Key questions to ask at the end of an interview that may push you closer to that offer

You’ve been through the explanation of your background, story and why you want this job; you’ve succeeded in answering a few tough questions or curve balls; you did a good job in answering some brain teaser or technical questions; and at the end of the interview, they ask you the simple closing question of “Do you have any questions for me (us)?”, you blank, and you ask some silly “get me out of here” questions like “So, what’s the next step of the process?” or worse, “No, I don’t have questions on my end”.

Don’t get me wrong, just by answering smart questions at the end of an interview after you have done poorly, won’t get you the job or the ticket to the next round. But if you have done a good job overall, asking bad closing questions can spoil your performance; let’s put it in mathematical terms: asking smart, well-thought questions at the end of an interview is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

It is part of the 4th and final step in our Program, as we prepare to rise, shine and get the offer from that coveted job. Below we share a few specific and other generic questions you will find useful. I must confess that in the beginning of my career I dropped the ball many times by blanking or having just procedural questions, so I would have loved to read this list. Let’s get into it.

On your interviewer background

I mention it to the point of exhaustion: in the era of Internet, it is unforgivable to go to an interview and not having done at least a basic news-run on your interviewer, the team and the firm. Starting with the interviewer, remember that we are all humans and even seemingly super-human Managing Directors like to have “their egos massaged” then, without being too obvious, ask about their achievements and listen as they share their past experience:

  • Why did you join this firm? And how does it compare with previous experiences?
  • What deal / transaction / project are you most proud of in your career?
  • What was the most challenging moment during your career and why?
  • (On specifics of interviewer education): What made you take this or that decision and study X at Y University?

On the specific team you would be joining

  • How do you evaluate performance at the end of the year?
  • What do you like about working on this team? (this can give you further intel on the different team members and dynamics)
  • Who shall I be spending most of the time with if I joined? (always respect the hierarchies and don’t insinuate you will be talking to partners and managing directors)

On the firm

  • What are the key strengths of the firm? (discussing historical as well as forward looking)
  • What are the key values of the firm and how are those relevant in attracting/retaining top talent?
  • What are the biggest challenges, in your view, for the Company at this time?
  • What type of training do you have for junior team members?
  • Can you share some insights on how the Company has been adapting / preparing / responding to the COVID19 environment?

On the market

  • What is your view on the market / the economy / the specific sector in which the firm operates? And how are you / the team working to have an edge?
  • How do you see the industry evolving (Technologically, consolidation, etc)? Do you think COVID will accelerate existing under-currents of change?

On your career / junior professionals evolution

  • What are the characteristics you have seen repeating in successful young professionals?
  • If I was to get an offer to join, what could I do ahead of starting to be more prepared?
  • What would you say would be my growth / career path if I joined the firm?

So ahead of your next interview, pick a few of these or prepare your own, and be sure you have them under your sleeve to end the interview on a high note. There is no specific formula or defined order for these; just make sure you have a few rehearsed questions and you sort them / ask them depending on how the interview went.

We are looking forward to your feedback on this article or on anything other topic on our Blog, and don’t forget to get in touch if you have questions about our Individual or Professional Programs. We will get in touch ASAP if you reach out at info@breakingintofinance.info.

Until the next time.

3 finance classics and other recommended books for your Summer Break

This week’s newsletter is a holiday season lite version. It is Summer Time in the Northern Hemisphere and it is that time of the year when many of us struggle in the last minute-packing to grab reading materials and books. If you are like me, you probably have a “to read” books list; in that case, just add these if you like the recommendations. If not, just consider them as potential reads during your time-off.

As everything in life, this list is subjective and by no means I intend it to be everyone’s favorite. Furthermore, I probably left out here a lot of books as I combined pure Finance books with some leadership & “understanding what’s behind the World” books. If you like this initial selection, I will come back with more suggestions on Finance, biographies, effectiveness and productivity, leadership, etc. But for now, let’s dive into the list:

Monkey business (John Carew Rolfe): a must-read book for those just getting into or trying to get into the realm of Corporate Finance/Investment Banking. Describes the life of young bankers in the, maybe outdated now, world of investment banking of the 1980s, as they dealt with “basic training” and other tough situations that analysts go through. Link here.

