Quitting your job: another appropriate time to do the right thing

After months or even years seeking your next career challenge, that coveted change and maybe jumping on to your dream job, don’t fall for the temptation to stage a reckless departure or taking the chance to let out all those grudges that may have built over years with colleagues, bosses or direct reports. Instead, take the opportunity to quit with integrity, and as in many other parts of building your long-term reputation and character, play “the long game”: you will benefit very much in that marathon that is your career.

Before breaking this up, let’s state some obvious facts:

  • Your network will have memory: If you are going to work in Finance in the long run, chances are your network will continue to grow on your current one, meaning that your current “nodes” will be in touch with the future ones. Or put into examples: your current bosses, colleagues and direct reports will be moving around and meeting people that will be important now or in the future
  • How you quit is another reflection of your character
  • An abrupt and impolite departure reflects bad on you, not on the firm you are leaving

How to do it correctly

  • Notice: starting with the formality of it, be mindful of your contract and respect the minimum notice period, that is, let your employer know with at least the minimum anticipation as you agreed when joining (or when you were last promoted). Notice period can go from 2 weeks to months. Just make sure that you tell it directly to your direct supervisor, ideally in person, and with this timeframe in mind
  • Performance: work at a 100% of your capacity until the very last day. This is critical. Do not fall for the temptation of “checking out” in advance; together with the unpleasant memory you can create if you depart suddenly and ungracefully, if after the announcement your supervisor or colleagues find out that you had been slacking or taking it easy because you were on your way out, your reputation will be tarnished.
  • Farewell and a special kind of “thank you note”: make sure you say goodbye to everyone with whom you had established a relationship. Always leave on high ground. Don’t trash your current employer just because you are leaving for (supposedly) greener pastures; a lot of things can happen (like you coming back to the current company, your current employer acquiring your next employer, etc, or as said before, you willing to make your next move and meeting people you may have offended with a rude departure). And when you craft that farewell e-mail (a special variation of a thank you note), thank everyone for the opportunity and the learnings, make special emphasis on those specific mentors you had and make sure that you leave everyone with a good feeling about your time and experience as a team member
  • Thinking of the future: make sure you leave contact details and are connected to your relevant co-workers on LinkedIn. Also, and most importantly, ask for recommendations and honest and brutal feedback upon leaving, from your mentors, or your colleagues and supervisors. As you leave and time passes, people will forget the interactions you had and you will have foregone a great chance to improve.

All experiences matter as you progress in your career; those that you leave on a high note and almost with regret, and those in which it seems that you never find the shiny happy moments and, looking in hindsight, they taught you some of or the most valuable lessons years into the future. I had both extremes and also experiences in between where not enough time had passed and were almost innocuous. But as stated in the first paragraph, this is about playing the Long Game, as Jocko always states in his books and podcasts. Keep it up and continue to do your best every day, to keep writing your story as a Finance professional.

Until the next time.

Breaking into Finance turns one!!

As we celebrate the one-year anniversary we thought we’d bring a special edition with the year in review, trends we have been witnessing in the recruiting side of Finance and also announce the Breaking into Finance Guest Series among other novelties for this “second season”.

BIF Milestones

  • April 2020: pre-launch at Columbia Business School
  • May 2020: full website and Individual/Institutional Program launch in May
  • May-December 2020: delivering the Individual Program and starting to fulfil our mission to help people achieve their networking and recruiting goals in Finance
  • Q1 2021
    • Winter-Spring European live tour at ESADE, IESE and LBS
    • The BIF audience surpasses 250 members
  • Q2 2021
    • On the one-year mark, we launch the BIF Guest Series to bring accomplished professionals to share their experience an advice across the Finance industry

Our clients

Since launching, Breaking into Finance has helped clients in Spain, the UK, the US and Latin America. We have invariably seen solid progress in this 2-way “conversation” which is the Individual Program, resulting in big boosts to the respective networks, increased confidence and performance in interview-settings and, most importantly, landing offers from bulge bracket and boutique banks, consultancy firms, asset management firms while, incorporating a systematic approach to networking to their existing academic and professional backgrounds.

