Energy Interview Styles
Interviews for most business jobs, regardless of sector, are fairly informal and conversational. Engaging in a chatty interview full of “why should I hire you?” types of open-ended questions is very common, particularly in more traditional companies. That said, interview styles can vary widely from one particular organization to another, so you must always prepare carefully for an interview: practice answering the questions you might be asked, and making a persuasive case for why you should be hired. Specific questions you should always prepare for are:
• Tell me about yourself and your background.
• Walk me through your resume.
• Describe a typical project or problem from your current or previous job.
• Why do you want to work here?
• How do you know you want to work in the energy industry?
Be natural and speak about what you’ve done in a way that’s relevant to the job and conveys what you are proud of. Fit matters enormously to most employers, and the only way you can both assess if personalities are a good fit is if you just be yourself.
Your interviewer may also ask you content-related questions about energy problems, particularly if you are not fresh out of college and have relevant job experience to tap into. Typically, these are not at all confrontational, but simply an effective way to further identify which person would fit best in the job. If you are asked to explain how to price a natural gas swap, for example, it is usually not a quiz on which you need to actually calculate the answer. Rather, the employer is interested in seeing how well you can explain the process, how comfortable you are thinking through it out loud, how naturally you use the job-specific lingo, and what your demeanor is when discussing
Asking good questions in return is just as important as answering the prospective employer’s questions well. This is your chance to further convey your passion for the subject matter of the job at hand. Ask the interviewer what he or she is working on at the moment. Actively listen to the response – it’s amazing how smart one can sound simply by playing back or restating what someone told you, to show that you listened and understood. If you have familiarity with the specifics of what the interviewer is working on, feel free to offer up your own ideas in the form of questions: “I did a project once that was somewhat similar. Have you looked at the problem in this way...?” Another trick is to ask if you can see an example of their work output (Excel model, PowerPoint presentation, printed report, memo). Seeing the actual physical product of the work that goes on in the office can quickly give you a rich understanding of the job.
While most business job interviews are fairly conversational, there are a few job categories that involve specific types of structured interview questions. The following services roles have unique interview styles that require advance study and thorough preparation:
• Consulting: Case interviews are fairly standard among consulting firms.
You may get business cases on energy, or on other industries as well. Some
employers use cases that are similar to their actual work, and some use
generic cases written by third parties. Energy cases could be questions
such as thinking through a retail gas station strategy or evaluating the
growth prospects for diesel cars in the U.S. Cases conducted by associates
are usually very by-the-book, requiring a by-the-book, framework-driven
response. In contrast, cases with partners are typically more
conversational, and a venue where your creativity is more appreciated.
• Banking: Above all, bankers want to hear that your first and only passion
is banking. They are notoriously aggressive and confrontational with
interviews, so you need to have a perfectly watertight “story” that links
together all of your past experiences with your current interest in working
for their specific firm. Common questions in banking interviews include:
explain the responsibilities of an investment banker, who else are you
interviewing with, explain each of your academic and professional
decisions, explain how to value a company, summarize market activity in
the past few days. MBAcandidates in particular can expect tough
questions on accounting, securities pricing, valuation, and financial theory.
• Investing: Investment management firms will expect you to know a
handful of stocks in their industry focus areas well enough to make a
persuasive and comprehensive pitch. In addition, they will expect you to
have your own active investment portfolio, be able to talk in detail about
relevant coursework, and chat about current trends in market indices and
policy issues affecting prices. For example, make sure you walk in
knowing what happened to oil prices this week, and where electricity prices
have been this season in the major markets.