The Career Mastery: Why Should We Hire You? The Ultimate Answer Guide

Careers, Cass Business School News.

thank-you-letter-2-630x315Deniz Sasal (Executive MBA, 2013) currently works for PwC Consulting, and has started his own careers blog that will “share valuable insider information that most hiring managers wouldn’t share”.

We have been allowed to publish extracts from the blog. You can read more on

How To Answer: Why Should We Hire You?

Well, to start with; nobody is going to ask you “why should we hire you” if you do a great job in the interview with your answers and implant your messages of why you are the best candidate.

They won’t have the need to ask you that. A hiring manager will not waste his time asking that question if you already made him feel that you are the right candidate.

But, let’s say the hiring manager isn’t convinced and he still asks that question directly. No problem! At the end of this guide, you will be a lot better equipped to have an amazing answer for it.

First things first, let me introduce myself. I am Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting in our strategy consulting business unit. I am also the creator of Landing Interviews Guaranteed and The Career Mastery. I am an MBA from Cass Business School of City University London and I also hold various professional certificates, such as; PMP, PMI-RMP, CMA, etc. I launched The Career Mastery blog as a side project in 2016. I wanted to help fresh graduates find better jobs with large multinational employers and management consultancies. See, I join a lot of interviews as a hiring manager. One thing I noticed very clearly is that today’s job applicants are extremely mislead… There is so much BS advice given to you from completely unqualified non-achievers who somehow have the audacity to teach you… As a result, you are wasting so much valuable time post graduation and most of the time ending up settling for sub-par employers. Long story short, if you stick with me, I will provide you with the best advise, insider tips, and tricks to increase your chances to get jobs with multinationals.

Anyway, in this article, I’d like to present you a different answer to when you are asked “why should we hire you”, one that will most probably increase your chances by a significant margin. I will also let you in on some of the insider tips and perspectives.

Time to look at the fundamentals. What are you trying to accomplish when asked this question? You are simply trying to convince them that:

– You will fit in well with the organization culture
– You possess all the skills and experiences required
– Hiring you will make them look smart
– You can deliver great results

So far so good?

Now, let’s look at the requirements of this role. To do that, take a look at the job description again. And take out;

– What skills are required in the job description?
– What experience are they looking for?


To establish this outcome, the tools available to you are:

– Your industry experience
– Hard and soft skills
– Your main accomplishments
– Your education

Now, we got the fundamentals out of the way, let’s get into more advanced stuff. It’s time to start our analysis and recommendations. You probably fit one of the 2 categories below:

1) Are you an experienced hire with years of experience and you are joining the firm to solve a particular problem?
2) Are you a fresh graduate or have minimal years of experience?

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Luxury & Romance

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

6Julien Mazurek graduated with an MSc in Management in 2006 and he has recently launched his own luxury travel company, Kensington and Pearl, which is geared towards the honeymooners market. We spoke about studying at Cass, market research and the difficulty of getting funding.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I did a one-year MSc in Management. I particularly liked the business plan competition at the end of the year – we did a project on opening up soup shops in the City, and our group won! That motivated me to open my own business.

Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Cass?

The competition was fun – we had to go around the streets and interview people, so there was lots of interaction and social media. The rest of my best memories from Cass are all around networking through events, tutors, and alumni coming in with success stories, like Stelios. We studied his project and it was really helpful to get the insight and how he managed to get it so big.

What did you do next?

After graduating I got employed as a stockbroker straight away, which was a hard job and a great way to gain experience in the world of work. I stayed there for 6 years and then I decided it was time to start my own company.

I’ve always been passionate about travel, and have visited nearly all the countries in the world, and so I thought I should build my business around travel.

So how exactly did Kensington and Pearl come about?

I knew I wanted to do something in travel so I did some market research and I learned that the segment that is expanding the most is luxury. Budget holidays are largely now booked through big companies like Expedia, so I decided to focus on luxury, private tours. They need more organisation, but there’s more demand and it’s expanding.

I then did more market research through other channels, like searching google AdWords, and I learned that a lot of luxury travellers are couples and honeymooners with higher budgets. They were largely looking for more in-depth holidays with more details and more unusual experiences – and often wanting to visit multiple countries, on trips with more specialisations, like private tours and with romantic extras.

So Kensington and Pearl is focussed on romantic holidays and private tours, such as honeymoons.

El nido sea india-416777_1280 4

What’s next for the business?

Next for me is that I’m going to be showing at a few wedding fairs, like the National Wedding Show in London, and I’m investing my marketing budget towards advertising through wedding channels, as I want to be the number one honeymoon provider in the industry.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Raising funds has definitely been the biggest challenge! You need to prove to everyone that your product sells, and people really only look at your figures. It’s hard to get people to trust you – it’s easy to get lots of enquiries but convincing them enough to commit is harder.