Trends since 2020

Since Q1 2020 the World has undergone accelerated and unpredictable changes, but some trends are emerging and consolidating. We are still observing and coping live with them as we advise clients, and will probably come back to write specific articles about them

  • Are Finance jobs going to be remote or do we really need to be in an office
  • An accelerated economic cycle: big bust and now…boom? (as ever, country by country differences)
  • Finance jobs: will technological progress jeopardise a significant part of the jobs in the industry

New this season

Among the novelties for the new year, we are proud to announce the Breaking into Finance Guest Series: we’ll bring accomplished professionals in a wide range of Finance specialisations, from Equity Research, to Hedge Funds, to Private Equity, to Investment Banking, to Sales&Trading and more. We’ll have the chance to go together through our guests’ careers, the challenges and the lessons learnt, and their successes and take-aways for replication. We hope it will bring you additional insights to improve your candidate profile.

We start with a bang with a star in the Equity Research industry: Alex Fries, Head of European Real Estate Equity Research at Credit Suisse. We covered a lot of ground from his transition from the military into Finance, learnings from difficult interviews, tips for becoming more effective at networking and much more. Stay tuned as we’ll soon upload teaser videos, the full interview and announce the following participants.

Alex Fries visited us for the First Episode of BIF Guest Series

Additionally, we’ll bring later in the year a series of seminars that will go through the journey with the student body: from introductory “what’s in Finance and basic recruiting and networking tools” at the beginning of the academic year (September-November), to “interviewing” around the heavy interview season (December-February) to “advanced networking” in the late season recruiting.

So as ever, we recommend that you stay tuned, subscribe to our periodic newsletter and get in touch if you think that either the Individual or Institutional Programs are suitable for you or your institution, or to discuss any of the topics we bring about. In the meantime, happy networking!

Networking as a long term habit

The “thank you note” after you finally got to meet an interesting network contact, or even the firm offer for that dream job, do not represent the end to the networking effort if you are serious about it and you want it to be a tool that helps you build your career and win “the long game”, as Jocko Willink says.

If you are in pure network expansion phase

The coffee or phone/video chat is not the end, but rather the start. Apart from sending a timely thank you note, you should add your notes in your tracking system, and put a reminder to “future you” on when you should contact again this specific person. In more than one occasion in the past, by following up systematically and throughout the years, I ended up building profitable business relationships and landing dream jobs. In one specific case, it took me 6 years of continued “coffee efforts” every 6 months to get to that desired job; and when to the untrained eye it was “a very lucky strike”, I saw it as “I was at the right place at the right time, because I consistently helped fate” to be there.

You’ve got an offer for a new job, now you can stop networking completely (…not really)

Although one can get tired especially after long recruiting efforts, I strongly suggest that after an appropriate “cool-off period” after landing that job, you resume your networking efforts.

  • First of all, to avoid losing the ability to do it.
  • Secondly, because it will be much easier now that you don’t have the pressure to get a job, but rather do it to continue to meet interesting people, deepen your network and learn about new ideas.
  • Thirdly, you never know when you will need it again for the next job and, as mentioned above, the dream job can take years to mature and depends on building relationships outside of the formal recruiting circles
  • Finally, because your job, either now or in the future, will very much depend on the quality of your network and connections

The reminder: keeping that share of mind and getting a ticket to “be in the right place at the right time”

I have been recommending our clients at BIF to have a master file with their networks and incorporate the ability to set reminders for the next time they need to catch up with each contact. Be as fancy and sophisticated as you like, but make sure that you follow up with the contacts 3 to 6 months after each coffee, especially around “back to school seasons” (ie. after the Summer, or in January), or when you have a “great excuse” like a change in jobs, a new project, or something related to your last conversation/s with the contact.

By forcing yourself artificially, at the beginning, to re-connect with people, it will become an ingrained and long term habit, which will increase dramatically your odds of being at the right place at the right time, for example, calling that contact who will, following a catch up coffee, connect you to the exact contact that will land you your most desired job.

Get in touch to discuss our Breaking into Finance individual program, the core of which is how to start or strengthen your networking abilities, be it for the build-up of your network or getting your next job.

