Whether your goal is to secure an internship or a full-time position as an analyst or financial manager, the interview is pivotal to your success in finance. It’s your time to shine and to display your best self to persons who have great influence on your future. Needless to say, the stakes are high.
Prepare for your interview like you would for the most important exam you’ve ever taken. It will be a make or break moment for you, so give it the attention it deserves. You’ll be in the “hot seat,” and you’ll be expected to display poise, competence, and quick thinking. These qualities are not always automatic. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
The success of your interview, and whether you are chosen for the position, will be about much more than your technical skills and knowledge. In many cases, those skills are assumed based on your degree and the courses you completed. More subjective skills will often be the ones that distance you from the pack, so they deserve careful attention.
The eight tips below will help you focus on the non-technical aspects of your interview and ensure that you are well on your way to building the skills that will help you stand out.
How to Succeed on the Non-Technical Part of your Interview
- Be prepared. No doubt you’ve heard this before, but don’t take this advice lightly. Spend time researching the company and position you are interested in. Visit the company website and look at its mission statement and “About Us” section. Browse the company’s Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and Twitter. Check out its profile on LinkedIn. These sources will give you a good sense of how the company wants consumers to see it as well as consumer perception of the company and its services.Search the company name on Google and Google News to learn about recent headlines. And, finally, learn more about the industry and its competitors so that you’re aware of trends and current issues. This information will give you the edge when it comes to company-related questions you’re almost certain to be asked, such as “Why would you like to work for this company?”If you’re fortunate enough to know others who work for the company you are interviewing with, tap into those connections. And if you don’t, your college career office may be able to give you a list of alumni who work there. Send a LinkedIn message or call and ask for assistance.Another rich resource is Glassdoor. This site includes interview questions and advice from other candidates that have already been interviewed by a certain company. You can’t take all the responses at face value, but the personal insights still help.
- Understand the role you’re applying for. Print out the job description. Practice verbalizing your strengths and how they align with the required skills. Identify how experiences in your life have prepared you for the job. To learn more about functions often associated with the role, check out sites like www.careerprofiles.info/business-careers.html.
- Know your story. An interviewer often starts the conversation with some form of “walk me through your resume.” In other words, you need to be able to put the details of your resume into words. Your overview should be succinct and interesting, and align perfectly with your resume. Don’t stumble, don’t ramble, and don’t create any disconnects. There’s no excuse for not being ready to tell your story as it relates to your career and possibly to your broader goals.
- Show don’t tell. A story about the time you worked well in a team is much more powerful than saying, “I think I work well in teams.” Enhancing your responses with anecdotes from previous experiences (from jobs or college) is a great way to show the interviewer your skills as opposed to making unverifiable statements.
- Practice body language. While everyone has nerves going into an interview, try not to let yours show. Make sure to let your interest in the position shine through with a smile, an even tone, and an appropriate volume. Sit slightly forward in your seat to show your engagement, clasp your hands in front of you on the table, or keep your hands on your lap. It’s not just about your responses; practice your body language as well.
- Set yourself apart. Started a new club in college? Served as the president of a club? Worked on a cool or unique project during a previous position? Find a way to weave in things you’re proud of that apply to the position for which you’ll be interviewing.
- Show your desire to learn. One of your main goals as an intern or a new employee should be to soak up as much information and develop as much knowledge as possible. Employers are looking for interns and new hires who are interested in learning and are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team. Make sure to emphasize your desire to learn throughout your career.
- Thank all involved. At the close of the interview, show your gratitude to all parties to the interview. Look each person in the eye, smile and express that the position is of great interest and that you look forward to hearing from them. If the recruiter doesn’t tell you about the timing of the next steps, be sure to ask when you can check back. Then, follow up with a written “thank-you.” This personal touch is always appropriate, and you should take time to word it carefully and accurately.
Questions to Ask Your Interviewer
In every interview, you’ll be given the opportunity to ask questions. A great way to display your desire to learn is to have thoughtful questions prepared. Consider the questions below, and be sure you’re ready with several of your own for when that moment arises.
- What are some examples of ad hoc projects interns have worked on in the past?
- What key characteristics do you think would make an intern successful in this position?
- What key issues is this company/department/team currently facing?
- How do you see this business developing over the next five years?
- Can you walk me through how a typical day for someone in this position may look?
- What is your favorite thing about this company/team/position? What keeps you motivated?
Strong interview skills will be important for your entire career journey. Take advantage of any resources available at your college or university and train diligently. Be sure to check back for more interview-technique updates from Knopman Marks so you can put your best foot forward and earn a great start in the world of finance.