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Answers to your top 11 questions about interviewing: Part 1

Experienced interviewers reveal their advice and insight.

With interview season quickly approaching, you probably have a lot of questions about how to best prepare. So we compiled a list of frequently asked questions and posed them to our most experienced interviewers across Markets. Here are their answers to six of your burning questions.

What are the information sources I should follow leading up to the interview?

Naturally there are various news sources you can follow to learn about the market, like The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist and so on, but it is also worthwhile to follow various market related blogs and read more conceptual books. It helps to figure out what parts of finance interest you – if macro-level investing is exciting, focus more on FX, rates, and indices and follow the things that drive them. Conversely, if particular sectors interest you, try to deep-dive into particular companies and learn about valuation.

What are the top qualities Barclays is looking for in an analyst?

There are several top qualities we look for in analysts that are common across desks:

 

 

  • Strong communication skills
  • Good presentation and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to learn fast and intellectual curiosity
  • Being generally good with numbers
  • Having a strong interest in financial markets
  • Attention to detail

That last one is an invaluable asset regardless of the division, team or role where you begin your career.  Whether it is spelling errors, punctuation, trade details or anything else, by slowing down and double checking your work you reduce the risk of mistakes that may only impact your dinner plans, but could very well impact a multimillion-dollar sell order. 

 

 

One of the first places to practice attention to detail is with your resume and any electronic correspondence you may have with the recruiting team or alumni reps at firms where you are exploring opportunities.               

What are you looking for when you ask “Why do you want to work in Sales and Trading?”

In short, authenticity. We want to understand what draws you to the role because we know not everyone has been trading their own personal accounts since age 8. Most students don’t know what they want to do as they enter university, and if you just recently figured out you have an interest in financial markets, that’s absolutely fine. Explain it to us. There’s probably an interesting story behind it, and as we unwrap it together in the interview, it’s going to help us best understand what drives you.

What should I focus on in preparation for a technical interview?

The key to preparing for any type of interview is to do your homework on what the job entails. The more you can ascertain about the job, the better idea you will have about what skills will be required and tested. Common technical skills interview questions focus on mental math, probabilities and logic. These are basic skills required in a wide range of markets-related roles.

Just remember that many times interview questions have multiple parts. Even if you don’t know how to tackle it initially, try to pick up on the key points and further apply them to later parts of the question. We aren’t just trying to figure out who has the right answers, but also who has the general thinking and learning patterns that adapt well in an ever-changing and unpredictable environment like the markets.

Should I be ready to do math/write code/pitch a stock in the interview?

Our roles are very diverse, requiring varying degrees of technical and presentation skills, so don’t be surprised if you are asked to pitch a stock, write code or mathematical functions, or analyze puzzles in an interview. If programming is part of the job, you should be prepared to do it as part of the interview. Quantitative jobs require higher level math and you should expect to be tested. Being able to talk about different markets-related current events and concepts is also very important in an interview – a common way to do this is with a stock pitch. This is why understanding the job you are applying for is key so you can prepare appropriately (see the previous question and answer).

What’s the best way to handle a question about my strengths and weaknesses?

The interview process is a good opportunity for you to reflect on your potential style in the workplace.  Think about what type of friend, roommate, student and sibling you are. What would someone who knows you well say are your strengths and weaknesses? It may not hurt to ask a few people this question and see how their responses correspond with what you think the answer is. The bonus: this self-reflection helps you avoid canned responses like “I stretch myself too thin,” which an interviewer has potentially heard several times already that day.  

That should help get you started with prep. If you're looking for more advice, check out Part 2!