For my earlier thread about my views on cover letters and resumes for SA roles, see here: "Resume and Cover Letter - A Revewer's Perspective"
This thread is my observations from a day of SA interns for a target university.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You're potentially doing yourself a disservice if you only read the original post (OP). Please read the comments below for some clarification and nuance, as well as some additional comments. Otherwise, the OP may read like interviewers (or at least me) are impatient people who are frustrated at what the candidates do, rather than being interviewers who wish they had more time and are frustrated at the constraints of the interview format and time limit.
Preface: The interviewers
What you should bear in mind about the people interviewing you at the first round for SA intakes is your interviewers are not the big swinging dicks. We interviewers are at least one of the following:
- Those who came up with the weakest excuses to avoid interview duty
- Those who don't have more important work to do
- Those at the relative bottom of the hierarchy and couldn't say no
- (what I like to think was the case for me) Those not currently on a heavy workload and think that doing SA interviews would be an interesting psychological experiment
Also bear in mind your interviewers are likely bored and trying to make their way through 10 - 20 half hour interviews in the course of a day. Some implications:
- In the first few interviews, we're finding our feet
- By around interview #4 or 5, we've found a formula that works and largely cookie cutter that for the rest of the interviews
- It takes around the same number of interviews to set up a benchmark for who/what is impressive
- We end up making the same points in each interview, which can mean we sometimes end up forgetting whether we've already told that piece of information to this candidate, or was that the last candidate?
- By mid-afternoon, we just want to get this done and go
- We're on a tight timetable. You've got a set amount of time - 30 minutes. It doesn't do you justice, I know, but tough luck.
- We're not going to get through your entire resume in 30 minutes.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This post is based on my experience as the first round interviewer. Our aim was to be the second screen of candidates (HR reviewing letters, perhaps doing phone interviews being the first), producing a shortlist of candidates who would then go on to our bank'swith more important people, who likely would give them more time, more interaction etc. My approach, the interview format etc is not representative of a superday, although I expect some points will be consistent (eg your interviewers bias to cookie cutting the interview format; their desire to find out what you individually did in situations).
Here are my observations from my day as an interviewer. Most points focus on what not to do - far easier to write these up than prescriptive points. We only have 30 minutes to judge you. We'll seize on any perceived issues to whittle down this list. Don't give us negatives.
- Don't take your deep breath to relax next to me when I'm walking you into the interview room. I can hear your fear and it taints my perception of you.
- Don't grip my hand too firmly when you shake it. I can feel your fear and it taints my perception of you. This was only really a problem for male candidates. Don't squeeze my hand any harder than you'd squeeze yourself intimately in the privacy of your own bedroom.
- Don't over-think the under/over-hand handshake thing. It shows you're over-thinking it. I can see your fear and it taints my perception of you.
- You can take notes, but I suggest you don't. Once you start taking notes, you'll feel compelled to keep taking notes to look like you're listening intently. It's just a distraction to you, a useless benchmark you've set yourself to be evaluated by.
- By around midday, we've been through enough interviews to work out when candidates don't seem to get what we're after. So, at the beginning of the interview, we'll give you an outline of what we're looking for in the interview. LISTEN TO THIS SHIT CAREFULLY, as we are effectively telling you "don't be like our earlier people, please focus on X, Y and Z in your answers"
When I ask you questions
- Pre-rehearsed answers usually smell pre-rehearsed. At least pretend to stop and think about it before answering. Worst is when the pre-rehearsed answer doesn't really answer my question.
- Really listen to the question, even if you feel it means you're only averaging 60 words per minute rather than 90 words per minute. I'm looking for quality of answers, not quantity of verbiage.
- When I ask you questions about conflicts or other complex situations, I'm trying to work out how you personally deal with situations. I don't really mind whether it's a work example, finance club example, frat charity committee example, whatever. If I ask if you had a conflict/underperforming colleagues etc at Experience A and you have an example from Experience B that works better, do not hesitate to say that you had an experience at Experience B that is a better example. I'm just panning randomly through your resume looking for behavioural examples, rather than being fixated on Experience A (unless keep asking you about A).
- Another point on conflict/complex situations in your past - I am looking for YOUR experience. If your answer is about how "we" as a presentation group or "our" team in the company dealt with something - fffucckk, I have to ask more questions about how YOU, PERSONALLY, AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND NOT PART OF A COLLECTIVE, YES YOU THE CANDIDATE, handled the situation. Some candidates just didn't get this, not matter how pointed our questions. I want to extrapolate how you'll act under stress in our work environment.
