Fords on Friday: Advice to Haverford Students by Jonathan Copulsky, HC ’76

Welcome Guest Blogger, Haverford ’76 alum Jonathan Copulsky!
National Managing Director, Brand and Eminence at Deloitte

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Almost 40 years ago, I graduated from Haverford with a degree in History and a Phi Beta Kappa key. Unfortunately, I had neither a job nor a particularly good plan for finding one. The US economy was no help. Unemployment reached 9%, its highest rate since WWII, the month that I graduated.

Luckily, things have a way of working themselves out, even my unemployed status. I found work as a resident tutor for A Better Chance, which led to a role with a not-for-profit conference center and then a position teaching history and religion at Westtown School. While working at the conference center, I was accepted at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Stanford provided me with the skills to transition from the not-for-profit to the private sector. After graduation, I spent four years at media giant, Time Incorporated, before my first foray into consulting. Shortly after becoming a partner at what is now Booz & Company, I joined my client, CCH Incorporated, a NYSE-listed professional publishing company, as Chief Marketing and Sales Officer.

I left CCH five years later after a very successful turnaround and sale of the company and spent the following year as an advisor to the CEO of Chicago’s Field Museum. In July 1997, I joined Deloitte, one of the world’s largest professional services firm, as partner in its management consulting business.16+ years later, I’m still with Deloitte as a senior partner. While I still consult with clients on sales and marketing strategy, I also serve as Deloitte’s Chief Brand, Content, and Digital Officer.

I speak and write frequently on marketing issues and Palgrave MacMillan published my award-winning book on brand risk, Brand Resilience, in 2011. Outside of work, I serve as a board member for Chicago Public Media, home of This American Life, Sound Opinions, and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, participate on advisory councils on marketing at Northwestern University and Columbia Business Schools, interview candidates for admission to Haverford and Stanford, and regularly run marathons and long-distance relay races.

At Deloitte, I’ve been able to work with clients on projects ranging from the launch of one of the earliest 4G networks to rebranding a multi-billion package delivery service to developing the marketing strategy for the country’s fastest growing agricultural commodity. It’s a dynamic, challenging, and exciting job, often experienced at a frenetic pace.

Given the opportunities that I’ve had at Deloitte, I’m not surprised when I hear from Haverford students interested in management consulting. Here’s a recent and fairly typical example — “I am excited about the opportunity that consulting presents to work on difficult problems with intelligent and hardworking people and get exposure to a large spectrum of issues. After graduation I want the challenge of pushing my analytical, leadership and communication skills at a firm like yours.”

My correspondents usually have unbelievably high GPAs and standardized test scores, as well as fantastic leadership experience. Naturally, I’m interested. We recruit thousands of new employees every year and, as an alumnus, I’m keen on doing my part to help Haverford graduates get into the mix. Although I do count Haverfordians as professional colleagues, our total numbers represent a miniscule percentage of the almost 200,000 people who work for us globally.

I believe that management consulting can be a great first job for Haverford students. I also believe that a liberal arts education is terrific preparation for management consulting. Liberal arts students are well equipped to tackle the complex problems that our clients face and communicate findings, insights, and recommendations in clear, straightforward language. A liberal arts education teaches students to think about problems in a disciplined, structured and analytical manner, quickly sorting through data and focusing on the issues that matter.

However, Haverford students are often at a disadvantage when it comes to securing positions at management consulting firms, since few of the large firms include Haverford as a target campus and Haverford students don’t have the same access to practitioners, interview coaching, and case preparation as students at target schools.

So, with the goal of getting more Haverford alumni into Deloitte and other top-tier management consulting firms, here are my words of advice to students considering consulting as an option after graduation:

1. Read everything that you can about management consulting and specific firms before you start to reach out to alumni to network. Almost every firm has extensive materials available on its website designed to help job-seekers.

2. Similarly, research individual alums before you reach out to them. Any management consultant worth his or her salt will have a robust LinkedIn profile. More senior alums will often have bios on firm websites, as well.

3. Don’t be coy when you do reach out to alums. We understand that you’re interested in a job and we are generally anxious to help. But, make our lives easier. Send us a well-composed resume that highlights the experiences and achievements that are most relevant to what we do. Bend over backwards to make yourself available at the times that are most convenient to the alum. And, we like thank you notes, as much as anyone else.

4. Don’t start with the most senior alum at the firm as your first point of contact. Work your way up, saving your contact with the most senior practitioners until you’ve interacted with more recent alums.

5. Be prepared to provide evidence of leadership, business acumen, and analytical thinking. The best evidence highlights specific achievements that can be directly attributed to your personal involvement.

6. Study and prep for the types of interviews that firms conduct. Most firms rely on a combination of behavioral and case interviews. Be prepared.

a. Often the behavioral (or “fit”) interviews utilize a technique called behavioral event interviewing (BEI) in which candidates to describe a situation or an experience they had, how they acted, and the results that can be linked to their actions. You may be asked to describe a situation in which your judgment was questioned, you experienced a setback or you stepped in to fill a leadership gap.

b. Case interviews may be calculation intensive (e.g., determine the dollar cost to complete a diverse set of tasks, given information on task duration and personnel mix) or strategic (e.g., assess how well a company is prepared to enter a new market) or a combination of both.

c. At Deloitte, we do both types of case interviews, as well as a group case interview, in which we assess presentation skills and how a candidate handles him/herself in a group situation.

7. Come armed with one-two interesting questions to ask alums and interviewers, if the
opportunity permits.

8. Respect our recruiting schedules. The large firms begin recruiting in early fall and often have extended offers by November. Contacting firms in the spring of your senior year when other options have fallen through is not generally a winning strategy.

9. Don’t wait until your senior year to start the process. It’s mutually beneficial to get to know a firm and for the firm to get to know you long before the actual interviews begin.

10. Recognize that securing a job in management consulting puts you in competition with the best students from the best colleges in the world. Do what you can to stand out  in a field where the other candidates are also extremely smart, well-prepared, and talented. Bring your best self to every single interaction that you have with a firm and its practitioners.