ULTIMATE CAREER GUIDES

From Tech to Finance:
Preparing for the Interview Process at a Financial Services Firm

Chapter 2/3

June 5, 2018

So you’ve decided make the transition from the tech industry to financial services. You’re probably filled with tons of excitement, and a lot of questions too. “Is the interview process different?” “Does my resume truly speak to the value I’d bring to this industry?” “Do my skills really translate?” Chapter Two of Citadel Securities’ Ultimate Guide to Tech Careers in Finance will help answer some of these questions with tips and thoughts from our tech team and recruiters. Read on for advice on how best to prepare for your first financial services interview.

Do a Self-Check

Before you even schedule the interview, it’s a good idea to do a self-check. What are you really looking for in your career step? What kind of environment will you thrive in? Making sure the answers to those questions align with the firm’s values is an important first step.

Be thorough in evaluating whether a company is the right fit for you. Here are some often overlooked steps you can take to do so:

Talk to someone who earned a promotion after successfully managing the responsibilities you would hold. You want to better understand what allowed them to succeed and what next steps you should take.
Separately, talk to someone who made a lateral move and is enjoying their new role. You’ll want to find out if a firm facilitates both upward and lateral movement, thereby offering tailored career paths to individuals.
Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions of recruiters and hiring managers, to get to know the ins and outs of the role.
Don’t limit your conversations to just company employees. Lean on your circle or network and talk to additional people with a financial services background. This will help you get a full, well-rounded look at the industry.

Each of these steps will help you conclude whether a firm consistently offers extraordinary team members new and different opportunities.

Showcase a Passion for Learning

Showcasing your thirst for knowledge and growth is crucial to making a career jump. Find a way to translate your current work projects as a vessel for learning and contributing. Perhaps you worked on a project with qualities similar to those seen in the financial industry. Highlighting that prominently and talking through that experience will help the recruiters fully understand what you can bring to the table.

“Ultimately, we’re looking for individuals that show a willingness to take risks,” said Rob Crawford. “Showing your interest to change industries demonstrates your ability to continually challenge and reinvent yourself. These qualities will take you far in financial services.”

Understand Skills You Should Highlight and Demonstrate

Highlight a use case where you applied your skills
Come prepared with a unique solution to a common problem
Show how you successfully executed on an idea

It is, of course, important to include any relevant computer and/or coding skills you have, but it’s not enough to simply list your skills/past experience; you need to explain it (without giving away proprietary information).

Says Josh Estrada, “I want to understand more specifically – whether it’s C++, Java, or something else we’re working with – how closely you were working with those technologies as it relates to a specific project or the role at the time instead of just listing off skills. To me, that’s how a candidate can really stand out.”

If you have experience in distributed computing, natural language processing, machine learning, or other relevant technology fields, make sure you’re highlighting a use case within your resume. How you applied your skills is just as important as having them to begin with. You must also be ready to explain in detail how you applied the technology and how you reached your desired outcome. It’s always a good idea to state specific accomplishments, not just to mention what you worked on.

To set yourself apart from other candidates, come prepared with a unique solution to a common tech problem – it doesn’t have to be a solution you took to market, perhaps it’s simply something you fixed just for yourself. Providing an example of tangible problem solving in your interview not only shows your interest and passion in a real way, but it allows the interviewer to get a glimpse of you in action.

You should also highlight how you effectively executed on your ideas. Perhaps you took to a whiteboard to outline alternative solutions to a specific problem. Maybe you conducted a beta test with a select group of people to see how they would react. Once you got through that research phase, how did you get it over the finish line and into a reality? Showing what steps you’ve taken to help these ideas come to life will go a long way in setting you apart.

Walking into the Interview

“We converse with a level of crispness in this industry that you may not need in other industries. Be prepared to talk about the what, why, and how of projects in a concise and direct manner.”

John Schuster

In Chapter 3, we cover how to make a successful transition.

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Chapter 2 of 3
From Tech to Finance: Preparing for the Interview Process at a Financial Services Firm