I’m very confident in what we are doing, people who have booked through us recommend us, and some are even willing to invest in the company as we plan to search for more funding in the near future in order to grow the business. That is nice because we are getting mouth-to-mouth recommendations as well as generating new leads, which is very challenging.

Do you have any advice to people looking to follow in your footsteps?

The main piece of advice I’d like to give is that you never know who will be able to help you! That means you need to keep close contact with lots of people you met at University and when you are at work. You never know who will be able to help, who will have the money, and who will end up in what job.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Kensington and Chelsea – the inspiration for my site’s name and where I grew up
Favourite holiday destination: Thailand – it’s got everything you could want to do!
Must-check every day website: I always check my website first thing to see if there are new orders or enquiries, and also I always look at the news via flipboard app.
Dream travel destination: The only place I’ve not been is Australia!
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese!

Find Kensington and Pearl online: on the web, and @kensingtonpearl on Twitter and on Instagram.

#Cassat50: Peter Johnson, 1968

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

IMG_0439Peter Johnson (MSc Administrative Sciences – now MBA Administrative Sciences, 1968) left the UK after studying at the Business School, and went on to career successes in Holland and Canada. We chatted about how his life evolved after studying with us for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

My first degree was in Electrical Engineering and it was a “sandwich course”. I did six months study and six months work, sponsored by an electrical company in Manchester who paid me a small amount of money 52 weeks a year for four years.

Even though I did pretty well, it was clear to me I didn’t want to work as an Engineer. The small amount of experience that I had led me towards sales. At that time MBA programmes were relatively new, and they were all two-year programmes. There was no way to get government support or financing, so I did a bit of research and City was one of the few places that was offering a twelve-month programme, so that was critical.

The other critical thing was that one of the four specialisations was International Marketing, so those two made it a very easy decision. I applied, and was accepted and it was only the second year the programme was run. I was living in the Bunhill Row residence (which is where Cass Business School now is) and the school itself was at Gresham College and it was such a beautiful building, right in the heart of the City.

What was your experience studying at Cass?

A key thing I can say is that year was absolutely critical in helping me to shift from a left-brain Engineering nerd to a more socially-aware qualitative thinker. There were a couple of modules related to sales with a particular emphasis on human behaviour and that was something that fascinated me. It was so basic, so elementary but to me it was new and a revelation. So that was a component of the course that, to me, was very, very powerful.

To be honest, I had the feeling that the faculty was sort-of making up the programme as they went along – it was the second year – and I have to say that that made it a little less academically onerous, which actually suited me fine, because another important thing for me was having a year in London.

Previously I’d lived a very narrow existence in Manchester. I was there for four years, at a college of advanced technology that was 99% male, where there wasn’t really any university experience. Suddenly, in London, even though I had little money, I was exposed to a lot of new things, culturally and socially, and that was a really important part of that year.

I think back and it seems that one year in London was really like living anywhere else for three years!

What did you do next?

When I finished, I knew I wanted to leave the UK, and I knew I didn’t want to work in Engineering. Towards the end of the year there was a career day where representatives from various companies in England came to the the main campus, London College.

Most of them were recruiting for technical people, and weren’t expecting to meet students from the business school – nobody knew that it existed! And it just so happened that someone from Phillips Electronics knew they were looking for international recruits for their HQ in Eindhoven.

My qualifications with MSc Administrative Sciences (as it was) in International Marketing, and an Electrical Engineering degree, rang bells for them. I went there for a couple of interviews and immediately I had a very attractive offer, so that was absolutely perfect for me. I certainly couldn’t have got that offer without the City degree, regardless of what I may or may not have learned during the year!

How did you get on there?

Though the three years that I spent in Holland were incredible from a professional point of view it was not very interesting socially because Eindhoven was a company town, and I was totally focussed on my career. After three years I was transferred at my request from Holland to the same company in Toronto, so that’s how I came to Canada in 1971.

I quickly switched my orientation, making up for lost time, and decided to create a more balanced life. I then had eight years where the job was relatively easy. I enjoyed it, I was paid well, and I started to really enjoy life. I became socially more active, I bought a sailboat, obtained my pilot’s license and skied in Quebec during the winters. I met a young lady from Quebec City who later became my wife and we bought a house together in Toronto. So my focus I have to say was 70% outside work and 30% work.

Then after eight years I decided it was maybe time to restore the balance in the other direction. Phillips in Canada was solely a sales organization so I applied to another international company, Pirelli (cables, not tyres).

Pirelli cables then was much bigger in North America than Pirelli tyres, and they had a manufacturing facility in Guelph, an hour outside Toronto. So I applied there and got the job as marketing manager, which was broader than the sales role that I had with Phillips. I did very well with them, and the company in Canada improved its profitability and market share as a result of my efforts. After 10 years I became Vice President and General Manager, and I would say that I had only been hired by Pirelli because of my Engineering/MBA combination – which was more unusual back then.

