How to do your research? What to do when there are holes in the job spec? And what to ask the interviewer? Let’s break it down.
In speaking with candidates, the most frequent questions I am asked involve investment banking interview technique and the best strategy to take when speaking with interviewers.
Interviews and interview techniques is a very wide topic and the advice I give depends on a number of factors such as the type of interview which is being conducted or may be at which stage the candidate is in the interview process. For example, is he just about to embark on the first round or is he nearing the final stages?
If you’re not working with a headhunter to a find a role and don’t have the benefit of his advice, you likely have secured an interview through your own initiative. If this is true, then your performance boils down to essentially how well you have prepared for the interview.
The quality and strength of your preparation is determined by your willingness to engage in research. There are three areas to which you should focus your energy when doing this. Researching the company which is hiring, researching the position you’re interviewing for and lastly, how your background and experience and apply to the job.
Your objective is to be as informed and as well researched as possible about your potential employer.
If there’s news or information about the company and it’s in the public domain then you should know about it. When it comes to researching companies there are plenty of avenues you can use whether through the internet, in particular, Google or Linkedin or if it’s a smaller organisation perhaps referring to the local newspaper, either online or offline that will give you any background on the firm.
Always, always, make sure you look at the company’s own website; here you will find general information as well as press releases. Starting at this point you will be able to identify any relevant news stories which you can use to develop and widen your research through Google.
Moving on from researching the company, let’s look research into the position itself. While it may seem an obvious thing to do, it’s important to be clear in your mind what the job you’re applying for involves and understanding what will be expected of you. Once you have this you can fine-tune your “sales pitch” to the interviewer. While the pitch you use during an interview is a subject in itself, keep in mind that it will be heavily based on the research you have undertaken beforehand. Investigate the role.
Can you find similar positions at competitor’s advertised elsewhere perhaps on Monster, eFinancial News or on Gerard Knight Recruitment. Does this position mention a requirement for a skill or software knowledge which is not shown in the job specification for the role you’re targeting? Do you have this experience? During the interview, you can ask why it was not included. It could simply be an oversight by the person who wrote the job spec or it could be how that particular area of responsibility is dealt with by a separate team within the company.
If you have the experience, asking the interviewer why it wasn’t included is a win/win for you because if it is an oversight you’ll give yourself the opportunity to add colour to your CV and show you have a bit of experience that your fellow interviewees might not have. If the reason it wasn’t included was because that responsibility is dealt with by a separate team then at least by asking the question you are demonstrating an awareness of the various approaches or the differing software platforms used amongst the industry’s competitors. This shows a good overall knowledge of the industry you’re in which will only add value to your candidacy.
Your effectiveness in handling the last point I identified is as much down to the quality of your research into the position as it is in understanding your own skills and the value placed on them by your potential employer. You need to really understand what it is about your CV and application that can set yourself apart from your fellow candidates/competitors. Identify your top three or five skills or bits of experience – not in the general sense but what are the skills your potential employer would be most interested in. Remember, what one employer values in you might well be different to another. This takes time and effort and requires you to gel your research into the job with your own CV or application. Your effort here will be rewarded in a better interview performance.
Play Your Strengths
Finally, if you’ve done your homework and are prepared to think on your feet you can ask the interviewer himself what it was about your CV or application that prompted them to ask you in for an interview. Even if you know or can guess why it is, asking this direct question will give you a chance to temporarily move the spotlight away from you and allow you to play a neat trick with the interviewer. He, of course, will identify two or three points he liked about you – effectively giving you on a plate. This gives you a chance to elaborate on the skills they like most in you. Don’t miss this great opportunity to push your advantage here and add colour and detail to these skillsets.
It goes without saying that there are no guarantees when it comes to an investment banking interview. The intangibles like the rapport between you and the interviewer can have a large influence and I write about this on my own website but at least with your research, you are going a long way to moving yourself from the long list to the short list of candidates for the job.
Tim Thomas has been a headhunter within the investment banking and financial services industries for over 10 years. He focuses on risk and counterparty risk hires and also offers an interview preparation and careers consultancy service to all candidates from all industries.