This week’s post is about technical knowledge, and why it matters so much.
To prepare for the most important interview of my life with the Goldman Sachs Convertible Bond team, I managed to get hold of a couple of Convertible Bond research reports, and I read them cover to cover. They were quite technical, and were promoting yield-enhanced securities. I thought I would be able to show off the great preparation I had done. The head Convertibles trader, Charlie Eve, seemed to be impressed when I brought up the research, but cut off my lengthy summary, and asked me what “parity” was. I did not know.
Parity happens to be the underlying equity value of a Convertible – but more importantly, anyone who knew anything about Convertible Bonds would know this basic information. It was embarrassing, but I still got the job offer. Charlie told me afterwards that he had been impressed that I was the only person he had interviewed who had gone to the effort of reading some research. This brings me to my main message – if you want to set yourself apart from the other candidates, you have to get technical.
Everyone at your university is smart, and most are hard working. Most are articulate, and most have examples of impressive things they have done in the past, even if they cannot necessarily articulate these with the ideal structure during an interview. Most people understand that to get hired, your interviewer has to like you – which means projecting charm, energy, enthusiasm, and generally getting them to think you would be a fantastic person to have on the team.
Getting the basics right isn’t so difficult, and the Harrison Careers coaching team can quickly fix the weaknesses that our clients show when they are talking about themselves, their achievements, and the competency-style questions.
Great competency answers get you past the first-round interview, but they do not get you the job offer. Imagine you are the Convertible Bond trader looking to hire a trading analyst from Princeton or Imperial. You would not be interviewing them if they were not smart and generally impressive in the first place. You will not hire anyone you do not like – but everyone is trying so hard to impress you that you will probably like most of them.
Where that leaves you as an interviewer is trying to figure out how to decide which of the 10 great candidates to offer a job to. It usually comes down to how well you think they understand the job, and how good their technical knowledge is of your business area. It will not be enough for you that they understand trading, because there have been enough campus presentations so that everyone understands the basics. You will hire the person who has gone the extra mile and acquired knowledge that other people do not have. This could be research reports, extensive contacts with people within the firm, or really convincing trading ideas (ok’s ok to source these from newspapers, so long as you understand and present them properly – after all, why come up with your own ideas when financial journalists will do it so much better than you will?!). Talking to your peers who have been through the process probably will not be enough.
If you really want to maximize your probability of getting the job offer, then before you walk in to the most important interview of your life, make sure that you know you have more technical knowledge than the candidates you are competing with.
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