How did you end up self-employed?

In 1990 Pirelli lost money internationally and that eliminated expansion plans for my operation in Guelph. I moved with them to Montreal for a couple of years, but then the Montreal operation was downsized, Pirelli Canada ceased to exist and was absorbed into Pirelli US. I was made redundant. I was 48 years old, financially sound and thrilled at the prospect of redesigning my life.

I had an excellent severance package and the support of an exceptional outplacement company, Murray Axmith. In an interesting twist they asked me to join them and I set up their 17th office in Canada. It was very successful and I really enjoyed helping other senior executives redesign their lives in similar circumstance to mine.

After three years I became aware of, and interested in, the concept of executive coaching. After some research I left Murray Axmith to set myself up as an independent executive coach. After some extensive training and education I became probably one of the first few professionally qualified executive coaches in Canada. I then had 10 years that were exceptionally satisfying, with some fantastic clients and a well balanced life. With no shortage of business I let things get out of control for a couple of years and when my wife retired from teaching I decided it was time for me to do the same. I’ve kept on a few client since then to keep the grey cells working, but only to match my schedule of activities.

I had never thought of myself as becoming self-employed or as an entrepreneur but I do think of myself as being self-reliant. I have always believed the principle that I am responsible for my own destiny, even when I’ve been part of a large corporate identity – that’s been there, maybe since my years at school. Would it have happened if I had not been made redundant? Probably not. But I’ve always been very sensitive to relationships – that was a transition that took place at Cass in London – part of my switch from left-brain to more of a human orientation.

What exactly is an Executive Coach?

The “elevator speech” is… “a coach engages a client in a spontaneously composed conversation that causes the client to develop new ideas that bring great clarity, focus and the strong desire to act in more effective and satisfying ways”. It took me years to develop that!

At the start, when people said to me “so what does an executive coach do?” I’d say “well spend an hour with me and experience what I do” and I would find that after that 7 out of 10 people would say “So when do we meet next!” For those people who get it, it is life changing, it’s astonishing. One of the points [of an article I wrote] is – who hires a coach? It’s someone with a combination of self-confidence and humility. They are confident enough that they can be transparent and self-aware but humble enough to know that they can, and want to, become more satisfied and effective.

Looking back I do recognize that I have been extraordinarily fortunate, with good opportunities that most people never have, Cass being one of them.

Weavee-ing Your Future Career

Alumni Notice Board, Alumni Stories, City News, Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering News.

DSC_1105In 2015 James Grant completed a BSc in Computer Science with Games Technology. He acquired not only a 2.1, but also three years of professional experience. It gave him the ‘edge [he] needed to build Weavee. Weavee is a career platform that doesn’t just help people to get the job they want, it helps them to discover what they can do. Here James tells us how his time at City equipped him to build the platform of the future.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

The defining part of my time at City University was undertaking the Professional Pathway scheme, a scheme that gave me the chance to gain three years work experience in addition to my degree. The professional pathway has informed all I do now.

At the start of the scheme, I joined the web development team at City University for a year, which is where I learned most of the web skills I have today. I then moved on to a new role with Euromoney in my second year, where I set up and ran a graduate scheme later progressing on to a startup called Bar Pass for four months and onto a contract with BOAT international for five months. My final placement was with Hays recruitment for five months.

Because of the various positions I held, I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I left university. I wanted to build a business.

How did the idea for Weavee come about?

I was originally building a social network for my dissertation and during that time I considered the idea of scaling it outside of a university, however after pitching the idea at several startup communities it was clear that there is more to building a business than having an idea.

Throughout the employment process I found I was always facing the same process; put my CV in as many places as possible and hope that a job suiting my skills came up. It became increasingly harder even though my skills were developing. I figured that if I was having problems with an expanding CV, what was happening to the emerging talent just leaving University?

It was only during my time at Hays, where I was positioned inside the recruitment system that I considered the ineffective way recruitment agencies work. With UK recruitment agencies costing businesses an average of £4,000 per placement and successful appointment taking approximately three months, there is a lot of room for improvement. The situation won’t get better unless someone does something.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to Weavee?

In the short time that I have been working on Weavee (a mere nine months!), I have learned so much. The constant challenge hasn’t been the creation of the business; instead, it was being able to reach the right people able to advance the business.

At each stage, I have had to choose between building the business and networking. The former has taken priority and now each networking event is an opportunity for me to share Weavee’s progress to try to gain support. So far this strategy seems to work!

What has been the most rewarding experience?

To see how my actions have influenced others is really rewarding – we have some of the stories up on our Weavee blog.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Building a startup is tough. I wouldn’t suggest doing it unless you have some work experience and also a holistic understanding of the problem you are looking to solve. Having experienced first hand (and from various perspectives) the situation I am solving, I can understand the problems each person might face. This means I am better equipped to solve the problem in a balanced way. Only through experiencing the situation can you better understand why the situation exists, be able to appeal to stakeholders and solve the problems they have.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London:  St Paul’s
Favourite holiday destination:  Florida
Must-check every day website:
Dream travel destination:  Outer space
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese

If you would like to find out more about Weavee or get involved with their latest project WeaVR, please visit or connect with James via LinkedIn.





