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Building A Successful Interview Platform

By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager

Sarah Toben is the founder and lead interview coach at Elite Interview Coaching.  She  worked for seven years as a management consultant at Deloitte Consulting before striking out on her own and had the opportunity to provide human capital advisory services to Fortune 100 clients across different industries during that phase of her career. From speaking the language of a prospective employer to conquering the behavioral and case interviews to finally closing the deal, Sarah knows the formula for a successful interview. She emailed some responses to Big4.com as part of our career development  series on interviewing skills.

Why do you suggest saving the salary negotiation to the end of the interview process?  Can you describe the correct procedure for talking about this?

Showcase your strengths throughout the interview process. Make it clear to the hiring manager how valuable your skills are and how they will help the organization. When the interview process is complete, HR will contact you with a job offer and this is the point at which you can negotiate salary.  Have your ideal salary in mind so that you can immediately counter. It’s rare for an Big 4 employer to start with the most generous compensation package that they are able to offer. In fact, they will expect some negotiation. Even if you’re

Sarah Toben

Sarah Toben

happy with the offer, don’t hesitate to ask for an additional 5 percent.

Can you describe your  “Prepare for The Case” philosophy and how it applies to the Big4 interview?

Big 4 firms are known for leveraging case interviews to understand how job candidates think through complex problems. When it comes time for the case, the interviewer will not only expect that you solution the case correctly, but will also expect you to clearly dialogue the steps you are taking to get to your answer.  To prepare, pick up a book with mock interview questions or hire a case interview coach who can help you dissect and understand the various schematics for answering the case questions. A clear construct for answering the questions will enable you to better articulate your reasoning during the interview. Once you know the process for answering these types of questions, practice makes perfect.  Practice with friends, practice with family, practice in the shower.  Finally, when the big day comes, don’t rush the case; it’s okay to take your time.  If you need a moment to gather your thoughts, a perfectly acceptable response is “okay great, I’m going to take a moment to write some notes and think through these details.”   The case carries a lot of weight in Big 4 interviews because it showcases a job candidates problem solving skills and serves as an early indicator of how you will represent the firm when problem solving at the client site.

What are some of the things you can do that hurt your chances during an interview?

Don’t panic!  Too often candidates panic if the solution to the case interview is not immediately clear.  Instead, take your time and think out loud.  The case is as much about your problem solving process as it is about coming to the “right” answer.

What are some of the things you should always remember to do during an interview?

Smile!  The people interviewing you are also the people that you’ll work with when you land the job. You want them to feel comfortable with you and see you as someone that they could spend time with (this is particularly important because in this line of work, you’ll be spending a lot of long hours with your co-workers).

What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give someone about to embark on an interview with the Big4?

Landing a job at a Big 4 firm starts long before the interview process.  Pedigree is big with the Big 4 firms, so select your undergraduate or MBA program carefully.  Ask the right questions before you start an educational program (for example, which Big 4 firms recruit on campus?).  If you’re coming from an undergraduate or MBA program the case interview will carry extra weight, given your more limited job experience.  For experienced hires, deep industry expertise is key.  The Big 4 firms are looking for subject matter experts who have “seen it all.”  Use the interview as a time to showcase your problem solving and strategic thinking skills.  Ultimately the strongest candidates have deep industry experience paired with strategic thinking skills.

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