The key to mastering the behavorial interview

By: Paul Rosario, Peers for Careers/SCDC Correspondent
(As originally published in the Ticker:

When improving your behavioral interviewing skills, a counselor can help you understand what to include in your answers, but it is your own life experiences that truly shape those answers.

Your experience working in groups, collaborating with others and handling pressures help you develop soft skills. Assessing these skills is the purpose of behavioral questions, to see if you fit within the organization.

As a college student, it is likely you will encounter behavioral questions during an interview, since you are still developing as a professional. With minimal experience under your belt, companies will put less focus on technical questions which test your aptitude and knowledge.

Employers want to see how you act in certain situations, so they ask questions around those topics.  For example, if an employer wants to know you handle pressure, they might ask, “Can you tell me about a time where you were pressed for time and how did you handle it?”

Previous behavior predicts future behavior, so they want to assess your abilities and competence in certain situations. Fit is one of the most important components when interviewing for a position. The interviewer often wants to feel that you are easy to work with.

So, let’s suppose you’re faced with a behavioral question such as, “Can you tell me about a time where you had to deal with a difficult client or customer and describe your actions?” How would you phrase your answer?

There is a framework we recommend using to answer behavioral questions called the STAR method.  S is for Situation, T for Task, A for Action, and R for Results.

Regarding the situation, try to give your story context and present the problem.  For example, “When working as a retail sales associate, I encountered a customer who wanted to return an item.  They were really upset, but my manager stepped out for a break and I needed to handle it myself.”

For the task, simply describe what you had to do in the situation.  You may say, “I needed to ensure the customer received excellent service while trying to deescalate the situation and process the return accordingly.”

The action focuses on the specific actions you took.  You may say, “I apologized for the inconvenience we had caused and assured the customer that I would do everything to guarantee the next item met their expectations.

I retrieved a replacement, gave them a coupon for a percentage off of their next purchase and processed the exchange.”

Your results should describe what resulted from your actions.  You may conclude, “As a result, the customer was satisfied. I encouraged her to return in the future and she said she would be back soon.”

Attending a mock interview at the Starr Career Development Center is a great place to practice your interviewing skills and practice the STAR method. There are some issues we frequently encounter when interviewing students.

Students make something up rather than having an example. The point of an interview is to speak on the things you have already accomplished. If something appears unclear, there is a good chance that an interviewer will ask you for further explanation.

Students are being too honest. It is important to know your audience during an interview. An interview is a professional meeting in which you are expected to clearly and cohesively tell your story.

Do not reveal details about yourself that do not pertain to the conversation. Students give too much description of the situation and task.

The interviewee must provide a fairly concise backstory so the interviewer understands the example.

However, students often spend too much time on the background when they should describe their actions or the results of the situation.

While there is no way to predict the exact questions an interviewer might ask, there are many resources to help you prepare. Websites like, and feature lists of sample interview questions. There are even helpful videos on YouTube and an interviewing tool on

The Career Development Center offers workshops on mastering the interview, in which behavioral interviewing is discussed.

Choosing a major does not mean choosing a career

By Paulina Jankovic, Peers for Careers/SCDC Correspondent 
(As originally published in the Ticker:

In college, you are exposed to a whirlwind of new things every day. You discover interests that previously you never would have thought that you’d enjoy. After being exposed to so much, it might become difficult to narrow your focus and select a major.

Sometimes students enter college with a specific career path in mind, but for many, that initial instinct is susceptible to change. On average, a freshman that declares his or her major will end up changing it at least 3 to 5 times before graduating.

As you move up the ranks and become an upperclassman, you may feel your level of anxiety heightening from having to officially declare a major. Choosing a major might make you feel like you are holding the fate of your career in your hands.

However, picking a major will not dictate your future, nor will it prevent you from pursuing career options that are not perfectly aligned with the major you chose.

Though your major is important and may set the groundwork for your potential career path, it is your college experience and the skills you build and strengthen that truly prepare you for the work world.

If you think your major predetermines your career prospects, there are some prominent examples that prove otherwise. Ted Turner, founder of the first cable superstation consisting of CNN, Cartoon Network, and TNT, studied classics in college. Despite the arcane choice of major, he went onto be a notable entrepreneur.