Liar’s poker (Michael Lewis): a masterpiece by Lewis based on the Salomon Brothers legendary team led by Louis Ranieri, when the junk bond market was starting to grow exponentially. Might also be a bit outdated, but still a must read to achieve the “finance junkie” status. Link here. I also strongly suggest you listen to the interview that Tim Ferriss did to Michael Lewis in his Tim Ferriss Show podcast.

Barbarians at the gate (Bryan Burrough and John Helyar): a thorough and entertaining review of the foundational Private Equity deal whereby KKR (Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts) took private the mighty conglomerate RJR Nabisco for over $20 billion. Happening during the late 1980s in the US, in the era of fictional character Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas in “Wall Street”), when buyout firms started getting bigger thanks to the growth of leverage finance and a market that was ripe for leveraged buy-outs (LBOs). Link here. There is also a movie, but I must confess its not as good as the book.

Extreme ownership (Jocko Willink and Leif Babin): not a finance-specific book, but an amazing “life manual” by former Navy Seals Willink and Babin. Very helpful to organize your thoughts and polish your methods towards being a great leader, all based on the foundational stone of discipline; it instills in the reader the idea that leadership happens even when you are at the bottom of the pyramid, and by following this method you can lay the foundation to a very successful career (in Finance or elsewhere). Link here. There is a sequel to this book and also, Jocko has quite a special weekly podcast on leadership and discipline.

Antifragile (Nassim Taleb): not the first success by Taleb (that would be “Fooled by randomness”) but this is one that stuck on my mind with the concept of anti-fragility that I hadn’t thought about before, as that characteristic of things that are the opposite of fragile. Things, systems, countries, teams, companies, etc, that get stronger the more uncertainty, disorder and adversities you put in front of them. Aligned with many principles I remark when discussing the systematic approach and keeping the chin up on the face of adversity. Link here.

Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell): another non-Finance specific for the last of this list. Analyzes in a very organized way success and successful people in many walks of life and that, surprise-surprise, also highlights the importance of being systematic and resilient, while being mindful that being at the right place and the right time helps; or said in a simple way, work and train a lot (10,000+ hours according to the author) and make sure you help your luck or are ready to profit when luck strikes. Link here.

BONUS

Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand): one of the few fiction books I’ve read in the past 10 years, and one that in this era of radical views and debates, can easily attacked as it is a strong case for capitalism. This is my favorite book of all times, recommended to me by a very good friend from Baltimore. Without spoiling the story and its magic, I will tell you first, that it is a 1,000+ pages book (so plan to have time to read it, and probably best on electronic format). Second, it is a great story written by a writer that fled Russia after the Bolshevik revolution, who established herself in the US and, writing this novel in the 50s, captured the essence of a fictitious World that globally turned to populism and where the entrepreneurs and capitalists, one by one, disappear, as they are forced out by countries crumbling under the inefficiency of big states. Fantastic piece that unfortunately finds real life representation in all the colors of populism in the World in 2020. For those of you that go through it, you will be able to tell me “Who is John Galt?”. Link here.

Hope you enjoy one or many of these books and that we find a chance to compare notes. Keep your mind active and re-charge the batteries for what comes after the Summer. And for now, cheers from the Balearic Islands.

I got laid off, what shall I do next? We present you with a practical action plan

Unless you are working for yourself, being laid-off is a scenario that you might be confronted with at some point in your career. In periods of uncertainty and turmoil, lay-offs tend to be widespread and your probabilities of getting through that sour moment are higher. Today’s article is not going to make you forget about that painful conversation or any uncomfortable feelings that the situation generates, but rather try to give you an actionable “turnaround” plan to make the most out of this unwanted situation.

