May 26, 2018 In Business
Job Interview Corporate Career Development Program
I could fill an entire Blog about the application process and my advice on how to get into a Graduate Trainee Programs. But this is up to other Blogs. Here you will just get my story and how it worked out for me.
By the way: Make sure to download my application letter template for free at the bottom of this page. I hope it will work for you as well.
After sending in my application I had to wait for three weeks before getting invited to my job interview. The entire interview process was composed of the following three rounds:
Round 1: Meeting the Branch Manager
My first round turned out to be very different than it was actually planned. I was supposed to have a meeting with the Recruiting Manage. However, he happened to be sick on the day of my interview. So instead of meeting him, I met the Branch Manager who I was only supposed to meet in round 2. Due to the circumstances, neither me nor the Branch Manager were particularly well prepared to meet each other. Therefore, the first interview round ended up being quite relaxed.
At the end of the interview I did what I always do and what I would advice you to do as well. Thank the interviewer for his/her time and give him/her an honest feedback about the impression you got about the company, the position they are recruiting for and the challenges it holds. Additionally, ask them about their impression of you as well. This shows that you are a straight forward communicator and that you are prepared to receive honest feedback.
Round 2: Meeting the HR Manager and the Deputy Branch Manager
My second round turned out to be much more challenging than the first one. I was meeting the HR Manager and the Deputy Branch Manager. During 90 minutes I was asked several questions. Most questions were targeted at testing leadership skills and my behavior in certain situations.
Specific questions asked were:
- When you meet a new group of people, what impression do you want them to have from you?
- What will you tell them in order to create that impression?
- What impression do you think we (HR Manager and Deputy Branch Manager) are having from you?
- How do you react if you have worked very hard on a certain project and then your boss tells you that it is useless?
- What role did you usually take during group projects in University?
- Describe your reactions when other group members did not do their part?
- How do you convince a peer (same level hierarchy) to follow your ideas?
- Describe the type of leadership style you want to follow and how do you embrace that?
- How should your boss be and how should he/she not be?
After Round 2
After the interview I was not so sure regarding how they really liked my answers. To many questions there was no right or wrong. They often just had to feel that I could either be a good fit to their organization or not. This requires a lot of psychological intelligence in order to grasp quickly during conversations what your interlocutor might feel and is looking for. In the end, you are selling yourself. However, also you have to feel a good fit between you and the organization. And also you have to feel like you are fitting in well. If the job isn’t right for you, you won’t be successful in it.
Just like an entrepreneur that has to find the niche that best matches his expertise, also you need to find the job and corporation that best matches your talents and interests.
Besides my mixed feeling about the outcome of the interview, as the Branch Manager had already approved my application during round 1, which he only was supposed to do in round 2, I supposed that I would also pass this round. And so it also turned out to be. About one week after round 2 I received the confirmation that I had made it into the final round 3. Now the race was down to me and one other candidate.
Round 3: Meeting all Department Heads and the CEO
The third round was by far the longest and would take a total of six hours (incl. a casual lunch with the Branch Manager and its Deputy).
Right after I arrived I was welcomed by the Branch Manager. He explained the agenda to me and told me that I was up for a challenging day, which turned out to be true. Almost every department head (six in total), which I met one after the other, fired a bunch of challenging questions at me. Questions ranked from technical over financial to some time even personal. Many questions were intended to bring me out of my shell. The interviewer for example was raising doubts about my capabilities to handle certain projects or a certain amount of workload.
I often rather had to defend myself than actually answer specific questions. But all of that was intended by the company and they wanted to test my behavior during challenging and stressful situations. I always focused on remaining quiet and providing professional answers. I always kept in mind that what they really wanted to see is how I am handling their “attacks”.
The lunch break with the Branch Manager and its deputy on the other hand turned out to be quite informal. Conversations were ranging from free time activities and family to holiday trips. I also had the chance to ask questions about the mentoring, training and network I would receive as a part of the career development training. The Deputy Branch Manager, who also participated in the same program, could share some very interesting insights that made me realize the potential of personal career growth the program offered.
The meeting with the CEO, a very charismatic character, also turned out to be one of the rather relaxed ones during the day and he even gave me a positive feedback at the end of our conversation. This gave me an additional boost for the rest of the day.
At the end of the day I sat down together with the Branch Manager again and I was told that I would be informed about their decision in about one to two weeks.
I went home with a feeling that overall the conversations had gone well and I was satisfied.
However, a week after my third round interview the Branch Manager sent me an email, explaining that their decision would take a little longer as the interview with the other candidate had to be postponed. From his email it became clear that the other candidate was someone who already is with the company, is in their career development program and will be coming back to Switzerland after a stage abroad. I saw my chances clearly diminishing.
Another seven workdays later I received a call from the HR Manager, who informed me that they decided to give me the job! I do not know why I was chosen over the other candidate – I just knew that expectations in me would be high – and I was willing to fulfill them. The HR Manager went through all the details of the offer with me, which you will be able to read in my next blog post. I gladly accepted and will be starting in four weeks.
Make sure to download the application letter template that got me the job:
Keep climbing the ladder!