By Makarand Gawade, Staff Writer
This is the third article on the Leadership Development Programs (LDPs). At Das Tor, we do not consider ourselves the experts on LDPs, but this is an attempt to share our research and personal experiences on LDPs. The first two articles were focused on two questions: what are LDPs and what could be a better approach to select, pursue, and prepare for an LDP. The third article is focused on the interview process, what types of questions you can expect, what interviewers look for, and what are some strategies that you could employ during the interview process. Again, this is not a success guide or a mantra, but we believe these articles would give LDP aspirants a good framework, and facilitate them to work efficaciously towards achieving their dream job.
Typical LDP Interview Process
The interview process of LDPs typically involves an informal reception, behavioral interviews, technical interviews, business case analysis, and/or writing samples. The process or the elements of the process change depending upon the company and the program. In my case, at OMNOVA, it started with an interaction during a Thunderbird career fair, a face to face interview at Thunderbird, followed by a telephonic interview, and then a fly-back to Cleveland. The interview process at OMNOVA’s global headquarters was comprised of an informal reception with ten top level executives, three one hour back-to-back interviews with 15 minute breaks in between, and a two hour case study analysis which ended with a presentation to OMNOVA’s leadership. It was indeed an exhausting and challenging yet enjoyable experience.
Some Tips for Informal Reception
- Be there on time!
- Don’t underdress or overdress. If you are not sure about the dress code, make it a point to ask in advance.
- Drink responsibly and be aware that you are being judged right from the moment you step in the reception hall.
- Try to speak with as many people as possible. In my opinion, the reception is one of the most crucial steps of your interview process and it gives you an opportunity to connect with more people in the leadership team. These people can act as your brand ambassadors and recommend your candidature to the decision makers.
- Have good conversation starters in mind. Industry trends, politics, world economics, sports- NFL, NBA, MLB (a special note for international students – basic knowledge about NFL helped me to get going in the interactions during the reception).
In my opinion, LDP behavioral interview questions mainly focus on exploring and evaluating recognized leadership competencies. The questions are devised to judge whether the candidate has leadership skills as well as leadership potential. These interviews will require candidates to provide examples of how they have demonstrated these leadership competencies, and are conducted in the format of behavioral or competency-based interviews. It is really important to be specific, and channel your thoughts and complete the response to such questions in fewer than two minutes. (Ideal would be 90 seconds). The response time may change based on situation, but this can help you practice your responses and keep them brief and to the point. The best way to respond to these types of questions is through STAR format – situation, task, action, and result or TAR format – task, action, and result. I would recommend that every LDP aspirant should prepare at least a couple relevant examples of leadership experiences from their professional, curricular, or extracurricular activities and get comfortable and confident about discussing them in an interview setting.
Another important aspect during the interview is to know the company, industry, and market trends. A sound knowledge of the company, the industry in which it operates, and in-depth information of the LDP, will help you show you are interested and motivated about the specific opportunity. This needs prior research and CMC can guide you on the tools and resources, which are available for research. Check out this recent Das Tor article about interview prep tools.
Some other things that have helped me are:
- Connect with alumni, friends or friends of friends: Try to connect with alumni and/or friends, who are currently working or have worked in the company, before the interview process. I think it is invaluable to talk to them and understand about the company’s internal and external environments. This information would facilitate you to speak the company’s language during the interview.
- Connect the dots: It is crucial to think about your career aspirations and what you bring to the table, and then relate that to the company and LDP objectives. Connecting the dots would also depict how your skills are transferable.
- Connect frameworks, processes, and models learned during business school with real world situations: We as business school students are familiar with the latest marketing and strategy concepts and frameworks. Thus, it is important to apply the latest thinking to real world problems and situations. This can really help you to succeed in case analysis and presentation. I used several concepts from classes such as customer decision making, competitive strategy, and global marketing management and applied them to the case study issues during my interview process at OMNOVA.
- Ask unique or tough questions: This is an opportunity for candidates to understand the program, the company, culture and so on. It is absolutely critical to ask intelligent questions and utilize the opportunity to further impress the interviewer.
I think what helped me during OMNOVA’s LDP interview process was being relaxed, confident, and comfortable. I strongly believe that the interview process is not designed to be stressful for a candidate or the interviewer. The best way to approach an interview is to bring forward your unique personality, ideas, and experiences, and portray how your skills and competencies are transferable to the job opportunity you are pursuing.