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Does anybody have any tips or advice for phone interviews with investment firms?

I'm a college student majoring in English/Economics, and I have a phone interview with an REIT/Asset Management firm. I was wondering if anybody had any advice for how business/finance interviews are usually conducted. How much of a technical background should I be expected to have, and besides the usual "fit" questions, are there any additional questions I should know how to answer? #business #finance #consulting #investment-banking #real-estate-investing #real-estate-financing

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Paul’s Answer

Depends upon who you're speaking with. In my experience, most of the phone interviews are done by HR to pre-screen applicants. Take these interviews seriously but don't expect to be asked very technical questions. Now, if you are actually speaking with a hiring manager it depends upon the position they're looking to fill. Because you're an English/Econ major still in school I'm assuming it's an entry level position so I would guess they would focus on the number of finance/REIT courses you have taken in school and how you did in them. They may also ask about your internships if you had any and how they relate to the position you're applying for.

Basically without additional information, specifically the position you're interviewing for, I can only provide a generic response. Hope this helps.

Dear Mr. Gullatte, Thank you very much for your reply! I'm interviewing/discussing an internship opportunity and have been told that I will be speaking to a managing director/co-head of investments. As an English/Econ major, I haven't actually taken any real-estate specific courses, as the college I attend (Stanford) doesn't offer finance specific majors or training. As a result, I feel a bit unprepared for the talk. I've been doing as much research as I can, and I do have experience with more general investment bank interviewing procedures. I'm just uncertain about the differences between interviewing for an investment bank vs. an REIT firm, if there are any. Thank you so much for all of your help! D. O.

Thanks for providing the additional information. I've never worked for a REIT or investment bank but I have worked for other financial firms including broker/dealers so I am willing to guess that because it's an internship they just want to get a feel for the type of person you are and if you would be able to learn the business. You go to Stanford so you're obviously smart so I would be honest with them and explain that while you lack investment experience, you're willing to put in the extra work to learn. Now as far as any differences between REITs and IB, read the WSJ prior to your interview to show that you're up to speed with what's happening in the industry. Read some websites so you can have an understanding of what a REIT is and how investment banks make money. Paul Gullatte

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Jared’s Answer

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Congratulations! That's not an easy interview to even get invited for! Here's a list of general things you might get asked about, and should prepare for. To get more specific intel on what will be covered, you might want to consider asking other people who have interviewed with that specific firm in the past.

<h1>How are business / finance interviews usually conducted?</h1>

They're conducted in rounds. For first round interviews, I've seen everything from three-against-one verbal assaults for the purpose of seeing how you behave under stress to super casual "can I get along with you" banter to a battery of highly technical finance questions. I've found that there tends to be very little consistency across the industry, although there may be consistency within one firm if it is large enough to have standardized interviewing trainings for its employees.

<h1>How much of a technical background should I be expected to have?</h1>

If you go to a school where finance is taught, you will be expected to have mastered all of the basics of finance. If you do not go to a school with a formal finance program or classes on finance and financial markets, your interviewers may cut you some slack. They'll probably still try to test your knowledge in the interview, so be prepared to be asked a question about something that you don't know. If you are not technical, you should practice ways to demonstrate that you can learn and apply theory very quickly, especially if you can show that you were self-taught. If you have any math or physics bona fides, use them extensively -- finance theory is much much simpler than the stuff that you have to tackle in advanced math or physics courses. Obviously, if you are trying to get a job working in investing and can't answer basic questions about the capital asset pricing model or the financial markets, you're not going to be very competitive against candidates who already know exactly what they are getting into. If you want to turn weakness in this area into a strength, the best thing to do is actually to teach yourself finance. It's not that hard, and won't take you that long. You could pick up the vault guide to finance interviews, or study the Khan Academy series on finance and capital markets, or pick up some textbooks on finance, valuation, capital markets, and accounting. If you really want to go for the gold, consider studying for and taking the test to get yourself CFA Level 1 (note: getting CFA 1 is really NOT an easy thing to do, and takes a lot of studying. But if you get it, you'll kill all doubt about whether or not you're really committed to becoming an expert in finance and capital markets.)

<h1>Besides the usual "fit" questions, are there any additional questions I should know how to answer?</h1>

Some questions I've personally received in interviews for investing or finance jobs:

  • Tell me about a stock you're following right now.