The thank-you-note and beyond

By definition it is simple and innocuous: the thank you note is a short email or message that follows a meeting or an interview, be it in person or on the phone. Another formal aspect: it is advisable that you send it on the evening after the meeting happened or the day immediately after. A final formal aspect to it: if there was a specific follow up set in the meeting or interview, then included it into the thank you note, ie. attach your CV if agreed, send some reading materials you discussed about, etc.

But beyond the formality, my experience after 20 years of networking is that a big majority of people trying to switch jobs or progress their careers, forget about this very simple tool, or, in a minority of cases, use it against themselves. Although it is not as powerful as, by itself,  to secure you a job, it adds one more positive point to your candidacy as it preserves the share of mind you have with your counterparty or potential employer.

Fall of 2007: “You have to love the thank you note!”

To give you some colour into this: a fellow Argentine who was a couple classes ahead of me at Columbia, kindly self-appointed as our investment banking recruiting and networking coach. He had wise words at each step of the process and, in my case, I attribute a good part of my success for the Summer and full time job success to his advise, his crude assessment of progress and his always timely tips.

One of this was an “oda to the thank you note”. Fall 2007…I was complaining about the Nth investment bank event in the week and having to send some thank you notes as I felt exhausted in the evening, when he just said: “No…you are not understanding this game. You need to love the thank you note! Automatize it as much as possible, never mix up names or banks and be the king at it; think that it can be the decisive factor in this fully standardize banking recruitment, all else being equal versus another candidate”.  And never again I complained or forgot to send a thank you note, be it after a networking/recruiting interaction or after business meetings “as a grown up”.

Let’s move to practical things to do and avoid when sending your thank you notes:

DO’s

  • Tone: keep it short and professional
  • Title/subject: don’t get too creative. Unless something specific needs to go into the subject play it safe with something as “Great meeting you today” o “Interview yesterday”
  • Content: 2 or 3 lines. Maybe 4 lines if you are attaching something. And if you agreed on a follow up, put it in the closing of the message.
  • When: Keep the balance between being perceived a stalker (ie. send it as you are making your way down on the elevator) and being “too cool” (sending the thank you note 2 weeks after the meeting).

DON’Ts

  • CV: do not send your CV UNLESS you were asked to do it
  • Mix up names and companies. It can happen, especially if you are in the midst of high-recruiting season during the MBA, but it is a silly way to call into question your “attention to detail” and sometimes just being crossed out because you annoyed the receiver. Do that extra round of review before sending it and and check the name please!
  • Ask for favors: if it was an interview, certainly won’t be the case. If it was a networking meeting, the appropriate time to ask for favors or information is during the meeting. The follow up note might be just to remind something you spoke about but if there is something pressing that you may want to ask, it’s better to not leave it to a thank you note but rather a) Call the person b) Try to meet again c) Send a separate note. Ie. if you come see me and in the process you did not ask me to introduce you to X, Y or Z, don’t put it casually on the thank you note because a) I will probably not do it and b) It will make you look badly for not using the real live chance to ask for it.

Hope you find this useful as you continue to navigate the 2021 recruiting and networking season. On our next Blog article we will come back on a related topic or follow-up to the thank you note. Until the next time, keep your chin up and happy networking.

Alternative audios to the traditional Christmas carols: my favorite podcasts

As that very strange and frequently loathed year drew to an end, we bring this week a Christmas special. As we did in the Summer with a few recommended books, today I share some of my favorite podcasts, as an alternative to the “Christmas song classics” that you have been listening to for the past month. It ends up being related to our usual topics, as many of those I will mention here have finance and investing as their guiding theme, but still a welcome change from the usual discussion about networking, interviewing and finance in general.

Before going to the list, a comment on podcasts: as a fan of time optimisation and exposing myself to learning opportunities, and lacking the time I would like to have to read more books, podcasts (or audiobooks for that matter) fill part of that gap. Be it during commute, during work-out or during a menial house work (ie. I heard Jamie Foxx with Tim Ferriss while preparing 4 dozen empanadas), you can listen to one of your favourite podcast to make use of that time that had the “audio” dimension (or brain engagement dimension) not being used.          