Unless you did something illegal or unethical, nothing to be ashamed of

Unless you have done something illegal or unethical, this is a normal thing that can happen to anyone working for a third party. And nothing to be ashamed of, or however you might call that feeling. Especially at times like this, many companies need to adjust the size of the teams.

First things first: deal with grief and get things off your chest (with those in your corner, not with your former boss)

Make it short, don’t pity yourself too much but also, don’t expect to be at full productivity one hour after having been let go by your now former boss. The important message here is go through a few, pre-determined steps to get back on your feet and have a clear mind as soon as possible (ie. Don’t go on a “Leaving las Vegas” type of alcohol journey).

A good suggestion we have for you: get things off the chest and not just talking to friends, family or partners: write your thoughts on the last job, what you liked and didn’t liked, what you did right and wrong, the next things you want to do and any other brainstorming ideas that come to your mind. Putting things on paper clears the mind for me; and it is useful to come back and pick for your formal action plan.

Find the right habits to get you back into a job quickly

  • Exercise and be healthy: in line with not drinking yourself to death, and even though it is not the main topic of this page or blog, exercising and keeping your body healthy can be central to be centered and a strong candidate for when the time to shine comes. A few suggestions (mostly free) that don’t require spending money or getting into crazy new sports: 1) do cardio outside early in the mornings (ride your bike, go for a run or any other cardio option, with uplifting or inspiring music) 2) get into yoga (a great free yoga-for-beginners library here) 3) Work-out at your gym or, if you don’t like going to the gym do these body-weight workouts at home (you will only need a chair and little more), doing 2-3 cycles at a time.
  • Routine: create your routing for work-days, in order to follow a pattern that a) does not lead you to go 24/7 on an job-search spree and b) gives you discipline to avoid binge-watching series on the streaming menu.
    • Allow yourself to rest: schedule your routine such that you have proper night sleep and don’t do it over in the weekends
  • Meditation: add a peaceful mind to a healthy body and a good routine and you will be fully centered and a candidate that more and more employers will be willing to hire. I have no interest in this company but just recommend a place for beginners at the Meditation game (click here for Headspace website). Although it may not be the best time to start meditating, the essence of mindfulness is really handy in this situations, as you need to be able to see the broader picture, contemplate your mind without getting into “fighting” each and every thought that comes with regards to your last job (if only I did this different or “why me” or “I am so unlucky”). Just try and get into the mood of letting the thoughts pass, acknowledge them and, with a calmer mind after meditating, start your day (or get back to your search process in case you are not doing it at the beginning of the day)

Do not wait until August is over

  • Yes, you may take some days off, or even go on that holiday that was already planned and paid for but be back as soon as possible and try to be productive ahead of September 1st
  • Be aware that as in any crisis, some firms over-did the reduction of teams, while other firms start getting the rush because they did not hire enough analysts/associates out of masters programs and even more, some other firms in “hot” sectors (like restructuring/turnaround shops) need to get work done and need to hire people (in industry parlance: “they need bodies” at the bottom of the pyramid).

This line of argumentation tries to get that edge for doing a bit of sacrifice: if you wait until it is September, you will be on the same level with everyone that decided to wait to look for a job until coming back to your home-town. If you get into your state of flow while everyone else is sunbathing, you will have an edge!

Time to “BIF-up” your candidacy

At this critical time for your career, the Breaking into Finance program can guide your effort through its 4 pillars:

  1. Review and reinforce your story: use this involuntary break to review and redefine your story as needed. Also, not the time to be especially picky on your next job but this can be an awakening to change to a different sub-sector
    1. Re-vamp your marketing materials: polish your CV, your elevator pitch and especially, be ready discuss openly and firmly your being laid off.
    1. Networking: get your action plan ready and start approaching people that maybe closer to you and that you know are working and not on holidays. For those you are not close enough and/or are positive they are on holidays, have everything ready to shoot those networking messages in September.
    1. Practice interviews: become that “very focused professional” (aka. Weirdo) rehearsing the interview skills at the beach or by the pool, as much as needed. Forget about what they may call you; better to be ready for when the next interview comes.

