What If You’re Asked Illegal Questions During An Interview?

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One of the most important things job candidates can do for their job search is prepare for interviews. Going through a list of the most asked questions can help job seekers formulate answers according to their strengths and skills. But what happens when an interviewer takes the questioning to a more personal place that makes job candidates feel uncomfortable?

Martin Yate, author of the book, Knock ‘em Dead, suggests remaining polite, being straightforward, and moving the conversation in a more appropriate direction by redirecting back to how you can do the job you’re interviewing for.

Yate also lists some key discriminatory items an interviewer may or may not ask about, which may sound illegal but the way it’s asked will leave the question fair game:

  1. Your religion, church, synagogue, parish, the religious holidays you observe, or your political beliefs/affiliations. But, the interviewer may ask if you are available to work on weekends.
  2. Your ancestry, national origin, parentage, birthplace, or the naturalization status of your parents, spouse, or children. Yet, an interviewer may ask whether you are a U.S. citizen or a resident alien with the ability to work in the United States.
  3. Your native language, the language you speak at home, or how you acquired the ability to read, write, or speak a foreign language. But, it is appropriate for the interviewer to ask about the languages in which you are fluent if it is pertinent to the job.
  4. Your age, your date of birth, whether you are married or pregnant, or the ages of your children. However, he or she may ask if you are over 18.
  5. Your maiden name, your marital status, number of children or dependents, your spouse’s occupation, or how you wish to be addressed (i.e. “Miss,” “Mrs.,” or “Ms.”). Yet, the interviewer may ask whether or not you have worked for the company before under a different name.

In addition to the above mentioned areas, I would add questions related to physical disabilities, health, medical history, and criminal records to the list of items that should not be addressed by interviewers. Although these topics are off limits, this does not mean that employers do not utilize indirect methods to ask about these areas.

While the employer may not ask you directly, “Does your religion allow you to work on Saturdays and/or Sundays?” He or she may state, “This job requires work on Saturdays and/or Sundays. Is that a problem?”  In this instance, the employer’s question is acceptable, but what is an appropriate response?

Yate provides a few suggestions:

First, if you do not actively practice a religion, you could say, “I have a set of personal beliefs that are important to me, but I do not attend any organized services. And I do not mix such beliefs with my work, if that’s what you mean.” On the flipside, an applicant might state, “I attend my church/synagogue/mosque regularly, but I am intentional about not making it my practice to involve my personal beliefs at my job. My career and work for the company are far too important for that.”

In the end, as you are pondering the legality of questions, keep in mind, not all interviewers will be asking them intentionally. Some may not be aware of the laws on the matter; however, this does not justify their behavior. As a result, Yate suggests that you should be polite and straightforward, while attempting to move the conversation to discuss your skills and abilities, rather than focusing on your status. In the end, you can always decide that a company is not for you, leaving no obligation to accept the position.

Yates, M. (2010). Knock ‘em dead: The ultimate job search guide. Avon, MA: Adams Media.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at OnlineCareerTips.

About the Author: Kristen Carter is a career services contributor for OnlineCareerTips.com. OnlineCareerTips provides advice and resources for advancing your career or successfully transitioning to a new one. Explore OnlineCareerTips for great resources including salary wizard, resumè tips, career focused webcasts, podcasts, and office survival tips.

Networking Skills: Why They Matter and How to Build Them

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Networking skills are extremely important if you are planning to be in it for the long haul. Knowing the right people in the right places may just land you a dream job, a coveted client or a crucial bit of information which your competitor would give his right arm for. Intelligent networking gives you an unfair advantage, and may prove to be a game-changer when the chips are down for you.

Networking is a desirable skill and everyone from the CEO to the junior intern is very well aware of that. The harder you try to master it, the more difficult and painful it becomes. So what does one do to master the one skill that is so very critical in pushing you up the career ladder?

For starters, forget the urgent need to be a good networker and focus on building some basic people skills.

Learn New Social Skills

If you are fresh out of college and have a very active social life, this may appear too silly. You are social-media savvy, a born ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ acquirer, and probably enjoy living a very visible and public online life. But land your first job and you realize that people are not the same anymore.

What may have been hilarious and funny when in college is looked down upon and met with frowns. Finding friends or building relationships is not easy when you live a 9-5 job with back-breaking deadlines and stiff competition. So how do you cope?

