Traits that a successful professional services candidate should demonstrate:
• Do I like you? Do you have a personality? Can you present and defend your opinions clearly? Will I want to spend 15-hour work days with you? Are you serious about your work and dependable, but also relaxed enough to be good company? Are you confident enough to show your true personality during an interview? Would I trust you with a client?
• Are you prepared? Can you explain why you are (a) interested in working in a particular business within professional services and (b) why you think you will be successful in that business? Before applying, you should read up on the various roles within professional services and think, honestly and self-critically, about the business that best suits you. Study the characteristics that each business requires and think about what your strengths are. Be able to paint a clear picture to interviewers about how your strengths would be suited for that role. Use examples from your life (in student organisations, in your family, in your education) so that interviewers can see your strengths in action and see you fitting into the business to which you are applying.
• Are you bright? Do you have sound analytical and quantitative skills? Do you demonstrate good decision-making skills? Be prepared for the numeracy test and case study. You should be able to practice these and improve. During the case study session of the interview, you must be able to describe your line of thinking and your logic, which during an interview is often more important than reaching a conclusion. Learn how to think out loud in such a way that helps your interviewers follow your train of thought. They are looking to know if you are a logical thinker; that you are thoughtful about multiple factors before making a judgment and that with the best available information you are able to be decisive.
• Are you someone who is action orientated? Do you have drive? Are you willing to go that extra mile? Show the interviewer these traits through concise and compelling stories that show you in action. Help the interviewers see you as someone who is a team player who can work effectively in a group, as well as working efficiently on an individual basis. Think about the traits you want to communicate across to your interviewers and ensure that this message is conveyed in your answers.
• Are you a team player? Can you listen and are you persuasive? Will you network? Remember that interns are at the bottom of the barrel, so team work means listening, writing tasks and noting down advice given so that you can get it right the first time round. Only then will people want to listen your opinion. Be proactive by anticipating your manager’s needs. You may be a leader at university, but success as an intern depends on getting work done quickly, thoroughly, correctly and proactively. Build the ability to persuade by building a reputation for excellent work and dependability. When people trust you, they will begin to listen to you.
• Do you show an interest in the business world and current affairs? If you have not done so already, start reading the Financial Times (FT). Don’t start reading it the week of your interview, but well before so that you will be able to cite business-relevant examples during your interview. Also, get in the habit of tuning into the world around you by following global affairs. The Economist is a good starting point. Professional services is a global industry that is linked to world events. Reading as much as you can will help you feel comfortable talking about the current movements of the different markets. The interviewers want to see that you have a passion and a hunger to be in the industry.
• Will you give back? SEO London is a non-profit (a charity) organisation. SEO’s small team depends on a large team of volunteers to help interview, mentor, coach, prepare and support current SEO interns. We want to recruit not only the best and the brightest, but also those who believe in SEO’s mission. We are looking for those who will be devoted to creating opportunities for and supporting future SEO interns, as well as actively participate in the alumni community. Please give some thought to whether you can be counted on to help those who come behind you and make it clear in your interview that you will demonstrate a philanthropic attitude.