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11 mannerisms that will get you through a banking interview

How to succeed in a banking interview

I have either interviewed or been interviewed 200 times over 17 years. Here’s what I’ve learnt about the way to behave if you want to make it through to the next round.

1. Breathe

The worst interviews are the ones where the interviewee is very nervous. You get interviewees who are so flustered they are just unable to convey what they want. It’s frustrating for the interviewer and the interviewee. The simple way to handle this (that I still use) is to take a lot of deep breaths before you go in the room.

Then Smile.

Picture yourself succeeding. Its important you walk in there with a positive attitude.

2. Be professional

The interviewer wants to make sure that you will fit inside the firm. They do not want to be responsible for hiring a rude, unprofessional person. Your first step as you enter the room is to smile, be courteous.

Act professionally in how you speak, how you sit and act.

Make sure you look the part. Ideally, you want to ‘bring something’ to the interviewer. Which information can you impart which will be interesting to them in their role?

3. Talk about them

The interviewer is the most important person in the interview. Not you. So talk about them.

The easiest question you can ask is: “How did you get started on Wall Street?”. Whenever I’ve asked that question I’ve never gotten anything shorter than a 10-15 minute answer. People love talking about themselves; it makes them feel good.

4. Listen Deeply

While they are talking about themselves, the most important thing you can do in the interview is to listen, and listen deeply.

This makes it easy to establish rapport.

Research has shown that interviewers who like the person being interviewed are more likely to ask them to the next round. Find something in common with them, their university, their favourite holiday spot, where they grew up. Try to sense what is important in their life.

5. Understand the firm

People on in banking love the firm they work for; after all, it’s their life. The best thing you can do to impress them with your knowledge of the firm, their business, their group.

Find out as much as you can before you step into the interview.

6. Be a storyteller

Wall Street is driven by stories. The person who can tell a good story is going to instantly get noticed. The human brain is wired for stories and pictures. You need to tell a story your audience will enjoy and will find memorable.

So, what’s your story? How do you want to be remembered? Too many people think an interview is when someone asks you questions and you try to survive. That’s not it at all. An interview is an ideal opportunity for you to tell your story, to highlight why you should be hired and what you have done so far.

Assume no one knows what you have done, and this is your thirty minutes to do that. I recommend the STAR technique. 

7. Speak slowly

The trick to good storytelling is to speak slowly.

Visualise the contrast between a nervous teenager speaking softly or at high speed and the slow, strong tone of a judge delivering a verdict. Be the judge.

How you speak says a lot about you and how you think about yourself and how you want to be perceived. Make sure you are conveying strength and confidence.

8. Pause

People who broadcast confidence often pause while speaking. They will pause for a second or two between sentences or even in the middle of a sentence. This conveys the feeling that they’re so confident in their power, they trust that people won’t interrupt them.

9. Ask good questions

The best interviews are the ones where the interviewer can tell you are genuinely interested. The best way to highlight your interest is by asking questions.

If you can’t think of any questions, the interviewer is going to assume that you are either not very smart or not very interested. You don’t want them to come away with either impression.

Write down at least 10 questions before you go to the interview. Always take a notebook to the interview –  regardless of whether it’s a phone interview or face-to-face.

10. End well

Most people blow the ending.

There is a good way to end an interview and there is a bad way.

When you sense the interview is coming to an end, make sure you do the following:

Thank them for their time. ‘Say that you’d love to stay in touch’. At this point they will probably offer you their business card.

A business card is a license to stay in touch, follow up, and make sure that even if you blew the interview you get a 2nd chance.

11. Follow-up

Just because the interview is over, don’t assume your job is done.

Make sure you follow up.

I’m a big fan of sending Thank You cards. Yes, I mean physical cards. They’re a good way of standing out.

Most people send short, lame emails. I’ve had hundreds of these generic emails in my already bloated inbox. Do you think I appreciated them?

But once in a while, someone follows up with a physical letter, a card, a call even. Now I know that person is serious.

I know that person has good manners.

And in the end sometimes that’s all there is to it.

The author is a former Goldman Sachs managing director and blogger at the site What I Learned on Wall Street (WilowWallStreet.com).


Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com

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