Tough Interview Questions: Tell Me About A Time When You Failed At Something.

By: S. David Ross, Associate Director

It’s time for another feature on tough interview questions. This time, let’s consider the popular question – tell me about a time when you failed at something. Now, technically this is not a “question” but if you encounter this statement in an interview it can be difficult to share an experience that did not end well. However, with a well-thought out response, you can make a favorable impression on your interviewer.

There are several elements to articulating a strong response to this interview “question.”  First, keep your story fairly succinct – mention relevant details, but try not to get too focused on extraneous information.  Next, choose your example wisely.  Your story should be authentic but try not to give an example that may suggest or imply you will have difficultly performing the tasks required in the job.  The “trap” to this question is just that – describing a failure that is closely related to the duties or responsibilities of the position.  Providing an example of failure that is similar to a task you may be asked to perform on the job may cause great concern for the interviewer.  I would also suggest explicitly stating that you take some level of responsibility for the failure – the more you try to blame the outcome on extraneous factors out of your control, the less likely you will make a favorable impression with your answer.  Finally, be sure to indicate what you have learned from the experience and how that has improved your skill set, approach or thought process moving forward.  This is a sign of maturity which is always a great thing.

At some point in our lives, we all fail at something.  For some people, the instinct may be to simply forget about it and it can certainly be difficult to talk about the situation at a later time.  If you are ever asked to discuss a time you have failed at something during an interview, keep the aforementioned tips in mind so you can be confident in the delivery of your answer.

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So You Think They Can’t Hear You!

by Marlene Cohen, On-Campus Recruiting Manager


We are in Employer Information Season and here are a few tips on how to behave.  At these events you may be asked to sign in and meet the representatives, take a brochure, fill out a name tag and take a seat.  Many programs will be crowded and there will not be sufficient seating for all attendees.  You may have to stand in the back of the room or along the side walls.  It really may surprise you to see how many students are in attendance.  Be sure that when the session is about to begin, and the speaker is being introduced that you remember it is time to stop talking.   Be respectful of the presenters throughout the program. There may be a video, a keynote speaker, and a Q&A session.   Although you may think you are speaking softly, the fact is that many speaking softly becomes a loud murmur and will be disruptive to the other attendees and to the employer representatives.  Focus on why you are there – to learn more about the organization and the opportunities they have available.  So during the season of employer information sessions, be professional, be respectful, be quiet and listen.

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Posted in OCR

Outside of the OCR Box

By Athena Burkett, Wh, ‘13

When junior year came along, I had all the same fears as everyone else. “Where will I work this summer?” “How will I find an internship that guarantees me a job next year?” “What does it mean if I don’t get a job through OCR?” These questions and so many more wailed through my head as I relentlessly studied Case In Point and researched companies I had no real interest in working for. Being a Whartonite, I felt I needed to get a job through OCR, or else my schooling and work thus far would be for naught.
I was trapped in the OCR box, and was seeing the wonderful things inside it, but completely neglecting the opportunities outside its walls.

Deep down I knew that this wasn’t the path I wanted to take. Consulting and banking are great jobs, they just weren’t great for me. That summer I took an internship with PennSEM (a Penn non-profit internship program). It was a wonderful opportunity to do quality business work with a non-profit agency. I learned a lot that summer, the biggest thing being that I liked using my business knowledge in non-traditional settings. Just because I wasn’t working in banking or consulting, that didn’t mean I wasn’t using all the valuable knowledge Wharton gave me.

teacherComing into senior year after that summer, I knew that OCR wouldn’t be my focus. I wanted to find a teaching job, so I decided to look through all the doors that Penn opens for its graduates. I scoured websites, went to Civic House and Career Services panels, attended NGO-Government Career fairs, and reached out to everyone I knew. Anything that came across my plate with the word “teach” or “non-profit” in it, I stopped to check it out. I placed myself on all the career list serves, and applied to a lot of teaching and non-profit leads I got through these sources. There are an incredible amount of resources available at Penn, but the key is to start early. It’s harder to do the research (there isn’t one nicely compiled database), but the process is the same – application, interview rounds, and (hopefully) offer. It’s well worth the work to find a job you really enjoy.

I had come across the Urban Teacher Center program at an NGO fair in the spring of my junior year, and I saw it mentioned again in a lot of Civic House and Netter Center list serves. The program combines a dual masters degree with real time teaching experience, and it sounded perfect for me. I applied to their first deadline, and accepted an offer in October. Just like many of my peers, I could finally stop worrying about what I was going to do next year, and enjoy my senior year.

