I’m writing this blog post as someone who has sat on the trading floor while Heads of Desks discuss with their teams who they should hire as their summer intern. I know that what they say they want is often very different to the person who actually ends up being interviewed and ultimately offered a position.
Your universities and recruitment consultants will have a load of criteria for you. They will give you advice on how to write your covering letter. How to lay out your CV. How to present yourself on the day of the interview. Whilst this is all valuable information and I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to it, what they can’t tell you is what the guys on the ground REALLY look for when they are hiring their summer intern.
1. Don’t be the Same
The Head of the Desk is normally given a couple of books (yes books!) of CVs from summer interns that they are expected to look through.
They skim through, looking for anything that stands out. Your CV is just another one which looks exactly the same as everyone else’s. Why? Because your universities and recruitment consultants all tell you to display the information in generally the same way.
Every cover letter is filled with people trying to explain why they want to be part of your organisation. They all sound ridiculous, and they all sound the same. If you are going to write a cover letter, be original! Say it’s because the office is on a handy bus route. Say it’s because you fancied the girl in the year above you and she already works there. Say it’s because they are the only investment bank in the last 5 years to have not been caught up in some fraud scandal.
No one is going to be impressed when you say that you want to be part of a high achieving team. No one really cares that you want to take on lots of responsibility (they know you are lying!)
2. Don’t add a Photo
I can promise you, photos will never see you come off in a positive light. They get scanned in and then photocopied several times. If you are very pale, you basically disappear into the background. If you are very dark, you end up looking like a silhouette.
If the unlikely happens and you end up looking very attractive, the trading desk will be too scared to choose you as their summer intern for fear of being accused of only picking the attractive one.
What you should do instead is make sure your LinkedIn profile has a very smart and professional photo on it. That way, if they try and do any background research on you, they will see the real you.
I personally would not want my photo to help or hinder my chances of getting a job. And after being witness to some of the remarks, I’d never ever put one on my CV.
3. Show your personality
I once heard of someone getting an interview because they were head of the poker team at uni. The team who interviewed them had an ongoing poker tournament with some of their clients and they were losing. This guy got interviewed pretty much based on the fact that he played poker.
I heard someone get an interview because they captained their local Frisbee team and the guys on the desk thought it was funny. That is a true story.
4. Try being unconventional
I personally once got an interview because I managed to get the company CEO to notice me. I put myself in front of their face. It was a company in which I was very interested. It was within the automotive technology industry and the company had an amazing product. They were growing exponentially and they already employed a really diverse range of people.
First of all I tried emailing the generic email address. Now, being on the receiving end of these generic emails, I knew I had to be a bit original. It didn’t work. I heard nothing back. I then thought I would email the CEO directly. After three attempts of guessing his email address, it went through. How did I know? Because I got his out-of-office auto response. Great – at least I knew I’d guessed correctly and I knew when he would be back in the office. Also, he’d put his mobile number on the message too.
After no response a couple of days after he was back in the off I added his number to my phone. Then I checked WhatsApp. Result! He used the app! I sent him a message, and he responded! From there, I had an interview.
Another true story from a few years ago is when a graduate had posted his CV to my boss. Now, like most PAs, I intercepted his post. On this occasion he was standing right by my desk when I was going through it. This particular envelope stood out as being different because it was black and the address had been hand written in silver pen. The graduate had also addressed the envelope to the COO in person – not “dear sir/madam”. My boss saw this envelope, got super interested in it and took it from me to open.
I’ve always thought that the next company I want to work for will get a hand delivered “wedding invitation”, inviting them to interview me.
5. Be interesting
I once interviewed someone for a junior position on a trading floor and when I asked them what they did outside of work, the only thing they could come up with was something to do with trading apps. This guy didn’t get the job. People forget that whatever reputation bankers might have, they are still humans with personalities. They want to be able to go to the pub after work for a beer and not talk about trading. They want to talk about sports, politics, anything!
Do you interview graduates? What do you look for?
Have you been interviewed for a graduate position? Did you put anything unconventional on your CV?