No Boobs, Please – The Art of the Interview

“Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance.”  - British Army

The Right Threads

Getting a job in the financial industry, or any industry, requires doing interviews. It is essential that you make a good impression during the process and not an ass out of yourself. There are several rules you need to keep in mind to do this.

Dress conservatively – I know every flake out there trying to make a buck in the interview market says this. I want to add, however, you should spend some time around financial types before you have an interview. Look at what they wear. You don’t want to show up to a finance interview looking like a sharp dressed aluminum siding salesman.

For men, your attire should be a conservative suit with a white shirt and an expensive, but conservative tie. If you can’t tie a tie, learn it now. For a woman, dress professionally, no plunging necklines. All guys, no matter what you read, do like that kind of thing but you won’t be taken seriously in an interview.

Your Dry Run

Go early. I can think of few things more stressful than being LATE for an interview. If you can’t show up to the interview on time it means you don’t really want the job and you don’t deserve it either. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to be late. The day before your interview I strongly suggest you do a dry run. Get on the subway, bus or whatever and physically go to the building the office is in. Check the name board in the lobby and make sure the company is in that building on that floor you were told to go. Companies move, stuff happens. You want to find out now if there are any surprises. This will also make you more relaxed the day of the interview and give you one less thing to worry about.

Do Your Homework

Before the day of your interview do as much research as you can on the company you are interviewing with. Know their size, history and reputed strengths in the market place. Don’t be afraid to let some of that “leak” out in to the interview, as appropriate. This will set you apart from the other clones they may be talking to who can’t tell one bank from another.

The Big Day

Eat first. It doesn’t matter how nervous you are. If you don’t have some food in you blood sugar levels will be low and you won’t be on top of your game. Eat something, anything, preferably something without garlic.

Bring several copies of your one page resume. Don’t assume all the people you will meet will have a copy. Bring extra pens too. You will most likely be interviewed by 4-5 or more people. Take it as a good sign the more people they have you meet. If you only meet one person, that could be bad, unless they ask you to come back another day on the spot.

Business Cards

Get the name card of each person you meet. It is important for you to know who you are talking to. Don’t let them all blur together. When I walk in to interview a candidate I ask them, “Who have you talked to already?” If they say, “Uh, well, there was this woman with short hair, and this other big guy from New Jersey…” Fuhgeddaboudit. See the post I wrote here on business card etiquette.

Team Approach

In finance, we tend to have several different people interview a candidate individually. This is to see if somebody picks up on something the others may have missed. Also, because you are joining a desk, a small team, it is important that the team makes a consensus decision. The boss can always, and sometimes does, override a consensus decision but he is taking a risk in doing so. You need to impress each person you meet, not just the boss. If the boss likes you but no one else does, you won’t get the job.

The “5 Ws” Can Save You

Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the interview. This is a 50/50 decision. They may offer you a job but you may feel that it isn’t the firm you want to work for and turn them down. You have to ask questions during the interview so you will have the knowledge to make the right decision. It also shows an active interest instead of passively responding, “Yes,” or “No” to questions asked. When there is a gap in the conversation, put forward one of the “5 Ws:” Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Who heads the desk?

What are your expansion plans?

When do you expect to establish a presence in Asia?

Where are your strengths in the product and weaknesses?

Why does the bank not want to pursue more big deals?

The more you ask, the more you know. The more you ask, the more you will also impress the person interviewing you.

Interviewing is something I have learned to do well over time and the above rules have always helped me. Following these guidelines will help you approach each interview with confidence knowing you are ready to engage and are fully prepared. Instead of dreading the interview and being a nervous wreck, you will see they can be a lot of fun and you may even look forward to each encounter. Good luck.

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