by Asif Khan
I really liked my previous job as a Virtualization and Cloud Specialist at EMC. So when recruiters used to call me, I always politely declined stating I was very happy with my current job.
The call from Accenture was a little different: “we are not looking to recruit. We want to network with ‘high potential’ individuals for future opportunities…blah blah blah” What hooked me was when they said that they are looking for people with deep technology backgrounds who are ready to take their career to the next level and apply that knowledge to solving hard business problems.
As a friend puts it, “you know the what, you need to learn the how and why” of using technology. Made sense to me.
One very short month later, I was saying goodbye to my vFriends and flying up to Seattle for Accenture’s New Hire Orientation. Damn they’re good!
Last week, I celebrated my six month anniversary with Accenture. The honeymoon period is officially over now so I can look back and give an objective view of what it’s like working for one of the largest consulting firms in the world.
The Interview Process
Accenture receives over 2 million applications per year worldwide and hires less than 10,000. Which basically means that they are very good at screening applicants quickly and moving the ones they want through the interview process just as quickly. I would describe the hiring process as selective and ruthlessly efficient.
In one week, I went through a battery of phone interviews which assessed my technical knowledge, communication skills, problem solving ability, work ethic, cultural fit and leadership skills. Every interviewer was completely prepared and experienced in interviewing techniques. It was a tough but fair process…and quick. The following week, I was invited to New York for a final interview with Senior Executives.
The Final Interview
I assumed the interview in NY would be mostly an easy “cultural fit” type interview with executives since most final interviews tend to be that way…and because I had already been so thoroughly grilled the prior week. I was wrong.
Accenture Senior Executives interview candidates every Friday from 8am to 5pm and the schedule is run with military precision. I was told that my interview would be precisely from 2pm to 3pm. This would give me plenty of time to catch a 6pm flight home. I showed up one hour early and was asked to wait in a conference room with several other candidates nervously awaiting their interviews.
2 o’clock on the dot, I was escorted into a small office where I was introduced to two executives. I was immediately impressed that they had actually read my resume(!) and were prepared to ask some specific questions about my experiences.
At first, they asked me some simple questions about my background. But the follow up questions to my responses quickly made me realize that there was no way to bluff my way through this. I had better be prepared to back up every word on my CV…
Next, I was asked to whiteboard my approach to a hypothetical client’s request for a storage consolidation assessment. I was peppered with lots of who?-, why?-, why not?- and what else?-type questions.
After that, I was asked a series of technical questions like “define a pivot table in Excel”, “explain a key difference between zoning and LUN masking” and “describe the key advantages and disadvantages of virtualization”.
But the most diabolical question was: “If I type “http://www.google.com” into my browser explain what happens at each of the seven layers of the OSI model after I hit ENTER.” Gulp.
It was 2:55 now. As we were wrapping up the hardest interview I ever had, one of the interviewers asked me, “where is home for you?” By now, I was trying to decipher the intent behind every question. My response: “I currently live in San Diego but my home is wherever my work and family are. My family is my wife, my 4 year old son…and my 14 guitars.”
If I were to pick one answer which landed me the job, that was probably it! But not for the reason you’re thinking…it turned out that my main interviewer had a Ph.D. in music. This launched a 20-30 minute conversation about guitars while the next candidate was waiting for his turn to interview…so much for military precision!
We regrettably had to cut our conversation short because I had a flight to catch. I thought the interview was hard but as I was to soon learn, it was a can o’ corn compared to finding a cab to JFK from midtown Manhattan late Friday afternoon!
After 45 sweat-inducing minutes trying to flag a cab, I was finally on my way. If the traffic were merely miserable on the L.I.E., I would barely make it. And if there was an accident or road work, FUGGEDABOUDIT!
I was a nervous wreck the whole way. I was desperate to make my flight and had not yet digested the events that just transpired…when my phone rang. Accenture offered me the job before my cab even hit the Van Wyck Expressway!
Since I was so certain I had blown the interview, I asked the recruiter what would have happened if they had decided to pass on me. He said, “I would have waited til Monday to call you.” Now THAT is a well-oiled recruiting machine.
I referred a friend to Accenture recently. She was hired just this past week. Her interview experience was very similar to mine but even more efficient. She didn’t have to fly to NY for the final interview. She had a telepresence interview from San Francisco and then received her offer the same day.
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