Job competition in the financial-services realm is stiff these days and interviews are harder to come by. That's why it's exceedingly important to go into interviews as well-prepared as possible so you can demonstrate to hiring managers that you are not only familiar with the company but also its track record, current deals and balance sheet.
Experts say going into an interview armed with as much knowledge about the company as possible will make you seem like a more serious candidate and can increase your chances of getting a second interview. Knowing the hiring manager's background can also help you build a better rapport in the interview.
Finance is Special
There is added information you'll want to know when interviewing with a financial-services firm. Matt Walden, vice president of Infinity Consulting Solutions, a New York based recruiting firm that specializes in finance, says candidates should know what areas the company is dominant in, new financial products they are introducing and what new markets the company is trying to break into.
Third Party Resources
First see what information you can glean on a company by doing an Internet search. Visit sites like Vault, Glassdoor, and FINS, which profile different companies offering information on everything from salary, business sectors, competitors and facts. Arming yourself with this knowledge can make you seem like an interested, well-prepared candidate.
Vault.com is covers companies across a variety of industries from finance to law. The site also break down finance into its main sectors and provides rankings of companies in fields such as accounting, banking and investment management.
Glassdoor.com has company reviews and salary information from anonymous users. Also helpful is that the site provides real interview questions by industry and by company. You can search the job title and company you have an interview with and get examples of interview questions they tend to ask during the process.
For finance professionals, Fins.com, which is owned by The Wall Street Journal, focuses on firms in financial services. The site has profiles of different finance firms, providing finance-job-search-specific information on a company's subsidiaries, competitors, executives, partners and recruiting practices. (Full disclosure: This article was produced for Fins.com.)
What the Press Says
Look for recent mentions of the company in the news. Using a site like Google News will gather recent news clips that may help you learn of topics the company may not advertise on their site such as layoff or TARP news or even new deals the company is engaging in. Steve Lesser, senior vice president of outplacement firm Right Management, says the Internet can also keep you apprised of government interaction with the company and how that may affect business practices.
What They Say
Be sure to study the company's own Web site to familiarize yourself with the firm's mission statement, areas of business and other information. You'll also want to go back and look at the original job description if posted so you can be more familiar with some of the responsibilities the job calls for and cite in your interview how these responsibilities match up to your specific experience.
For publicly traded companies, Lesser suggests listening to or reading transcripts of the company's most recent earnings calls. These calls may be found on the company Web site or through a quick Internet search. "It gives you some texture about what's going on because you have well-informed analysts grilling top management," he says.
Lesser also suggests looking at senior executive profiles and the board of directors on a company Web site to see if you know any of the people shown or have acquaintances in common.
Using Your Network
You'll also want to tap your network for information on the company and hiring manager. Ray Cohen, a career coach with New York City's Five O'Clock Club, suggests that after being granted an interview candidates reach out to their alumni network or industry groups they belong to and try to find current or former employees of the company you're interviewing with. You'll want to ask them questions about their familiarity with the group you're interviewing with; whether there have been big changes to the group such as people voluntarily or involuntarily leaving; whether the group has performed well in comparison to the rest of the company; expectations about the company's stability; and whether they know the person who will be interviewing you, says Cohen.
Social networking site LinkedIn is a great way to reach out to current and former employees at a company. Krista Canfield, a career expert for LinkedIn, says the site has a feature where you can pull up a profile of a company that interests you which lists current and former employees. The site will also flag which current and former employees are in your network or are second or third degree relations. At the bottom of the page the top five most searched for people within the company are displayed, and Canfield says 80% of the time one of these people works in human resources. She suggests searching for the hiring manager on LinkedIn and viewing the person's college, prior work experiences and cities they've lived in. "If that person went to the same school as one of your friends or lived a city you lived in, you can start the conversation off with something more personal and be more memorable," she says.
Roaming Out of Network
Cohen says LinkedIn could also help professionals bypass the traditional application process. Recently, an applicant for a foreign bank with a big presence in the United States saw a job posting for a position she was interested in. Rather than go the job board route, this applicant reached out to contacts on LinkedIn that worked for the bank and was able to get the email address of the hiring manager. She then directly emailed the hiring manager who was so impressed with the person's resume that she got the job, says Cohen.
Aside from increasing your odds of getting a job, researching a company can also help you determine if it's the right fit. There are ways to get candid insight into a company's corporate culture, salary policy and management style ahead of your interview. For example, JobVent.com encourages former and current employees or companies to rate their firm and provide candid feedback anonymously. The site has over 10,000 companies and can give job candidates information about a company's corporate culture, management style, job expectations, strengths and weaknesses before heading into an interview. If some of the reviews raise red flags, they can also help you create questions to ask during the interview.
-- Dana Mattioli
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