You can go to your application store on your phone or the podcast pages to subscribe and have your gadget let you know and/or download when a new episode becomes available. Warning: don’t get too excited with subscriptions as you may soon find yourself stressed given the backlog of podcasts “to be listened”.

Now, my Top 6 (and some others) podcasts.

  1. The Tim Ferriss’ Show

Podcast webpage

This is my favourite podcast by a big margin. In Tim Ferriss’ own words, his podcast is a weekly space to de-construct World-class performers, from actors, to sport-stars, to journalists, to investors and to entrepreneurs. Tim, who also wrote one of my favourite books (The 4-hour work week), has an impressive intellect and the ability to ask and examine his guests in many different ways so that you learn and can copy from the best, be it their routines, their good habits, the lessons learned from failures, etc. Hard to pick one particular episode but here I go with my top 5 of this amazing show: Tony Robbins (pick one of his many appearances), Jerry Seinfeld, LeBron James, David Yarrow and Jocko Willink (see below his own podcast).

  • The knowledge project

Podcast webpage

Shane Parrish provides another weekly “catch all disciplines” weekly podcasts in which he brings in all sort of top performers, from actors, to doctors, to psychologists and to investors. A particularly thoughtful host, Parrish is very good at re-framing the world into “mental models”. Favorite episodes: Sue Johnson, Howard Marks, Russ Hudson, Bill Ackman and Stephen Scharzman.

Recommendation of my dear friend Alvaro Nuñez

  • Your undivided attention

Podcast webpage

Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin conduct this fantastic podcast which became extremely popular after “The Social Dilemma” (also highly recommendable watch!). Both Harris and Raskin have a successful entrepreneur and big tech background and bring guests and their own insights into the very important debate on how to control technology to avoid it spoiling our lives.

  • The Jocko podcast

Podcast webpage

As defined by Tim Ferriss, Jocko Willink is one of the World’s scariest human beings. A former Navy Seal Officer who served and led the fight for Ramadi in Irak, black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a physically intimidating human being (all muscle, no fat). Jocko’s podcast is an acquired taste. I believe the natural way to get into it is to read both his books (Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership) and then get into the podcast. Instead, I started listening to his podcast (in what was the first podcast I started listening to regularly), as my good friend Gastón insisted a lot on it. Jocko and his program co-host (Ecko Charles) mostly cover military experiences and “human atrocities” as Jocko likes to say. Overall it is a great place to get leadership lessons and see practical examples of Jocko’s system as presented in his books.

  • Value investing with legends

Podcast webpage

Columbia Business School Professor Tano Santos brings this podcast in which guests are legendary investors, mostly from Graham-Dodd’s (or Buffett) value investing school, but also other successful investors. Great initiative by the solid Value Investing program from my alma mater.

  • Invest like the best

Podcast webpage

Patrick O’Shaughnessy leads this weekly podcast where he brings investors and entrepreneurs across all walks of life, providing a great mix of different ideas and systems to explore business and investment from all possible angles. The author is a successful hedge fund manager and is now also starting a series/podcasts on entrepreneurship, also worth exploring.

 A few others awaiting on my list

Other podcasts worth exploring, recommended by different sources. I don’t write a lot about the following as I haven’t heard enough episodes despite them being downloaded in my phone. Peter Attia’s “The Drive”; “Acquired”; A16Z; Masters of Scale; “Where should we begin” (Esther Perel); “Naval” by Naval Ravikant and “Starting greatness” with Mike Maples J.

Hope you enjoy as much as I do. And happy to hear your comments and your own recommendations to tune my podcast library. Next time we come back with our traditional newsletter and some amazing news, events and more that we have in store for Q1 2021 and the new recruiting season.

Part 4 of “Breaking down the interview”: how to approach brain teasers and numeric questions

On our last article ahead of Christmas break we bring another instalment of the series on the different part of the Finance job interview. Today we focus on the numeric questions. These can have many different natures, as brain-teasers, logic questions and or math problems.

The overarching message is: remain calm and be prepared. Besides testing whether you can confirm your experience, CV and savvy you claim to bring to the table, the interviewer will use this segment of to see beyond your rehearsed answers and see you thinking in real time. Furthermore, “cornering” a candidate with a number of tough numerical questions or brainteasers, can be as close to real life as it gets in a 45-60 minute interview, and the interviewer will be able to see you as if you were under stress with a project deadline.

