Lex Van Dam was an equities trader at Goldman Sachs back in the days when equities traders at Goldman Sachs got to take some proper risk. Between 1992 and 2002, he traded stocks on a proprietary basis for the firm, before leaving to work for hedge fund GLG Partners. Today, Van Dam runs an academy teaching people how to trade. He also advises students how to get their first jobs in trading. If you've got an interview for a banking internship coming up, this is what Van Dam says you need to know.
"The non-verbal is critical. If you smell of fear, the interviewer will be worried that you might have the same issues representing the company to their clients."
"If you do not know who the person is who sits opposite you, you will be pitching in the dark," Van Dam advises. Try to find out who's likely to be interviewing you before you arrive. Will it be someone from the graduate recruitment team? Will it be a vice president or managing director? "When you get the invite for the interview try to find out who you will be seeing and who that person is."
Equipped with these personal details, Van Dam says you'll be able to ask better questions of your interviewer. Try asking about their career and their experience of the role you're applying for.
If you're being interviewed by a graduate recruiter from the HR (human resources) team, Van Dam says it's about showing that you can be trusted to represent the company and do the job in a 'proper' manner. If you're being interviewed by someone from the business, you'll need to convince them that you can work in the proper manner and that you can make money.
You can't just step into a banking interview and expect to get the job. "If you have not done a number of test interviews before, then it's like taking a penalty shot in the World Cup final without ever having scored one in practice," says Van Dam. "You must know the right answers to hundreds of questions before you go in and deliver your performance."
We have the ultimate list of banking interview questions here.
How good do you really need to be to get a graduate job in banking? Van Dam says you need to know the standard of the people you're competing against so that you can up your game accordingly. "You need to benchmark," he advises. "If you do not understand the strengths and weaknesses of the other people who want the job, it's hard to know what you should be working on."
We can't tell you who else you'll be competing against in your interview, but we can tell you the kinds of graduates who've secured jobs at JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America in the past - just click on the name of each bank for more information.
When you step into an interview with an investment bank, you need to know exactly why you're there. Banks want to see that you've done your research and are fully cognizant of what the job involves and why you want to work for that particular firm. "You need to know which job in finance you really want to do, and why," says Van Dam
If you can't justify your choice of role, you're unlikely to get hired. And if you do, you may regret it. "You don't want to spend years doing a job you have no interest in," Van Dam observes.
You may be working yourself up to a killer performance in the interview, but you will fall flat if your previous encounters with the bank have been less than impressive. "Every single contact with a bank can be critical," says Van Dam. "If you meet representatives from the bank at a milkround event, don't be so naive as to think you can ask whatever you like. Everything you do can, and will, be held against you."
Lex Van Dam is running a conference for students interested in banking careers in March 2015. For more information, click here.