Are you ready for the next generation of banking interviews?

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If you’re interviewing for jobs in investment banks and you haven’t come across HireVue, you will. Soon. HireVue is to banking interviews what Google was to the internet circa 2001. The two things seem likely to become synonymous. And if it’s not a HireVue system that interviews you, it’ll be something pretty similar.

HireVue is a digital interviewing system, where the interviewer is an algorithm. You can’t game it. You can’t “say” the right thing. You can’t assume power stances. You can only hope that when the algorithm assesses your performance based upon 15,000 different traits (including your eye movements, speed of speech, choice of words) it’ll find it comparable to high performers already working for the bank who’ve been through the HireVue process already.

HireVue is about mapping the traits of existing top employees and hiring new employees to match them.

Goldman Sachs is already using HireVue. So is J.P. Morgan. So is Morgan Stanley, Commonwealth Bank Australia and boutique firm Raymond James.

It’s not just graduates who are getting hired through HireVue

Contrary to popular perception, the system isn’t just being used to filter applicants to banks’ analyst programmes. Mid-ranking staff are being hired using HireVue too – especially in technology roles.

“We’re definitely being used by banks for filling lateral and experienced roles as well as graduate positions,” says HireVue’s founder Mark Newman. Newman says top banks use HireVue because it helps them deal with the tsunami of applications they receive for jobs at all levels:  “We know of one investment bank that fills 12,000 roles a year and has 100,000 referrals alone for those positions. Referrals are like gold dust, but it’s been very difficult for the bank to connect with all those people.”

Right now, most banks use a two-stage Hirevue process. Firstly, you’ll asked to upload a short video introducing yourself. Secondly, you’ll be asked to go through a formal digital interview, which will usually include assessment tools alongside questions.

“We’re not just going to be asking you tell us about yourself,” says Newman. “There will usually be a video interview, followed by a challenge like a pitch book or a financial model or programming question. Then there will be a written portion to see you how you communicate, and a situational judgement section to assess your decision making process.”

HireVue can highlight VPs’ ignorance

The assessments can come as a shock to experienced banking candidates, for whom a level of knowledge is usually taken as given. Whereas interviewers might be uncomfortable asking VP-level corporate financiers to run through something as simple as a DCF, HireVue has no such compunction. As a result, it can unearth surprising and embarrassing gaps in fundamental skills. “It’s a surprise how little some mid-career people know,” says Newman. “The system might show them a presentation which includes a model that’s flawed and they won’t be able to discuss what’s wrong.”

By virtue of the algorithm, there’s no right or wrong way to behave in a HireVue interview. Success is all about mirroring what’s succeeded in that bank (and probably within that division within that bank) in the past. What’s right for one bank, or one division, will likely be wrong for another.

“It’s the story about the weed that was planted in the wrong place,” says Newman. “Someone who’d make a great investment banker at Goldman Sachs could be a terrible investment banker at J.P. Morgan and vice versa.”

Do you like precision or pontification?

In this way, HireVue allows banks not just to hire for ability but for personality. Not so long ago, Goldman Sachs had a reputation for putting people through 20+ interviews to assess whether candidates were a “cultural fit”. Now it can just leave the algorithm to ascertain whether candidates’ “soft skills” correlate with those of its top performers.

So, how do these soft skills differ? Newman says some banks love short, direct, responses; others like something more considered: “Some organizations really want to see how you think and how you go about solving problems. At others, it’s like they just want you to cut to the answer.”

Expressed another way, Newman says organizations have aggressive competitive cultures and use aggressive and competitive communication styles and language. Others are more relationship driven and use more measured ways of communicating. If you want to succeed, you’ll need to adapt your responses to the firm that’s interviewing you.

Diversity of school, uniformity of personality?

HireVue’s advantage isn’t just that it allows banks to process thousands of candidates efficiently, it also takes human bias out of the hiring equation.

It turns out, for example, that some of Wall Street’s top performers haven’t attended Ivy League schools and aren’t upper-middle-class white males after all. “Suddenly banks are finding that the person they thought was number one on paper isn’t ideal after all,” says Newman. “Non-traditional candidates are in with a chance.”

Isn’t there a danger of reducing people to a personality and skills profile and hiring a heap of identikit candidates on this basis instead? Newman says Hirevue tries to avoid this by withholding the detailed results to its assessments from all but a few senior HR staff inside the banks it works with: “We don’t usually release scores. What we’re saying really is that our system says these candidates have a 90% likelihood of being top-performers and we would like you to evaluate them. It’s about prioritizing applicants.”

How can you prepare for the HireVue process?

So, what should you do if you think HireVue will be part of your hiring mix?

    • Work out the style – Before you go into a HireVue interview, you need to do your research says Nathan Mondragon, senior psychologist at HireVue. Mondragon says you don’t just need to know about strategy, you need to know about culture. “Look up the organization and reach out to people who work there. – Find out what the communication style is. Read articles they write and look at other content they publish. How verbose are they? What are their nuances? How does their CEO operate? Are they collaborative or hierarchical?”

    • Revisit the fundamentals – Just because you’ve been doing your job for a while, don’t assume HireVue won’t examine you on your basic skills. Newman says a lot of experienced candidates fail because they make simple errors.


Photo credit: 23/365: Eye Spy by Daniel Coomber is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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