When I was preparing for interviewing in the Winter of 2007, an American banker actually revealed that he liked to throw some brain teasers or simple mathematical questions at the end of the interview (ie. Throwing you tough multiplication as 23 times 338), as this was really as close as you can test the reaction of an associate or analyst when, after the adrenaline and wearing of long nights, you get yet another round of comments to the document or model.

Now let’s look at some practical points:

  • If you know the teaser, tell it to the interviewer and ask to have a different one. It will project honesty and seriousness and send a good signal.
  • Whenever possible, ask if OK to take paper out and sketch your thoughts and the solution. In one further step, a good friend in Argentina who at the time was coaching me to get into Private Equity, suggested I not only asked if OK to take out a note pad, but that also after some minutes of working on a case study, I rolled up my sleeves to show I am ready to work a lot and my potential bosses saw me as an analyst that was ready to work long hours
  • Do not jump into the solution. Rarely are the numeric questions or brain teaser the type of questions you were asked in primary school. For example, when I started interviewing candidates for analysts in PE in Buenos Aires, I used to ask them “What is the amount of hot dogs sold and eaten in the City of Buenos Aires on any given Monday?” Most of the candidates broke down the problem and try to work out some plausible number; however, the weaker candidates threw random numbers up in the air, including one that said “30,000”…seeing my poker face he changed to “300,000”…and then went down to “3,000” to then say “OK what is the number”. So that was the wrong answer!
  • Instead, show them how you think! Explain the steps you take to break down the problem
  • Practice! I can’t say this enough times. Practice at home, at school or in a friend’s office. Practice under real time pressure, so that when the tough numeric question comes up, you are ready to answer.

With the Christmas break almost with us, I take the opportunity to wish you all a happy holiday season, to try and re-connect with your loved ones in this strange year. And after all this happens, use the extra down time to practice for the hopefully busy recruiting season when the New Year comes.

Until then, subscribe to our newsletter or get in touch with us through info@breakingintofinance.info to discuss our BIF Program or anything else we may be of help with.

When the going gets tough, is it better to try and stay in school or go out and face the recruiting market?

The fast answer: it depends. You can argue both ways. On the one hand, being at school, in that “cozy” and friendly environment feels better than going through a tough recruiting environment. On the other hand, it is always great to be out there, facing reality, networking and, if you manage to get your desired job, it will speak greatly about the value of your candidacy.

In my experience, when Lehman Brothers imploded in 2008, recruiting felt ugly, cold and uncomfortable and sitting in a classroom felt like a very protected environment, and the prospects of adding some extra credits, another masters or even a PhD were out there being considered by the student body. In my case, I had no doubt that my choice was to go head first into recruiting; I gave myself no choice than giving 100% to networking and recruiting and that I should get a job offer to be working full time by graduation in the Summer of 2009.

THE CASE FOR STAYING LONGER IN SCHOOL

  • Continuing to add skills that will serve you when you finally graduate and look for a job
  • You can twist and steer your major or specialisation depending on the market moves
  • Procure an exchange quarter or semester to one of your target cities (ie. Go to London if you are somewhere else), to be a student while you are closer to future employers

THE CASE FOR FACING THE MARKET FASTER

  • Continued education has explicit and implicit (opportunity) costs. If you go straight to working (even when it takes longer than wished for) you have no education cost and you start earning money faster
  • By being actively recruiting you are fully connected with the reality of the market, what employers in your sector are looking for and developing connections that will serve you now and in the future
  • The market reality can be brutal at any time, but in the middle of COVID uncertainty, it is not inviting or a friendly place. But if you manage to succeed in this market, it will greatly boost your confidence and put a stamp on your CV

It doesn’t matter which camp you are on, one thing is constant: the need for deep and professionally executed networking. If you decide to continue to be a student, networking should keep you in touch with reality and avoid you looking only with “happy glasses” at the market by the time you graduate. If you decide to shorten your study program or graduate when originally planned, networking will ensure you not only have the formal roads into job opportunities, but also knock all doors, backdoors and windows that can get you a full time job or internship. Case in point of shortening study program: a good friend and star candidate at a leading European MBA, decided to speed up the 2 year MBA program and go face the market 6 months ahead of original graduation; not without efforts and pain, he landed a handful of internship and full time offers and has now agreed to join a top PE firm.

