BU Today

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In our series “Jump-start Your Job Search,” BU Today brings you short interviews with BU alums who are leaders in their fields, such as banking, advertising, tech start-ups, journalism, or nonprofit organizations.

They talk about how they got to be where they are and what they’ve learned from their mistakes. They tell us what they look for when hiring and offer advice for those just embarking on a career.

This week, our featured alum is Michael McCabe (MET’86,’87), a managing director at Deloitte, the world’s largest professional services firm, offering auditing, consulting, tax, and advisory services. Based in Manhattan, McCabe works for Deloitte Advisory, a division focusing on forensics and investigations, often for companies that have had a bankruptcy or another problem. He has been a managing director since 2008. He previously held executive positions at IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Credit Lyonnais Securities, and Smith Barney.

If McCabe looks familiar, it’s because he’s back on campus frequently, in his capacity as chair of the Metropolitan College Dean’s Advisory Board or to recruit students at the Questrom School of Business for Deloitte. “We are big consumers of BU students,” says McCabe, who hired several BU students last year and notes that Deloitte is one of the top employers of recent Questrom grads.

  1. BU Today: What are some of the qualities you look for in the people you hire?

    McCabe: We look for a minimum GPA, a curriculum that matches the job description, some good prior work experience, and great enthusiasm. Students often misinterpret what I mean by work experience. Last year I hired a young woman from BU, and one of the things she put as prior work experience was that she’d been a greeter at a restaurant. We talked to her, and we thought, this woman has great potential in client service. So it doesn’t mean that you have to have worked in a bank or at an accounting firm. All kinds of job experiences matter—it’s not one specific thing. We’ve hired people with all sorts of backgrounds. Students who understand us can explain how their experience maps to what we do.

  2. What kinds of questions do you ask during an interview?

    At Deloitte, we’re very focused on a disciplined and consistent process. We conduct two types of interviews; one is technical and one is behavioral. On the technical side, students should expect a conversation about the academic things that are on their résumé and what their skill levels are. On the behavioral side, what we’re really looking for—and people laugh when I say this—is, could someone sit next to you for eight hours a day? Because we spend a lot of time in hot conference rooms sorting through clients’ problems.

  3. Are there certain mistakes that young job candidates tend to make?

    They show up knowing very little about the job, or they’re actually interested in another part of Deloitte and think that interviewing with us will get them there. The biggest deal-breaker for me is a student who knows very little about my firm. I want to know why you want to work for us and how you will fit the needs of my organization. There’s an awful lot of information available about us from many sources. We hold information sessions on campus, our recruiters are on campus, we have a website. An unprepared student is someone I’m not interested in.

  4. When you went to college, did you have an idea what you wanted to do for a career?

    The answer is yes, but in retrospect my view was somewhat short-term. I think I did a good job of matching my initial career with what I had studied, but what I studied is not what I do now. It’s been a long and winding road. I started in engineering, moved to computer science—the role BU played—went to Wall Street, and then to consulting. So, there’s some evolution that took place. The common threads here are computer science, project management, and lifelong learning.

  5. What advice would you give to someone interested in entering your industry?

    First thing I’d tell you is learn all you can about it, but at the same time prepare for it by doing well at school. Students often ask me at information sessions and interviews in the fall, “What course should I take in the second semester?” And I always tell them, “Look, you’re in a program that aligns with what we’re interested in. Continue doing what you’re doing. For me to suggest a course or two, it’s not going to make a big difference. Just do well.”

  6. What expectations do you have for new employees?

    We hire fabulous people with great capabilities. I wish I was as bright as these people are. We’d like to see them leverage the skills they have and constantly add new ones. All the students that I’m talking to are very well qualified, very well prepared. The students that work best in my area have a degree that touches on business and computer science. But I want to be careful not to say I only hire undergraduate business people.

  7. How competitive is this field for new graduates?

    Brutal. But every résumé that makes it into the bundle gets read and gets sincerely considered. The best way to get a job at Deloitte, especially at the entry level, is through the on-campus placement office.

  8. Are there mistakes you’ve made in your career, and if so, what lessons have you learned from them?

    Looking back on it now, I was slow to realize that I was the person most responsible for my own advancement. You need to own your career. The first couple of years, I didn’t realize that I had to drive my own career forward.

  9. What advice would you give to someone on the first day on the job and again six months later?

    Start to build your network and never stop. Remember that education is a cradle-to-grave activity. Always be learning something new.

  10. Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?

    My first real boss after college took the time to explain to all his new employees how to be a professional, which was absolutely invaluable. The advice he gave me then, I still repeat to young employees today.

  11. Such as?

    Expenses: spend like it’s your own money. People, especially young people, tend to think, oh, I’m on expenses. And as a result, they get themselves into stupid problems that have a negative impact on their career. And that little tiny piece of advice—spend it like it’s your own money—has served me very well to this day.

Are you an alum who would like to be interviewed for BU Today’s “Jump-start Your Job Search” series? Email John O’Rourke at orourkej@bu.edu.

Read other stories in our “Jump-start Your Job Search” series here.

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