Closing thoughts

In many cases being fired or being denied that fair promotion leads people to thrive in the job that was actually right for them. I am not saying that you will become the cliché or movie story saying “this is the best thing that happened to me”; but sometimes a slap in the face helps us re-channel our energies.

As it is always the case from Breaking into Finance, we invite you to focus your energy in solving the problem (getting a job) while keeping a positive attitude that without doubt will show in your interview. In this, it is essential the piece on meditation.

Chin up! And remember one of our launching mottos: this too shall pass. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any comments on this or any other article; visit our Services to see how we can be of help; or just reach out at info@breakingintofinance.info.

How to shine in the job interview (remote or in person) – Breaking into Finance practical advice for success in that last step of the journey

Today we talk about the last part of the journey towards your first or your next job in Finance: the interview process. By this time you will have passed, in one way or another, through the soul-searching for what you want to do, you will have prepared killer marketing materials and you will have networked to get into the process or to learn more about the industry. You will have also be successful enough to get into the situation of being interviewed.

Now, it is your time to shine and get that job offer.

Foreword about “naturals” to interviewing: some people seem to be born to be interviewed, successfully securing offers from every recruiting process that they participate in.

In case you are not one of those people (as was the case of this article’s author), this article summarizes 7 points of our suggested strategy and training for a successful interview.

  1. Confidence: if you are going to be interviewed, it means that someone at the firm (or more than one person) thinks you are worth the time to meet you. Use that as a confidence booster and as the starting point of the preparation.
  2. Your story: rehearse the short and long version of your story and be ready to answer easy and tough questions on any aspects or point of your career, in a sharp (and short) manner. When it comes down to previous experiences: always talk on a positive note about previous employers; know by heart any numerical details of your experience; make a trip down memory lane in advance of the interview, as it won’t be appropriate or advisable to try and remember details when you are in the interview, under pressure.
  3. Technical preparation: rehearse answering the typical finance questions on transactions, financial statements, economics, etc. Spend time on preparing for brainteasers and other logic questions.
  4. Research the company and your interviewer/s: in 2020 there is no excuse for not knowing what your potential employer is up to, and what is the background of the person/s interviewing you.
  5. Hard questions: writedown those tough questions (the ones that make you sweat when thinking about them), and the answers you would give. Review, rehearse, re-write. Record yourself (audio and/or video) and be ready to fire back those bulleted answers whenever you get the curve balls during the interview.
  6. Practice makes perfect: do as many mock-interviews as possible. It will then be very natural to be letting your pitch out live.
  7. Get psyched-up and show up on time: usewhichever ritual you have to get psyched-up on the big day and, as trivial as it may sound, plan very well your commute to the interview venue, and be there 10 to 15 minutes ahead of start time. As many things in life, a lot of good things happen to people just for showing up, and for showing up on time.

As you can see, our advice goes mostly to preparation and getting psyched-up for the interview. We cannot tell you “do this in minute 5” or “do that whenever they say X”, as the interviews will always be different, and you will have to improvise; but improvise on solid ground and rehearsed responses.

In our Individual Program we work with mock interviews, which is a great way to prepare, and without going through our program, it is available to you: get your partner, your parents, your siblings, your friends or whomever can lend you 30-45 minutes of their time, to go through the interview. It shouldn’t be a surprise that probably in the past, you find yourself being more confident, convincing and sharp after going through many processes and rounds of interviews. Then that’s why point 6 (practice makes perfect) is a well-known secret, that many people choose to ignore. If you have to keep only one idea from this article, then this is it: GO PRACTICE.