I think the most important connection for me was realizing that just because I was in Wharton, it didn’t mean I had to succeed through OCR or be a failure. A different path was just as valid, even if not as popular. There is a great deal of stigma attached to those who don’t get a job through OCR, as they are often believed to have lost a competition. But it is important to understand that those of us who choose not to participate in OCR are not straying from the Wharton path, we’re simply choosing to use our powers for a different purpose. If you’re questioning whether or not consulting and banking (and thus, OCR) are right for you, I encourage you to resist the pressure to stay in the box. There are amazing opportunities outside those four walls, and I promise that one of them is waiting for you to seize it.

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Another Chance for an OCR Interview (Reprise Edition)

By Barbara Hewitt

Ok – if any of you have stopped by the Career Services office in the last few weeks, you know it’s been BUSY! So busy, in fact, that I admit I haven’t had a chance to write my blog which is due today. So… given that it is the first day of internship interviewing, I thought I would reprise the blog I wrote a while ago, as it’s particularly relevant this week!

Here goes:

On-campus recruiting is in full swing and the OCR suite is humming with activity. Hopefully many Penn students seeking internships have been invited to interview with employers of interest to them. However, I’m confident there are also many students who have been disappointed by not receiving as many interview invitations as they had hoped. After devoting time and effort to networking with employers and submitting applications on PennLink, this can be a frustrating experience.

Penn is fortunate to attract many students who excel academically, in campus leadership positions, and in the broader community. Most employers who recruit at Penn (especially the larger, well-known ones) receive applications from many more students than they could possibly interview. We also all know that reviewing resumes is an imperfect tool for selecting which candidates might make the best “fit” for a particular organization. For these reasons, we strongly encourage students to take advantage of the recruiter add-on interview process, which allows students to be added to an interview schedule in the event that the interviewer has late cancellations on his or her schedule. (While employers tend not to have very many openings during the first few days of recruiting, it is much more common as the recruiting season progresses and students begin to accept offers with other employers.) If you are reasonably well-qualified for a position (based on the position description) it makes sense to try to get an “add-on” interview. You may really impress the recruiter in person and be offered the perfect job! I have had many conversations with students over the years who have landed positions through this process, and just last May a recruiter from an investment bank told us she hired three Penn students who had been late additions to her schedule through the add-on process.

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The Coming Summer Internship Season

What will you be doing next summer?

Will you have a summer internship? If so, where and in what city? Will you be traveling or will you be doing research?

I know, I know, it’s the last thing you all probably want to think about right now.

However, I’m here to tell you that you may want to consider it sooner rather than later. Why?

Because when classes resume, almost every student will be thinking about it and they will be coming into our office.

I’ve seen it many times over the years.

Come January all the students rush over to see the counselors to get their resumes reviewed and talk about their plans for the summer and our office gets packed.

There are no appointments left, walk-ins are booked, and resume reviews will take several days due to the large volume.

But besides that, another good reason to think about it now is that the sooner you decide, the less stressed you will feel.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the end of the year is roaring by. It’s a fact of life that time passes much too quickly.

First come the reading days, then finals, followed by the holidays. Then all of a sudden, it will be 2013 (and ideally we will have all survived the Mayan apocalypse!)

I would recommend making an appointment before you leave for break. Even just coming for a walk-in, dropping off your resume, or writing a quick email if you have a question because when the semester starts again in January, you will have a lot more to think about besides what you will be doing over the summer. Therefore, it would be best to start to ponder your options now and have a relaxing break.

If you’re not sure what to do, the best option would be to attend the summer on-campus recruiting orientation. If you are doing OCR, this will answer all of your questions.

This workshop will help you learn about using On-Campus Recruiting to apply and interview for summer internships, as well as the PennLink system.

The next live workshop is on Tuesday, December 4th. It will be held from noon to 1pm in Steinberg-Dietrich Room 1201.

While many employers use the on-campus recruiting system to hire juniors (so that they can extend full-time offers afterward), it is best if you know what to expect if you’ll be utilizing OCR.

If you can’t make it, you can also view the online OCR orientation for internship recruiting for spring 2013 at the following link:

Additionally, our office is open until December 21st.

In the meantime, good luck on your finals and have a great holiday season!

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