In either case, act with “Extreme Ownership” as Jocko says. If you stay in school, don’t be lazy or just face away from challenges. If you decide to look for your job right away, don’t waste energy complaining about how bad the market is, but rather look for the opportunities and capitalize on them. In both cases, networking and a mentor, will keep you in check, as we always say in our Breaking into Finance program.

Stay in touch at info@breakingintofinance.info and let us know your thoughts and the decisions you are pondering or have made. We are here to help! Until the next one.

Part 3 of “Breaking down the interview”: on strong starts (and how to profit from the “walk me through your resume” question)

Champions or those en route to be champions (with the right momentum) seem to be striking hard since the first minute and after a few minutes in the game they are up by some significant margin, be it tennis, basketball, soccer or whatever sport you like. Personally, I remember that after a tough month seriously preparing for “hell week” of interviews with investment banks in December 2007, I started the marathon of interviews with banks and funds and after a few lukewarm interviews, I nailed systematically the first round interviews, establishing an early advantage at the onset of the interviews.

It was not only because they were remarkably similar, but also because I used correctly the initial “walk me through your resume” question. Is there a magic answer? In my view, it is the time when you drop your perfectly rehearsed, and naturally flowing, “elevator pitch”, maybe in its longer version of up to 5 minutes.

This is “your story”, or the essence of Part 2 of our BIF Individual Program. There are no shortcuts to this; just the hours spent on

  • Getting your end goals right, and writing them down
  • Working backwards the plan on how you will get there
  • And then, re-writing your story up to date, to show the interviewer why you studied what you studied, how you changed jobs and made a series of decisions that led to who you are today.

A few “must do”

  • At all times convey the message that you made each decision.
  • Avoid at all costs talking badly about past or current employers, or your schools
  • Put all things in positive light and be energetic (if you don’t show energy at the beginning, then what can we expect in minute 45?)
  • Avoid talking about confidential information of your current or past jobs (this speaks badly about you as a trustworthy individual).

A strong opening to an interview might clear the way for smooth sailing in the rest of the interview. For those of you familiar with path-dependent exams like GMAT, if you are successful in the initial questions, then an easier set of questions await for you. And as in GMAT, on the contrary, if your answer to the “walk me through” question is a disaster, you show weaknesses, lack of energy or clarity in your goals, it can just open the gates to a nightmare interview.

Let me also add that it is a great confidence booster. So if you nail the first 10 minutes, you will then feel more comfortable in trying “difficult shots” a la Federer, while if you struggled initially, you will just be defensive and try to have the interview finished. And that is sensed by the experienced interviewer (I can see that now on this side of the table). Let me tell you that when I was in Argentina, I used to be one of the interviewees willing for the meeting to end; but once I learned the basic tricks and, above everything, started rehearsing appropriately, I started having occasions in which I actually wanted the interview to continue. I felt many times that I was on a roll, connecting with the interviewing party, hitting all the right buttons and levers. And this is exactly what you look for in an interview.

And you can get to that by starting with the right foot (or nailing the answer to “walk me through your resume”). So keep drilling that elevator pitch, keep rehearsing your interviewing skills and get in touch as you continue to make progress in this 2020/2021 interview season.

Parte 2 de “Desglosando la entrevista de trabajo”: las preguntas difíciles

Como continuación de nuestro último artículo, y dado que muchos de ustedes están entrando, o entrarán pronto en la temporada alta de búsqueda de empleo y entrevistas, presentamos la serie titulada “Desglosando la entrevista de trabajo”, donde en cada artículo discutimos un segmento de una entrevista (que puede durar solo 5 minutos). Hoy, analizamos las preguntas difíciles.