Conan O’Brien majored in history and comparative literature before becoming a comical talk show host. Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs and former secretary of the U.S. Treasury majored in English. Ken Jeong, the comedian of Hangover fame, went to medical school before launching a career in acting.

If you are unsure of your exact career path, there are many things that you can do. Try to develop transferrable skills that will be relevant in any job. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the most crucial skill an employer seeks is strong communication skills.

Following that, employers want you to possess interpersonal skills, teamwork ability, and integrity. Thus, to successfully launch your career you should strive to be a well-rounded student. Take advantage of internships and jobs, leadership activities, clubs, community service, and research opportunities.

Developing the work ethic required to excel in your classes is a transferrable and valuable skill.

Many students will need to commit to a major before committing to a career.  This means that there is have time to explore various careers. Focus 2, a career exploration application available to students through the STARR Career Development Center, helps you explore different careers and helps you choose a major.

O*Net, the national source for occupational information, allows you to explore jobs and their descriptions. Obtaining internships and setting up informational interviews can also provide you with direct exposure to positions, industries and fields.

If you wish to keep exploring and mastering a subject matter after you graduate from Baruch College, graduate school is always an option.

Beyond that, there are multiple specialized or technical careers, like engineering, accounting, or medical jobs, where you will face more stringent academic requirements.

These careers typically require that you take certain classes so you will be prepared for both the licensing requirements and the actual job responsibilities. If you are pursuing one of these careers, it is important to be forward thinking.

While it is always possible to make a career change, students can often feel anxiety around the idea of needing to catch up on academic requirements. To avoid this feeling, research these professions so that you thoroughly understand what coursework you need to be eligible for the roles you are targeting.

Choosing a major should definitely not be taken lightly. It is a crucial step in your college career and it helps establish the foundation of your knowledge. In addition, it is important to remember that a major does not dictate your career. Choosing a major is only one step in preparing yourself for the world of work.

What to do in accounting apart from the Big Four?

By Yahya Khan, Peers for Careers/SCDC Correspondent
(As originally published in the Ticker:

Baruch College is widely renowned for its accounting program and  one of the most popular majors for students. Many students desire to work at one of the Big Four accounting firms: Ernst and Young, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte.

These positions are seen as a prestigious start to a career and an ideal training ground for a bright future. However, the Big Four are very selective and scores of well-qualified candidates are turned away due to a limited need for new employees.

Despite this reality, students should not be discouraged. A multitude of other opportunities are available for talented accounting majors. Apart from the Big Four, there are a large number of mid-sized firms that provide audit, tax, advisory and consultancy services to corporate clients. Prominent mid-sized firms include ParenteBeard, McGladrey, Crowe Horwath and Grant Thorton.

Although students may not recognize these brands as quickly as they would the Big Four, there are many similarities between the type of work a junior employee would encounter at a mid-sized firm and a Big Four firm.

In addition to the clients and the nature of the work being very similar, the compensation levels are comparable, especially in New York City.

One opportunity the mid-sized firms present is a greater sense of belonging for junior employees. Also, staff members are empowered to make a difference in a smaller firm. Many of these firms provide rotational experiences, so graduates who are unsure of what practice they want to focus on can gain broad exposure before specializing.

Occasionally, for top performers, promotions can come at a faster pace. Lastly, these mid-sized firms tend to place a greater emphasis on the balance between work and life, due to the fact that they are looking to hire someone long term.

Another career opportunity available to accounting majors is to join the internal audit department of a company.

After Sarbanes Oxley, most large companies, especially publicly traded ones, have focused a lot on their internal audit practices and on making sure that there are controls and procedures in place to correctly monitor business processes.

New York, being one of the financial capitals of the world, has an outsize proportion of large banks and financial institutions who recruit for internal audit at the undergraduate level and several at Baruch.

This path allows accounting students to immerse themselves in the way an institution operates, gaining in-depth knowledge of product and service lines, and an opportunity to build a career.

Outside of internal audit, there are many opportunities to work in a variety of corporate roles. The adage goes, “accounting is the language of business,” and as a result, many roles in business will benefit from an employee  who has a strong understanding of accounting. For example, many of the finance roles that report to a company’s Chief Financial Officer actually require a significant amount of accounting analysis. Consequently, working in the financial reporting and controlling group of a corporation is another career option.

