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Home arrow Business & Finance arrow Frequently Asked Questions in Quantitative Finance

Interviews

Be prepared

Before you go for the interview, find out the names of the people you are seeing, and do a Google on their name, as well as the bank/business unit you are joining. Try to avoid the error made by one candidate who could not understand why the interviewer was so interested in one part of her thesis. The candidate had quoted papers by the interviewer, but somehow managed to fail to connect the interviewer s name with the paper.

Be confident

Almost no one at banks actually enjoys interviewing people; some even see it as a form of punishment. That means they only interview you if there s a good chance they will want to hire you. Most people who are considered for any job never even get a first interview.

Be punctual

This shouldn't need saying. If you can t be on time for your interview how can they expect you to put in 12-hour days? If you are going to be late (and assuming it was unavoidable), telephone ahead with an accurate ETA. The best strategy is to schedule having a coffee before the interview, a little caffeine and sugar may well help, and this is a useful time buffer. Probably the worst bit about being late is not what it does to the interviewer, but what it does to you. The idea is to present yourself as cool, smart and in control. If you ve been stressed out dealing with transport you knock a few points off your performance.

Set traps

Although some questions are set in advance, most interviewers like to drill down based upon your answers. Thus you should try to mention areas where you feel confident in answering hard questions. This is best done subtly, by phrases like 'this is quite like X, but the answer is Y,' where X is a bastion of your competence; or by saying thoughtfully 'this isn't like X at all,'' if you feel you are being drawn into an area where you will sink.

Show you can do things

We mention this in the CV section, and here's a chance to 'casually' drop in things you've done that show you can dig in and finish the job. It's OK to mention problems you overcame, and the lessons you learned from initial difficulties. Good managers are sceptical of people who claim to glide effortlessly through life, and don't want to be there when such a person hits a rock. Practical ability is therefore something that you will need to demonstrate a little more than theory. You wouldn't have reached this point if you didn't have a respectable record for absorbing theory, so the next step is to see if you can apply what you've learned. When asked your motivation for moving into finance, it's worth asking yourself if this is a reason.

Questions for the interviewer

It is a good idea to have a question thought out in advance - it makes you look interested in the position. You have two objectives when they ask if you have questions for them.

Getting the message across

A question can be a good way of bringing in things you want them to know, or to emphasize a point you want them to remember. You can ask the importance of your experience in MC, C++ or PDEs to the work you'd be doing. This gets the message across, either as a reminder or to bring it to their notice.

Find out more about the job

Good questions are on the direction for the team over the next year, and how your work would help them to get where they want to be. It shows interest, and may give a better insight into what you really will be doing. Although they are interviewing you, it is also the case that they are selling the job to you, since they want you to accept if they offer. So it s up to you to work out whether it s a good job or not.

Remember, do not ask things that you should already know. You should discuss the job and the bank as much as you can with your recruiting consultant ahead of the interview and consult websites and any recruitment brochures. You don t want to give the interviewer the impression that you aren't interested enough in their bank to find out about it before the interview. Interviewers often say that this is the thing that really irritates them most at interviews. Instead, it is good to preface a question with a statement about some achievement that the bank is proud of (i.e. talks at length about their website or on recruitment materials) e.g. 'I know your office won the International Finance Press Award for Being a Bank last year, but could you tell me...'

 
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