Interviewing by phone or via a video call has naturally become the norm during this pandemic. As someone who interviews juniors quite frequently, I'd originally imagined that traditional banking interviews would simply move online. In fact, this isn't the case: they've changed in very interesting ways.
Interview etiquette during COVID-19
A comment that I've heard consistently from interviewees is that interviews have generally been much more pleasant experiences overall during the pandemic. Hiring managers appear to be much more friendly and less aggressive in their line of questioning than usual: it's more about a conversation than an interrogation.
At the same time, though, I have heard complaints from hiring managers that interviewees are too relaxed, and are not as well prepared as they should be. Too many (especially junior candidates) appear to be relying on reading lines word-for-word off pieces of paper presumably taped to their walls.
If you're interviewing now, you therefore need to be alert to these issues. Due to the sensitivities of this crisis, recruiting managers are going to be more forgiving, but you also need to understand that if you've got an interview right now you are very lucky, and should not waste the opportunity!
Additional advice for this moment in history: always wear pants with your suit jacket and try not to be drunk! One colleague witnessed an interviewee in a suit jacket and boxer shorts. Another strongly suspected that their latest interviewee was drinking beer out of a tea cup. Comical it may be, but so few jobs are legitimately on offer right now that you absolutely have to find a way to stand out, and for the right reasons.
Banking interview questions during COVID-19
Another natural evolution of the standard interview has come in the form of the types of questions being asked. The usual opener of… ‘Ok tell me a bit about yourself’, has been routinely replaced by, ‘So, what have you been up to during the lockdown?’
Here is a selection of some other ‘new’ questions that have cropped up over the past couple of months:
Personal and practical interview questions during the virus:
What has the pandemic taught you about yourself?
How have you spent your time during the pandemic?
Could you plausibly work from home for the rest of your career?
Can trading floors feasibly stay remote forever, if so how would juniors get trained?
Conceptual and moral banking interview questions during the virus:
Should employees have a choice about returning to work, or should it be obligatory?
Markets interview questions during the virus?
Does central banks' response to the pandemic justify the case for bitcoin?
Do you think the Fed will eventually have to buy equities?
U.S. equities are almost back to where they were, does that mean passive investing is still the best strategy?
Is the liquidity crisis inevitably going to turn into a solvency crisis?
Brainteaser banking interview questions during the virus:
How many face masks do you think were sold in 2020?
Do not mistake the second question as a lay-up: managers want to see some growth, not the extremities of your Netflix-bingeathons. - Have you done anything charitable? Have you learned something new - done any online learning etc?
If you're lucky enough to get a banking job interview now, my advice is that you should dress like you would for any face-to-face interview: it will put you in the right frame of mind. If you have time on your hands, use it wisely and be even more prepared than you ordinarily would be. This is a competitive market.
Harold M. Sally is the pseudonym of a banker who interviews often
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