How to ace your interview

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There's more to succeeding in an interview than a strong academic record. Grades help, but so do curiosity and knowing all about the bank you are applying to.

J.P. Morgan's Australian graduate programme manager Katherine Ross, offers some essential advice: "Arrive early and be mindful of your body language. Don't forget to smile and make eye contact. Make sure you are presentable and professional. Talk about your experiences in life and work, your needs, strengths and attributes. Don't be afraid to ask questions as this demonstrates your curiosity and keen interest."

An Asia Pacific spokesman for Citigroup says banks want to see that you have a passion and commitment to the job, and have creative ideas which you can offer clients.

But what should you actually do, and not do, in an interview?

CBA executive general manager, talent and development, Terry Mason, has a strong admonition: "Don't say what you think we want to hear. Don't assume the organisation will morph a little to accommodate you. A small organisation might, but a big one won't. So know exactly what the culture is at the bank you are applying to. Be very well informed about it and know whether you fit."

Taking that a bit further, a spokeswoman for UBS in Sydney advises interviewees not to pretend to know the answers to everything. Be honest and upfront, she says.

Goldman Sach's human capital advisor Kara Considine says grads should be extremely well read about the firm and its divisions. "Come well prepared. Read newspapers. What's going on in the world, how does that relate to our business. Have an opinion and a thoughtful response."

All agree on this point. "We're most impressed by those people who have taken the time to research our organisation. So think about your skills and then think about them in relation to us. We expect you to have done your homework, so don't ask obvious questions that you could have found answers to elsewhere," adds Deutsche Bank's head of graduate recruitment for Asia Pacific, Sally Whitman.

Everyone gets nervous, says Considine, "but just settle down, take a moment to compose yourself, think slowly about your answers."

The hardest thing, she says, is being friendly and personable without being familiar. "That takes maturity, and it is challenging for a student to get that balance right."

And whatever you do, don't panic, says Caroline Harris, graduate manager at NAB in Melbourne.

"When you are asked a question, take your time. Students have such a breadth of experience that it takes a while to condense all that in answering a question. It is important because often the most powerful things they've done are in their private and social lives. When you've heard the question, a five-second silence can feel like an eternity, but don't rush: really think through your answer," explains Harris.

And, if at the end of the interview, the panel asks whether you have any questions, don't just ask one for the sake of it. If your questions have already been addressed, just say so.

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