Student Space - Career Tips from Seniors

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SAA E-RECRUITING MENTORSHIP PROGRAM

UNOFFICIAL TIPS (Courtesy of Mayuri Shah, Leverett House, '08)

GENERAL

  • If you're a freshman or sophomore considering a financial internship this summer, STOP. Not only will the work you get be uninteresting, because no one will take you seriously, it's also a waste of your time. These are the last 15 weeks that you're going to have all to yourself so make full use of it; do whatever you've wanted to do. Go explore a new country. Get out of your comfort zone. That's going to make you a much more interesting person that a finance job and will give you something to talk about at interviews.
  • Don't worry about getting a leg-up by doing a finance job sophomore or freshman year. Companies don't expect you to have any experience in finance when applying for internships in junior year.
  • If you are a junior and at all interested in finance, strongly consider applying for banking internships. Consulting is much easier to break into senior year, whereas finance positions highly stress prior experience in the industry. Some banks do not even recruit seniors because they give offers to enough students from the internship pool.
  • At least initially, apply for many companies. It is hard to know how selective firms will be, so do not be picky. You can always cancel interviews but you do not want to regret being too choosy and ending up with no interviews.
  • Don't lie on a resume. Chances are that you might quizzed on your skills.
  • The interview is mutual; if you don't like the interviewers, you probably won't like working there as these are the people you'll be working with on a day to day basis.
  • Come up with two resumes for financial/quant jobs and one for general consulting/less quant jobs. Restructure your resume such that the quant stuff is on top for the former; put your non quant extra-curriculars on top for the latter.
  • You're a Harvard graduate and in the outside world that means a lot more than what it might actually be worth. You're going to find something to do at the end of the day. There is never any reason to stress out.

INTERVIEW (FIT PORTION)

  • Personality goes a long way. Go into the interview talking about something you're passionate about because that makes you seem more relaxed and much more interesting. No one wants to work with someone bland.
  • Second round interviews are really long. Eat something beforehand and buy a snack or sandwich at the airport. You'll be sated and you can bill it to the company.
  • Use every question to make the case for why you should get a job. Though you will obviously be discussing the specifics of a particular activity, remember the qualities the firm is looking for and make sure that comes across. For example: If you researched in South America last summer, do not spend your entire time talking about how it was great learning about the culture. While that may be true, it does not give a firm reasons to hire you. Talk about being a self-starter in getting the research going, how you led the research team on a particular topic, how you had to be really creative when you came across a problem you were not expecting, etc. You are always trying to sell yourself and your story in an interview.
  • Have the answers to the following questions down pat: “Why consulting/banking/trading/etc.?” “Tell us about a time you worked on a team” “What are your three biggest weaknesses” “Tell us about a time you failed and how you learned from it?”
  • Sometimes you might get asked “Why are you here?” the first thing after you sit down at the interview table. This is a variation of “Why consulting/banking/trading/etc.?”
  • Practice fit questions with a roommate, preferably one that is not doing recruiting. They’ll be able to tell you best whether your story is believable and compelling.
  • Be familiar with questions generally asked by the company; if you can't talk to someone who has interviewed there, possible insights could be found on this website.
  • Be prepared to talk about your hobbies. For example, if you mention a particular genre of books, be prepared to talk about your favorite ones and why you liked them. If you've done relevant research in the path, go back and make sure you can discuss it at some level of detail.
  • Be prepared to quantify your accomplishments (raised money vs. raised 20,000 dollars). This should be reflected in your resume.
  • Any bullet point under work experience extracurriculars, or leadership experience (even if you think it’s marginal) is fair game.
  • Write your questions and some facts about the company on the front page of your legal pad. It shows that you've done your homework, and it also reminds you of your questions.
  • When they ask "How are you?" very casually at the very beginning, always say "I'm doing great," or something positive. Never say "I'm ok." or anything negative.

CASE INTERVIEWS

  • Practice, practice, practice! Skimming over Case in Point is helpful to get a sense of what cases are like and some general frameworks, but do not waste too much time on this. Practice as much as you can with live people (ie don't just read over cases).
  • Recognize that the cases offered by different firms are very different; while Case in Point is a useful introduction, some of the best cases I did came from company websites, since it each firm seemed to have a different style.
  • Know two ways of approaching market sizing questions - top down and bottom up (in Case in Point).
  • When the interviewer asks you the question, repeat back the information you got. You don't want to get the answer wrong just because you wrote down a wrong number or didn't hear something.
  • NEVER jump right into the case. Take a minute to structure your thoughts. The silence feels awkward, but it is totally acceptable. I like to say: “May I have a few moments to gather my thoughts?” You can use this in the middle of a case when doing math. This way you don’t just stop talking and work on math. They know what you’re doing.
  • Structure your answer. Tell the interviewer the main things you would like to look out, but also have a sub-structure (i.e. structure each part of the answer). For example, do not just answer a profitability question by telling them the profit equation. Say something to the extent of, "There are 3 areas I would like to look into: the market, our client's costs and revenues. In regards to the market, I would like to understand 4 things: how the market is doing, who our competitors are, what market share they have, and if we have been gaining/losing share..."
  • Write down the math problems carefully! It is usually simple math, but those 0's really mess people up. Also let your interviewer see your math as you do it (even talk through it with them), so they can stop you if you make a mistake, rather than trying to figure out what went wrong at the end.
  • At the end, when you get asked “You run into the CEO of your client in an elevator and he asks you to summarize what you’ve found in 30 seconds or less,” don’t take the time constraint literally. You can take up to a minute. First, don’t speed how fast you talk. Second, start from the basics and go through ALL your relevant reasoning. In my experience, the interviewers like if you present your final conclusion (and you should have one by this point) with confidence.
  • Always prepare questions for the interviewer. A good formula is to have 2 questions: 1 about the company that shows you have done your research and another about the interviewer's experiences (you usually get their biography before the interview). Once again, write these down on your legal pad.
  • Also recognize that practicing cases with friends is very different than doing them in interviews. So sometimes, even if you don't think you'd accept a job at a particular consulting firm, it is really useful to try to get an interview (especially if it's early in the process) so you can practice in an actual interview setting. I've found actual case interviews to be much better practice for future interviews than anything else.
  • Doing a case and/or a few mental math problems right before serves as a good warm up and gets you in the right mode of thinking.

QUANTITATIVE INTERVIEWS

  • 3 primary things you want to get across: analytical aptitude, interest in finance and particularly investing, and being personable
    • Whether it's through brain-teasers or direct content-based questions, almost all hedge funds will test you on how much you remember from classes, and how fast you can think on your feet. Especially for quant funds, they don't care much about your extracurricular activities. Focus much more on being able to talk about your coursework and any research papers / projects you've worked on.
    • Hedge funds are in the business of investing, and they'd ideally like someone who has an interest, if not a demonstrated passion, in doing so. You should be able to convincingly explain why you'd rather invest than be a trader, banker, or consultant.
    • Even though hedge funds are known for being more casual and eccentric than the average finance job, personality still matters. in my experience, it's often the deciding factor in later rounds of interviews -- they want someone who is fun to work with, and will respond well to pressure and criticism.
  • It’s a good idea to brush up on expected values, regressions, and option pricing.
  • There are brainteasers all over the internet. Just Google them.



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