Finding a Passion; Lost in the City

Alumni Notice Board, Alumni Stories, City News.

Journalism graduate (1986) turned professional photographer, Nicholas Sack has just released his new photo book ‘Lost in the City’. Here he tells us what led him to photography and the concept behind his latest book.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I had edited the student newspaper whilst I was an undergraduate at Aston University. When I came to City in 1985 the Journalism Department was in a building on the corner of Skinner Street, on the floor above music rehearsal rooms. The sounds would intermingle – the clatter of manual typewriters and the tinkling of pianos – to create a symphony for Olivetti and Bechstein.

Our shorthand teacher was the legendary Harry Butler, who had written the definitive guide to Teeline and helped to decode Samuel Pepys’ own personal shorthand. He was a fearsome character; woe betide any student arriving even 15 seconds late for his lesson. Young women wept with frustration, but we all passed our 100 words-per-minute test at the end of the year.

What happened after you graduated?

I was already photographing for trade magazines between lectures. Photography was my hobby and when I graduated I decided to make a real go of it, to make it my living. I worked as a freelance for 30 years: mainly corporate commissions, portraits of the movers and shakers of commerce and industry in their working environments. This formality was spiced with more colourful assignments: record covers, outdoor clothes in Arctic Sweden, and the redevelopment of London’s docklands in the 1980s for construction and business magazines. I no longer accept commissions, and instead continue my personal projects for exhibitions and books. ‘Uncommon Ground’ was published in 2004, and here now is ‘Lost in the City’.

How did the idea for ‘Lost in the City’ come about?

I live close to central London and have been photographing in the Square Mile for 30 years. I was first struck by the collision of architecture – a Wren church slap-bang next to a tower of glass and steel – and I soon became interested in the office workers in the streets and alleys. Even in crowds they can appear isolated and estranged, scurrying from work-station to sandwich bar beneath overpowering buildings.

In my pictures I avoid tourist landmarks, words on fascias, slogans and logos: I aim to capture a state of other-worldliness, where figures seem strangely dislocated. The camera reveals surprising details: in a frozen moment the alpha-males marching along past the Bank of England have their heels on the pavement and toes pointing upward in a balletic pose.

bank of england

Last year I decided it was time to edit these thousands of pictures for a book, and Martin Usborne at Hoxton Mini Press was keen to publish it. He immediately saw a film-noir quality in these photos – Iain Sinclair notes a connection with Hitchcock in his introduction – and Martin rejected any pictures that included people smiling or looking happy. The City is a serious place; there is a sexual tension in some of these pictures, too.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to ‘Lost in the City’?

It was a challenge to whittle down the pictures for a book of just 60 images. The editing was a collaboration with the publisher and the designer. We didn’t always agree, but I think we each brought creative ideas to the final selection.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

Well, I was thrilled when Iain accepted our invitation to write the intro because he has been a literary hero of mine for many years. And it was nice to have a piece in the Observer when the book was launched. I am interested in book design and printing; I involved myself in all the stages of production and learned a lot. I shoot on film, so scans were made of my prints, then tweaked for the book printers in China: the ability to control minute details is fascinating. For example, to enhance local contrast in one particular image we zoomed in on the computer and darkened the shin of a woman walking on the opposite side of the street.

But really, the most rewarding experiences are out there in the streets, taking the pictures. When everything coheres in the viewfinder – the people, the buildings, the street furniture, the shadows – you feel a surge of adrenaline and press the button.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Photography is a most fascinating medium: it’s both cerebral and emotional. I think the best way to understand and learn about pictures is to look at the masters – in books, at exhibitions, and in the Print Room at the V&A, where you consult the catalogue, fill in a slip, and prints by the photographer of your choice are delivered to your desk. This is where I gained a visual education, by studying the great American photographers like Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Harry Callahan and Henry Wessel. What gives a photograph its power to move the emotions? Is it the subject? The composition? The tones or colours? Searching for the answer is a wonderful exploration.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
Favourite place in London: The Black Friar pub: ornate art nouveau interior and good beer.
Favourite holiday destination: Chicago, a slightly old-fashioned American city.
Must-check every day website: Charlton Athletic Football Club. I’ve been a suffering supporter for 51 years.
Dream travel destination: San Francisco, for the topography of hills and bays.
Cheese or chocolate: Say ‘Cheese’!


Lost in the City by Nicholas Sack is published by Hoxton Mini Press in standard and collector’s editions. 


Header image: © Timothy Cooke

All other images: © Nicholas Sack

#Cassat50: Tatiana Serganova, 2011

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News.

