It’s that time of year again. Applications have been submitted, video interviews have been completed and phone screens or campus interviews may already be in the books. Now it’s time for superdays – interview marathons at investment banks that would likely intimidate anyone. It’s therefore important to know what you’re getting into. Here are some tips on how to be successful.
Network ahead of time
Before jumping right in, try to network with alumni from your alma mater who already work at the firm. Ask them to grab coffee and see if they’ll give you any insight into the bank or detail any wrinkles in the interview process that are particular to the firm in question. Beyond gaining insight, networking with alumni can also provide much needed advocates within the bank who can talk you up before any interviews take place.
“Companies pay attention to that – they know when an individual has been active in networking with alums from a particular school, so get to know those folks because they will remember you,” said Roy Cohen, careers coach and author of the Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.
Practice your pitch
While every interviewer is different, variations of the same questions will keep coming up. Namely, “tell be about yourself” or “walk me through your resume.” They are asking for the same thing: your “elevator pitch.” You shouldn’t be memorizing anything – interviewers will notice and ding you – but do put together some talking points ahead of time and try them out in a live environment.
“Practice giving a concise pitch that communicates what you want, how you want to achieve it, and why you’re qualified to pursue these goals,” Cohen said. “You don’t want to sound like anyone else, because you won’t distinguish yourself from everyone else that way,” he said. Including a short personal anecdote or two that’s relatable and memorable is a good start.
Keep your energy up
As mentioned, you’re likely to be asked a different version of the same question by multiple people. “Don’t let your enthusiasm wane when it’s the third time you’re giving your ‘Tell me about yourself’ response,” said Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career coach and the founder of SixFigureStart. “You may be answering the question multiple times, but it’s the first time that interviewer is hearing it,” she said. “Stay fresh.”
It’s fairly routine to walk away with better impressions of students you met earlier in the day, according to a former VP at a tier-1 bank in New York who’s been on both sides of the table. Coaxing yourself to come with energy toward the end of the process can be a key differentiator. If nothing else, you’ll prove that you won’t get fried and can still perform at the end of long days, she said.
Come armed with plenty of knowledge
“Everyone wants to know why they’re the one,” Cohen said. Arm yourself with plenty of relevant and specific information about the bank in question: deals they’ve done, recent news clippings and details you garnered about their culture.
Try to be normal
This is where prospective analysts fail the most, according to the former VP. “They’re overly nervous, offer canned responses and don’t provide a window into who they actually are,” she said. Try to smile and choose anecdotes that are genuine to who you are. This is also why you should practice but never memorize a speech when you’re actually having a conversation.
“No one warms up to someone who is awkward and doesn’t exude the correct blend of humility and confidence,” said Julia Harris Wexler, career coach and the managing partner of Julia Harris Wexler Consulting. “Don’t ‘sell’ yourself; instead simply ‘present’ yourself intelligently.”
If nerves are getting the best of you, start asking questions and get them talking.
File important information away for later
Keep track of who you met, ask for business cards and make quick notes about each person. In later rounds, your interviewer might ask how your day is going.
“You don’t look interested if you can’t remember who you met or what you talked about,” Ceniza-Levine said. Plus, you’ll need all that information for the final step.
Follow up with everyone you meet
Sending a follow-up thank you email has to be immediate, because the processing of candidate evaluations after a superday begins immediately. “Some people interview well but don’t follow up,” Cohen said. “You may not interview as well as some, but if you follow up well you’ll demonstrate conviction.”
Also, never send the same thank you email to everyone who you met. The notes should always be unique and include something specific to the person. A hiring manager at a big European bank once told us that he and his colleagues forward thank you notes to one another to see if the candidate took the time to differentiate them.
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