Scoring and Acing Your Finance Interview

Ways to ace your phone and in-person interviews in a competitive finance industry.

Considering the state of the finance industry, every competitive edge counts when you’re preparing for that interview. Recruiters and job seekers offered Ladders insights into the dynamics of interviewing in finance today.

Art Romero is managing director and owner of Academy Recruiting, which is based in Denver but works with finance clients nationwide. He’s both self-effacing and assertive about the importance of his discipline to finance job seekers in a tight market. “Certainly, it’s biased. Being a recruiter, of course I’ll say that the best way in a door is through a recruiter,” said Romero. But the obvious dynamic – that the finance market is shrinking and the pool of candidates is growing – means that any company with an opening will be flooded with thousands of resumes. No hiring manager has the time to go through all of those, so they hire recruiters to weed through them.”They want a recruiter to hand them the perfect candidate on a silver platter,” Romero said.

Making the right approach to the hiring manager is also key, according to “Esther,” a member of Ladders who is using the service in conjunction with her networking skills to find a new job as a lawyer in financial services.

“I try to read between the lines and see what they’re really looking for, beyond the bullet lists of requirements, and analyze what that implies for the firm,” Esther said. “My approach is to create my own job by understanding what they really need, then showing them how I can add value.”

Recruiter Romero extends that advice to the initial phone interview with a recruiter. “Too many candidates take these too lightly, either taking them on their cell phones with spotty reception or while they’re running an errand. You need to convince me that you’re a good person for me to put in front of my client; that you’re not going to make me look bad. Not taking this call seriously is not going to do that,” said Romero.

A few more basic reminders from recruiters who work in finance:

  • “Very often [candidates are] more interested in tooting their horn or beating their chest and regaling the interviewer with their accomplishments in regards to the positions that they’re going for, when they may not relate to the role at hand.”– Harold Laslo, a staffing specialist at the Aldan Troy Group in New York
  • “One mistake that’s happened a couple times is that when they get to the final interview — which is often just a formality — candidates assume the job is already theirs. Instead of asking about perks, they’re joking about the accommodations they were put up in. By not fighting for the job, they don’t get it.” – Art Romero
  • “I remind them not to interrupt, don’t tap your pen on the desk, don’t insert the person’s name into your answers and don’t hang yourself — if you’re asked what time it is, don’t tell them how to build a watch. Common-sense stuff, but it gets forgotten.”– Sherry Brickman, a partner at Martin Partners near Chicago
  • “Candidates sometimes forget certain skills, especially if they’ve had a long history with the company they’ve been with.” – Sherry Brickman
  • “A candidate should have some knowledge about the company where they are interviewing. Previously, this information wasn’t as attainable as it is now. To walk in totally unprepared at a senior level is very harmful when you could have gone to their Web site and gotten a minimal amount of background information about them.” – Harold Laslo