Photo_Tatiana SerganovaTatiana Serganova studied BSc Business and International Finance, 2011, and now works for an advertising software start-up. We caught up with her for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

I’m was an international student and I did a foundation programme in London – which is like A’ Levels but a programme specifically for foreign students. I fell in love with London and knew Cass was one of the top schools in London, so when I knew I wanted to stay in London, I researched more and the School ticked all the boxes. Most Bachelor’s degrees are pretty broad, covering subjects like accounting, and I wanted to do something applicable for my future career. I chose Banking and International Finance which was very specific on one hand, with no broad knowledge base, but it also covers lots of different aspects and including insight in to the world of investments.

What was your experience of studying at Cass like?

My experience was very funny! One thing I remember is that I had this teacher in banking who taught the core banking module, and she was really great. We joined the course in 2008 at the peak of the financial crisis and as soon as we entered the room she said “It’s the financial crisis bankers are jumping out of windows and crazy things are happening, so it’s a good time to study!” I had such an interesting time, and I wrote numerous essays on why the crisis happened. Historically it was a great moment to study finance, very different from the normal experience.

I did a Masters afterwards (not at Cass) so I can compare, and Cass has a very good quality of lecturers. Everyone is very accomplished and we had people from the Bank of England, and big financial firms speaking to us. I really acknowledged the quality of the academics.

Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Cass?

My first memory and also a highlight was when I entered and saw all the crazy stuff like the timetable and essays I was going to have to do, and I felt very overwhelmed. I thought there was no way I would be able to finish the course, it was so complex and I’m from another country the ways things are done are so different. Just looking back it’s funny I thought that. I graduated with honours – so it’s great to see your progress!

How has studying at Cass changed your life?

Well essentially for me it was a game changer. When I moved from abroad, Cass introduced me to the professional work environment, a new country and new friends and I’m grateful for all the experiences. I’ve got lots of good friends from Cass that I’m still in touch with, and some went with me to do a Masters. It’s great to be connected to so many like-minded people.
I didn’t pursue a career in finance but my degree gave me a good start and a very solid base in accounting, finance and economics, which are very applicable for any profession. Doing my degree was a big part of my life, when you’re in your 20s it’s a big deal and if counts for a lot.

After I finished my Cass degree I did an internship but then decided going in to finance was not the right career move. The studies were great but I did not see a career for me, although my parents wanted me to pursue it. I had the realisation that I wanted to do something new and tech-driven so I did a Masters in Digital Marketing. I was accepted into the programme without any questions because Cass gave me good breadth. When people ask where you studied, and hear Cass, they always say “Wow! Good school!”.

And you’re a mentor too?

Yes, I’m a mentor in the Professional Mentoring Programme run by City. I really always wanted to and so when I got email about how to be more involved, I had to volunteer. I remember myself being a student and not knowing how to apply for jobs and what to do with my career – I was not sure of the path or where to turn to. So I was very confused and didn’t know what to do, and hopefully my experiences can help someone else now.

This is my first year in the programme and I’m working with a 2nd year student from City. It’s going well. He had the aim to increase his employability skills and get a placement, so we worked on that and he got a placement and felt very motivated by me. I’ll always remember how I felt and how wished I had someone to guide me, so it’s great to give back.

The Career Mastery: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Careers, Cass Business School News .

denizDeniz Sasal (Executive MBA, 2013) currently works for PwC Consulting, and has started his own careers blog that will “share valuable insider information that most hiring managers wouldn’t share”.

We have been allowed to publish extracts from the blog. You can read more on

What a stupid question to ask… It really is…

Interviewer: Where you do you see yourself in 5 years?
Me: Well, I am going to tell you that I see myself at your company at a role where I contribute to the organization’s success… and you will not believe that I am genuine but then I will say that anyway because this is the only answer I know you are looking for…

In an ideal world, if you are interviewing with a highly professional company and highly professional hiring managers, they may not ask you this question; where do you see yourself in 5 years…

I hope they won’t. It’s meaningless and encourages the candidate to lie. It serves very little purpose. There are way better questions to understand a candidate’s commitment and loyalty.

But here is the thing… We are not living in an ideal world, and the chances that they will ask you this question is very high.

In fact, unfortunately, I was asked this question even when I interviewed for PwC Consulting 5 years ago. Worst of all, this question came directly from the partner himself. And no, not partner in charge of HR. But the partner in strategy consulting!

As I said, we are not living in an ideal world…

I am Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting and for the past 10 years, I have been interviewing thousands of candidates as a hiring manager. At The Career Mastery, a blog that I own, I help change some of the notions when it comes to interviews and hiring.

Whatever you hear from me represent my view as a hiring manager. I am not HR, never been, nor have any intentions to become one at any point in my career.

