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Tales from the Couch: Lessons Learned from Virtual Recruiting

By Tyler Steil

It was a typical morning during my consulting interview season, and I was going through the same routine that I had employed all month. I had worked out, eaten breakfast, and reviewed my notes to prepare for the upcoming interview I had that day. An hour before my interview began, I started to change into my suit. I slipped on my pressed navy pants and white dress shirt. I struggled with my tie three different times until I was satisfied with the outcome of the knot, and then carefully, so as not to wrinkle the shirt, put on my coat. To complete my outfit, I picked out my shoes for the day, my lucky pair of house slippers…

It is undeniable that recruiting this year at Stern has been a wholly unique experience. I am relieved to have been able to successfully navigate the uncertainty that encompassed virtual consulting recruiting in the fall, coming out on the other side with an internship offer at EY-Parthenon. However, I can’t help but feel like I missed out on the conventional recruiting experiences of an MBA1 at NYU Stern. I can’t relate to the stories of Sternies struggling to ask questions in awkward semi-circles at networking events. While frantically changing into dress clothes in different bathrooms on campus and sweating while running from event to event don’t sound like the most enjoyable or even comfortable experiences, I can’t help but feel jealous of the camaraderie I know that is shared by the Sternies that had those experiences. Will I look back at the Fall of 2020 and reminisce with my classmates about accidentally leaving our zoom unmuted or losing the internet during an important coffee chat?

What I do know is that no matter how unique or untraditional the experience of virtual recruiting was, the experience was challenging, helping me grow personally and professionally. Looking back, I am proud that I was able to overcome the intangible difficulty of creating strong virtual relationships by networking through a tiny square on my computer screen. There were great weeks where I felt energized and excited, and there were really challenging weeks where I didn’t know if I could make it through five more minutes on Zoom. All that being said, I look back on the process with a twisted sense of appreciation. It was the most fun I never want to have again. 

While my personal takeaways are innumerable, they do boil down to four key lessons that I believe are important for all Sternies going through recruiting, virtual or not.

1. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Early last fall, everything was uncomfortable for me. It was a challenge trying to speak up in a zoom breakout room with an important stakeholder from Bain or McKinsey. It was even more difficult trying to speak intelligently about the differentiation between consulting firms when I had really just learned what a consultant did two months earlier. However, as the recruiting cycle progressed, I became more comfortable with being pushed, challenged, and evaluated. As I got more comfortable, I could feel my confidence growing and I used that momentum to survive the lengthy cycle. 

2. Be yourself, have a personality. It is so easy in recruiting to try to present a robotic version of yourself, one that you think the company wants to hire. But, there is an integral human component in the process that I think is easily forgotten. I found it very useful to try to think of the recruiting cycle as evaluative for both the interviewer and interviewee. If you are able to be yourself, it will naturally lead you to a firm where there is an interest and fit from both sides.

3. Share the experience with your classmates. I am naturally an extremely competitive person, and going into the process I believed that I would feel like I was in competition with all Stern students recruiting for consulting. But, there is something special about the environment at Stern and the opposite ended up being true. Whether it was going through late night casing study sessions online or genuinely celebrating my new friends’ final round offers, my most rewarding recruiting memories were shared with my fellow classmates. Not only did collaborating make the process more manageable, it also helped to hear different strategies that other students utilized to solve the unique challenges faced during a virtual recruiting cycle. 

4. Be okay with the end result. During an intense process like recruiting, it is hard to have the perspective that whatever is supposed to happen will happen. Having the confidence to know that you will land where you belong will help you keep pushing and stay positive, even in the face of negative feedback or bad news. Some things are out of your control; all you can do is put your best foot forward. 

Admittedly these lessons were hard-earned, and I can’t possibly predict or understand other students’ experiences. But, I do know one thing for sure. You can definitely wear your lucky house slippers to your virtual interviews.

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