By Rachel Taylor, NCA Assistant Director, serving students in the Kellogg Certificate Program for Undergraduates
Welcome to the International Student Career Advice blog series! Each month, NCA will feature a Q&A with current and/or former Northwestern international students about their experiences navigating the U.S. job/internship search process. In this month’s edition, NCA solicited feedback from three current international students:
- Chinese undergraduate in Industrial Engineering working in financial services (sales & trading)
- Indian undergraduate in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences and Economics working in consulting
- Chinese undergraduate in Computer Science and Mathematics working in technology
Here are their responses to questions related to preparation for the U.S.-based job/internship search:
What is one thing that surprised you most about the recruitment timelines for your industry?
- One thing that really surprised me is how early you have to prepare for recruitment. The timeline keeps moving up and the diversity recruitment/accelerated process can happen even earlier. Once the interviewing starts the spots can fill quickly, and there’s only a handful of firms that hire international students. It’s helpful to submit application early and check in with recruiters periodically to get a sense of how far along in the process they are.
- The timeline for consulting is very regimented and easily discoverable through CareerCat. It is imperative to compile the timeline early so that you know which companies will be on campus on which dates.
- I recruited for two industries at once in fall quarter, which is something that not most people would do. Tech industry’s timeline starts early in the summer – I unfortunately started a little bit late in the fall. Consulting industry timeline is pretty much what I expected so no surprises there.
When and how did you prepare for recruitment?
- I started my recruitment preparations fall quarter of junior year, which in hindsight was late. I ended up being lucky but most people actually start to network and prepare their sophomore even freshmen year, which is now even more important given the shift in recruitment timing. When I was searching for junior year summer internships I didn’t really have a clear idea about which specific area in finance I wanted to pursue. It took me a lot of time to figure that out and then prepare for my technical interviews in the specific division. I think it’s good to join some finance clubs on campus, talk to the people in the industry and get a sense of what the career really is like early on. I also started following the markets in spring and that helped with the market questions during interviews.
- I attended any recruitment events that were organized by firms I held an interest in during the spring and fall quarter. During summer break, my preparations predominantly focused on reaching out to former and potential connections at firms I was interested in in order to learn more about the nuances of the firms and build my network. In addition, I did case prep to brush up my skills.
- I started preparing for both tech and consulting in the summer. I studied really hard on the technical for software engineering internships, such as algorithms and data structures. For consulting, I did finish the whole Case In Point book and a few practice cases from Kellogg’s MBA casebook.
How did your preparation give you an advantage in the search process?
- Talking to people and having a genuine interest about the business really helped. I think it’s something that takes time to build up and it really shows during the interviews. Also for S&T a lot of the preparation is following the markets, interpreting information and being able to talk about it. I got a lot of market related questions during the interview and it would have been hard to give solid answers if I hadn’t been following along for months.
- Understanding early that networking was the most effective way to an interview selection allowed me to focus a substantial amount of my time and effort in the right place, instead of going overboard with interview prep too early in the process.
- Because I had prepared for interviews over the summer, I was able to use the time during fall quarter to maximize my time at events that allowed for networking and information gathering.
What advice do you have for undergraduates about using spring and summer to prepare for recruitment?
- Finance is a very competitive industry, especially for international students, so if you think this is what you want to do you have to start early: researching, networking and prepping for interviews. It’s also important to talk to as many people as you can during spring and summer to get a sense of the different divisions. Because the recruitment process can be so different for each division, I recommend first figuring out what’s better suited for you, then focusing on that specific area.
- Take time in the spring and summer to zero in on the firms that interest you, and build your network at these organizations. This is a down time for recruitment at these firms, and as a result, first and second years are very open to speaking to prospective candidates, either on the phone or in person over coffee.
- Know what industry you want to recruit for. Don’t spend time on industries that you are not interested but feel compelled to apply due to peer pressure. Use summer time to brush up your skills on the technicals because once fall quarter kicks in there will be very little time to spare while managing your classes and activities.