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Four Tips for Women Interviewing on Wall Street

It seems like the old boys' network is alive and well on Wall Street, if only because guys know how to make one another feel like part of the team even before a relationship's been established.

Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, head of career coaching firm SixFigureStart, recently observed this clearly when she and some colleagues interviewed asset management analyst recruits from top undergraduate colleges and universities. Some of the male interviewers greeted recruits warmly, with a clap on the back and a "Hey Buddy, how're you doing' today," making for a close and immediate connection.

"No one ever said that to a woman," says Cerrachio, a former Chief Operating Officer for Merrill Lynch Campus Recruiting who started her own New York City-based career-coaching firm in 2008. "It's a whole different framework,"

Moreover, the career coach adds, "I've found that women don't sell themselves as strongly and as confidently as men do. Women don't claim their space and don't give themselves enough credit for work they've done."

To help women be better candidates, here are some things they could do in their next interview:

1) Set yourself apart from the pack.

Says Carrachio: "Women have to say to themselves, 'I have a job to do today: I have to make sure there is no doubt in the interviewer's mind of how that I can improve their business.

2) Be genuine.

Women are culturally attuned to getting attention by making themselves liked and trying fit into someone else's idea of what that means. But in Wall Street interviews and on the job itself, this can be a big mistake.

"Especially in client-facing businesses, such as investment banking or sales; trust in relationships is an important element of success," says Carla Harris, a Managing Director in the Institutional Advisory Group at Morgan Stanley Investment Management in her 2009 book, Expect to Win: Proven Strategies for Success from a Wall Street Vet.

"If you appear to be tentative or apprehensive (which usually happens when you are lacking confidence), then you open the door for your clients to doubt what you are saying, you potentially lose the opportunity to win business, and you open the door for a competitor to get the upper hand in a relationship," writes Harris.

Moreover. "If you are preoccupied with trying to play a role or trying to behave, speak, or act the way you think others want you to, your mind won't be free to perform at your highest level. Be flexible, and be able to adapt to changes." This is as true in the interview during the process as well as the job setting-maybe more so.

3) Go in with a three-point strategy to show you're are the best person for the job.

For any Wall Street post, you'll need to convincingly describe your analytical skills-i.e., how you go about company valuations and consolidating complex data into something straightforward and simple. You have to emphasize communication skills both verbal and written. Finally, showcase your teamwork and leadership abilities, showing you're someone who steps up to the plate when the time is right.

4) Don't be humble.

"Some women just don't give themselves enough credit for what they do or what they've done," observes Thanasoulis-Cerrachio. Once, she coached a young undergrad from Barnard College, asking her about her biggest achievement during a summer internship at Morgan Stanley.

Initially the woman said: "I produced accurate spreadsheets quickly and efficiently." Since that lacked the necessary oomph, the career counselor pressed and got a very different answer: "I put together spreadsheets documenting sales performance over regular intervals, developed good relationships with all the sales force, and highlighted special sales efforts. Senior management set the entire strategy for the department from the information in the spreadsheet which I designed."

The moral of the story: Selling yourself and your accomplishments short is deflating on many levels-and it won't get you the job.

AUTHORJanet Aschkenasy Insider Comment
  • Ji
    30 May 2011

    What an interesting and useful story. At a time when so many people are pounding the pavements, this is helpful for those on either side of the equation -- hirer or job-seeker. And it's very sobering to reflect on the persistent difference between the genders -- how we treat each other and how we see and present ourselves. Here's wishing all those women who are job-hunting out there lots of good courage and spunk!

  • Sa
    30 May 2011

    Good one.

  • Fu
    30 May 2011

    I think you are right about not being humble. Sometimes we just cheapen what we do. Thanks for the insight.

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