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08/13/2012

Nobody Likes a Know-It-All


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EfinancialCareers

It’s a given. When you show up for the interview, it’s important to show your knowledge of the market, but more specifically, you need to have firsthand knowledge of what the division does and how you can be a top producer for them. You’ll be asked to offer solutions to an endless barrage of questions from a variety of interviewers, often looking for you to solve some unsolvable problem facing the bank or investment firm.

Showing your level of expertise would seem to be a no-brainer. But “showing off” too deep of an understanding just might not be the wisest move either when you’re trying to garner the job, says Kathleen O’Grady, founder of Raleigh Coaching. Interestingly, O’Grady did a short run as executive and personal assistant to Ray Dalio, one of the top earning hedge fund managers and founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds.

WALK THE LINE

In an interview with eFinancialCareers, O’Grady says there’s a delicate balancing act that job candidates in finance need to master when walking the fine line between showing their mastery of the subject at hand vs. coming off as too cocky. Says O’Grady, “You have to be humbly confident.” While it’s a smart move to do your homework about the bank or firm before you come to the interview, it’s also wise to check out the credentials of the interviewers beforehand, if you know who they might be. Job candidates have to respond to the interviewer and decide if it’s a wise move to trumpet their skills, especially when the person doing the interview knows much less than the prospective hire.

PLAY IT SMOOTH

Once you get a sense of the interviewer’s background and level of knowledge, it might help you to frame the conversation in the right way. It’s never a good move to intimidate the person making the hiring decisions, she notes. “Psychologically speaking, everyone projects their fears and realities on other people. If the hiring manager is insecure, and they see someone who is more competent or who is far superior to them, they may not come into the interview in an open manner. They can end up picking you apart.”

UNDERSTAND THE MINDSET

If you happen to be on the receiving end of that mean interviewer, then you might have the urge to fire back. But it pays to keep the emotions in check. If you manage to shine nonetheless, don’t be surprised if it still leaves your interviewer disgruntled, says O’Grady. As surprising as it may sound, the individuals responsible for hiring are not always looking for the best and brightest candidates. “They say they want the top talent, but that’s not always true.” She’s seen less than stellar candidates take a position, and often it’s motivated by an interviewer selecting someone who doesn’t present a threat to their job. That might explain why some of the best candidates don’t always get the position, she says. “People are sometimes looking for a scapegoat. It happens more than you think.”

BE AUTHENTIC

Given the playing field, job candidates might be tempted to be “too pleasing” during the interview. But if you come off as trying too hard, it can hurt you as well. Hiring managers are experienced in sensing when someone is being disingenuous. O’Grady cautions, “You don’t want to come off as a chameleon. People can usually sniff that out pretty quickly. You simply should say that I am good at this and not so good at that. You can’t say you have no flaws.” The best you can do is to go into the interview with a good frame of mind and well prepared for whatever comes your way.

WING IT

That might mean dealing with the possibility of being left in the dark as to the name of the bank or investment firm you’re interviewing with in the first place. A retained recruiting firm may be handling the initial interviews, and they may not give the interviewee any details on the prospective employer. If you happen to be in that position, O’Grady admits that it can be very frustrating. One recent client of O’Grady’s went through an even more perplexing situation. After six rounds of interviews at a major bank, the person still wasn’t given the specifics of the job itself. "The bank had called their references, did background checks, and went through LinkedIn to find related people.” After a maddening and drawn out experience, thankfully, they did get the job, she says.

–Myra Thomas

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