You’re on your way. You worked relentlessly on your résumé. You edited and tweaked until you got it just right. It didn’t end there. You practiced your pitch a dozen times, probably bugged a few friends for advice, and now you’ve done it. You’ve landed the interview. That’s right, the interview with a top financial firm that will hopefully get you a new position in the world of financial services.
The Phone Screen — Don’t Screw It Up
In most cases, due to the sheer volume of applicants across the sector, your first real interview may be via phone. Often referred to as a phone screen or informational interview, you’ll be asked to schedule a phone meeting to review your résumé and further the discuss the role. Sounds easy enough, right? (Especially given that you’ve read that official job description nearly 40 times, can most likely recite it, and want that job.)
It’s a candidate purge. It is important to bear in mind that the first point of contact will most likely not be the hiring manager. Why? Most large firms have a huge volume of applicants and a lengthy corporate screening process. It’s most efficient for an in-house recruiter to conduct the first round of phone interviews.
It’s about basics. For phone interviews, stay relaxed and speak conversationally without sounding overly familiar. Here’s what you may be asked:
• Why do you know so far about the role?
• Why do you want the role? And why with this particular firm?
• Let’s talk through your résumé. Tell me why you worked at Company X for just 5
Be prepared for these common questions. If you get past this candidate purge, you will probably interview with multiple people on various levels before getting your foot in the door. From your phone screen, it will then be decided whether or not to pass you on the respective manager or hiring manager. And this is just the beginning.
Level Up: An Actual, In-person Interview
Interviews at this level usually include two parts.
Technical skills and aptitude: Once you get to the first in-person interview, technical knowledge will be tested. Be prepared to explain why you enrolled in that Advanced Economics course. Will you be open to a test? Of course you would be — after all, you’re a quantitative type and live for those complex balance sheets.
Top financial firms (and recruiters) are known to include a test as part of the interview process — be it a role for brokers, traders or investment banking desk jobs. Your grades may state one thing, but can you tackle a 12-page Excel file full of client data? Let’s hope so.
The long answers: Your aspirations and goals will, of course, come up during the big interview, and you must have reasonable answers that show thought, research, and ambition. This is when your fit and personality for the respective firm will come to the forefront. You obviously won’t say you want to be CEO in two years, but ambition won’t hurt, either. Remain humble, attentive and thoughtful in your replies. Your fit for the respective firm, how much you know about the culture, your expectations of the role and technical aptitude are what matters most. The same questions may even come up but in different ways by different interviewers.
Here’s a bit of what to expect:
• What makes you think you are a fit for this role?
• Why do you want to work for us?
• What will you bring to the role?
• Can you discuss capital flow?
• Can you walk me through a balance sheet?
• Are you open to relocation?
And expect the unexpected. Sometimes hiring managers ask unconventional questions — such as math problems, brainteasers or would you rather type situations — but it’s because they want to see if you can think on your feet. They also want to get a glimpse inside your thinking process. Stay relaxed and maintain your composure, even if you aren’t sure of your answer.
Send a digital thank you. Be sure to follow up in some fashion. A short, concise email is best. While pen are paper are nice, handwritten notes take time and may not arrive in a timely enough manner. Good luck!
About the Author: Dawn Kissi is an international multimedia journalist reporting on the business, finance and economies of the world’s emerging markets. She reports and writes on sovereign and geopolitical risk, as well as securities trading and the technology moving global exchanges and markets. She began her career in broadcast news at ABC News in New York, eventually movinginto print and digital journalism. She is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.