A Financial Recruiter's Tips on Surviving the Interview Marathon

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It's not uncommon for candidates applying to a bulge bracket or top bank to sit through a three- to five-hour interview session. Yes, the interview has become a marathon session, designed to break you down and reveal every little point of knowledge, as well as your personality flaws. But if you want the job, then you need some effective tools to do your best.

Admittedly, the run-around with four or more interviewers and sometimes random questions can be off-putting. Sometimes, one or more of the interviewers will come unprepared to meet with you. But according to Leonida Pepe, a principal at Butterfass-Pepe, a boutique executive search firm serving the investment management industry, it's always to your benefit to do your best, even in the midst of a challenge, at the interview. Here's some handy advice from Pepe:

1. Acknowledge that the interview process is not like it used to be. Employers have the advantage, given the many finance professionals hitting the pavement. So, you're not the only one going through it.

2. Understand that the interview can be long. Your interviewer probably has more time on their hands than you might expect, especially with the markets in the condition that they're in right now.

3. Don't get frustrated. The investment firm is scouring the hills for "just the right candidate." Plus, says Pepe, they are taking longer and longer to make a final decision. "I've seen this happen every time that there's a downturn in the economy. It can take as much as two months."

4. Be prepared and find out all you can about the firm and the specific interviewers. It's common for the various people to fall into different categories. You might be interviewed by a resident expert or two in the department or product. Then, you'll have an interview with someone designed to assess if you're a team player or not. Pepe says this person is more likely to ask "behavioral questions."

At the end of the day, says Pepe, get ready to answer problem solving questions, as well as more ridiculous ones. Often, this is meant to test you. Be pleasant and leave a good impression. Go into the interview with a "high energy level." Try your best to avoid a negative attitude, even if the interview process is aggravating, because if you don't get the position, there's always a possibility that you might be called back for a different position with the firm. If you're using a headhunter or dealing with the firm's HR person, then get feedback if you don't get the spot.

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