You will have to appear focused on your work, deliver results and meet deadlines. Once you have proved you are up to the demanding professional work environment, you can take baby steps toward establishing a solid and bankable professional network.

Be Genuine

This is easier said than done, and will require conscious effort on your part.

Relate to the person you are having a conversation with. Don’t judge and weigh the benefits that his business card and contact number will bring you, since this will make it difficult for you to be involved in the interaction.

Men are generally expected to be more outgoing and proactive in reaching out to new people and thereby reap better results out of their networking skills.  But surprisingly this is not the case.

Women connect to people on a more emotional and personal level, and are less bothered about deriving business gains out of budding professional relationships. But they report to having higher career or business-related gains from their professional network, as compared to men.

You need to be more relational and less transactional. You need to focus on the person sitting before you and have less calculations running in your mind.

Be Involved in Office Activities

While building your professional network, it is better you start at the basics. Make friends in your workplace. Most office friendships grow organically, but you can make an effort to work things out for you. And once you set the ball rolling in your own workplace it will not be very difficult to grow and expand your network beyond your cubicle and organization.

Participate in after-work events. Most of us hate the crappy company picnics and weekend get-togethers, but they will help you learn the ropes as far as business networking goes.

Try to participate in team lunches and do join in for coffee breaks when invited. However tempting it may be, don’t hide behind your keyboard. Once you get the hang of it, socializing with your colleagues will not be a pain. What’s more, in due course of time it may prove to be enjoyable and easy as well.

Your job may be temporary but the friendships you build will last long, so work on them.

Be Helpful

Your professional network is made up of the friends you have made in your workplace or industry. And what are friends for if you don’t help each other grow?

You need not do anything out of the way or bend over backwards to please someone, but you can do a world of good if you introduce a friend or a former colleague to someone you know who is looking out for a new hire.

Job opportunities need to be shared among your circle of friends so that someone benefits. This will make your group or network active, rewarding and engaging.

Also, people tend to remember someone who tried to help them in a time of need. Your genuine concern will certainly be appreciated and the goodwill you gather will last far longer than you can possibly imagine now.

Work on Your Network and Be Intentional

As you grow older in your career, you will begin to notice the multiple benefits and possibilities a full-fledged and thriving professional network offers.

You know the right man to get a difficult job done, you have the insider giving you piping hot gossip from the inner circles of power in your industry, you have a trusted man to give you best advice when you are down, you have a partner (not your spouse) to share your dreams and woes with, and you have a best friend to enjoy a chilled beer with after work on Friday.

So if you want to age gracefully in your job build your network carefully and tenaciously.

Make sure you have a mentor in your network, who is someone you can look up to and feel inspired by. When you see him surmounting challenges and obstacles to achieve success, you will feel brave enough to strive for the same.

Try to build contacts in the right places in your industry. Once you identify the people you would like to network with, try to get more information about them. Scout on LinkedIn for shared connections and get a friend to introduce you to the person. Request for an opportunity to chat up with the person, offer lunch or coffee and be earnest in your attempts to solicit a meeting.

Join Professional Organizations

Don’t attempt to be a member of as many professional or trade organizations as possible. Join a few and participate actively in all functions and activities. Attend conferences, meetings, events and classes aimed at professionals in your industry. This will help you get introduced to influential people and build contacts.

Be Patient

Professional networking is no different from other relationships. They take time to run deep, grow roots and flower.

You need to remain in touch with your friends and not just fall off the communication radar after some time or with a job change.

Do not be the person who calls only when they need something. You can always sense when someone is chatting you up with an aim of getting something out of you. Do not be that annoyance to someone else.

LinkedIn and other social networks let you know when someone has just switched his job, earned a degree or moved to a new city. Make sure you send a congratulatory message and renew your friendship.

Conclusion

The secret to developing a successful professional network is realizing, accepting and dealing with the ‘human’ face of your network. Your professional networking is not something you need to tick off on the monthly to-do list. The more genuine, warm and involved you are with your work friends, the better networker you become.

Author Bio: Laura Moses is the founder of JD Main, an accounting firm outside Chicago which offers accounting, bookkeeping, and part time controller services. Prior to this, Laura was a Corporate Controller for several privately held companies thereby gaining supervisory and controller level experience in all facets of accounting.