Alright, let’s continue now…

First things first, here are what not to do when they ask “where do you see yourself in 5 years”

Don’t try to be funny for God’s sake. I remember at least 4 candidates who said they saw themselves in my position in 5 years. The funny thing is I didn’t ask where you see yourself in 5 years. I merely asked about their future plans and whether they’d like to stay in Dubai over the foreseeable future. After all, this is an expatriate-oriented city with high expat-turnover. Plus, this is probably the oldest joke in the book. Where are they learning this from? Who’s that guy teaching them that it’s okay to say such an awkward, obnoxious, not-even-funny joke? Please don’t do that. It’s not funny and also not even logical. If I am interviewing you for a junior consultant role, it will take you a lot more than 5 years to become a manager… Just don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

You don’t need to necessarily talk about your ambitions for future when asked this question. Start from today. After all, we are interviewing you to fill a current role. Not necessarily a role to fill 5 years in the future. We are not going to hire you to train you for “that” role for 5 years. Don’t talk about your life story. Ever since you started grade school, you always wanted to be a management consultant… Be Realistic.

So, I will give you 2 approaches to this question.

First, I will share with you the conventional safe approach. And once it’s out of the way, I will share with you, my way.

The first approach is the safest one. It’s what everybody uses and it is what I call “Bullshit” answer. Your BS answer may tick the box and prevent you from taking any risks. But, at the end of the day it’s BS. To craft your perfect BS answer, you need to hit certain triggers.

The way I see, they are the following;

– You need to show them you are committed and not a 2-year jumper – which most of us suffer from.
– The reason you are here is not to find a quick solution to your unemployment. But rather, you are thinking of us as your last destination in your corporate career. Simply, you are not here to wait for the next best offer. Then, off you go. From hiring manager’s perspective, this is a big challenge. Finding the right candidate consumes too many valuable resources from the company. Time being the most important one. Show your loyalty and commitment to the organization.
– Ambitious and assertive characters are in high-demand for certain roles, especially in sales related positions. So, feel free to clearly state that you are looking to grow with the company, learn from the best, and ultimately, when you are ready take on more responsibilities.

So, a safe BS answer may look something like below;

I am really determined to achieve my and company’s goals. I’d like to deliver to the best of my abilities while learning from the best. Having said that, I see myself 5 years down the road growing into a managerial role and demonstrating my leadership capabilities.

Or another one,

I am really looking forward to spending the next five years in an organization where I feel I share all of its values, especially when it comes to [some values]. I would love to have the opportunity to demonstrate my leadership capabilities when the time is right, hopefully within 5 years and contribute to its growing success.

Alright, as you see from above responses, they are safe answers but not necessarily something I would say.

This is especially true if I am interviewing with a hiring manager. The hiring manager will most probably be your direct line supervisor once you get the job. Do you really want to start that relationship based on lies and BS?

I don’t…

And I didn’t… When I was asked this question 5 years ago, my answer was something like below;

Me: “Hmm. Let me gather my thoughts for a second… [Yes, I literally took my time to think. You should try it too…] Judging by the fact that where I saw myself in the past and where I ended up, it’s really hard to say where I will be. The only way I can see the future is by looking at my past, right?

“And if you asked this question to me almost 8 years ago when I was working at Standard & Poor’s as a financial analyst, I’d tell you I wanted to be an investment banker, then 5 years later I was a project management consultant, then sustainability consultant, and now here I am interviewing for a management consulting role which I can confidently do very well.

“So, as you see, where I wanted to be almost never happened and it’s really hard to say now where I will be in 5 years.

“But I guarantee you one thing. I will do my best in this role and try my best to have a wonderful career at PwC with your team and with your leadership. And when the times comes, I will assume more leadership roles, hopefully easing some of your intense work load.”

When I gave this answer, something incredible happened… Partner was definitely shocked hearing my answer and I could tell he wasn’t expecting this. But… He was incredibly impressed…
I could see it in his eyes.

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#Cassat50: Dr John Mitchell, 1988

Cass Business School News.

john then and nowDr John Mitchell came to Cass to study for his PhD. Today he is Managing Director of LHS Business Control. We asked him about his time at the Business School.

Why did you come to Cass?

I had completed an MBA at Middlesex and had commenced a part-time PhD on the thesis of using risk management techniques for audit planning purposes. Unfortunately, my supervisor left after less than a year and they had no-one else suitable. I already knew that CUBS (as it then was) ran an internal audit programme, because I was a visiting lecturer to it and I knew the team quite well, so I approached Professor Andrew Chambers who was departmental head and Dean to the school to ask if he was willing to supervise me. He was, so I transferred to CUBS.