Nuestras recomendaciones básicas son:

• Practicar, practicar, practiar, y mantenerse firme en el plan de juego

• Recordar que algunos entrevistadores simplemente se fijarán en sus puntos más débiles. Yo, por ejemplo, tuve una situación extraña apenas mudarme a Londres en la que un headhunter dijo que no presentaría mi perfil a un fondo enfocado en el Reino Unido porque yo tenía “un acento gracioso” al hablar inglés; años más tarde, ese mismo headhunter se acercó a mi empresa para traerme candidatos (todavía estaba trabajando en Inglaterra, la mayor parte del tiempo trabajando con angloparlantes nativos). Todavía tenía (y tengo) mi acento divertido y claramente el resto de mi perfil de candidato era más fuerte que la debilidad que percibió ese señor.

• No hay respuestas correctas ni perfectas. En la mayoría de los casos, se trata solo de ver cómo reaccionas cuando te enfrentas a un momento tenso.

• Ser lo más minucioso posible, pensando en situaciones o puntos negativos en los que has sido “atacado” en el pasado o que es solo una cosa que, cuando se te pregunta, te pone nervioso.

• Algunas preguntas difíciles habituales

  • Huecos en el currículum (por qué hay algunos meses o tal vez años sin trabajo a tiempo completo). Dedique tiempo a pulir su historia y a tener una explicación para todo en su perfil.
  • Te han despedido
  • Estás intentando mudarte de ciudad/de país
  • Tienes un promedio de calificaciones bajo
  • Te mudas a un lugar donde el idioma principal no es tu idioma nativo (típico de las personas que se mudan a Nueva York o Londres)
  • Estudiaste en una universidad no demasiado fuerte (o no en la típica lista de la que quieren reclutar todos los equipos de RRHH)

Una vez que haya hecho una lista exhaustiva de las preguntas que pueden ser difíciles para tu candidatura

• Tómate el tiempo de responderlas por escrito de manera exhaustiva. Luego, organiza bien el contenido en bullet points.

• Practica leerlas en alto, y reescríbelas cuando sea necesario

• Grábate (audio y video): cuando intentaba cambiar de trabajo en 2013, me grababa respondiendo preguntas difíciles como notas de audio y las ponía en mis auriculares durante el viaje hacia y desde el trabajo. Fue impresionante cómo, de repente, responder preguntas difíciles en las entrevistas se volvió natural y las redujo a una sola pregunta más, más que un drama que puede hundirte y cambiar el curso de una entrevista.

• Pídele a tus “entrevistadores de práctica” (tu pareja, padres, hermanos, amigos), que te interroguen sobre estas preguntas difíciles y que sean malos. Mejor que se transpire en la práctica que no en la entrevista real.

Un par de comentarios finales:

Los entrevistadores son humanos. Y los seres humanos tenemos días buenos y malos. Podría darse el caso de que estén teniendo un mal día y, después de hacer una pregunta difícil de rutina, sigan insidiendo cuando perciben debilidad. Y tal vez otro día hubieran sido simplemente agradables entrevistadores.

Algunas personas simplemente son malas o disfrutan de momentos incómodos para el entrevistado. No puedes hacer mucho si ellos son así, probablemente tuvieran una idea obsesionada de rechazarte desde que leyeron tu CV. Cíñete a tu plan, sé siempre respetuoso y piensa en “el próximo partido” (la siguiente ronda con la misma empresa, el siguiente proceso). Yo, por ejemplo, tuve una entrevista terrible en un banco con sede en Londres en 2010, en la que el entrevistador no me miraba directamente a la cara, me interrumpía cada dos minutos mientras contaba mis experiencias y, en un momento, me paró en seco cuando explicaba una transacción, dijo que era una tontería, y arrojó un bolígrafo sobre la mesa, diciéndome que estuviera en silencio y anotara los flujos de efectivo anuales de la inversión que estaba describiendo. Curiosamente, odié la situación, pero aun así continué con mi plan de juego, y terminé entrando en la ronda final y más tarde, trabajando durante unos años con ese tío tan curioso.

Tu percepción frente a la realidad: cuando te hacen una pregunta difícil o se te pregunta sobre un área de debilidad, puedes sentir que te están bombardeando la entrevista, que está siendo un desastre y que no hay forma de que consigas el trabajo. Bueno, eso es una percepción y si te ciñes a tu plan de juego, estas serán partes naturales de una entrevista y te sorprenderá lo bien que navegas aún en reuniones que no parecen buenas.

