Grouping together millennials into one homogenous mass inevitably leads to stereotypes about the characteristics of the generation born between the early 1980s and late 90s, but the fact remains that banks – like most other industries – struggle to retain them. In an effort to weed out the sort of millennials who will stick around and those who will live up to the flighty stereotype, banks ask these interview questions.
1. What are your short-term career goals?
When a recruiter asks “What are your short-term career goals?” they are really trying to ascertain whether you are going to leave as soon as you get a better offer, says Amy Adler, a career coach and the founder of Five Strengths.
Kim Ann Curtin, executive coach and the author of Transforming Wall Street, agrees that priority number-one for most interviewers is to get a sense of the likelihood that you’ll stick around.
“The biggest fear employers have with millennials right now is that they won’t stay and have a tendency to leave after a year or two,” Curtin said.
2. What are your long-term career goals?
This question is aimed at figuring out whether you are realistic about the career path in this industry, your intentions for the future and the reason you’re interested in the job, Curtin says.
“Headhunters are looking for what millennials say that indicates how likely they are to stick around,” she said. “That’s the heart of what headhunters are asking millennials about.”
Sometimes the question is rephrased as “What do you see as your next step after this job?”, but it’s basically trying to find out the same thing.
“Do they want to be out in a year, or promoted within a year?” said Alyssa Gelbard, the founder and president of Resume Strategists. “Baby Boomers don’t have that expectation of ‘I gotta be in, then I gotta get out and move on to the next thing.’”
3. How do you handle feedback?
A common way of wording this question is “What kind of feedback do you want to receive and how often?”
Questions related to handling feedback or constructive criticism are geared toward evaluating how well you respond to being given direction and redirection, Adler said.
“There’s a big difference between the way feedback is delivered in school and on the job,” said Gelbard. “Millennials should talk about times when they’ve had to handle something difficult, dealing with a client in person or over the phone, not just via text or email.”
This can also be a tangential way of gauging how sensitive you are and how you respond when things don’t go your way. Talk about a time when you were passed over for a promotion or an award that you felt you deserved and how you handled that disappointing situation.
“They should demonstrate that they’re OK dealing with failure, lack of success,” Gelbard said. “Working at a bank or hedge fund, not everyone gets a trophy, so hiring managers want to know, ‘How did you handle a time when you weren’t successful?’ – they value resiliency.”
4. What’s your ideal workday schedule?
Adler said hiring managers ask this one to make sure you are going to show up on time and work the proper number of hours within the firm’s standard work day.
It’s important to be in tune to how your job responsibilities can bleed into your life outside the office.
“Millennials in the industry should keep in mind that the person you’re interviewing with has probably gotten accustomed to the fact that you’re always on, seven days a week,” Curtin said. “Even after working long hours in the office, now everyone’s on their phone checking work emails 24/seven.”
Talk about a project, assignment, presentation or deal that ran longer than expected or another example of how you faced unexpected challenges, Gelbard said.
5. How do you define “rewarding” work?
This one can be translated as: “What do you need to feel appreciated?” Adler said. Candidates considering a career in financial services should go in with eyes wide open that their job is all about the Benjamins.
“Millennials should realize that they are likely speaking to an organization that is not quite as evolved as they will eventually become,” Curtin said. “Millennials coming from a place of wanting to make a positive contribution and work a job that has value in the world need to dial it down.
“That doesn’t mean you don’t want to be authentic, but maybe it’s not as important a conversation to have with [hiring managers] on Wall Street as it would be with those at more future-focused, younger companies,” she said.
Hiring managers are looking for an alignment of what the millennial candidate thinks the job requires and the actual responsibilities that the role entails, Gelbard said.
“Interviewers want to know what they’re expecting to do – ‘What do you think this job requires?’” she said. “Candidates may have a great work ethic and skills, but if they have no clue what they’d be expected to do if they were hired, that could be a problem.
6. What is your ideal work environment or company culture?
During any interview, the interviewer takes a look at the candidate’s lifestyle, searching for indicators of a cultural fit, or lack thereof.
“Do some work around talking to people who are already in the organization,” Curtin said. “This is about getting you in the door, who you are, your authenticity, ultimately you need that person interviewing you to feel that you’re one of them and you understand how their firm works, be informed about the culture, speak in ways that communicates that you’re comfortable with that culture and it’ll be a fit.
7. What are some of your hobbies?
While not every interview will ask this one, those who do are really trying to figure out whether or not they’d like to work with you on a daily basis. Is this person fun?
“If you’re in someone’s office, look for something that you have in common and you can get them to talk about that’s not work-related – human interaction between you can only help,” Curtin said. “You don’t just want to be locked into formal interview mode – you want to form a personal connection.
“They’re a human being, so say something that makes them feel like you see them that way,” she said. “‘You like the Yankees? I love the Yankees!’”
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