A few words on remote interviews

One of the things that changed due to COVID is that interviews, and even internships or full-time jobs, are happening remotely. A few words then on remote interviews:

  1. It is the real thing: Take the interview as seriously as if they were in person.
  2. Connectivity: Make sure your gadget and the agreed platform for the interview works (and that you have a back-up plan).
  3. Dress-code: Dress fully (ie. No shorts+flip flops+jacket). Imagine there is an unexpected visit or emergency at home and you have to stand up and they see the “costume”; but even if that doesn’t happen, you will feel more confident wearing the whole attire.
  4. Be on time: can’t stress this enough. With remote interviews there are no excuses for traffic jams or other delays. Connect a few minutes ahead of time!
  5. Set-up/background: Ensure a professional set up (ie. No pets, or interruptions or noises)
  6. Eye contact: make sure to make eye contact with your interviewer; non-trivial tip: check where on your gadget you need to look at to direct your eyesight to your interviewer. Also, remember to smile at your counterpart!
  7. Listen: check periodically that you are being heard and, as if you were having the interview in person, use the silences and allow the other side to speak as well.
  8. Body language: don’t stay frozen. Move your hands and your body as if you were sitting on one of your interviewers’ chair. Move a bit, adjust your posture, use your hands if that’s your natural way of speaking. Try to connect!
  9. Support materials: take advantage of the remote set up to keep your CV and one or two other clear documents in your eye sight (but not visible to your interviewer).

As we have been discussing for the past few weeks, practice makes perfect, and it is always a great use of your time to be 100% ready for your next interview. I have been hearing lately that the amount and frequency of interviews is going up after the draught in April and May, so polish your star-interviewee skills and get ready to shine to get that offer.

Remember that the last module of our Breaking into Finance program is all about the interview process. Get in touch if you want to get more information, or if you want to discuss anything on this article or the blog. Send us an e-mail to info@breakingintofinance.info. Until the next time!

Improve your networking skills with this Breaking-into-Finance decalogue

Decálogo de networking de Breaking into Finance

Networking lies at the center of every effort to get into Finance for the first time or to take the next step in your career. Because even when you are taking the formal route of applying to a job through your university or a job-page, networking will provide you with an edge by being connected with people in the industry, having practiced your pitching and other interpersonal skills, and becoming more of an insider before, during and after the formal interview process.

I have spent most of my life as a Finance professional networking to be a better professional, calibrate my next move or, as I became more senior, to generate new business, revenues and profits.

The recipe, however, is always the same for us at Breaking into Finance, and we summarize it today as a decalogue.

  1. THE LIST: the starting point and the element that will concentrate your efforts is growing the list of target companies and contact people at those companies. If you are starting from scratch start dreaming big and putting only there your ideal employers, and then continue to grow it with smaller firms, related companies, headhunters, etc. The key to your list is to always come back to it, keep notes and always make clear markings for the next steps, setting reminders for next contacts, etc. It might not be obvious but a relationship that starts today with a coffee with a stranger and evolves with periodic meetings and e-mail, might result in getting your desired job in 6 years: I can attest to that! (E-mail me if you want the details).
  2. Spend time and be creative to make your list grow: if you want to do successful networking, you should take networking as a part-time job or full-time job, if you are at full speed trying to originate new opportunities. Also, think beyond LinkedIn and Google to get ideas and “leads” to make your list grow bigger. Who was your high-school classmate that entered into banking? Didn’t your sister in law know someone at that fund? I found that when you are spending significant time in growing your network, you start “seeing the Matrix” and make more and more associations that lead to productive coffees or conversations.
  3. That what you measure you can improve: use whichever analogue or digital tool you prefer, but create an interactive tracker that allows you to add notes and follow up steps to each row in your list (step 1).
  4. Reach-out / say bye to shyness: as a kid I was shy, and I am still not a big fan of picking up the phone and go on a telephone call spree. However, I forced myself to progressively do those calls I initially dreaded, by always following the same steps: having a script in front of me, putting myself into a good state before the call by smiling or playing a song I like and then go on and making that call. It will become natural! And the same goes to getting out there and having face-to-face meetings.
  5. Make it face to face, when possible: make your network grow, one coffee at a time. It is always better to make it in person, as you will interact, see each other’s body language and it will be good to put a face to the name. In COVID19 times it maybe tougher to meet in person, but you should still try. If not possible, go for a video-conference, to at least see how the person looks like.
  6. Find a mentor: with the purpose of getting advice, keep your efforts in check and provide extra discipline, as you will have to prepare every time you are bound to see your mentor. An important note: mentorship is a bilateral thing, so make sure that if you want someone to mentor, that person is willing and able to do it. Doesn’t have to be many years your senior though, when possible, these mentor/mentee relationships are the most productive.
  7. Realize you are not bragging, you are just selling yourself. In my experience, we Latins/Southern Europeans tend to be talkative, but when it comes down to sell our strengths, we become shy or “let the employers discover it with time”. Which is the wrong approach for a short, targeted period of recruiting, and one in which you are putting yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage. Rehearse talking about your achievements as well as practicing how to rebate the most apparent weaknesses you may have, and you will suddenly be a more valuable candidate, even when at the core, your experience, education or skills, hasn’t changed at all!

