Have an interview lined up for a finance job? To ensure a successful outcome, recruiters and hiring managers recommend taking a tailored approach.
Prepare by reading up on current events and trends in the finance industry, says Paul Newman, assistant vice president, human resources, at OppenheimerFunds, an asset-management firm in New York. He often asks candidates questions tied to what's happening in the news regarding the financial markets. "I like to get a good pulse on how well-versed financial professionals are and what type of opinions they have," he says. "These individuals should know exactly what's going on."
...And Be Detailed
Newman says he's recently been asking candidates what they think might be a catalyst for turning the markets around. A strong answer: "A major (initial public offering), (mergers and acquisitions) activity and the indexes moving in a positive direction," he says. A bad answer: "If the interest rate rises and unemployment goes down," he says. "For somebody who's a financial professional, that's not granular enough in detail. It says they're not really up to speed in what's going on."
Keeping Up With the Latest...
Familiarize yourself with the latest financial standards with respect to your niche, advises Ed Kaye, lead senior partner at GSP International, a Woodbridge, N.J., recruiting firm that specializes in finance and accounting. For example, if you work in accounting for derivatives, you should know the Financial Accounting Standards Board's statement No. 133. "You've got to be current," he says.
...But Don't Forget the Basics
Brush up on financial basics, as well. "A lot of times I talk to very senior-level professionals who got their CPA in the '70s and they've been used to delegating," says Kaye. "When I ask them about the building blocks -- performing basic accounting tasks and duties -- a lot of them haven't had to be that hands-on in years." Reread a college textbook or check your local trade-group chapter for workshops and seminars on the fundamentals to refresh your memory.
Telling Your Story With Numbers
Create a list of key statistics to share with interviewers that show how you've added to the bottom line throughout your career, adds Pete Deragon, director and financial-services practice leader for North America at Stanton Chase International, an executive-search firm based in Dallas. For example, if you worked in lending, tell how much you grew your clients' loan portfolios. If you're an investment advisor, articulate how well you grew your past employers' assets. "A lot of times people will quantify their value on their resume, but they don't do it when they're verbally expressing their value proposition in job interviews," he says.
Make sure to also show how your past experiences can be applied to the current needs of the employer you're interviewing with, suggests Doug Rickart, division director for the financial-services group at Robert Half International Inc., a staffing firm based in Menlo Park, Calif. "What an employer wants to hear, particularly at a time when budgets are tight, is what value can you bring to my company; what kind of immediate impact can you bring," he says.
The Hard Sell
Don't be afraid to self-promote, adds Matt Bud, managing partner of the Financial Executives Consulting Group LLC in Darien, Conn., which places senior financial executives in primarily interim assignments as controllers or chief financial officers. "Most financial people are more than a little self-effacing," he says. "They have to learn to brag a bit." For example, when describing your accomplishments, it's OK to say "I" versus "we," he says.
If you're overqualified for a position, consider addressing the issue up front so you can control the discussion, says Bud, also chairman of the Financial Executives Networking Group (TheFENG). Explain why you're interested in the job. Perhaps the position involves less travel and you're at a point in your life where spending time with family is more important to you, he says.
Show You're Trustworthy
"People in finance need to be very aware that their integrity is the primary issue," says Bud. "You're supposed to be the bastion of honesty. If everyone else is cheating, you're supposed to be catching them. Everything you say has to be true."
The same advice applies to how you describe your professional network, adds Deb Markus, founder of Columbus Advisors LLC, an executive search and career advisement firm in New York. "It's a small industry and reference checks are done both on a formal and informal basis," she says. "You don't want to over-exaggerate your relationships with people."
Finally, focus on being personable in job interviews. "Smile and be enthusiastic," says Kaye. The effort can help make you more memorable to hiring managers. "You want to built a rapport with people," he says. "You want to be the one who's not that stereotypical" candidate.
Adds Newman: "I want to see your emotions. I want to know you have a pulse."
-- Sarah E. Needleman
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