Mod note (Andy): "Blast from the past - Best of WSO" - while Eddie is away this month in his place we'll be posting up some of the most popular posts from the past. This was originally posted on 12/07/10
Since everyone else seems to be jumping on the band wagon, I thought it was about time Gekko started posting a few blog topics. Considering it's about that time of year, I figured a post about "Gekko's Guide to interviewing" would be helpful to all the new monkeys out there looking for their first internships.
No matter what happens there will always be more interviews. Be calm and collected, just act naturally. Talk to the interviewer like a person. See that BSD MD? Odds are he just finished reading More Money Than God or that he had a small family get together over the weekend. You see that associate? Five minutes ago he was typing in the group's private associate chat room a quote from the Boiler Room. As much as they may think they are gods, your interviewers are flesh and blood humans. They think, act, and have the same exact problems that you do. Be respectful, but don't fear the business card. Talk to the man, not the title.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Just like everything in life practice makes perfect. I don't care how many times you have recited the answer in your head. The second that you have to convert the "words in your head" to the "words coming out of your mouth" I guarantee that something critical will be lost in translation. Sit down with friends, OCR, your family, anyone...that will make you tell your story and answer interview questions out loud. Don't be hard on yourself when you start practicing with these people and you sound like an idiot so you stoop and promise that you'll "get it right during the interview." That is the point of practice...to look like an idiot so that when the time comes you won't.
Rule #3-Don't Try to Memorize Answers
When you are preparing for an interview, don't try to memorize answers because you will mess them up during an interview. Instead of memorizing whole answers, write down answers during your preparation and remember key points or facts that you can talk about. Once you start answering a question, mention those points, but if you forget one, forget about it so that you can create a seamless answer. No one is going to know that you forgot something, if the interviewer wants to know something they will ask.
Rule #4-Take Every Opportunity to Interview
I don't care if it's for BO bullshit in Iran, sign up for every possible interview opportunity. This goes hand in hand with #2, but there are a few differences. First, you gain experience answering tricky (aka FUCKING BULLSHIT) interview questions that you have not heard before. In addition, it allows you to practice telling your story while under fire and allows you to make variations to optimize the story. You have no idea how many interviews where I would be telling my story when I would change how I worded something or leave something completely out and that change would become permanent the next time I told my story. Eventually, something just clicks and you can answer any variation of a question without thinking. You will develop a Midas' touch--You'll start to pull pure gold right out of your ass. Finally, take every opportunity to hedge your failure risk. You are competing against the smartest kids in America, in this economy nothing is for certain.
Rule #5-Show Them What They Want to See
Once you get yourself in that room, I don't care about your GPA or what else you have on your resume. I am looking for 3 things--a connection with myself and the firm's culture, Will you be able to do the work?, and do you have a passion for the job? Your general personality will come out throughout the interview--there is no hiding it. Being able to do the work, is shown in the confidence you display while answering general questions along with how well you answer the technicals. Showing passion is a little more difficult to say "That's it", but it comes out it different ways. Sometimes it comes out in how exited you are to answer questions, sometimes it comes out in the level of detail that you can answer a technical question that just says "This kid knows his shit", and sometimes it can come out in the types of questions that you ask when I tell you about what I do and the product that I trade. Chances are, showing passion comes from a combination of those examples.... I know in my case when I interviewed, I detailed the exact movements of the EUR and GBP for the last 6 months using dates.
Rule #6-Watchout for WMDs (Words of Mass Destruction)
Every time you open your mouth to speak you are simultaneously bending over and asking the interviewer to fuck you up the ass. NEVER EVER, EVER mention a subject that you are not 100% confident in. If you are not strong with options and derivatives, don't mention them. The second you bring up a topic it is fair game. Nothing can castrate an interviewee or turn a rock star into a mumbling pile of piss faster than a WMD. Screw it up badly enough, and you can go from moving onto the next round to dinged in a few minutes. The two biggest WMDs are "Why" and "Tell me more about X" It is these questions that separate the mice from the men. If an interviewee is going to mess up his interview, the chances are that it is going to be because he mentioned the wrong topic and the interviewer dropped a WMD.
Rule #7-Control the Interview
This is learned more with experience, but there comes a point in the interview where you have the ability to gain control of the interview and steer it in the direction you want. If you're having a conversation about China or Michael Lewis--you can keep it going by talking about another book that you have read. If you are asked a question, you can answer it in a way that almost guarantees the next question--which you will be prepared for. The number of choke points in an interview where you can gain control and dictate flow is endless, you just need to learn how to spot them.
Rule #8-Never Take Anything for Granted
I always like to send a thank you email (no cards please). It won't affect your offer or non-offer, but I think it shows class and it can't hurt to send a 2-3 line email. Just don't be offended if they don't respond.
Rule #9-Never Go Anywhere Without a Knife
Finance is a cutthroat world and you never know when you will need it.
Rule #10-Always be Honest and Humble
If someone asks you if you know about X, always respond with "I have done some reading so I know a little bit, I know that X and Y about Z. Show the interviewer your knowledge by talking about it--it may lead to more detailed questions, but if you are honest and humble about it those detailed questions that you don't know won't hurt you. If you get a question you don't know, admit you don't know it, offer some guesses with your reasoning behind them and then politely ask the interviewer what the answer is. Even if you know a great deal about a topic, it's always safer to play it humble and let your answers reveal your knowledge. If you walk into an interview with a cocky know it all attitude, I guarantee you will get mind fucked with technicals and will not receive an offer.
Well , I had no idea it was going to be so long. I'll try to keep it shorter next time. If you guys like the style of writing or would like to see a specific topic, post it below. There will definitely be a Part 2 with some more interview prep guidelines, and I also have another post that I want to talk about.
SB to anyone who can tell me what's "special" about Rule #8 and Rule #9...hint: there are 50 of them.