Networking & Storytelling
The following questions and answers come from a virtual Fireside Chat on Networking & Storytelling originally planned for Spring Consulting Week 2020.
Panelists: Kalule Guwatudde, Dillon Wintz, Elizabeth Summers
Intro: name, major, dorm, future employer
Name: Elizabeth Summers
Majors: Finance, German
Dorm: Flaherty (now off campus)
Future Employer: BCG (Chicago)
Name: Kalule Guwatudde
Majors: Management Consulting, Economics
Dorm: Morrissey, (now off campus)
Future Employer: McKinsey (Detroit)
Name: Dillon Wintz
Major: Business Analytics, Philosophy
Dorm: Dillon (now off campus)
Future Employer: Capgemini (Atlanta)
It might be helpful to break down the “networking process.” How do you figure out who to approach/who to network with?
My first interactions with the firms are typically through on-campus events and career fairs. I will do my best to attend all company-sponsored (in-person and virtual) events listed on Consulting Connect and Handshake. Most often, these events provide helpful information for the recruiting process and the opportunity to chat/network with company representatives. I will stay behind after presentations and case workshops to discuss the company as well as material from the session.
The vast majority of those who host/attend these events are open and willing to talk with interested students. For more fundamental questions about the company and culture, I would typically approach first- or second-year associates. When discussing presentation material, logistical issues, and more experience-related questions, I will do my best to gauge who is best suited to my questions.
Lines to speak with associates and consultants after events and at the career fairs can be lengthy, but the wait is nearly always worth it. I am sure to collect emails and correspond with whomever I talked with shortly afterward, mentioning any memorable items from our conversation. It is often appropriate to ask whether they would suggest someone for you to contact regarding a specific topic or whether they would be free to set up a call or a coffee chat at a later date.
Elizabeth pretty much nailed it with the campus events networking.
I’d just like to add that one important aspect of my networking was with fellow students at ND to find out who was thinking about consulting so that I could get case buddies who were invested as I was. Consulting Connect events are a great place for looking out for fellow students who are taking the process seriously.
Be honest with company representatives about what your interests are and what you’re looking for in a consulting job. Clarity regarding your interests will help employers steer you towards your next connection and will advance your own knowledge base. Taking some time to identify your priorities will make your networking process much more targeted and fruitful.
How do you start conversations with people? What kinds of questions? Do you have any particularly unique or favorite questions?
I found on-campus events and career fairs to be the best locations to ask fundamental questions about the company. First- and second-year associates are often willing to answer questions about staffing, office mobility, company culture, the hiring process, day-to-day responsibilities, and travel. I find it best to have a fundamental understanding of the company before the first interview, so I would create a list of company-related questions to answer over the course of attending career fairs and events (essentially creating a company profile).
Most representatives present at presentations and career fairs are happy to discuss particular experiences (to the extent they can) as well as something they discussed/presented during a session. I would typically approach someone by explaining what I found to be engaging in their presentation and tell them what I would be interested in learning.
I sometimes like to ask about a specific news item that is relevant to the work of the person or something recently announced or published by the company. I want to have a few questions lined up and to think them through as I wait in line (I tried not to ask the same things as those in front of me).
To echo Elizabeth, having a fundamental understanding of the company is essential to asking more insightful questions. Don’t be afraid to spend some time with first or second year associates clarifying your understanding of the firm’s structure, competencies, culture, expectations, and opportunities. Once you have a firm understanding of the firm, ask questions that genuinely interest you. Ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation going and let your curiosity lead you.
How do you follow up with people? How often do you touch base with them?
After company events/presentations and career fairs, I am sure to email anyone I talked with right away. I thank them for the time they took to speak with me and mention something unique to our conversation. I would often ask a question that continues our in-person discussion (a question that cannot be answered by looking online) or ask whether they would be willing to schedule a phone call or a coffee chat for when they are next on campus. If I am interested in a particular area of the company, I will ask whether they suggest anyone for me to contact.
Timely follow-up is key after networking with employers at events. Long term, touch base with genuine questions that add to the conversation. Don’t feel like you have to touch base for the sake of touching base; meaningless conversation and questions benefit nobody. Seek to make meaningful contact occasionally to foster a relationship.
Moving onto storytelling, are there any tips you use to tell good stories during your behavioral interviews and in networking?
When beginning the process, I looked through the list of behavioral questions on the Undergraduate Career Services website as well as others found on online forums/glassdoor. With these questions in mind, I created a (physical) list of experiences that would fit one or more of the questions. When I struggled to think of experiences, I would look back through my online calendar as well as emails and photos (really!). After a period of adding to the list (ideas will come at the strangest times), I was able to cover all of my bases and feel comfortable answering a wide spectrum of questions.
I would pick a handful of questions each day and practice telling stories to myself in the mirror, or when in a rush, as I went about my day (in the shower, cleaning, walking to campus, etc.). I used the STAR format, ensuring I hit the key points (make sure you directly respond to the question!) but was careful never to memorize. This process was challenging and uncomfortable at first but quickly became familiar.
Once I became more comfortable with storytelling, I would do mock behavioral interviews with the career center and with friends. I found that someone external to the experience/story was best able to provide me with helpful feedback, ensuring that I hit all the necessary points while remaining concise and natural-sounding. When getting started, there are many useful videos of example behavioral interview responses online (some are far better than others). It is important to know what kind of behavioral questions your firm will be asking (for example, McKinsey differs greatly from BCG).
I only prepared three stories for my behavioral interview. I just made sure that these stories were versatile enough to communicate my skill set. For example, I know that McKinsey looks out for leadership potential, entrepreneurial drive, personal impact and problem solving skills, so I made sure that each of my stories communicated this. Personal stories should also be entertaining and can have some drama to make them more memorable on interview day. Beyond the four things McKinsey looks out for, I think empathy is another important value that really makes good candidates great, our stories should highlight our empathy because that communicates that one is not only highly qualified but is also a good person who cares about other people, and exactly the kind of person one would like to be on a team with.
Many firms prefer the STAR format for responses not only because it facilitates storytelling, but because it showcases your ability to adapt a structure to real life experiences. Much like the case interview framework, mastery of the STAR format involves organization, clarity of thought, and creativity.
Your stories should mean something to you. Tell the story that tells itself. Interviewers want to see your passion and interest when you speak; it makes for a more interesting story and a more convincing response.