You did the internships, you took the classes, and you’re wrapping up your final semester of college. You’ve almost made it! But now it’s crunch time - time to find your first full-time financial planning position. How do you differentiate yourself? Master the interview. Here’s how:
Conduct informational interviews. Tap into your alumni network. Reach out to people who are working in positions that you want to have one day. Ask if they are willing to have a phone call to talk about their experience and how they got to where they are. Different perspectives will give you a better understanding of the types of positions, real expectations of employers, and how to get to where you want to be. Once you have a few conversations, you will be able to have more concise conversations with interviewers about what you are looking for.
Do your homework. Research the firm’s website and ADV. Review the team bios on their website and look up team members on LinkedIn to get to know their background. Understand the difference between fee-only, fee-based, and commission-based firms and know what type of firm you are interviewing with.
Have questions prepared. The list is endless. You can ask about the firm’s culture, what a typical day looks like, what their expectations are for new hires, if they have hired new college grads before, etc. One caveat here, don’t ask questions that are answered in the job description, on the firm’s website, or in their ADV - refer to the previous tip (do your homework).
Prepare to talk about any blemishes in your background. If your GPA is below 3.0 be prepared to explain why. Maybe you worked 30 hours a week and had to split your time between work and studying. Maybe you started out pre-med and took some tough classes early on that you weren’t able to recover from. Whatever the reason, make sure you have a well thought out, honest response prepared.
If something is going to show up in a background or credit check, be upfront about it. You don’t want to have an offer rescinded because a firm owner is blind-sighted by a previous incident. Again, have an honest, well thought out response prepared.
Practice interviewing out loud. If you don’t have anyone to practice with, put your smartphone to use and record yourself. It can be hard to watch yourself on video, but it will be worth it. Be aware of your body language - do you fidget with your hands, adjust your hair or clothes, or show zero facial expressions? Practice talking about your internship experience. If you didn’t have an internship, relate the experience that you do have to the position that you are interviewing for. Practice answering some common interview questions. You don’t want a conversation with an interviewer to seem rehearsed, but you want to be comfortable enough presenting yourself and answering questions to show that you prepared.
Be professional. Dress professionally. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. Be polite and courteous to everyone you encounter, from the person who greets you when you walk in to people you pass in the halls. Stay away from casual language and behavior.
But also be personable. Professional doesn’t mean cold. Let your personality shine through in your conversations. Keep your phone out of sight for the duration of the interview(s).
Listen. When an interviewer is talking about their firm or asking you a question, listen. Don’t sit there thinking about what you’re going to say next. You don’t want to miss something important.
Follow up with a thank you email or handwritten note. For the love of all things holy, send a thank you note. We see firms pass on candidates because they don’t follow up after an initial interview. We wrote a whole post about this last month and even gave you a template. Just do it.
At this point, your GPA is what it is, you have the experience you have, and you were involved in the activities you were involved in. There’s not much you can do in this last semester to change or add to that. However, you are still in control of how well you do in an interview.
Looking for more? Click here for additional tips and coaching to land your first financial planning position.