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Finance Professionals: 3 Ways To Gain a Competitive Edge During Interviews

As the employment rate continues to improve across many industries, weak performance by hedge funds and other financial institutions over the last year has forced many to readjust their hiring strategies. With less available positions than there are candidates, these organizations have had to become more selective throughout the interviewing and hiring processes. As a result, now has never been a more critical time to ensure you are standing out amongst your fellow job seekers within this field.

“In today’s competitive job market, your performance on an interview holds more weight than ever,” notes Mitchell Peskin, Executive Vice President of The Execu|Search Group’s Financial Services division. “Failing to make a good first impression or present yourself as a well-rounded candidate could cost you the job.” In order to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward throughout the interview process, focus on the following three tips:

  1. Diversify your knowledge base to construct a strong resume

Your resume is the first glimpse a prospective employer gets of your professional experience, so failing to compose a strong resume can almost guarantee you won’t be invited in for an interview. “A strong resume goes beyond a simple list of all of your accomplishments,” highlights Mitch. “Job seekers should focus on being strategic about the information they choose to include and ensure it speaks to their professional strengths and product knowledge.”

Today’s financial institutions are in search of strong candidates who possess diverse product knowledge and can provide concrete examples that highlight their professional development. For example, if you work at a hedge fund or brokerage firm, but have only focused on working with one product (i.e., equities, fixed income, derivatives, etc.) it can be more challenging to transition (or stand out) to different employers that focus on a variety of products. “I encourage finance professionals to look for opportunities internally with their current employer to support different products,” advises Mitch. “This will not only diversify your product knowledge and make you a more marketable candidate, but it may also give you greater flexibility to make a career transition in the future.”

  1. Be honest and fully prepared to prove your proficiencies

A key part of the interview process that many professionals seem to overlook is the proficiency test that employers may give you to verify your specific skill set. To avoid running into issues before a decision is made, it’s important that all of the information you provide on your resume or the information you disclose during interviews is accurate and honest.

Some of today’s job seekers make the mistake of lying about their skill set in hopes of standing out, but ultimately get passed on for the opportunity because they failed a proficiency test. “If it’s difficult for you to confidently speak about a particular skill or a job you’ve held in the past, remove it from your resume altogether,” says Mitch. The inability to speak in detail about everything on your resume will undoubtedly raise red flags for the employer. For example, if you list that you possess ‘Advanced Excel skills’ on your resume, expect employers to ask questions that are aimed at getting a better sense of your skill level (i.e., pivot tables, formulas, formatting, etc.). Keep in mind, employers can verify your educational background and licenses, or run background reports before offering you the job, so it’s important that all of the information you provide throughout the interview process is truthful.

  1. Overall presentation is crucial

“If you intend on making a lasting impression with prospective employers, it’s important to consider how other aspects of your professional demeanor can affect how you’re perceived throughout the interview process,” advises Mitch. “Pay attention to your body language as it has the potential to raise some red flags for hiring managers if your nonverbal cues don’t align with your intended message.” For example, slouching in your chair or a lack of eye contact are just two ways you could negatively impact a hiring manager’s perception of you. Additionally, it’s important that you speak confidently about your professional strengths as well as illustrate your ability to think on your feet. For more analytical roles, for instance, some employers may use brain teaser questions to gauge if you possess the right computational skills needed in the role. Keep in mind, hiring mangers tend to be more focused on how you reach certain answers as opposed to whether the actual response is right or wrong.

In sum, this competitive job market requires you to approach the interview process with a lot of tact and preparation. These three tips can help point you in the right direction!

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