Key interview tips from Morgan Stanley's Top Recruiter

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Among the most important and often difficult questions job candidates get asked during interviews are those that deal with competency to determine whether that candidate will be successful in this particular position. How you answer these questions could determine whether you will receive an offer.

To gain some insight into what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for with these questions, we went to an expert. Keisha Smith is Morgan Stanley's Head of Recruiting. Her official title is Global Head of Campus and Experienced Hire Recruiting and she's responsible for developing firm-wide strategies to recruit talent for 1,200 offices in 42 countries.

eFinancialCareers spoke with Keisha recently about those competency questions as well as why it's also important for candidates to ask "interesting" questions at the end of an interview.

eFC: Why do recruiters like competency questions such as "give me an example of when you showed initiative?

Keisha: Our interviews focus heavily on competency questions since they help us to determine whether candidates have the personal attributes to be successful. They show whether someone has good judgment or whether they are self-starters. Do they have attention to detail? Are they influential and can they lead? For us, it allows the assessment process to focus on what the candidate brings to the table beyond their technical skill set.

eFC: What's the best way to answer those questions?

Keisha: The candidate should do their homework before the interview and familiarize themselves with the attributes and competencies that are important for the specific role.

For example, if you're interviewing for a position in banking, you want to show evidence that you have attention to detail; that you're calm under pressure; that you're inquisitive and analytical.

Think about how to show us your "authentic self" by giving examples of your attributes based on the extra curricular activities you participate in so we can connect the dots to the attributes we're looking for.

If a candidate works on a school paper, that person might be a great writer, is probably inquisitive, and has investigative skills, which is what we look for in our research associates.

eFC: How much weight is given to the candidate's questions for the interviewers at the end of an interview?

Keisha: Similar to a 'thank you' letter, there are simply some things that you expect, that are a standard part of the interview process, such as the "what are the next steps" question.

Now, if you wanted to distinguish yourself from other candidates, you should ask more interesting questions, such as: How has the company supported your professional development; what advice might you have for someone starting their career in banking; or what kind of transactions are you working on?

Those are the more conversation-inducing questions that I would recommend.

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