And three things to be aware of

  1. The enemy within: many times you are your own worst enemy, sabotaging your own efforts, procrastinating, or thinking you can’t do it, that they won’t hire, you, etc.
  2. Social agenda: whether you are in your MBA, your masters or your undergrad, or just working and feeling “the next beer with your colleagues is way more fan than researching for your next job”, you will sometimes have to skip some of the fun to increase your chances of success
  3. A marginal effort (in terms of time) rarely produces big changes. Looking for a job or your next career step needs to be taken seriously. So as implied in the previous point 9, make the conscious effort to block out some time each day

Keep the chin up and don’t get discouraged! I usually compare networking to fighting “guerrilla” style; it is constant, it is spread-out, and you rarely see a linear progression. And especially in these convoluted times, it can be even more discouraging. But paradoxically, these are the times when spending most of your extra time or extra energy on networking, will produce the extra results that allow you to be that respected professional that managed to make a great transition or career move in the midst of the worst uncertainty crisis in many years.

At Breaking into Finance we are ready to help you. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have comments or question on this articles, or if you want to learn more about our Services: the Individual Program or the Institutional Program.

Until the next time.

Do I need to take an MBA to get into or advance my career in Finance? The short answer is “NO…BUT…”

My graduation at Columbia in 2009

One recurring question the up-and-coming Finance professional asks oneself is whether doing an MBA is mandatory in order to progress in your Finance career. I went through the “MBA or no MBA dilemma” 15 years ago, in 2005; later on pursued my MBA at Columbia Business School and have been in touch with Columbia and other business school students in the US and in Europe.

So here goes my answer to the dilemma: you do not necessarily need an MBA to advance your career or come closer to your goals. However, if pursuing that MBA fits in well in your life plan, it will be a great boost and great contribution towards being a “well rounded” professional.

Why you should do it?

  • It greatly increases your chances of progressing or getting into finance, by plugging yourself into your MBA school’s student and alumni network and connecting you to more potential employers.
  • It is a great life experience: the reason why so many people get into formal MBA programs each year is not only an economic/professional one. A big part of it will be enriching your life with 1 or 2 years of social and professional experiences and building life-long friendships.
  • It will be a great social time, for single or married students. It will be unique point in your life when you are not a very young adult, you have some money in the pocket and you have a big group (depending on class size) of like-minded people with whom to socialize, travel, create companies, network, etc.
  • It is a good investment: education is, in general, a great investment (see Patience on the list of things to consider). In the case of doing an MBA, that investment can actually materialize in a multiplier to your revenues and the “terminal value” of your career.
  • It can be the pivotal change you are looking for: you may use your MBA for a geographical or career change. I did the former to move from Latin America to New York first, and to London later; and it is a very nice and orderly way to transition into your desired professional destination.
  • Anyone that is considering doing it SHOULD DO IT. Otherwise, you will find yourself 15 years from now asking why you didn’t do it when you had to

