The flood gates have opened. The streets are awash with financial services employees who’ve decided they’d like a new job. According to recruitment firm Morgan McKinley, 8,300 new people were out looking for financial services positions in London in January (on top of the thousands who were looking for financial services jobs already). Recruitment firms report that there’s been a spate of post-bonus interviewing as banks line up strategic hires for 2014. Now is the time.
But if you get the interview for the job you want, what should you ask your interviewer at the end of the process to prove your suitability for the role? Post-interview questions are a finely-balanced business – too probing and they can seem aggressive, too banal and they can make you seem bland.
Here’s what banking interviewer experts suggest.
1. Ask questions about a recent piece of work undertaken by your interviewer or the business you’re joining
People in banking love talking about themselves, says Guillaume Tardy Joubert of Coaching Assembly, a company that specializes in coaching young people into banking roles.
For your first question, it’s therefore a good idea to get your interviewer on your side by giving them a chance to discuss their job. If you’re interviewing for an M&A role, for example, Tardy Joubert advocates asking questions like, “I have seen that your firm/team has advised on n deal XYZ, could you tell me a bit more about that deal and its dynamics?”
This applies equally if you’re interviewing for a role in risk, finance, or regulation. Find out about the issues the firm’s facing and ask your interviewer about the work that he or she specifically has been doing in relation to them.
In all cases, you need to keep your questions positive: avoid framing queries in a negative way. Ask positive questions that can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ (Eg. Don’t say, “I know you’ve had some problems with regulators – is that going to be an issue if I join this team?, do say, “How has the intervention of the regulator changed the way the team works. Can you run me though the ways it’s made your role more interesting?”).
“Questions occur at the end of an interview. If you frame them negatively, you will leave people with a bad impression,” says Tardy Joubert.
2. Ask about the strategy of the business (in a positive way)
You should also ask positively-framed questions about the strategy and future of the business. You need to show that you’ve done your homework in some detail – don’t ask obvious questions that can be resolved after two minutes on the company website.
“You need to ask questions that show off your knowledge about the business you want to join,” says Jack Shardlow at Interview Bull.
For example, for a comparatively junior role (in Barclays Wealth), Shardlow suggests asking a question along the lines of: “I saw in the news that Barclays Wealth has recently gained market share in the private wealth management division, what is your company’s strategy to build upon that growth and how can you gain further advantage above such big firms in the industry as UBS and Credit Suisse?”
The more senior the position you’re going for, the more detailed the strategy-related questions you will need to ask. Again, ensure you frame any questions positively. Negative questions about strategy will do more harm than good. If you’re going into a senior role, you need to show that you understand the issues and can help resolve them in a positive way. By asking positively framed questions about a particular firm and a particular business, you can help demonstrate why you want to work for that firm instead of others, says Shardlow.
3. Ask about the long-term future of the role.
The days of financial services job-hoppers are done. Candidates who skipped jobs every two years were never that popular anyway and these days the expectation is that everyone will stick around to collect deferred bonuses.
In your post-interview questions, you need to show that you’re a stayer. Shardlow advocates demonstrating your long term commitment by asking questions like, “If I move into this role, what would success look like in 12 months’ time? How might I expect my position in the company to evolve?”
4. Ask who they want to hire.
Mark Hatz, a former Goldman and Perella Weinberg banker who’s produced an ‘interview preparation pack’, says it helps to gently clarify what kind of person an interviewer is looking for. Ask what sort of qualities they’re looking for in a recruit, Hatz says. If you’re going for an internship, ask what it will take to convert that internship into a full time job.
5. Ask (careful) empathic questions about your interviewer’s experience of the firm
If you have a rapport with your interviewer, Hatz says it’s good to ask questions about their personal experience of the culture of the firm. However, if you don’t have a rapport and your interview has been challenging and technical, this could backfire and seem inappropriate. “If you’re interviewing at a boutique firm, you might want to ask your interviewer what it’s like there compared to his experience of working at Morgan Stanley,” says Hatz. “But you’ll need to use your judgement – this won’t work if you have someone very smart and very cold sitting in front of you.”
If these are the questions that you should ask, what shouldn’t you ask?
To reiterate, don’t ask anything negative. Don’t ask anything obvious that a moment on the internet could answer. Don’t ask about pay. Don’t ask about working hours. Don’t ask blah time fillers which neither you nor your interviewer have the slightest interest in.