How to Negotiate Your First Salary

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Negotiating your first salary can be tricky, as you can’t benchmark from your current or previous compensation.  However, you can, and should negotiate your first offer. Be realistic about what an appropriate compensation package is, but don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve.

Keep these tips in mind when negotiating your first salary.

Do Your Research

“Research available data regarding your major, and the position. There are plenty of sources of salary data for entry level positions. Use these numbers to keep your offer in perspective: The National Association of Colleges and Employers can give you some very good reference points

Research the company. Glassdoor and Vault are popular posting sites for employees to share information about individual companies, and may give you an idea about how they treat entry level employees relative to the rest of your industry.”

-Vinnie Dicks, CEO, Career Gaudium

Know Your Value

“Be ready with a list of your accomplishment, academic or otherwise, all the reasons why you’re worth the figure you want. Don’t just tell me about your amazing potential. Give me the reasons why that potential should be obvious. (This is much more important than why you NEED that amount, which is what most people stress.).

Be ready to discuss how you’ll be able to advance the interests of not just of the company, but of your boss, the one who may well recommend (or not recommend) the salary figure. “

Barry Maher, Consultant, Author, Speaker 

Be Strategic

“Don’t mention money too early – Let the employer bring up the subject first. If you ask about salary too early in the process, it will seem as though this is your primary interest. Focus on getting the offer first! Some interviewers bring the topic up early to use it as a screening tool. In that case, you can respond with an honest answer about what you’re currently earning and what your hopes are, but you should also stress how important it is to you to find a rewarding job.”

-Frank Gentile, Director, Professional Staffing Group

Negotiate the Whole Package

“Don’t focus only salary, an area for which an employer may be constrained; there may be other areas that can have a lot of value that might be added to the negotiation. Examples include tuition reimbursement, moving expenses, flextime, severance pay, other benefits. Pay a lot of attention to benefits; these can be quite valuable. A great health plan may offset some disappointment in a salary offer. Don’t negotiate each item at a time; negotiate a whole package. Tradeoffs can work to your advantage.”

-Ed Wertheim, Associate Professor, Management and Organizational Development at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University

10 Questions You Should Ask Before A Job Interview

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Getting a call for an interview can be so exciting that we forget to ask for important information. Having the following information before you arrive can make all the difference in winning the job.

1. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about the interview?

Depending on the answer, you know if you can ask the rest of the questions, or if the person making the call is an administrative professional with no more information than your name, phone number and the interview time.

2. What times are available?

For many interviews, the person calling gives you a range of options on when you would like to schedule your interview. The best times are 10am, and during the early afternoon. Avoid these times…

  • 9am – the interviewer may not be fully awake and alert, and not remember you as well
  • 11am – the interviewer is thinking about lunch as much as listening to you
  • After 4:30pm – the interviewer is thinking about going home and may be tired

3. Can you tell me the names of the people I’m interviewing with?

Ask for the full names and job titles of the people whom you’ll be meeting. Get the exact spellings of the names if you’re not sure. Do research online on the interviewers beforehand. Knowing the background of the people you’re speaking with is a critical advantage, and you might even have some common connections, like universities or hobbies.

4. Is this a newly created position?

It’s good to know if the position is new, or someone else previously held the job. If it’s new, the interviewers may be expecting you to help them define the role. If it’s not new, try to do research on who had the job last and why they left. Go to Linkedin, and search for people at the company. Look for one who had the same job title as what you’re interviewing for. Depending on their current employment or lack thereof, you can get an idea of your predecessors performance, skills and achievements.

5. How long has the position been open?

It’s a bad sign if the position has been open for a long time. It usually means many candidates have been interviewed and rejected. The most common reason is the company isn’t attracting the candidates it wants with the compensation it’s willing to provide.

6. What is the salary and benefits?

Here’s a list of the most common responses and what they mean.

  • “The salary ranges between X and Y” is a good answer, because the company has an idea of what it wants to pay for senior and junior candidates.
  • “I don’t have that information”, might be a lie, and might not be, but you don’t lose anything for asking.
  • “It’s yet to be determined”, is a red flag. Salary estimators are free online, so this answer usually means the salary is low, and they don’t want to scare you off.