What things you should consider? (it’s not all rainbows and sunshine)

  • It is not the silver or magic bullet. It helps a lot, especially if you join a school that is strong at the specific sector you are aiming at; but it will still require effort on your side.
  • There is no “one size fits all” MBA. Two people in the same learning team, in the same cluster and in the same year in b-school can have dramatically different experiences. Because as with most things in life, the outcome will vary depending on your interest, the energy spent and the goals towards which you are using the time at school, its resources, its alumni network, etc.
  • Consider the cost: the direct tuition and living expenses, as well as the opportunity or foregone income cost.
  • Patience: the benefits can be relatively immediate, as it happens to someone coming from emerging markets and working full time in New York or London after school, with a 3-4x multiplier on pre and post school jobs. Or someone achieving the jump to the dream job right through the MBA. However, in many cases it might take you a longer journey to reap the career and economic goals. Just be patient! I can tell you that the effort finally pays off.
  • Social time: you will have a great time in any school you pick. But don’t fool yourself: go to the best school that is on your reach and your target, ie. The best brand that you can get on your CV.

A final consideration of online versus in person: due to the global lock-down, classes of 2020 and 2021 had the last three months of classes of the 2019/2020 year remotely. I see this as a convenient way to deal with an extraordinary situation. But the personal view of the author is that, same as the physical office will continue to generate “synergies” by having informal interactions other than in meetings, in person education will continue to add more than just taking an online course

To sum up, I would do an MBA in every future life I have. And I would do it a couple years earlier (I started at 29 years old). It helped me transition from Latin America into my dream of working in New York and London, developer a rich network in Europe, have a great time along the way, and the journey took me to Spain where, by the way, I found my soulmate.

In the meantime, contact us with any comments or questions you may have on this article, or visit our services to see our proposed Programs. We are looking forward in working together with you to achieve your recruiting and networking goals. Contact us!

Why developing a public or private investment pitch can increase your chances of getting a job

Develop an investment pitch to strengthen your candidacy

Whether you are applying to an asset management role or not, it is good use of your time to develop an investment idea, be it on listed debt or equity instruments, or an asset or company on Main Street (ie. In real life). I discussed it during my webinars over the past few weeks on how to better use your lock-down time (click to see video of the presentation at Columbia Business School), and even when Western countries start going back to normal, I still keep it as a very valid recommendation to strengthen your candidacy.

It has many benefits:

  • Potential economic profit if you invest and you are proved to be right
  • You practice your financial analysis and pitching skills in preparing to present it
  • It gives you more tools and depth as a candidate.

And relatively little or no downside:

  • The opportunity cost of the time spent developing the pitch
  • A monetary loss if you put your money where your mouth is, and it doesn’t turn out as expected (in any case, I am not suggesting you should bet the ranch on this)

All in all, it leaves you as a stronger candidate for the next interaction you will have with your target employers, be it formal or informal.

What is the pitch? What shall I prepare?

As in previous entries, let me start by stating what I am NOT suggesting here: I am not implying that you need to develop a super deep industry and company analysis, with a long presentation and a massive valuation model, as if you were a seasoned analyst at a big hedge fund. Also, because I made this mistake in the past: don’t try to overcomplicate the analysis. Do it with a lot of common sense, and very simple. Simple is beautiful when it comes down to investment discussions.

Instead, I am encouraging you, regardless of your previous experience and technical skillset, to use your financial-analysis muscle in an exercise that will be very similar to what you will be doing as a full-time employee in that desired job. And the resulting product of your effort, “your pitch” should be a clean explanation of what is the opportunity analyzed, the reasons for recommending it, the pros and cons of investing at the current price and a number of additional technicalities described below.

