Three investment banking graduate recruiters answer students’ questions on what they look for, and what (not) to do to land a job with them...
Valerie Fred, regional recruitment lead, Americas, Macquarie
Q: Do you look for any particular academic qualifications, and how can a candidate make their CV stand out?
We hire from all academic backgrounds and place a high value on the diversity of thought. We want to see candidates who are well-rounded but focused. For example, holding a meaningful role in one or two organisations is preferable to doing a little bit of everything. An ability to maintain high academic stan
dards while showing impactful involvement in extra-curricular activities will make a candidate stand out.
Q: What non-work-related activities do you look on favourably?
Athletics, volunteering, student government or other extra-curricular activities that demonstrate an ability to work in teams or lead, or show a real dedication to a philanthropic interest.
Q: What would make you pick one graduate CV over thousands of others?
Strong academic achievements, relevant work experience and meaningful extracurricular involvement. In addition, if candidates have leveraged their network and engaged with professionals at the firm, this should also be highlighted in the cover letter to help them stand out.
Q: How can candidates succeed at interviews?
Know your resume and be able to articulate clearly what you are looking for and why you are interviewing for this particular role. It’s important to show not only that you can do the job, but that you want to do the job. Stay up to date on markets and current events. Have a few key examples ready in advance of the interview that highlight your strengths as well as any challenges. Coming across as confident is imperative, so practise, practise, practise! The more times you ‘tell your story’ the easier it becomes. And most importantly, be yourself. Never forget to ask questions at the end of the interview. We often hear
‘describe the culture’ or ‘when will I hear back?’, but smart candidates will ask relevant industry-related questions.
Q: Where do people slip up?
Candidates who come across as arrogant or insincere will not succeed. A relevant background is important. Candidates need to convey a demonstrated interest in the industry. Finally, being able to articulate why they want to work at Macquarie versus another firm is key.
Tim Cohn, Head of graduate training programme, APAC, UBS
Q: Do you only hire finance graduates? If not, what else do you look for?
The important thing to remember is that you do not have to be studying finance to be qualified. We have graduates from all backgrounds working within UBS, including those studying the humanities and sciences, as well as economics and finance. We are more interested in the broad intellectual skills you have developed at university than the subject you specialise in. We’re looking for people who have the integrity, drive and teamwork skills to help us deliver our promises to our clients.
Q: With so many applications, you must see some frustrating mistakes often. What are they?
The most commonly made mistakes are the result of simple oversight of important details. We frequently see applicants who cut and paste cover letters without customisation, sometimes leaving the wrong company name on the letter or application. Some applicants send us CVs without including their contact details, therefore we are not able to contact the candidate. It is very important to put accurate and precise information on the CV and avoid any grammar and spelling mistakes. And finally, you should only attach a professional photo of yourself, rather than a photo of you on vacation or at a social event.
Q: What should students know going into an interview?
Preparation is the most important. For us, we particularly look for candidates who can show they understand the financial market and UBS businesses.
My tips are:
Know your area: You do not need to be an expert, but you need to demonstrate your knowledge and focus on the business area for which you have applied. You should research general information about the firm, gain an understanding of the markets in which we operate and have a more detailed knowledge of your chosen business area.
Know the people: Make sure you attend one of our campus presentations or events and meet with representatives from UBS. Get a sense of who we are, how we operate as an organisation and what our current and future priorities are.
Listen and think: Listen carefully to the question, and think about what the interviewer is really asking. Take your time: repeating the question or asking for clarification can be a good way of composing your thoughts and preparing your answer.
Don’t pretend you know: If you don’t know about something, admit it. Honesty will get you further than bluffing.
Helen Ouseley, graduate recruitment manager, EMEA, Goldman Sachs
Q: How important is it to have done an internship at Goldman Sachs?
A significant number of the people we interview have done an internship, either at Goldman Sachs or with another firm. It is helpful if the candidates can give examples of how they have demonstrated certain skills and I would highly recommend that you have some work experience before the interview. Obviously, an internship at Goldman Sachs provides the ideal opportunity to build a relationship with our team.
Q: What tips would you give on how to prepare for an interview?
Practising your interview technique is key. It is amazing how different the experience can feel from what you have imagined, so practise as much as possible with friends, family or your careers service. Another tip is to do your research: you should be able to talk eloquently about why you want that particular job and why you want to work for the firm.
Q: What is the main reason for rejecting a candidate in your experience?
It depends on the requirements of the role the candidate is applying for, but you should focus on perfecting your application, because spelling or grammar mistakes are a distraction from the content and will probably mean you will not succeed. It is important to demonstrate you have a well-rounded profile, solid academics but also commercial awareness, leadership skills, extracurricular experience and initiative.
Q: What are the most common mistakes candidates make?
I would say coming across as either over or underconfident in interview. Candidates should seek to find a balance: they must be confident enough to communicate their enthusiasm and motivation for the
job, without sounding arrogant. Another common mistake is when candidates answer the question they hope to be asked, rather than the one that is posed to them.
Q: How important is it to ask as well as answer questions?
It is important, as a conversation is always preferable to a oneway dialogue. It is great if a candidate is able to ask intelligent questions during the interview rather than administrative or logistical questions. This enables them to show they have done their research and are engaged in the conversation and selection process.