7. Should I bring anything besides my resume?

Nothing’s worse than a interviewer asking for a sample of your work when you don’t have any with you. Usually they’ll say no, but its great when they say “Yes, actually, you can bring a sample of your work” or something similar. Since it wasn’t in the job ad, you’ll be the only candidate with something that demonstrates your skill and talent.

8. Will there be a skills test?

Increasingly employers are using standardized tests to determine if the candidate is worthy of being given an in-person interview. Find out what tests will be given, and study hard before you get there. Don’t let yourself be ambushed by a test you didn’t know was coming.

9. Is the interview scheduled to end at a certain time?

Be prepared for the two extremes. If the interview is only 45 minutes, be prepared to present yourself and make all your points in that given time. If there is no scheduled end time, take your time and don’t rush. The last thing you want to do is cut an interview short because you need to go back to your current job.

10. Are there other open positions at the company like this one?

If there are, try to get information on them. Interviewing for two jobs gives you twice the chance of getting hired. If the position hasn’t been posted yet, you’ve gained a great advantage.

 

 

Brand Yourself

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You’ve been developing a personal brand since the day you first stepped into a classroom. Those bright white socks and new shoes. The backpack with the cartoon-character theme you hand-picked. And remember when the teacher asked you to stand up in front of your peers to describe yourself in three words? Even then, you carefully picked the adjectives that described you best with hopes of leaving a good impression on your teacher and peers.

Your response now to the same question has likely evolved into something more sophisticated than it was back then (“silly” shouldn’t make it into your cover letters), but the end goal remains the same: to broadcast your strongest attributes and interests so that the people around you have a clear idea of what you bring to the table. Branding yourself requires that you identify the unique value you can offer an organization and communicate a memorable and consistent message to all current and prospective parties vested in your career.

There are countless career benefits to becoming associated with certain interests and characteristics, such as solid leadership skills, environmental activism, a great sense of humor, or public speaking skills. A strong personal brand makes you stand out from other job applicants or colleagues with the same educational and professional background. A successful personal brand also leads to more unsolicited job offers, as recruiters looking for someone just like you hear about you through word of mouth or read your blog. It can also raise the confidence coworkers, clients, bosses, and potential clients have in you. By knowing your passions and strengths, you’re more likely to find greater job satisfaction that someone who hasn’t spent enough time thinning about who she is and what she can offer.

The point here: A strong personal brand is an essential tool when it comes to opening yourself up to new opportunities and a more satisfying career. Defining your brand isn’t an easy process: It requires some serious introspection and an understanding of how others perceive you. Be true to yourself. Although you can certainly evolve your brand to fit certain skills and interests, you won’t find success without being honest with yourself and others.

5 Things to Do Before Writing Your Resume

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When applying for a new job, a great resume is extremely important in order to get your foot in the door. It is especially important when you think about the fact that on average, about 250 resumes are submitted per each corporate job opening.

While this number obviously fluctuates depending on the industry and company, it still showcases the importance of a strong resume to get you noticed. However, you can’t just dive into writing your resume without any preparation.

So for your convenience, I have compiled a list of 5 things to do before writing your resume that will help you not only with the writing process, but also help to land you an interview.

1. Make a List Of All Your Jobs

Depending on your age, the number of jobs that you have held can vary drastically. Nevertheless, you should make a complete list of every job that you have ever held and list them in reverse chronological order (from most recent moving backward).

If you have worked in a large collection of positions, then you probably won’t list all of them, but you will have a good pool to choose from.

2. Write Down All Of Your Job Responsibilities 

You may think that you can remember every aspect of your job without writing it down, but chances are that you are wrong. You often do much more than you think, so write down all of your job responsibilities for each position in order to get a thorough list to include on your resume.

3. Look Over The Job Requirements Thoroughly

Say you are applying to an open position at a manufacturing company. Well, the job requirements and skills needed for their sales position are going to be much different than that of the mechanic position.

Do your homework! Thoroughly look over the requirements and skills the position needs. Then, include all of the skills that you have that they are looking for. The matching keywords will show that your skills align with what the company needs.

