I would recommend expanding your network as wide as possible and talk to as many people as you can to learn about all of the opportunities that are available and help define the sector or career you want to work in. I used LinkedIn and the OA for this and my success rate of reaching out and actually talking to ex-military personnel that I had never met was incredibly high.
c. Meeting face to face is clearly not likely for some time but using Zoom or Skype to chat to people is a great alternative and good practice for what may end up being a video interview and is an option I used very regularly.
d. This process helped me narrow my scope to Banking and Consulting.
2. Conduct due diligence to narrow down the sector to a short list of companies–
a. Having narrowed your scope to a sector, you can now generate a list of companies that are in that sector. A good way to refine that list is to use sources like Glassdoor, your new network and company websites to generate a better understanding of the nuances between companies; be it culture, work and life balance or company specialisation.
3. Network –
a. Having refined your list of companies, you will now have a good understanding of the sector, the companies within it and what they do and why you want to join them.
b. Use the OA again to see if there are ex-military personnel working in your list of companies or perhaps use LinkedIn again to reach out to suitable people in the companies themselves in order to find out if they are recruiting and what life is actually like there.
c. I personally relied on the OA and ex-military personnel on LinkedIn for advice on both Citi and Bain. Many will be surprised at how many organisations now have an ex-military contingent.
4. Practice interviews –
a. This is critical and I have put this before the ‘Apply’ phase because the timeline for the recruitment process for some companies may be short and therefore if you apply and then only have a week or two to prepare for interview you may not feel fully prepared.
b. The way you prepare will differ depending on the role you apply for. In my experience, it revolved around analytical questions and competency questions. For the latter, I would suggest creating a matrix of core competencies - times when you have shown leadership, managed a project, changed someone’s mind for example - and align them to a set of short stories where you have demonstrated that competency.
c. I found it useful to structure my examples using the following acronym STARL – Situation, Task, Action (you personally took), Result, Learnings (what you would do differently or what you learned from that experience).
d. I would also recommend that you practise using accessible language and avoid any military jargon. Practise your examples with non-military people and refine your answer until they fully understand what you are saying but also balance this with trying not to sound too prepared.
e. Team up with someone else looking for a job and take turns interviewing each other. For my most recent job I delivered around 30+ interviews, largely over Skype, and was interviewed 30+ times. Use this time to provide feedback to one another on how to improve, take note of that feedback and read it over and act on it. I kept a book with feedback from every practice interview, where the feedback I received ranged from being more succinct to smiling more (this was mentioned several times)!
5. Apply –
a. Go for it.
6. Practice interviews –
a. Repeat point 4 until you are confident.
7. Day of the interview -
a. Having worked through the process above I felt confident on the day that I could give it my best shot.
b. Smile lots, be chatty and come armed with questions for the interviewer.