Interviewing Skills Improved by Alumni

For me, the most beneficial aspect of the MMS program has been the VACF. Every MMS student is assigned to two Volunteer Alumni Career Fellows, or VACFs. These alumni help MMS students to navigate the career process.

One of my VACFs was Kevin Scotto, a 2005 graduate of the Daytime MBA program. Kevin corrected several glitches in my interview style. Last year, I interviewed for more than 20 positions. I had success in some interviews, but for the hard finance positions, I struggled mightily. This is largely because I hid my background in entrepreneurship, media and journalism. I thought banks only wanted people who could build DCFs or put together an equity research report in the speed of light. My incorrect notions restricted me from communicating my personality and top skills.

When I gave Kevin my answers about why I wanted to work in fixed income sales, he stopped the interview, read out the strengths on my resume, and told me to essentially brag about what I’m best at. This was the greatest advice I ever received from any career “coach.” Had I known this during my senior year of college, I think I could have landed several of the positions I sought.

I changed my interview style after working with Kevin, and the results were marked. This year, I was able to impress recruiters and alumni with my background in media and finance. I landed several interviews and did very well in them. Even though some openings did not work out, my interviewers were so impressed that they reached out to me and encouraged me to stay in touch.

VACFs like Kevin are assigned based on the career interest of the student. For example, a VACF who works in banking would be paired with a student who has an interest in finance. Because I really wanted to be an institutional salesperson, I was paired with Kevin, who is a banker for Wells Fargo in Charlotte. However, he had no influence on the Wells Fargo position I interviewed for and accepted last month. My other VACF was Naira Ahmad, who is a healthcare consultant at ZS Associates, and she graduated from the Daytime MBA program in 2006.

I found the VACF program incredibly helpful. Kevin gave me tips to get my story right during interviews. In addition, he put me in touch with a Duke alumnus who does fixed income sales at Wells in Charlotte. Naira provided further tips in interviewing. Her suggestions were more behavioral. She told me how to answer questions with the proper tone.

In my case, I was doing something wrong for a very long time, and my VACF was able to recognize this and correct it. Overall, the VACF program is a valuable tool given to MMS students.

Naresh Vissa

Naresh Vissa

MMS: FOB, Class of 2012

My background has been heavily focused on media, financial markets and investments. Do not be fooled by my academic and professional qualifications though: I’m a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo!

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