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Overview of Interviews & Internships

28 September 2015 |

Preparation is key. Completing strong applications can take a great deal of time, as can preparing sufficiently for interviews and internships. I have heard many examples of people being offered interviews with only a couple of days notice! Start preparing as early as possible. There are many useful sources you can read well in advance of making applications, attending interviews or undertaking internships in order to boost your commercial awareness and ensure you acquire the knowledge required to succeed.

This section provides only a brief overview of the elements that are most commonly found in interviews in order to provide you with some insight into the other preparation you should undertake before attending an interview. For in depth coverage of these elements, read the City Career Series: Application, Interview & Internship Handbook (more information on this is given towards the end of this handbook).

The key elements that firms tend to focus on when setting application questions and interviewing candidates are:

  • Competencies, strengths & experience
  • Career motivation
  • Firm motivation & research
  • Interest in (and understanding of) current affairs & the financial services industry
  • Commercial acumen (typically tested in the context of commercial case studies)

When preparing for interviews, I created separate documents for each of these elements and highlighted the documents on the morning of each interview, much like revising for an exam. All the elements tend to be relevant (at least to some extent) to most City interviews. Once you have covered these elements in detail, it should therefore take less time to prepare for subsequent interviews. However, ensure you tailor your preparation depending on the firm you are interviewing at (and the role you are applying for).

Consider your skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses well in advance of applications and interviews. Perhaps list out all the experience you have accumulated and really consider all the possible skills that you could draw from them. Doing this in advance will ensure that you are less likely to forget about experiences that are potentially useful to discuss in applications or with interviewers or supervisors. This is especially useful if you are asked questions that catch you off guard in interviews.

Questions can be quite specific at times, for instance I was asked to detail a time when I had worked in a team and had to deal with a colleague that was not pulling their weight. In addition, try to meet with people who have already been through the interview process at the firm you are applying to. They may be able to provide an insight into the types of questions firms ask.

It is important that you never lie during interviews and that you are able to substantiate any statements you make. Recruiters are very skilled at noticing if you are trying to bluff your way through (you may be asked to provide a lot of detail when recounting experiences). Getting caught lying or overly-embellishing the truth reflects negatively upon your character and is likely to cause recruiters to question the other statements you have made. At the end of the day, they are looking to get to know you.

Throughout interviews, firms will in addition look for composure, confidence, clear articulation, strong interpersonal skills and enthusiasm. Try to keep calm and do not be afraid to disagree with interviewers, so long as you can justify your comments and are sure you are not objectively wrong!