4. Consult Your Performance Reviews

Your manager took the time to let you know what you excelled at and what needed work, so use these critiques to your advantage. Pull key points from your past performance reviews such as your impact on increased sales numbers or what you excelled at. You can then use this information as a key point for a particular position you have held.

5. Find a List of Strong Action Verbs

Do not use boring verbs when listing your responsibilities and accomplishments on your resume. It will sound dull to the hiring manager, and even unimpressive.

Instead, find and compile a great list of strong action verbs that you can use. Words such as “orchestrated” sound much better than “led”, and the incorporation of these terms will expand your vocabulary.

The plus of already having this list put together is that you will save yourself time when you actually begin to write your resume, which allows you to focus on the facts.

Now You’re Ready

So, you’ve followed these 5 steps and have written your resume. Great! What’s next you ask?

Well, once your resume is ready to go you will need to draw up a well-tailored cover letter to accompany it. Then, it’s time to clean up your social media profiles to make them employer friendly. You can alter your LinkedIn account to reflect the resume that you just wrote, as well, which will make your information more consistent.

Once you have all of these things done, it’s time to actually send your application and hope for the best.

About the Author: Leah Rutherford is a freelance blogger specializing in career development, especially resumes, cover letters, and job search. She also writes about small businesses startups and social media, which you can find on her blog, JetFeeds.

 

4 Fears Of The Newest Job Seekers


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We have some good news: Prospects for today’s college graduates are looking up.

According to a job outlook study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers expect to hire 7.8 percent more Class of 2014 grads for their U.S. operations than they hired from the Class of 2013. If you look at international operations, prospects are even more promising, with an overall increase of 12 percent.

Good news aside, as a graduate or soon-to-be graduate, you’re probably still faced with some concerns and fears as you start to look for work. That’s completely normal, and only shows that you are taking a true interest in your future and career.

To help you out with some of your concerns, let’s look at some of the most common concerns today’s graduates are facing and how to overcome them:

Not Finding A Job
With the job outlook looking up, finding a job shouldn’t be too worrisome for you. Just remember that finding a job takes time and patience. It’s best to devote at least one hour per day to looking for a job. If you’re out of school, you should increase that time to two or three hours a day.

Also, remember what you do during school or while you’re looking for a job is very important and can help increase your chances of getting a job faster. Internships, pre-professional organizations, and volunteering at local businesses can give you some real-world experience and networking opportunities to give you a leg up with the competition.

Finding A Job You’re Not Happy With
Coming out of college, it is common to have a picture painted in your head of the perfect job at the perfect company in the perfect location. The truth of the matter is that just doesn’t exist. One job won’t be able to fulfill all of your interests and skills. But you can certainly get close by doing extensive research on the companies where you apply and keeping an open mind when you start working with them. Plus, you have an entire career ahead of you, so be patient!

One word of caution: If you are constantly looking for the perfect position, it can lead to serial job hopping, which is not good. However, if you’ve given your job an honest try and realize it’s not the right fit, it’s ok to start looking for something else. You may even consider resetting your career path altogether.

Becoming The Perma-Intern
Although they may not be the most desirable positions, internships are common for students to take after graduation. Think of it as a “test drive” for both you and your employer. It’s a great way for them to see your skills, and for you to figure out the company fit while gaining some valuable real-world experience.

To avoid feeling like you will be a perma-intern, treat the internship just as you would a real job. Before accepting the position, ask them what their policy is on promoting interns to full-time employees. Once you have the position, prove you are a valuable asset to their team and stay alert of any job openings that come up within the company.

To Stay Or Not To Stay
Many college students want to find a job that allows them to get away from their hometown and explore other parts of the country or world after college. Our advice to you — go for it! You are still young and have very little tying you down, so take advantage of that. Employers also like college graduates who are more flexible to the idea of travel and relocation.

Ultimately, your post-graduate years are a time to explore your career choices and see what else is out there. There is nothing saying you can’t come back to your hometown if you want, but give yourself the chance to be open to new opportunities and unexpected possibilities.

It’s common and acceptable to be nervous about entering the workforce — a full-time job comes with bills and other added responsibilities. However, it’s exciting to be on your own and pave your path for the future. Just take these pieces of advice, and remember it’s about taking everything one step at a time to land your first job.

