If you know companies such as Goldman Sachs, Grand Thorton, VTB, Bank Austria or Raiffeisen Bank, then it could be useful for you to read about Alexander and his own experience. Today we will reveal all the secrets of a successful interview!
I’m starting a new interview section on the blog! The first post is about Alexander who is a young financial expert and my good friend. The purpose of the interview is to find out the secrets of a successful interview!
I arrived in Vienna for the weekend and met with Alex for a meeting. I could not miss the opportunity to talk with him about his studies, work and a recent interview in Goldman Sachs. This is the largest investment bank in the world. The most interesting part is that he shared with me his personal thought about the successful interview based on his own experience.
It’s 14:00 – time for lunch. Alex and I agreed to meet at Herrengasse metro station, next to his office. I’ve seen a man coming to me in a dark blue suit and a perfectly ironed shirt. That’s the working life of the financial analyst: adherence to the dress code, eternal haste and constant thinking about the work.
Alex is only 23, he graduated the bachelor program in Finland at the Savonia University of Applied Sciences. Soon he will graduate from the International Banking and Finance program at the FH des BFI in Vienna. At the moment he is working full-time as a financial analyst in the financial boutique Clairfield International.
His long-term goal is to get into the first league of investment banks and continue working in the field of Mergers & Acquisitions (M & A). He is thinking as well about moving to London or Frankfurt.
About education and life goals
I was born in the small city in Russia. I studied English at the school. After graduating the school, I started to study International Business and Administration at Savonia UAS in Finland.
In 2012 I went to Vienna for an exchange semester. I’ve graduated the university in 2015 and started the Master’s program of International Banking and Finance at FH des BFI in Vienna. I’m still studying there. Now I’m finalizing the thesis.
I work in the field of Mergers & Acquisitions (M & A)as a Financial Advisor at the moment. The main goal is to move further in this direction and get into the first league of investment banks.
I think I’ve had more than 15 interviews. I can tell you about them.
At the beginning of my career, I went through a 4-stage interview in Grand Orton and for me, it was very new and unusual. However, I managed that and got this position.
At the same time, I went to an interview in VTB and received an invitation to work with them at the same time as from Grand Orton. In the end, I chose Grand Orton, because it seemed to me that in external audit I could get more experience there.
The main problem in Moscow is that nobody says your salary at the first interview, and it is announced only at the last stage.
In general, in Moscow, I had 2 proposals and 2 refusals for work. I also went to an interview with 2 Privat Equity Fonds for the starting position of a financial analyst.
My first interview: the mistakes
My first interview was in Moscow in the company Grand Thorton. It was a 4-stages interview during 5 different days.
My only strong quality at that time was the ability to speak well.
I did not have any technical skills at all. It was even hard for me to understand what’s a financial audit. I did not even know the company where I came for the interview.
Study in Vienna and internship in Bank Austria
I started my study in September and in October I signed a contract with Bank Austria- one of the top financial companies in Austria. It was a project finance position.
I had the only one-stage interview for the internship position in Bank Austria. It was one meeting HR manager representer of my department. A week later I received an invitation to work.
Internship in Raiffeisen Bank
Working in Bank Austria I was still thinking to get into the department M&A. My past experience in auditing and project finance helped me to get an internship at Raiffeisen Bank in the M&A team. It was my first serious interview for the dream position.
The interview consisted of the 3 stages. Each of them had a motivational and technical part, where I showed my personal qualities and knowledge in finance.
The internship ended and it’s time to look for a new position in Vienna.
Vienna or Moscow: the search for a new position
After the internship, I wanted to find a full-time work position and it was more difficult than just internship. It was supposed that the employer must make me a working visa, so you need to convince the employer that you’re the best candidate. The market of M&A in Austria is very small and the issue that I don’t speak the German language limited my chances.
During this time I’ve visited 3 companies for the interviews in Vienna and 2 in Moscow.
How to communicate and dress for an interview
Each industry has its own dress code rules for the interview. The financial and banking area is very conservative and it’s important to look perfect. It should be a strict suit, not necessarily black (dark blue or gray), and always a white shirt with the tie.
This is an official meeting and it is mandatory to come in a suit.
In the financial industry, people are judging you at the first meeting bad on your clothes. They look at your appearance because in the future you will communicate with their clients. They really care how you look and how you communicate. You should have a good haircut, trimmed nails, and perfectly ironed suit.
It is very important to smile and look relaxed during the interview.
Do not be too serious! If you can manage to joke or say something pleasant, then the interviewer will take it well.
During the conversation, it is very important to look into the eyes and use non-verbal communication. The worst thing that can happen to you during the interview is that the interviewer tells you something and you do not listen to him. Then, he asks you a question, and you are lost in the conversation. You have to be completely involved in the conversation!
How to avoid stress
The stress factor always prevents you from showing yourself from the good side.However, you can only get rid of it with experience.