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

Doing a PhD is a very different thing from studying for an MBA. It is very lonely life. The thing about a PhD is that within six months you know more than your supervisor, so what you require is encouragement from your supervisor. Fortunately for me, Dr Georges Selim had been delegated this task by Professor Chambers and as I knew Georges well from my visiting lecturer work I felt that the required back-up was there. I was spending at least 9 hours per week on my research, which was on top of a demanding day job. Fortunately, my day job, provided much input to my research, as I was Group Computer audit Manager at British Gas, and had a wide range of contacts throughout the world. British Gas paid my fees (which were quite modest) and also paid for my attendance at conferences. I was also active as a speaker on the international conference circuit and was able to meet many people to discuss my ideas. Basically it is up to the student to be self-motivated and to keep at it. I believe that only around 20% of people who start a PhD actually finish it. It would be interesting to know the Cass statistics.

John's PhD Graduation - 1989What is your favourite memory from your time at Cass?

Having fun with the entire internal audit programme team, including the administrators and secretaries.

How did studying at Cass change your life?

I graduated in 1988 and receiving my PhD provided the impetus for me to set-up my own consultancy which I have run for the last 27 years. The software which I had developed to support my thesis provided a good income stream and the consultancy area grew on the back of it. Having a PhD provided the gravitas needed by a consultant.

#Cassat50: Juliet Valdinger, 2013

Cass Business School News.

JVJuliet Valdinger studied MSc Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment, 2013. We chatted about her experiences for our continuing #Cassat50 series.

Why did you come to Cass?

My desire to get an MSc in Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment at Cass Business School came from fracturing my skull. Quite an unusual reason for most people (thankfully). But it was mine nevertheless.

Let me take you back to put that in context. I’ve been more than mildly obsessed with philanthropy since 2003. Before then, I didn’t really have much understanding of what ‘philanthropy’ actually was. My first job showed me how much impact high-profile people can have on society. I was persuading individuals ranging from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Giorgio Armani to George Clooney and the King of Spain to get involved in a charity project. Quite an achievement you might say. Well, yes it was but it was because by getting them to support our project, they raised funds for the charity they already supported themselves. That was my first exposure to the power of philanthropy. If you’re interested check out

I’d loved travelling through Africa on my gap year so then took myself off to South Africa. The aim was to go and do ‘good stuff’. However, a horse riding accident rather disrupted my plans.

In a nutshell, I was in hospital with a fractured skull and collapsed lung for two months, in rehab for three months and recovering at my mum’s house for four months before I was ready to go back to work. I received incredible support from family, friends and strangers during that year – and that has contributed massively to my commitment to philanthropy. Experiencing the direct, positive impact people can have on others’ lives, even if they don’t know them, reminded me about the power of philanthropy.

So what tipped you towards choosing your MSc?

My first job after the accident was working for a travel consultancy (not exactly charity work) and there was an opportunity to go to Rwanda. I’d always wanted to go, both to see the country and go gorilla tracking (both of which I highly recommend). However, it was one specific place there that re-ignited my determination to be part of the philanthropy world.

The Pears Foundation has funded a genocide memorial in Kigali, which I visited. It was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. It was not like reading about the genocide in the Sunday Times. The memorial is a tutorial for tourists to get an authentic reflection of what happened and showed me what funders with serious amounts of money can build.

After that visit, I wanted to follow that pathway and create something that has a positive impact on others. I wanted to find a millionaire and help build a school or hospital in Africa. Or something like that. I looked for months and months in 2008 (not a good year to job hunt) before I got a temp job at Macmillan Cancer Support on their grantmaking team. Cancer patients apply for grants to support them though difficulties they face in paying for things like heating costs, transport, etc. Their nurses are the intermediaries between the patients and Macmillan, which means Macmillan can remain more objective and not influenced in the decision about who does or doesn’t get the funding.

There was a day when a cancer patient who Macmillan hadn’t funded got through to me on the phone. And I understood why we needed the nurses to be the intermediaries. The patient had applied for £250 to cover his heating costs and it had been declined. He spent 20 agonising minutes on the phone telling me that he was going to die because we had not given him the money and that it was my fault. This experience showed me that giving away money is not always an easy process. There is so much more to philanthropy than that – and that building my school or hospital in Africa would not be straightforward.

So, discovering that there was an MSc in Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment at Cass Business School felt like someone had shone a light down on me. It taught me there are many sides of the dice in the philanthropy world: social investment, impact investment, social impact bonds, development bonds, standard grants and many more. The MSc changed my perceptions of the whole charitable sector. Although it was quite a mouthful to say, “I’m doing my MSc in Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment at the Cass Business School” it gave me the credibility and courage to march around London, meeting people at events, encouraging introductions or just cold emailing. I met so many people I would never have had the opportunity to meet if I hadn’t been doing the MSc. I have a folder packed with business cards as a result of those two years.

What was your experience of studying at Cass?

One of the key things which made the course so effective to me was that our lecturers were a perfect blend of academics and practitioners. Theory is important to build a structured and objective framework of thought, but too much of it and I’ll be snoring in the corner before you know it. The practitioners brought the theories to life and talked to us about applying them to their work on the ground. This provided us with a platform of discussion points about what works in practice and whether there were any holes left that still need to be filled.

