An Operations Interview: My experience

This blog post was written by second-year BSc Accounting and Finance student at Southampton Business School, Sujaya. Sujaya is also treasurer of the Nepalese Society.

Preparing for an interview can be a nerve-wracking task. If you’re in a similar position, don’t worry: many are feeling the same as you!

I was recently successful in an interview with J.P. Morgan for a placement year and I’d like to share my experience with you. Read on for my tips on how to succeed.

Stretch your expectations

When I started applying for placements, I didn’t believe that J.P. Morgan would be where I would end up. I loved the idea, but thought I would probably have better chances elsewhere. Nevertheless, after doing initial research, I applied for the Operations placement in Bournemouth and after talking with employees at J.P. Morgan’s Bournemouth office as part of my placement preparation, I had a better idea of what Operations was about. This proved to be invaluable: research is key!

Interview preparation

After arranging a date for the assessment, I asked my placement advisor if he could help me with the interview. I believe this was the turning point which helped me be ready. I had done two video interviews for other roles and honestly thought I hadn’t done very well. Maybe it was the fact that there was no one asking me questions or that I was unprepared for the questions, I felt nervous and uneasy which led me to getting rejections from both. After talking to my placement advisor and discussing questions about the interview and how to prepare for it, I slowly realised what I had done wrong in the previous interviews and got a good grasp of what to expect.

When I was preparing, I realised that practising with another person made a huge difference. They could give you pointers on what you did right and what you could have done to improve. I remember that when I was practising with my placement advisor, they told me to smile more in the interviews which seems like common sense but in the highly stressful environment, you can forget even the simplest stuff.

In addition to practising with another person, I practised in front of a camera and recorded myself answering questions. This proved to be useful as I could see what I had done and then tried to change a few things to ensure I was not doing anything that was too distracting, like tapping my pen on the table!

On the day

Finally, when the day came, I remember being very nervous for the interview and this was not helped by the delay in my train journey. Lesson learned: plan for delays!

When I arrived at the venue, they explained that we would have interviews first and then a group exercise. We were going to be interviewed by two people from J.P. Morgan and they were back-to-back for 30 minutes, each with a 10 minute break. My first thought was this was going to be tough but I needed to just go and do it.

Although you hear all of the horror stories about people having terrible interviewers and them being tough, I am pleased to say that at J.P. Morgan, they were friendly and did not try to force you into a mistake or make you look bad. All of my interviewers were professional and treated me very fairly. I slowly felt at ease as the interview progressed as what I had practised came up and I felt I was prepared for any questions. When they asked me an unexpected question, I tried to remain calm and ask for a moment to drink water whilst trying to find a good response. This brief moment of pause can be the difference between a good answer and a great answer so I would advise taking it.

The group task

After the interviews, we got a short break before being divided into two groups for the group exercises. We had to read a booklet which was full of information for a particular system and give recommendations based on the information. Each of us had a unique piece of information and we had to share this information later on when we had 30 minutes to discuss with the group. This proved to be quite hectic and chaotic at the first five minutes as there was a lot of information being discussed around. I nominated to be a time keeper and kept an eye on the time whilst listening to my group. It’s important to make yourself noticed in this group task, whether it is asking a question or clarifying a particular point. Also, try to not be dominating or aggressive when trying to get noticed. The best way to figure this out is to ask yourself how you would feel if someone else had repeated a particular behaviour in your group work. If you’d view it negatively, avoid such behaviour.

When the group discussion was finished, we were asked to spend the next 30 minutes writing down a presentation for a J.P. Morgan employee about the group task and this would be followed by questions. This proved to be quite challenging as the 30 minutes was not enough to discuss all of the information and we did not have the complete information. Nevertheless, I set out to talk about the points that I did know and highlighted this when I presented to the J.P. Morgan employee.

Then they asked me about my contribution to the group task and asked me to reflect on how it went. I believe honesty is crucial and I decided to talk about what I did well and what I could have done to improve it. Also, when I was asked about my team members, I explained what my team members did well and what they could have done to improve their contributions.

In summary

Overall, looking back at how my interview went, I can definitely say that I could have changed a few things, but overall I was pretty happy with how it went. The next day, I received a call from one of the people who interviewed me and was offered the placement!

I hope this will be of some help to people who are preparing for interviews and I wish you all the best for success.

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