About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and#ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

Guide to Investment Banking: Part 3 of 3

Cream of the Crop: The Top Investment Banks 
Investment banks can technically come in all different sizes and shapes. They don’t have to be units within major financial houses. They can stand on their own as relatively small private entities with about 50 employees. They can include only a handful of people, assuming the founders have the skills, connections and reputation to assist corporations and governments in raising capital and advising on major deals.

Bulge Bracket Banks
The big investment banks on Wall Street, where both young and established bankers often want to leave their mark, include Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citibank, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, UBS, Deutsche Bank and others.

Those institutions, which are sometimes referred to as “bulge bracket” banks due to their huge size and multinational reach, will also have offices spread around the U.S. and world, looking for new business opportunities and trying to stay in touch with past, current and potential future clients.

Smaller Banks
Non-bulge bracket investment banks, which are generally smaller and often privately owned, will locate in large cities with dynamic, cutting-edge industries and firms that need to raise capital for public offerings or advice on M&A deals. San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Houston and other major U.S. cities are popular locations for investments banks, big and small, due to the dynamic and diverse nature of their economies.

The Current State of Investment Banks
Since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the number of investment bank jobs has actually declined around the globe, as Wall Street and other multinational investment firms retrenched amid market turmoil. The result has been that the already coveted jobs within investment banking are even harder to find and land.

But many of the job cuts, including those on Wall Street, are considered cyclical in nature — and some investment bankers say good times could lie ahead within the industry.

They point to the uptick in IPOs in 2013 — and the prospect of a strong IPO market in 2014.

According to Renaissance Capital LLC in Connecticut, there were about 222 initial public offerings in 2013, valued at about $55 billion. Compare this to 2012, when there were 128 deals valued at $42.4 billion. The 2013 IPO figures were the highest since 2000, when the dot-com frenzy was at its peak. Based on preliminary filings, Renaissance Capital estimates that 2014 has the potential to at least match 2013.

Technology, biotech and pharmaceutical companies have been particularly active in recent years on the IPO front.

But the better news, from the investment banking perspective, is in mergers and acquisitions. M&As have just about fully recovered from the 2008-2009 financial crisis, though the sector has yet to advance beyond pre-recession levels. According to the MergerStat, there were 28,829 M&A deals valued at $2.5 trillion across the globe in 2012, with final 2013 numbers expected to match, or come close to, that approximate level.

As the economy improves and as corporations pile up cash reserves from historically high profits, some investment bankers believe it’s only a matter of time before companies, especially U.S. firms, start to pursue M&A deals more aggressively.

“It’s a fantastic time to be in investment banking,” says one managing director at a Wall Street investment bank. “The M&A market is poised to really improve. Corporations are sitting on a lot of cash that they can put toward acquisitions. There’s a lot of business out there waiting to happen.”

About the Author: Jay Fitzgerald is a business journalist based in Boston. Over the years, his articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Herald and other publications.

 

What Should My Cover Letter Include?

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In your cover letter, include information that truly tailors the application to a particular employer and specific job opening.  Complement and reinforce the qualifications presented in your resume, using words and phrases from the employer’s job listing and/or website.

Here are some points about content you’ll want to keep in mind as you write your cover letter:

  • How you learned of the job or company is important to recruiters and hiring managers, especially if there is a mutual connection that can speak of your qualifications.
  • Demonstrate a good fit with the employer’s corporate or organization culture.  Be sure to back up any assertions of personal characteristics by describing the resulting achievement either on your resume or in your cover letter.  Ideally, the cover letter refers to information found on your resume without being repetitive or redundant.
  •  Go beyond the resume in explaining your situation and career direction.  For example: “My career goals include gaining leadership experience in the delivery of financial advising services in a private business setting.  I am open to relocation for the appropriate opportunity.”
  • Avoid discussing weakness or making excuses; instead, concentrate on what you have to offer.  The cover letter is not the place to confess your mistakes or problems.  For example, if you’ve been laid off, don’t mention that fact.  Instead, discuss what you have done recently to be productive or better prepared for this job (e.g. I have recently completed training in….or I have gained valuable marketing experience volunteering with….).
  • If salary requirements are requested in a job posting, discuss them in your cover letter.  It’s best not to trap yourself by naming a specific amount.  Instead, say something like “my salary requirements are in step with the responsibilities of the position and the expertise I would offer your company.”  If an ad or job posting absolutely requires a salary figure, state a range, such as “seeking a compensation package to include benefits and a salary in the low-to mid-$30s.”