- When I ask about who you reported to, whether you depended on other people to provide you with deliverables you needed to do your work - I'm trying to work out whether you've been in situations where you're relying on others to deliver and how you deal with them not delivering, as that happens all the time in the workplace. So have examples ready (whether work or school or something else) and make sure they are not simple "I spoke to him and he corrected the error of his ways" examples. I want to see conflict stories that aren't fairy stories and deal with someone getting shitty with you.
- Work experience - again, I'm just sifting randomly through your resume looking for interesting stuff. The 30 minutes format means there is not enough time to cover your entire resume. If you have stuff that you think is GOLD but we haven't touched on it, feel free to try to guide me there ie "The X experience was great, but I really think I learned the most about work ethic from my time at Y". But listen to me as well - I may think that I know better than you and want to focus on some other stuff. But don't be afraid to push me around a bit on what you want to talk about, as I respect that. It's a delicate balance, tough for me to be prescriptive.
- Don't apologise for yourself - eg if you don't have many finance academics, don't draw attention to that by apologising for it. For example, don't pitch yourself saying "I know I don't have a strong background in finance courses, but...". I may not have noticed before, but now I certainly do. Exception - maybe have the "I don't have X, but..." if the interviewer has brought it up. But don't be too apologetic.
- Take care in saying you think a role in my team is a stepping stone to somewhere else. That indicates you may be a flight risk.
- We usually ask a random math/logic testing question in the interview (eg how many pairs of men's socks are sold in Bloomingdales on any given business day) and get the candidate to think out loud about the solution. This is to see how he/she logically dissects a complex problem. Don't burn up too much time thinking this over. We make this question up on the spot (following some templates). We don't know the answer. It's not pass/fail.
- If your talking style comes across immature, work on it. This was only an issue for one of the candidates, who was female. I point out she was female because she had a speaking style that I've only seen in women (slight up talking, some turns of phrase). I like to think I am a reconstructed male who has appreciation of why our patriarchal society incentivizes young, intelligent and competent women to speak like this. However, I see these candidates as having one additional career development hurdle to overcome that more competent, professional speakers do not.
- Saying anything suggesting that you think you're through to the next round or some sort of wink-wink nudge-nudge implication of the same - too cocky. Counts as a negative. Don't do it. Your interviewer should aim to make you walk out not sure whether the interview was successful or not. Don't tell me that you think I failed to do that. Also, you could be wrong. Or you could push my line call from pass to fail.
When you ask me questions
- Don't ask me what guidance I'd give to someone like you trying to find what career to move into. That indicates that you haven't really fixed onto banking. I appreciate that none of you have enough experience to have a real fix on banking, but asking me this sort of thing indicates you haven't thought about how you'll be perceived by the interviewer.
- Don't ask me questions about why I chose to be an investment banker or similar. This implies that you're looking for career guidance. I know you need career guidance, but asking this question indicates you haven't thought about how that question will be perceived.
- On the maths/logic question - don't waste a question asking me how I'd address the same problem - I'm not the candidate and asking me to demonstrate my knowledge does absolutely nothing to advance your own candidature. You've got limited time, use it wisely.
- Asking questions about the work hours, reporting hierarchies, culture at the firm, what I feel differentiates my firm from others, ability to move around different offices - all fine to ask.
- Asking questions about moving between different groups within the bank - careful, this can indicate that you haven't fixed on my team and may not be a stayer.
- Asking questions about pay - I don't know. HR deals with this.
- Asking questions about next steps/the candiate process after this interview - that's a nice wrap up question and you should ask if I don't volunteer this. However, I will use it as a wrap up point so I can clear you out and get the next candidate in, so leave this to your last question.
After the interview
- Sending me a thank you e-mail - thanks for the thought, but all I do it skim read the e-mail looking for question marks. If no questions, delete. If questions - ffffucckkk, I spent a whole day interviewing people rather than doing work. Do I have to spend more time on this?
- Sending me a thank you e-mail that also sets out how you've thought more about the logic problem and have thoughts on how to do it - I can't remember the logic problem we asked you, as we'd make it up on the spot. The interview is over! Let it go!
- Inviting me to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook - eeuurgh, stalky.
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