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As I reflect on my past Fall semester of searching for a job, there are some stories from my experiences that I’d like to share with you in the hopes of possibly preparing you for a similar experience.  With that said, there is one on-site interview that was pretty intense.  It was nothing like I expected, and I thought I’d give you a heads up just in case you find yourself on a plane flying to an overnight interview.

My experience took place in Miami, FL.  I felt like an all-star because they were flying me there and back and putting me up in a pretty awesome hotel.  I was really excited to see Miami; I had never been there before.  However, little did I know that on-site interviews were nonstop from the time you landed until the time you got back on the plane.

After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we were brought to the regional headquarters where the party started.  That was the first time I saw the “competition.”  After being greeted by a couple of top executives, we went around the room and introduced ourselves.  There were 18 students in all representing different southeastern universities (UGA, Spellman, UF, FSU, UNC, Florida Intl, and Florida A&M).  After introductions, we ran through the agenda and headed to dinner.  We ate at a really nice Italian place.  The seats were already picked for us.  I was placed next to the District Vice President, across from the Human Resources Manager in charge of Executive Recruitment, and diagonal from a nice girl from the University of Florida.  Dinner was really pleasant.  The professionals balanced the table nicely and asked each student multiple questions; it became pretty obvious to me that while this was not an official interview, I could tell they were listening and watching everything.

After dinner was finished, a couple of us walked around downtown Miami for a bit, but we headed back pretty early because the next day began at 7:30.

The party started on the second day.  We were broken up into groups of 6 and rotated through 4 different stations.  The reason for this blog entry is to tell you about these 4 stations with hopes that maybe this will prepare you for any on-site opportunities.

Station 1:  Interviews

This station was exactly what it sounds like…interviews.  We each had two 45 minute interviews.

Station 2:  Analyze the Store

We were given a “scorecard” of one of the company’s stores.  We had 40 minutes to prepare a 3-4 minute presentation on what we would do to help the store improve.  I wasn’t really nervous until I realized that I actually had to present my ideas to 3 store managers.  I think that I held my composure pretty well, and they appreciated the fact that I tried to think outside the box, came up with some creative solutions, and delivered my presentation with confidence.  As I watched each of the other individuals on my team present, I learned that everyone watching wants you to do well.  There is no reason to be nervous.  When you’re nerves get the best of you, people notice.  While our ideas were important, we were definitely being judged on our delivery and presentation skills.  So, if something like this happens to you, be cool and know that everyone wants to see you at your best.

Station 3:  Individual Performance Scenario

Once again, were given time to prepare for a 3-4 minute presentation in front of a different panel.  This time we had to choose 1 of 4 “employees” and discuss how we would work to motivate him/her to become a better employee.  Each of the 4 had unique bios.  After reading through each, there was a pretty obvious employee that had enough stuff going on for a good presentation.  I figured that a majority of people would pick that one, so I used a different one.  Sure enough, of the 6 students in my group, the other 5 picked the cliché choice.  Again, I’d like to emphasize the idea of thinking just outside the box.

Station 4:  Group Presentation

This was the final station for my group, and quite honestly, it was the most difficult for me.  Each of the six of us was given the scorecard for our respective department.  As a team, we had to come up with a solution to raise sales by 3% and present that idea to a panel of six.  There were two aspects that made this difficult.  First, we were being watched the entire time.  Evaluators were looking for how we worked as a team, who stepped up to lead, and who contributed what.  The second problem was that each of the six of us recognized the first.  Therefore, we suffered from the classic “too many chefs in the kitchen” dilemma.  We got through it and did really well, but the lesson I learned here was that when you talk, make sure there is substance behind it.

Then, it was 3:00.  We were all brought back together for a wrap up and then jumped into a shuttle.  Before I knew it, I was back in the air flying home.  It was a great experience for me.  Challenging, no doubt.  And it was unique beyond anything else I did last semester.  The results were good.  I ended up receiving an offer from the company (which is exciting although I eventually turned it down).  I hope my experience can shed some light on what you might expect for an on-site interview.  Don’t just expect the conventional.  Companies want to see your business acumen.  So show them what you’ve learned, have confidence, stand out without overpowering, and, most importantly, enjoy the experience.