In the tri-state area, there are many companies ranging from Colgate-Palmolive to Pfizer that need junior-level employees with accounting knowledge. Interestingly, most of these roles will not actually require someone to secure their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to be qualified to work.

Students should also consider opportunities with government agencies. Forensic accounting and litigation consulting are growing roles in which accounting skills are valued.

An accounting degree provides a student with a strong base in the field of business with the option to join a vast variety of professions. Accounting students have and been successful in professions that cover a wide spectrum; from financial analysts to leaders of non profit organizations.

Apart from that, many accounting majors go on to law schools, business schools or set up their own businesses and practices and generally have a stable and successful life.

The point is that while an entry level position at the Big Four represents a huge achievement by an accounting graduate, it is by no means the only path to success or even the best one.

Defining your personal brand for the future

By Robert Smith, Peers for Careers/SCDC Correspondent
(As originally published in the Ticker:

As you evolve in your career development and job search, you often hear that you need to “brand yourself.” This term might sound bizarre, as we normally associate branding with the products and services we use.

But just like our favorite candy bar or cellphone, we can differentiate ourselves from the competition as a strong, unique brand of our own.

A brand is a set of key characteristics that represents, identifies, and differentiates you from others.

For example, Pepsi and Coke are similar looking and tasting sodas, yet they embody different qualities.

Coke is associated with its iconic red can and the idea of happiness and tradition, while Pepsi is linked with its blue can and celebrity endorsements. Likewise, we can brand ourselves to stand out from the pack.

Personal branding is a life-long construction process that will be part of your legacy. Maybe you will be remembered for your poised work ethic or be associated with a unique ability to reason with people.

Take the rapper Drake for example. His infamous motto, “YOLO” (you only live once), has become part of his brand. Whether it’s hash-tagging YOLO in your Twitter status or referencing to YOLO when you are debating a risky decision, Drake has made an impression on your opinion of him.

Beyoncé is another good example of personal branding.

Whether it is her message of “Who run the world? Girls.” or even her choice to lead a private celebrity lifestyle, each individual controls the information sent out to the world about them.

Since we are all Baruch College students and have a lot in common, our resumes and cover letters tend to look strikingly similar. Thus, we need to embrace and exhibit our personal brand to employers, to make a lasting impression.

By developing your own brand, you’ll not only stand out, but you’ll have control over the employer’s initial perception of you. Instead of letting them form their own impressions of you, you ensure that they grasp who you really are and what you can offer.

To develop your personal brand, start by reflecting on your strengths, personality, interests, hobbies and life experiences. Understand who you are, what you stand for, and how you want others to view you.

If you get stumped, ask your good friends. Those that know you well can pinpoint your defining aspects. Once you narrow down your key components, you can even formulate a personal branding statement. Just a few words can truly embrace your essence.

Here’s how I developed my own personal brand. I asked myself where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there. In the beginning, I wanted to be someone who made a difference in other people’s lives on campus.

Thus, I became a “yes” man, the person who said yes to all opportunities to expand myself. I joined T.E.A.M. Baruch and Golden Key in my first year in school. Through that experience, I became more confident.

This newfound confidence pushed me into the second stage of my personal branding experience. I wanted to be the person who consistently grows and expands their knowledge.

Eventually, I was known as the person who asked everyone questions, and no matter how “dumb” they were, I needed and wanted to know.

Those two traits are the foundation of my brand—I’m able to effectively help others because of my experiences, and I’ve been there and am willing and able to connect and communicate.

While developing a brand may sound a bit like pie in the sky, there are many ways to apply this idea to your job and internship search. Outlets such as LinkedIn, cover letters, and personal pitches embody your personal brand.

A cover letter is more than just a writing sample, it is a reflection of who you are in paper form. LinkedIn demonstrates your level of professionalism, which should be heavily weighed when determining how to brand yourself. A personal brand is channeled through virtually any and every experience you have or step that you take.

It is a small world. What you say or do goes a long way. Therefore, to be a successful brand, you must always be conscious of your image and consistent in your message.