Getting an Internship Edge

"Interviewing is an art. You have to get used to it," says the head of Emory's BBA Career Services

Ivy League alumni had better watch out for Emory University's undergraduate business majors, says Douglas Cooper, director of BBA Career Services at Emory. Undergrads at Emory realize they aren't coming from Harvard University or the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and need to work that much harder because of it. Cooper says Goizueta Business School graduates' raw intellectual skills and networking abilities -- emphasized in the career center -- help to give them an edge.

Cooper has held his current position since July, 2003. Before that, he led career placement at the Atlanta University System -- a consortium of schools including Morehouse and Spellman colleges and Atlanta University. He earned his MBA at Pace University and undergraduate degrees in economics and psychology from the City University of New York. Cooper recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online project assistant Julie Gordon. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

In which fields is internship experience most vital?

Finance and accounting. It's also important to get an internship in consulting or marketing, but it's not so important that the internship be in those areas.

In consulting, recruiters look for people who can solve problems and think analytically. You can develop those skill sets from a myriad of different experiences. In finance, you need to have very defined and hard skills.

What's your opinion of interning for a small vs. a large company?

For the most part, I don't know that, as an intern, the level of responsibility will be dramatically different from a large to a small company. If you can get an internship with a firm that has name recognition, then that's going to help you on your resume.

That being said, you can still be competitive even without working at a company with a well-known name. But it becomes as -- if not more -- important to define a specific task you did that would add value when you're competing.

How helpful are the mock interviews the career center offers?

Interviewing is an art. You have to get familiar with it. You have to get past some of the nervousness that you might have, and you also have to start to anticipate the types of questions that may be posed.

Some firms focus more on the behavioral types of questions, and others focus on the case-interview process, particularly in the consulting world. We conduct simulated cases, which tests the students' ability to think logically and solve problems. There's typically no single right answer. The issue that we're trying to help the students understand is how to logically step through and frame a problem and then be able to present their solution in such a way that's clear and coherent to the recruiter.

With which companies does Emory have the best relationships?

I'm happy to say that we became a target school for Goldman Sachs (GS) on April 14, 2006. That basically means that the company will expend resources and physically interview on campus.

We're also a target school for Citigroup (C). We have relationships with Lehman Brothers (LEH), JP Morgan (JPM), all the major banks, Bear Sterns (BSC), Boston Consulting Group, AT Kearney, Deloitte, Grey Advertising, McCann-Erickson, and the big four accounting firms.

Which other companies are you targeting?

Firms such as Deutsche Bank ( 2 Next Page

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