  • If I gave you $1000, how would you invest it?

  • Where is the S&P500 right now?

  • What investments do you have personally, and why?

  • What was on the cover of the Wall Street Journal this morning?

  • If I gave you only one metric and you had to use that metric to decide whether to go long or short on a stock, what metric would you ask for?

  • What is the CAPM?

  • How would you value a bond?

  • When should a company raise equity and when should it raise debt?

  • Why do you want to work in finance? (protip: do NOT say that it's because you want to make a lot of money)

  • No really, why do you really want to work in finance? (still don't say it)

  • Tell me a joke.

  • I see you have (example) on your resume... That has nothing to do with finance. Are you sure you want to work in finance?

  • If you don't know the answers to any of these technical questions, why should I give you the job over someone else who does know the answers?

As you can tell, the questions are going to be hard to predict. So a final word of advice... Be ready to be stumped. When (not if) it happens, know how you're going to behave. Don't get flustered. It's much better to handle that with honesty and humility, or curiosity, or even excitement. Some other emotion than fear and anxiety.

CONFIDENCE is key! Bring your confidence. And know that you deserve to feel confident! You got this!

Source: I worked in the financial services and financial consulting sector for several years at the end of college. I interviewed with asset management firms, although never by phone.

Thank you so much for this amazing answer! I'll definitely come up with answers to the questions you proposed, and it's helpful to know that it's ok to be honest and humble in acknowledging gaps in my financial knowledge. D. O.

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Scott’s Answer

Jeremy is correct. Particularly in a phone interview, the interviewer is getting to know you, how you present yourself, and if you have the qualifications they are looking for in a candidate. Present yourself positively and confidently. Take some time to research the industry and company with which you will be interviewing. You should have some general knowledge, but you will likely not be asked specific questions about how to do the job - particularly as a student and on a phone interview. The phone interview is the first screen. It is important to get past the phone interview to make it to the next step.

Also, search the web for job interview questions, such as "The 50 most frequently asked job interview questions." Answer each of the questions - in writing - and then review your answers frequently before the interview so that you know them thoroughly and are prepared to answer the interviewers questions. Be yourself, be personable and be professional.

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Jeremy’s Answer

Great advice from Brian above! He nails a lot of what phone interviews are all about. It is not so much what you know as how you present yourself. Be energetic, upbeat, and confident and that will go miles further than knowing answers to deep financial questions.

In essence an interview of any kind is you selling yourself to the company. Your knowledge is a part of that package. But, there is a lot more to working in a company environment (or, any environment) than just knowledge.

Also, as a college student, you are not expected to know how to do the job you are interviewing for anyway. They will train you to do that when you start. In regards to knowledge, they just want to know that you have some (your field of study speaks for itself in terms of they know you are learning the field before they even call you).
I'd even suggest "practicing" a little in a mirror and/or with a friend or relative. Just answer relatively simple questions about yourself, your aspirations, and what you would "bring to the table" if hired (don't ask financial questions when practicing. Focus on who you are and what you are about).
Hope that helps and good luck!

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Brian’s Answer

A few tips for professional phone calls. I use many of these when making sales calls too.

  1. Stand up. Even though you are on the phone, standing up will add some energy to your voice

  2. Get dressed. Yes, they can't see that you are in a ratty t-shirt, but you should still get dressed up for your phone interview. It will boost your confidence and help you act the part

  3. Smile. It changes the tone and attitude in your voice

  4. Make sure your technology works. If you are using a cell phone, make sure you will be in a place with a strong signal. Make sure you are in a quite room to yourself

  5. Write out your questions and have them handy.

  6. Don't talk over the interviewer. Even if you feel they are talking too much, and you want the attention on you, don't interrupt. Just wait, you will get your turn to talk

  7. Try to avoid using "umm", "ah" "like" and other pauses. Also avoid repeating yourself with phrases like "you know"

  8. Its better to say that you don't know or that you don't have experience in an area than to make up a lie or BS.

  9. Ask some personal questions of the interviewer like - "how is your day going?" "Did you have a nice weekend?". People like to talk about themselves.

  10. Make sure to follow up with a thank you to the interviewer