How to succeed in a financial services interview

succeed in a financial services interview

This is the fifth (and final!) part in a series on how to get a job in sales, trading and finance. Read part 1, what is sales and trading, here, and part 2, what working in sales and trading is really like, here and part 3 on how to get an internship in financial services here and part 4 how to succeed at networking in financial services.

It is an achievement in itself if you have scored a first-round interview. Personal presentation and technical knowledge is very important in this stage of the process so make sure you check out my previous posts. Here are some additional pointers specific to interview rounds that you should consider to succeed in a financial services interview.

When to start preparing?

As I’ve mentioned before, reading financial news should start 4-6 months ahead of interviews. You should start thoroughly reading the financial press and working on the suggested actions in this article at least one month before interview time. You need at least this much time for think, reflect and refine your ideas. Banks are likely to phone you immediately after the application deadline and you may have to come in that afternoon or the next morning, so do not leave your preparation to the last minute.

Likely questions

Do plenty of research and practice typical interview questions, as well as questions which are specific to Sales & Trading. Both are available online. Some websites will even have articles detailing common interview questions and answers to avoid. Getting on top of these is critical and I recommend brainstorming ideas on possible responses. The point is to not memorise and regurgitate responses, but instead to have specific examples and anecdotes in your head that you can pull out and discuss under pressure. Give all possibilities some thought before you walk into that interview. Preparation is key.

succeed in an interview in financial services
Don’t be like this girl – maintain eye contact!

Trade Ideas and Pitching Investments

Interviewers will try to assess your interest in, and knowledge of, financial markets, as well as gauge your opinion on current issues. These questions present a good opportunity for you to demonstrate your months of reading financial news. Before you walk into the interview, ensure you have an opinion on current events and trends, as well as knowledge of currencies, commodities and interest rates. For equities, make sure you are across specific sectors and stocks and have an appreciation of where indices are presently, as well as where you think they will be. I recommend having a few investments you recommend buying (i.e. ones you are “bullish” about) and those you recommend selling (i.e. those you feel “bearish” towards).

It is good to be able to tie in your recommendations with topical themes within markets, and also use relative valuation and comparison to further strengthen your claims. The key is to show why you have high conviction for a given investment.  You need to be able to ‘pitch’ in a convincing fashion. It pays to consider some of the potential weaknesses of your argument, too – interviewers will often question your judgement on an issue and you need to respond articulately (and not defensively).

From reading the financial press, you may also learn of certain bank’s opinions on the economy, markets and given stocks. Be sure to remember the given analyst’s name, their view and reasons for it. Be prepared to have an opinion about this. In preparing for my interviews and thinking about investments I liked and didn’t like, I would often search online for the view of the banks I had applied to regarding these investments. If they disagreed with my call, this enabled me to reflect on it to explain its potential weaknesses in interviews. Alternatively, their call may have convinced me otherwise – so I acknowledge it during my interview and explain my thoughts about it.

It’s all about trusting your intuition and backing your ideas! Since you got through five articles – it might be fair to assume that you have a passion for markets, so this should also be fun for you!

Authenticity

Always remember to be down to earth and have genuine responses and stories, not ones pulled from the Internet. The point is to be memorable and true to yourself.

Those who work in Finance face serious information overload on a daily basis, so speak to the point, avoid using complicated language and be succinct. You are allowed to take a breath and think. Always be honest in your responses.

Finally – just be yourself, speak clearly and smile!

Fingers crossed for you. I sincerely hope that your hard work and determination pays off. And remember, if you are not successful: it’s just one door closing so another one can open.

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