I was so excited about this experience that I was nearly always the first person to ask a question in the lecture hall. I admit I’m not good with silences and there was so much to learn that I just couldn’t wait to get the conversations started. It was also great to sit there listening to all of the other questions which often provoked the lecturers with new thoughts. My interest and fascination was clearly noted (I think my excitement exhausted some lecturers) as when the Guardian got in touch with Cass asking to interview a student about the course, I think I might have been the first person they called. I never thought that someone would interview me – and certainly not such a big newspaper. But I agreed because I wanted to (and still do) encourage everyone to understand how this MSc is intellectually stimulating and provides an insight into the philanthropy world in a way nothing else does.

I crossed over from Macmillan to work for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation during the MSc. This job provided me with a deeper insight into the many facets of the philanthropy world and I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t have been offered the job if I wasn’t in the middle of doing the course. I might never have done the course if I hadn’t fallen off a horse, fractured my skull, gone to Rwanda and visited the genocide memorial and worked at Macmillan on their grantmaking team.

It was the MSc at Cass that provided me with the knowledge, tools and contacts that allowed me to bring my interest in the philanthropy sector into reality. And I intend to use those in every stage of the rest of my career.

#Cassat50: Danial Abbas, 2010

Cass Business School News.

LinkedinTo celebrate #Cassat50 – 50 years of the Business School, we’ve been speaking to alumni about the impact Cass has had on their life. Danial Abbas studied BSc Investment and Financial Risk Management, graduating in 2010.

Why did you come to Cass?

Cass being very highly regarded in the FT rankings (it was then and it still is now) was the main reason it was brought to my attention. My sister also already studied at Cass and spoke highly of the University and the level of teaching and research. The advantage Cass had due to its geographical proximity to the financial district was also an asset. Especially because my aspirations lay in getting into the financial markets in the city.

What was your experience studying at Cass?

I very much enjoyed it – I have very fond memories looking back, and the memories are still fresh. I met an extremely diverse set of individuals; and not just my peers but also my lecturers and professors were all from very diverse backgrounds. Some people’s backgrounds were more in research, some from industry, and some were currently in industry. It was fantastic to mix with peers with backgrounds from all over the world and all over the UK too, from grammar schools, state schools, and private schools. Doing group coursework I benefitted a lot from this range of perspectives

The practicality of the course stood me in good stead for afterwards. When I look back and discuss my course with others who studied at different institutions, their courses were more theoretical – Cass prides itself on adding these practical elements. This was really useful in looking for a job and setting up my own business, because it both gave me the relevant tools and the mindset to do it.

What is your favourite memory from studying at Cass?

That’s difficult! I’ve got lots of good memories both on the academic and personal side of the experience. This one is a good mix of the two.

One time after our lecture a few of us went to have coffee with our lecturer, Sotiris [Staikouras]. It really demonstrates the atmosphere Cass has – Sotiris had no obligation to socialise with us, and it was his initiative. We were all very happy to go along and talk not just about academics but personal things too – it added a nice element to our relationship which really benefitted our studies.

How did studying at Cass change your life?

First of all, I’m very glad to have that Cass branding on my CV, as shallow as it sounds. It’s very important in the employment market and in business; people seem very hung up still on where you studied.

Straight after Cass I did a Masters at Warwick, because I wanted the diversity of studying outside London and at a different type of institution. Warwick’s course was much more theoretical, which gave me a good mix. After Warwick I entered the job market at a very difficult time for trading. For a couple of years I applied and applied for roles without success.

I was sure and adamant that I wanted a trading role, but this break was a blessing in disguise as I set up my own business as a property developer. The financials, number crunching, finding the opportuning, and thinking about the big picture, doing all these was a result of skills, information, theory and confidence from Cass. I was able to go and seek this opportunity and think differently to 99% of people in the industry and establish myself quickly.

I now have 10 properties in London that I rent out and I continue to expand, all whilst it remains a complete one man show. I do the finance, sourcing, maintenance and tenant relationships. Cass gave me lots of the tools required for all these elements, so the business side of my life comes directly from Cass.

On the job side, now that I’m a financial market trader and I trade commodities, I need to follow macro events, the commodities market, the stock markets, etc. and the modules I took at Cass are so closely linked to my day-to-day working. If I look at the textbooks from Cass they are not as useful as my Cass lecture notes – which is quite surprising but it’s not only me who still refers to my notes! At work I sit next to an MSc alumnus and he uses the online journals and does the same thing with his notes, to help us day-to-day.

So basically, Cass has helped me get where want to go and continues to help too! Tomorrow I don’t know what the job market will be; oil and gas are tricky. But I have a solid foundation of properties which means I’ll always have a roof over my head and Cass has a large role in that. I’m relatively young and already feel Cass has made a significant impact on my life to date.