My colleague, Violetta, did a great post on the skills that MBAs bring to the table, the result of input from over 50 MBA students who attended a seminar we hosted. At TeamFit, we see the MBA community as future leaders in our business world and we want to understand the skills they see as being most important to master as they prepare to take their careers to the next level.

The MBA students who participated wanted to hear about what they look for in potential employees. In this post, I summarize the lessons shared by our guest speakers: Barry Jinks, CEO of Colligo, Ben Goodier, management consultant with McKinsey, and Steven Forth co-founder of TeamFit.

Connect your skills to the job at hand

Companies get a lot of resumes these days. Colligo and McKinsey get anywhere from 300 to 600 applications for each opening. So it is important to find ways to stand out. Connect your skills and experience to the specific job. Tell a story. Highlight the experience that makes you an interesting and relevant candidate. You will generally need to get through this first filter to be one of the 3-to-5 people that the hiring manager will actually meet with.

You have 30 seconds to win

The hiring manager is an extremely busy person. They will assess very quickly whether they want to work with you and have you on their team. The key lesson is this, “You have 30 seconds to get that person to hire you. The first 30 seconds is the only time they are really listening to you if they do not want to hire you.” The rest of the time in the interview is spent thinking about they are going to do next while you continue to speak on. So you need to really figure out how to get the person to listen to you. Demonstrate your character.

Strengths

Determine fit

If you get to an interview with the CEO, the CEO is looking for cultural fit. By then, all the skills, capability and experience would have been vetted. CEOs also look for potential and growth. As a senior level executive, I am always looking for individuals who can be promoted and have the capacity to continually challenge themselves and me. CEOs want to see their people succeed. For Colligo, it goes back to their core values of collaboration, innovation, commitment, and trust.

Build the relationship from the get go

Prepare before your interview: research the company, understand the people you are meeting with, have a social presence (you will be Googled) learn to tell a compelling story. MBAs are expected to have a strong knowledge base from their work activities and studies. The differentiator always comes down to the ability to work with people. It is all about teamwork. Teamwork is important. You are going to work with people with diverse interests and perspectives.

Don’t just communicate, persuade

McKinsey sends a team to work with its clients to solve a complex set of problems for its customers. As a consultant, where one recommends and advises, the art of persuasion is extremely important. When you tell a story it has to be genuine. You have to learn how to pitch and believe what you are saying. Engage with people by asking them thoughtful questions. Show you are interested in them and that you can ask meaningful questions.

Get involved

Firms are looking for leadership potential. How have you contributed to your community and how have you helped others? Leadership potential is demonstrated through involvement. Companies want to give back and as a result they are looking for candidates who share this value. Soft skills around communication learning and empathy are what really differentiate people.

Learn how to deal with ambiguity

For those of us who are involved in early-stage companies, having a high tolerance for ambiguity is critical because uncertainty is the constant. “No one knows the answers to the questions, and your job is to help build an organization that is able to get answers.”

Seek and shape your goals

There is a big difference in having goals given to you to execute versus seeking out goals for yourself and your team. This is where teamwork also becomes increasingly important. As you strive towards meeting your goals you have to have the initiative to take on many types of roles and be able to adapt quickly.

More about our Speakers

Barry is one of the top CEOs in Vancouver having a successful track record in the technology space. Ben represents the views of the management consultant space, working for McKinsey, a company that has pioneered and helped shape the management consulting industry. Steven Forth is a serial entrepreneur. He is heavily involved in mentoring early-stage companies to help drive up valuations through his work at Rocket Builders and E-Fund.

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