Jonathan Braun is the Managing Editor of Vault Asia Ltd. He has lectured about careers throughout Asia, including in China, Singapore and Korea. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin.
I. Brief Introduction to Vault
II. Ask Questions (5-7 minutes)
• How many of you know which industry you want to work in after you graduate?
• (If graduate students) How many of you are trying to switch industries?
• How many of you want to work in finance or consulting?
• How many of you plan on working for an MNC after you graduate?
• Which do you think is most important to employers?
a. Good grades/technical ability
c. Friendly personality, easy to work with
d. Independent worker
III. So what about where you stand? (5-7 minutes)
1. The good news. You -- or someone like you -- are in high demand. Everyone wants to hire bright Chinese graduates.
a. First, almost all MNCs are investing heavily in China. Chong Quan, assistant to the minister of China’s Ministry of Commerce, announced at the International CEO Roundtable of Chinese and Foreign Multinational Corporations in November 2007 that 480 of the world’s top 500 MNCs have now invested in China. I’m sure by now it’s maybe 490 if not all 500.
b. Every investment bank I talk to sees China as its highest priority in Asia. Global consulting firms are growing as quickly as their staffing will allow them. Every Big 4 accounting firm is attempting to add thousands of more employees for their China operations in the next 3 years. They all say, we are at 4,000 people now, will be at 5,500 next year, and at 7,000 the next year. And you have to ask -- how exactly will they all do that? In fact, some of the Big 4 are centralizing their Asia operations so that they can more easily source from Australia and Singapore into China. PwC has full-time employees in London, New York, Los Angeles and Sydney whose entire jobs are to find people for their China operations.
c. Vault runs an experienced hire career event in partnership with Businessweek that is intended to find experienced Mandarin-speaking candidates in North America for China operations. There has been a great deal of interest in this because of expected growth in China and the need to hire for it.
2. The reality. MNCs are worried they can’t find the talent they need in China
a. The Vault/Businessweek event and the initiatives that the Big 4 are putting in place point to the other side of the equation. Companies are sourcing from everywhere for their China operations because they are concerned they won’t be able to find the talent they need in China.
b. As described in a much-cited report on employment in China published by the consulting firm McKinsey, many Chinese graduates are lacking in practical experience, because university courses in China tend to emphasize theory over work skills. Many MNCs also complain that graduates are short on communication skills, such as the ability to speak English and the confidence and assertiveness to work in a multicultural office. According to their peers, compared with their peers in Europe or North America, however, most of these students had little practical experience in working on projects or in teams
c. It’s important to understand what this report is suggesting. I don’t mean to say this report is true, but it’s important to know what the perception of Chinese students often is. The perception is that you are definitely hard working and definitely smart, but maybe don’t have enough experience working with others and also acting independently. So of the 4 traits we discussed earlier, it’s important to note that companies will be comfortable with your ability to work hard and your technical ability, but will be looking for you to prove your "people skills" and leadership qualities.
d. So let’s talk about how you can prove that you have these qualities.
IV. What do Employers Want? What are they looking for?
V. Investment Banking and Consulting Interviews
1. Consulting Case interviews
The most important thing about the case interview is that they want to see how you think. The actual answer is not so important -- your thought process is what is most important.
• Be prepared: Take notes
• Listen carefully and think before your speak (maybe repeat the case back to the interviewer)
• Take your time when answering and think out loud
• Ask questions
• Provide a roadmap for your interviewer, be as methodical and logical as possible
2. Investment Banking interviews
• Tolerance for hard work is very important. If at all possible, be prepared with examples of when you had to work all night or regularly wake up early (for sports practice, etc.)
• Stress interview - we’ve heard stories where they yell at a person, ask to be told a joke. They do this because they want to make sure you can handle a stressful environment. Keep your calm.
• The question of why you want to work in investment banking is particularly important b/c they know many people just do it for money and prestige. So make sure you think this through.