Let’s assume that you’re one of the lucky few to have managed to make it through to the interview process for a financial services role, you face another hurdle – post-decision headcount approval.
Not only must hiring managers now make the case for creating the role in the first place, they also have to convince the business that recruiting a particular individual is a good idea once a decision has been taken.
How can you ensure that the hiring manager feels compelled to put the strongest possible case forward and that seeds of doubt aren’t sown in their mind?
This may seem like a psychological trick, but when you’re wrapping up at the end of an interview and want to ensure you’ve covered everything, never ask the question “Do you have any concerns?”. The point of this is obvious – there may be some criteria the hiring manager was hoping to tick off that you haven’t mentioned and this question gives you an opportunity to do so. There are better ways of broaching this, however.
“The simple solution is to ask whether there’s anything you’ve explained so far that can be expanded upon,” says interview coach Margaret Buj. “Summarise what you’ve covered throughout the interview and reemphasise the points you think are most important to the job.”
You may have aspirations beyond the job on offer (of course you do) and outlining some ambitions will do your application no harm. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that banks want a 100% fit for vacancies now, and some evidence that you’re in it for the long term. There’s a danger you could convince a potential employer that you’re over-qualified.
“Banks want people who can hit the ground running, but not someone who’s going to be bored after six months in the job,” says Linda Jackson, co-founder and managing director of outplacement firm 10 Eighty.
If an interviewer likes you, they’re more likely to favour you over a similarly qualified candidate. It works both ways though; if you’re clearly not enamoured with them, and are going to have to work with them going forward, faking a rapport will ultimately create a façade and make your working life miserable in the long-term.
“Be engaging, conscious of your body language and try to mirror the interviewer’s actions,” says Jackson. “Creating a bond will improve your chances, but if you clearly aren’t going to get along, don’t fake it.”
While it’s obvious that you need to provide tangible evidence of what value you will add to the business by providing practical examples of your skills and work experience, you may feel inclined to hold back some details. If you feel that you’d be giving a potential employer something that would provide a competitive advantage, or ultimately provide them with ideas you could use elsewhere, then you’d understandably be reticent to give this up. This could be a mistake.
“Ultimately, the person hiring you will understand your business area, and wants to know that you can provide ideas and strategies that in-house resources cannot,” says Jackson. “If you’re light on detail, this could count against you.”
The value of networking and good references in the current climate can’t be underestimated. If you’ve worked in a few institutions in the City, the chances are that there will be someone within the organisation you’re applying to and you should make every effort to leverage this, says Buj.
“One key deciding factor is how you’re going to fit into the team,” she says. “Getting someone you’ve worked with previously to tell someone you're a good fit will give you the edge, so you should use your network as much as possible.”
Yes, the above term may elicit some mild sense of nausea, but in these days having the right online profile is integral. You will be Googled. This means having a good presence on the right social media, positioning yourself as an expert in your particular area – from conference appearances, media quotes to specialist message board comments – and generally marketing yourself.
“Even something as simple as blogging can help your chances if the quality is good enough,” says Jackson.