There is a great deal of activity in recruitment for financial services risk management roles, especially in banking where financial institutions have become more sensitive to risk exposures since the financial crisis. That said, there is plenty of risk management talent out there, so you’ll have to really impress the interviewers if you hope to get an offer.
Here are some tips for preparing for a risk management job interview and putting your best foot forward in front of recruiters, hiring managers and HR executives.
Basic interview preparation steps that all risk management candidates should take when being considered for a new role include researching the company amd learning as much as possible about the managers you will be speaking with so that you’ll be able to find common ground with them.
“Find out whether you went to the same school, studied the same thing or may have worked at the same firm in the past,” said Anthony Hanna, a principal consultant of risk management and audit at Selby Jennings.
To prepare for a job interview, risk management professionals need to have a thorough understanding of the job they are interviewing for and are prepared to speak about everything they have listed on their resume.
“I submit candidates to jobs that fit the technical requirements and academic experience to do the job, the interview is more about understanding the fit on the team and firm and the softer skills,” said Emily Slocum, team manager and the head of middle-office recruitment for the Americas at GQR Global Markets.
“They need to make sure they are on time, dressed appropriately and have done research on the firm,” she said. “I always recommend to candidates to go into as much detail as possible around anything that is asked of them and have good questions prepared.”
By the time you’re invited in for an in-person interview, the potential employer has seen your resume and concluded that it checks all or most of the boxes on their list. Speaking to them face-to-face is an opportunity to made a connection and inspire confidence in them that you are competent.
“It is important for candidates to discuss their value-add at their current role, and not just focus on the hard experiences or qualifications,” said Kareem Bakr, the head of risk management at Selby Jennings. “Most managers and HRs want to see someone who will think outside of the box and be able to deliver immediate results.”
Be prepared for the types of technical questions they may ask you.
“Statistical/mathematical questions are very common during both phone screens and on-site interviews,” Hanna said. “Maximum Likelihood Estimation, p-values, variable selection, Monte-Carlo Simulations, Mean Value Theory and Stochastic Calculus are some specific topics that are helpful to prepare for.”
There are no general questions that interviewers ask during every single risk management interview, since the various areas of risk are so different and need different skill sets, Slocum said.
“But if I was to generalize a theme, it would be gaging both a candidates technical abilities as well as how thorough the candidate understands the bigger picture,” she said. “It is one thing to build risk models or approve transactions but does the candidate really understand what that means for the banks and what the firm’s strategy is?”
The ability for one person to make an impact across different groups and interface with different business lines has become paramount in the market we are in today, Bakr said.
“Interviewers are keen to learn what specific problems a new hire can solve and how they can utilize their skills across a multitude of areas,” he said. “For example, if you are interviewing for a role with in model validation, don’t be surprised if technical model development or regulatory knowledge-based questions arise.”
There are various common pitfalls that trip up risk candidates during interviews. You should make a point to avoid these.
“When candidates don’t really listen to the question before they jump to answer [it hurts their chances],” Slocum said. “Things like eye contact during an interview also come up a lot.”
The most common pitfall is the candidate’s statistical/mathematical knowledge – or lack thereof.
“Technical inadequacy is the largest reason many quantitative risk candidates are passed on,” Hanna said. “Aside from that, a surprising number of candidates rule themselves out when they explain to managers or HRs that their primary reason for looking has to do with compensation.
“This tells the interviewers that your motivations are purely [based on] money – these candidates are seen as a flight risk because people with this mindset are more likely to leave in a short amount of time, especially if offered an opportunity to move to another firm and make more,” he said.
Rather than speak in bland generalities or clichés, be specific.
“People [make a good impression in interviews] who have very specific examples of things they have done that correlate with the job opening so the hiring manager can really get a good idea of what they could bring to the table,” Slocum said. “[Hiring managers like] candidates who think strategically about their own career and have made good career moves in the past.
“Candidates who can explain not just that they can do the job but why they want to and what will be motivating to them in that role [tend to get hired].”
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