Making Steps at McDonough: How Georgetown MBA Candidates Landed Their Dream Summer Internships
It was November 2021 and Michelle Zayed was barely sleeping. Not only was she studying for her first semesters at the McDonough School of Business, but she was also working part-time and planning an event for former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to speak at the university.
On top of that, she was knee-deep during internship recruiting season. “At one point I thought I wasn’t going to be able to apply for anything,” Michelle said. “It was a whirlwind, no joke.”
Today, Michelle is a summer consultant at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) office in Bogota, Colombia, her home country. How did Michelle navigate her first year of business school to become a summer consultant at one of the biggest companies in the world? It all came down to practice and organization, she said.
“Make a schedule of how you want to prepare. It’s boring, but it’ll save you some anxiety,” Michelle said.
She also suggested downloading apps to practice quick mental math, which is a common factor in many counseling interviews, in addition to frequent instances with peers.
McDonough MBA ’23 candidate Alekhya Parki completed an internship at Ernst & Young (EY) this summer. Alekhya held a position in EY’s Supply Chain and Operations practice area in New York, where she worked on a digital transformation project with a global pharmaceutical company.
When preparing for recruitment, she wishes she had started preparing for behavioral interviews sooner than she did.
“At first I was super nervous during my mock interviews, but I worked to identify the root cause – the lack of practice,” she said. “After that, I trained everywhere. I practiced about three times a week with other first and second years from the consulting club.
Alekhya explained that the recruitment process at EY consisted of two rounds. The first round consisted of two interviews – one case-based and one behavioral. The second consisted of four interviews, a mixture of case and behavioral questions, a group discussion and a presentation.
“For case interviews, be sure to keep detailed notes of your feedback that you receive and try to work on those points regularly,” Alekhya said. “And, if you can, try to take advantage of it – you’ll get extra points for creativity.”
Similarly for BCG, Michelle had four interviews which were a mixture of case and behavioral questions. Before reaching the interview stage, she had to take an aptitude test as well as an online case. Both Alekhya and Michelle applied for their consultancy positions in late November/early December, were interviewed in January, and received offers the same month.
Although both Alekhya and Michelle said networking was part of the recruitment process, the focus was more on assessing overall fit and knowing the business. That said, first-year MBA candidates looking to recruit for investment banking should expect a more intensive networking experience.
Wiji Marcelino, a McDonough MBA ’23 candidate, interned at the Jefferies Group this summer in New York and said he had “coffees” with about 70 bankers during the recruiting process. These networking-type chats, which usually last about 30 minutes each, consisted of technical and behavioral questions — and unfortunately don’t usually include coffee.
“Every conversation is considered an interview,” Wiji said. “I tackled the technical aspects of the job first, then honed my behaviors by practicing and making sure my career story lined up.”
The IB recruitment season begins soon after classes start – sometimes as early as September, and the process is long – frequently extending into winter. Wiji received its offer from Jefferies in February 2022.
With pressure mounting throughout the lengthy recruiting process, he turned to mindfulness – a skill he had the opportunity to hone during his freshman year of business school.
“I took a meditation class at McDonough and it really shaped my thinking,” Wiji said. “I said to myself: ‘I have prepared enough, and whatever the result, that’s it.’ It took the pressure off and I came out feeling more confident and natural.
Investment banking isn’t the only option for MBAs who want to pursue a career in finance. Take Nina Lin, a McDonough MBA ’23 candidate who interned with Microsoft’s finance team in Redmond, WA this summer. His objective was to develop the post-M&A integration plan for a recent Microsoft acquisition.
The delay was just as long: she applied in October, had an interview the same month, then again at the end of January. She received her offer in early February.
Nina’s advice to students deciding to recruit for different industries and roles was: go with the flow.
“I was so determined to look for a consulting internship initially, but I landed two amazing deals with big tech companies,” she said. “Just trust yourself and the process and do your best.”
Nina encouraged first-year MBA students looking to hire in technology to prepare for their behavioral interviews as early as possible. Prior to the start of the school year in the fall, McDonough’s Career Center is hosting a virtual course for all first-years to prepare them for the job search process, including students looking to get a head start on their skills in maintenance material can enjoy.
“The course was a great opportunity to start thinking about the stories I wanted to tell in interviews,” Nina said. “It prepared me much better for recruiting.”
Behavioral interviewing skills are important for recruiting technicians, especially for product, marketing and program management roles, as this is the primary form that these internship interviews will take. Students recruiting for technology will need to use the STAR (situation, task, action, and results) format to answer questions about their experiences working with ambiguity, overcoming barriers, collaborating with cross-functional teams, and more.
Although much of the recruitment of interns takes place between October and February, this is not always the case. Deadlines can start earlier, especially if you’re recruiting for roles in marketing – an industry with one of the most variable deadlines. Or even sooner if you participate in diversity recruitment, which begins before classes even start.
Ambitious McDonough MBA ’23 candidate Michael Mozzicato did both. Michael, who got his offer in October 2021, landed a marketing intern job this summer with American Express in New York.
In the best-case scenario, successful early recruiting means you have the majority of your freshman year to focus on classes, socializing, and enjoying all that b-school has to offer. However, before committing to early recruiting, Michael said first years should carefully weigh their options.
“You have to put your head down and prepare for interviews before everyone else,” he said. “It can mean that you find it difficult to prepare for the interview on your own if you don’t have someone in your target function who is hiring at the same time as you.”
Michael mentioned that his marketing interviews were mostly behavioral with a few case-based questions mixed in to “get a sense of how you might approach ambiguous situations.” Not coming from a marketing background, he said preparing a case was the hardest part for him, but sophomores, the Career Center and recent grads helped bring him up to speed.
He also recommended reading the annual report to understand the state of the business. He suggested taking note of the company’s performance and revenue drivers over the past year and goals for the coming year.
No matter what industry or function you’re recruiting for, one thing is certain, Michael said.
“Recruiting is tough, so be kind to yourself. People follow different paths, have different skills, and want different results. Think about what you want out of the process and enjoy it.
Organic : Rachel Solomon is a second-year MBA student at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Prior to business school, she worked in product management at BCG and in communications at Delta Air Lines. This summer, she completed an internship at Microsoft on their Cloud Marketing team and plans to focus on product marketing after graduation. Learn more about her via her Linkedin and blogging!