I always worry about the authority of people who check me. If they told me that this is just Mike from the street, then you won’t have stress during the communication. Therefore, I try to avoid thinking about the titles! Especially, I can recommend it if this is the first interview for you.
The more times you pass the interviews, it’s gonna be easier. Especially if it’s in one industry. You’ve already gone for 10 interviews, then 11th one won’t be something new for you.
Many questions are often repeated! As a result, you already understand that you answered correctly to several questions and this gives you inner confidence. Sometimes you don’t go further for the position only because you don’t have enough experience or skills.
The main thing is to come prepared for the interview and this gives you self-confidence!
Check the information about the company before the interview
The most important thing is to prepare information about the company. Be ready for the question: what do you know about the company? That is one of the most typical questions at all interviews.
Be sure to fully research the company’s website, because it will definitely help you. Learn more about the main products and the countries of company’s operations.
During the preparation for the interview, the main thing is to have enough time. I normally take around 1 week for the preparation. Time depends on the industry. In my industry, technical issues are almost the same. I mostly spend my time studying company’s financial deals and their value.
Each time you start spending less and less time for the preparation.
What to do if you don’t know the answer to the question?
Technical questions with specific answers are impossible to manage without concrete knowledge! The answer would not be right and it’s better to honestly admit that you don’t know the answer. If the question is abstract, then it is possible to manage your answer and find a weave with a topic in which you are well educated. Try to get away from the answer, use the time and show that you know something else.
Your strengths and weaknesses qualities: the universal answer
It is necessary to show that you have weaknesses as a normal human being and you are working to improve it. The big mistake is to answer something like “I’m too kind”. This does not apply to professional characteristic! Use the question smartly and show your personality. You can use as well the example from your previous work and describe the situation when you were struggling to improve your weak part. It is very important for your interviewer to know that you always take some actions to solve the problem. You must show your motivation and desire to develop yourself further for the company.
Interview in Goldman Sachs in Moscow
Everything was very luxury! They have a very big office in the center of Moscow. Unfortunately, after the crisis, the market for Investment Banking in Russia fell. There is practically no work places in the financial industry in Russia since 2008. In addition, risks have risen significantly due to the geopolitical situation and investors have drifted away. The volume of M&A transactions in Russia has fallen.
Wikipedia: Goldman Sachs Group is an American multinational finance company that engages in global investment banking, investment management, securities, and other financial services including asset management, mergers and acquisitions advice, prime brokerage, and securities underwriting services. It also sponsors private equity funds, is a market maker, and is a primary dealer in the United States Treasury security market.
Goldman reduced its team: in 2013 they had about 35 people in the department of International Banking, and now there are about 10 people left. Therefore, they hire interns for internships because they could not cope with the volume of transactions themselves. Just at this time, I applied for an internship for the position of Off-Cycle Internship!
The interview consisted of several stages. The first is a resume screening by sending it to their website. Later they invited me for a phone interview and we talked about 40 minutes with Junior Analytic. They, like everywhere else, asked me to introduce myself and were asking about 5-10 minutes about the motivation to work in their company. The next half an hour we were discussing the complex technical issues. They told that they will contact me later.
A month later, they sent me an invitation to an interview in Moscow.
At the first day, I had 2 full-time stages about technical topics, on the second day, a personal interview with the managers.
With one manager everything was, as usual, he politely asked me to introduce himself and he told about the company and his role there. He asked quite simple technical questions. Everything went very well, and I hoped that it’s likely for me to get this post.
The last interview, in general, changed the situation! I’ve never had such an interview.
Later I found out that this was the “stress-interview”. The interviewer behaved very extravagantly and provocatively. It was aimed at putting me in the uncomfortable situation and seeing how I would behave in the extreme situation.
The questions were harsh and provocative. He said that the M&A market is in decline, there are no deals and why I came to this interview at all if the company does not make money. There was no universal and logical answer to these questions. In this situation, I could give direct answers or make it clear that I analyzed the statistics of market growth.
It was very difficult for me to communicate with him, he specifically did not listen to me and was always using his phone.
He could stand up abruptly and walk around the room, looking at the pictures on the wall, not paying attention to me and my answer. I did my best during this interview, I tried not to be nervous and try to use logic. This stage was terrible, I couldn’t understand at all what they’re expecting from me and how to behave properly.
At the end of the interview, I was very tired and decided to change the strategy! When he asked me why I chose Moscow and their company, I replied:
I chose Moscow because there are a lot of beautiful girls, and Goldman Sachs just because nobody earns as much money as here.
He said with a big smile:
The first good answer from you for this evening!
P.S. I should say that Alex didn’t receive a position in Goldman Sachs, they don’t explain the reasons for the refusal. However, he now works in the financial boutique Clairfield International in Vienna. He has already received a working visa. So, if you believe in fate, then everything is as it should be!
I hope that you read a lot of new and interesting information in this post! Do not forget to comment and tell your friends who may have a professional interview soon.