  • Gather the data set:
    • If listed: latest annual and latest quarterly report, plus COVID19 update and any sell-side Research you can get access to;
    • If a private opportunity: gather all the information at your disposal (qualitative and quantitative) to make a full assessment
  • Write down equity story (why you would invest in this);
  • Understand, and state clearly, the COVID19 impact in the short and long term for sector and company (or asset);
  • To the best of your possibilities, build a valuation model. If a modeling fan, build a full, all-financial-statements-and-sensitivity-tables kind of model. Otherwise, a good “back of the envelope” model, grasping the basis should suffice to sustain a meaningful conversation on the opportunity.
  • Set entry point (recommended acquisition price), catalysts, stop-losses and investment horizon. If a private transaction, replace “stop losses” for how you would think of the biggest risks to the investments, and how you would try and mitigate them.

An additional twist for those of you in the Private Equity track or that might be more senior than entry level, and that are entrepreneurial

If you fit in either the “no matter what the age but entrepreneurial” candidate; or if you are already more advanced in your career that people can start expecting you to “originate” deals (ie. Find new businesses that can bring fees to the firm), then you can use the above suggested check list to find and develop a real business opportunity such as buying out or funding/lending to a private business, which will go very well with networking and interviewing with entrepreneurial places to work where they value junior members capable of bringing in new businesses.  

To conclude, even when you are not intending to be the king of private or public investments, and you just want to be the proverbial investment banker, this exercise can:

  1. Provide you with a variety to your routine practice of networking and interviewing; and in the process of getting out of your comfort zone,
  2. Equip you with more tools and themes to discuss on your next meeting
  3. Open the doors to certain entrepreneurial shops that would otherwise be closed to recruiting
  4. Make you some money along the way

Remember to contact us with any comments you may have on this article, or to visit our services to see our proposed Programs. We are looking forward in working together with you to achieve your recruiting and networking goals. Contact us!

Being flexible on compensation can highly increase your chances of getting a job in this environment

An idea to increase your chances of getting a job in this environment

Yes, it is the hardest environment in many years to get a job. Yes, there will be people that still get the job they are looking for. To make sure YOU are one of the candidates that secure an internship or full-time job, Breaking into Finance suggests one thing to consider in order to increase your chances: being flexible on compensation.

Let’s start by saying what I am NOT suggesting here: I am not saying you go out there and advertise loudly that you are ready to work for free. NO. You are a hard worker, well-trained and highly educated, so you have a value that the bank or fund that hires you should pay for. HOWEVER, I heard many times over the past few weeks, that students are being told by companies that there is a freeze on their headcount or, in other words, they cannot increase the amount of money spent on paying salaries.

What I am suggesting here is the following: continue to pursue the jobs and companies in your networking target list either formally (through a recruiting process) or informally, through networking (as discussed earlier this month in an article on Cinco Dias) and try to put yourself in front of the hiring team or the human resources department, be it on informal meetings or in formal processes.

At the right time, if you have done your job right in selling them your profile as a candidate and they would like to hire you; and it is clear, implicitly or explicitly, that spending money to pay your salary be tough to from the company’s finance team, be open to, or suggest directly, the possibility of going, temporarily, for a lower payment than initially discussed, to have an unpaid trial period, etc.

The goals: 1) Signaling: you are showing flexibility and willingness to take a hit to join the team 2) You are a pragmatic professional 3) Get your foot through the door and start getting that valuable experience. 

The caveats: don’t do it upfront, as otherwise can undercut your value or feel like a desperate move. And be firm about setting upfront a plan to get to full remuneration once the crisis is past and once you have proven your value.

Don’t get discouraged by the current uncertain environment. Continue pushing forward, make that call, send that e-mail, get that informal coffee with people in the industry, day in day out, and be sure that the next job in Finance gets closer with every minute you spend on the effort. In the process, contact Breaking into Finance and we’ll be thrilled to assist you in your quest.