The secret art of interviewing bankers

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David N. Schwartz

It’s not only HR who interview candidates in banks.  Beyond analyst level, anyone may be asked to conduct an interview. - Especially at graduate recruitment time.

Interview should be a conversation between two people who are trying to get to know each other better, with the purpose of finding out whether the candidate is a good match for the position. Every conversation should be different, because every candidate is different.

If you’re interviewing potential bankers, here’s a ten point list to help you do it right.

  1. Review the job spec.  What exactly did you say you’re looking for?
  2. Study the CV critically and skeptically. Focus on transitions within the candidate’s career. Identify any gaps in the work chronology. Think about the candidate’s fit with the job spec, but also read for elements that illuminate the candidate’s character.
  3. Review compliance guidelines about what you can ask a candidate, and what you can’t. If the candidate has mentioned something on the resume, you can probably ask about it.  If you are unsure about what you can ask, check with your compliance people before you make a huge mistake.
  4. Put the candidate at ease. Avoid stress interviews. The stress you put a candidate under in an interview will be qualitatively different from the stress he or she encounters on the job, so it’s of little use in evaluating fit for the role. More useful will be one or two questions about specific aspects of the resume that might have involved stressful situations. You’ll find out much more about the candidate ff they can are relax and open up.
  5. Ask open-ended questions about the CV and previous work experience. Open-ended questions allow the candidate plenty of room to show you who they really are.
  6. Avoid canned questions such as, “Tell me about your greatest achievement,” or “What is your greatest weakness?”  You will only get canned answers.
  7. Explore motivation. “Why?” questions are far more interesting than “what?” or “how?” questions, particularly when discussing why the candidate has left previous jobs, and why he or she wants the job on offer.
  8. Try to establish rapport. There are a lot of people out there who can do a particular job. The question, therefore, is not only whether the candidate can do the job, but whether he or she the kind of person you want to be working with?
  9. Think broadly. The person in front of you may not be right for the position you are trying to fill, but he or she may be ideal for some other part of the firm. If you think that there might be a fit elsewhere, make the referral.
  10. Be fair. Any candidate you interview may one day be a client you are trying to pitch for business. For that reason, if not for the sake of decency, treat all candidates with respect. Even if the final decision is a rejection, there are ways to make a candidate feel that he or she was given a fair opportunity to try for the role; that may come back to benefit you in ways you can’t predict. So can situations where the candidate leaves upset with his treatment.

David Schwartz is CEO at search firm DN Schwarz & Co. He is a former director of recruitment at Goldman Sachs. 

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