Lo importante, como trato de inculcar en cada entrada y en cada consejo que doy: asegúrate de dar el 100% a cada momento, que eres profesional porque incluso cuando una pregunta difícil (o una serie de preguntas difíciles) descarrilan tu candidatura y no recibes la oferta, si sigues tu libreto, todavía sentirás ese impulso interior diciendo “ok, ¿qué es lo que sigue? Hice mi parte, no funcionó esta vez, afrontemos el próximo desafío”.

Nos vemos la próxima vez para la entrada # 3 de esta serie. ¡Seguid dándole duro!

Part 2 of “Breaking down the interview”: on tough questions

As a continuation to our last entry, and given that many of you are entering, or will enter soon into the high season of recruiting and interviewing, we present the series entitled “Breaking down the interviews”, where in each entry we discuss a specific section of an interview (which might only last 5 minutes). Today, we discuss the tough questions, also called curve ball questions.

Our basic recommendations are:

  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse…and stick to your game plan
  • Remember that some interviewers will just be fixated on your weaker points. So be it. I, for instance, had a strange situation when I just moved to London whereby a headhunter said that he would not present my profile to a UK focused fund because I had “a funny accent”; years later, that same headhunter reached out to pitch his company to bring me candidates to the firm I was working on at the time (I was still working in England, most of the time working with native English speakers). I still had my funny accent and clearly was stronger than what this talent hunter perceived.
  • There are no right or perfect answers. In most cases, it is just about seeing how you react when confronted with a tense moment.
  • Be as thorough as you can, thinking bad scenarios or points on which you have been attacked in the past or that it is just one thing that when asked, makes you nervous.
  • Some usual tough questions
    • Gaps in resume (why there are some months or maybe years with no full time job). Spend time polishing your story and having an explanation for everything in your profile.
    • You have been fired
    • You are trying to change geography
    • You have a poor GPA
    • You are not a native speaker of the language in which you will interview and conduct the job (typical of people moving into New York or London)
    • You attended a not so strong university

Once you had made an exhaustive list of what can be tough questions for your candidacy

  • Take time to answer them in writing properly. Then organize them nicely in a few bullet points
  • Rehearse and re-write
  • Record yourself (audio and video) – When I was trying to change jobs back in 2013, I would record myself answering tough questions as audio notes, and play those on my headphones during commute. It was impressive how, suddenly, answering tough questions in interviews became natural and reduced them to just one more question, other than a drama that changed the course of an interview.
  • Ask your mock interviewers, your partner, your parents, siblings, whoever close, to grill you on these tough questions.

A couple final remarks:

  • Interviewers are human. And human beings have bad days and good days. It might be the case that they are having a bad day and after firing a routine tough question, they just keep drilling when they sensed weakness. And maybe on another day they would have been just pleasant interviewers.
  • Some people are just mean or enjoy awkward moments for the interviewee. You can’t do much if they are like that, probably had a fixated idea about rejecting you since they read your CV. Stick to your plan, always be respectful and think of “the next game”. I, for instance, had an awful interview at a London based bank back in 2010, whereby the interviewer was not looking straight into my face, kept on interrupting me as I wanted to explain my experience and at one point, he stopped me on my tracks of explaining a deal, he said it was nonsense, and threw a pen across the table, telling me to be in silence and write down the yearly cash flows of the investment I was describing. Funny enough, I hated the situation but still continued my game plan, and I ended up getting into the final round and later on, working for a few years with that guy.
  • Your perception versus the real thing: when an interviewee is asked a tough question or poked about a weakness area, she/he can feel that he is bombing the interview, that it’s being a disaster and that there is no way you get the job. Well, that is a perception and if you stick to your game plan, these will be natural parts of an interview and you will be surprised how well you navigate.

The important thing, as I try to instil in every entry and in every piece of advice I give: make sure you give 100% to each moment, that you are professional because even when a tough question (or series of tough questions) does derail your candidacy and you don’t get the offer, if you played by the book, you will still get this kick inside saying “ok, what’s next. I did my part, didn’t work, let’s take on the next challenge”.

See you next time for entry #3 of this series. Keep it up!