Guide to Investment Banking: Part 2 of 3

 

Are You an Ideal Candidate?

For junior financial analyst positions, the ideal candidate is someone with a bachelor’s degree in finance, business administration, economics, math, accounting and other majors that show a person can sift through and make sense of reams of complex financial data.

But because investment banks deal with a wide array of companies, those with special secondary majors — particularly in biology, chemistry, computer science, and healthcare — are particularly desired by investment banks, which often represent and interact with software firms, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, healthcare institutions and other corporate entities that might be going public or merging with another company.

The bottom line? Having a secondary major in a specialized non-finance field is often considered a major plus if an analyst, associate or vice president can grasp the lingo and intricacies of a client’s product or services, industry officials say.

A grade point average of 3.5 and higher is considered a must for a position at most investment banks, many of which will recruit heavily, and sometimes exclusively, at top-rated colleges and universities. Smaller investment banks may not be as picky what schools people attended, as long as candidates show they’re razor sharp and ready to handle complex investment-bank duties.

In addition, some industry insiders also say they’re always on the prowl for young candidates who have proven they can commit themselves to projects and can work within team environments. As a result, some investment banks favorably view those who played varsity sports or excelled at some other extracurricular activity.

For those wanting to move up the leadership and compensation ladder within investment banking, getting an MBA degree is generally considered critical after someone has served about three years as a junior and senior financial analyst.

Job Interviews and Prep

Never underestimate the importance of job interviews at investment banks, but also don’t psyche yourself out beforehand to the point you act unnatural and come across as uncomfortable, industry officials say.

The entire goal, from the interviewer’s standpoint, is to gauge whether candidates are as sharp as their cover letters, résumés, school records and recommendations may suggest. So, if you’re young, expect lots of questions about your college studies and activities, internships, and prior summer and post-college jobs.

  • If you’ve already worked at an investment bank in a part- or full-time job (or as an intern), expect detailed questions about projects and deals you’ve worked on, as the interviewer will try to gauge the depth of your knowledge about investment banking.
  • Know the names of investment bankers and other executives you have worked with in the past. You may be asked about them.
  • Have mental lists ready about your strengths and weaknesses, and be prepared to talk about them. Questions about careers goals and special fields of interest are also common, as are questions testing skills with spreadsheets and various software programs, including Excel, PowerPoint and other programs specific to various industries.
  • Some investment banks may pose verbal tests to candidates, such as outlining a hypothetical scenario in which a company is trying to buy a similar firm — and then ask how you would approach researching the deal.
  • Have questions ready for the interviewer — about what type of deals you might be involved in as an analyst or associate, or the prospects for promotion within an organization.

By all means, convey a strong desire to work hard and passionately, because that’s exactly what you’re going to be expected to do if hired.

Compensation — What are You Worth?

After all the long hours of research, deadlines, travel and nerve-racking meetings required to piece together major capital and M&A deals, it can be all worth it.

First-year analysts at big Wall Street firms can make salaries of $100,000 to $150,000, with signing and performance bonuses potentially pushing those figures up by 25 percent or more, according to industry insiders and experts.

But the pay goes up almost exponentially in later years as one moves up the corporate ladder. The reason? Commissions off of capital deals can range from 1 to 5 percent for investment bankers — and that means big bucks for mid-level bankers and even bigger fortunes for senior managers.

Every bank has different titles conferred on personnel, and investment banking is no different. But after junior and senior analyst positions usually progress to associates, and then on to vice presidents.

  • Associates generally hold an MBA and have more than three years of experience. Total compensation often ranges from about $250,00 to $500,000.
  • Vice presidents generally have an MBA and a minimum of five years of experience. Compensation hovers between $300,000 and $1 million.

The top-echelon jobs, such as directors, principals, partners, managing directors and department heads — however they might be described — is where the seven-figure salaries start kicking in. The compensation for the very top managers, depending on the size of a bank and its deals, can easily get into the millions or even tens of millions of dollars.

About the Author: Jay Fitzgerald is a business journalist based in Boston. Over the years, his articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Herald and other publications.