Be polite

Your mother told you this would be important one day, this is the day. 'Please, 'thank you, and actually looking as if you are listening are good things. Fidgeting, playing with your tie, or looking like you d rather be somewhere else aren't polite. Standing when people come into the room is good. Occasionally you will find it appropriate to disagree, this is good, but get in the habit of using phrases like 'I m not sure if that s the case, perhaps it is....

You can t just wake up one day and be polite on a whim. (Hint: 'Pretty Woman' is fiction, we know this for a fact.) Without practice, it may even come over as sarcasm. In some languages 'please and 'thank you are implied in the context of the sentence, and that habit can spill over into English. Break that habit, break it now.

Practice sounding positive about things.

Of the things you can change between now and your interview, this one may have the biggest payback. If you've been doing calculus for a decade, you aren't going to improve much in a week. However, you become better at presenting yourself as someone who s easy to work with.

This is so important because your team will spend more waking hours together than most married couples, and senior people want to know you will 'fit in.' Like much of this whole process it s a game. No one really cares if you have a deep respect for your fellow man, but if you can emulate it well under pressure it s a difference that makes no difference.

Be true to yourself

You are selling yourself, so obviously you will be putting a positive spin on things. However, this is a career, not a job. If you feel the job may really not be what you want, then it s important that you think that through. If in the interview you hear something that sounds bad, ask about it. This does not have to be confrontational; you can use phrases like 'How does that work out in practice?' and 'What sort of flexibility is there to choose the work?' when told you're going to be counting buttons for the first six months.

Do not sound as if you work for Accenture

Even if you do work for Accenture or Arthur Andersen, you don't want to sound like you do. Avoid the sort of management speak that resembles Dilbert cartoons. A common type of interview question is of the form: 'You find that something has gone terribly wrong, what would you do about it.' An Accenture answer is 'I would see it as a challenge that would allow me to work as a good team player, as part of the global synergy'; or perhaps you might respond 'I will grasp the opportunity to show excellent leadership in integrity' which is interview suicide.

This part may sound quite silly, but there is a growing trend for some universities to have formal coaching in interview technique. In theory this should be very useful. In theory. The real practice is rather scary. It frustrates interviewers a lot to be faced with an obviously bright candidate who parrots cliches that some consultant has fed into him. We say at the beginning that you need to stand out, and given that the people you are competing with may well include people from your institution, it does you very little good.

By all means listen to these people, but take it with a pinch of salt. When you know little about the process, it's easy to give too much weight to the few things you get told.

Interview overlap

It is tempting to schedule lots of interviews as closely together as possible, because travel does eat into your budget. You should be very conservative about the amount of time you allow for each interview. It's not easy to get a manager to speed up his process because you want to get across town to talk to one of his competitors. The worry about time, just like lateness, can reduce your effectiveness, so make sure this doesn't come up.

To find out more about this quant-job guide please send either of us an email (Dominic Connor, This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it , or Paul Wilmott, This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ).