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Wall Street Job Hunting Tips from BNP Paribas

Do you always need a cover letter? When do you talk compensation? Should your resume be just one page?

Tough questions with no easy answers. We asked each of them – and many others – to Sharon Rybak, head of talent acquisition at BNP Paribas. She had some interesting responses. Check them out below.

Anything candidates should keep in mind when interviewing with an internal recruiter, rather than with a hiring manager?

It’s really important to take that interview seriously. Recruiters have close relationships with hiring managers – they recommend who should go on to the next step and who shouldn’t. Too often people are cavalier. They think “Oh, it’s just HR. I don’t have to be on top of my game. I’ll save myself for the business interview.” That is not the case. That meeting with the internal recruiter can make or break your chances of getting the job.

What about phone interviews? Any advice for those who are new that process? 

Admittedly, phone interviews can be a bit tricky. You can’t tune into body language or respond to facial cues. My advice is simple. Make sure you aren’t talking in the middle of Grand Central, avoid calling from a cell phone if possible, reserve a nice quiet place and have all the materials you need in front of you.

You also need to tune into the interview even more, give appropriate pauses and don’t run on and on. Too often people will do too much talking or talk at a faster clip because there aren’t any body cues to respond to.

Does BNP do interviews via video conference? What advice do you have for candidates new to this situation?

We incorporate all three types of interview techniques: in-person, phone and video conferencing.  People often psych themselves out and get nervous. Individuals should prep like it’s a face-to-face interview. Remember, there is a bit of a delay, especially with international video conferencing calls. Don’t talk constantly and clue into how they speak to you.

Also, don’t be afraid of it. If filling the role is time sensitive, and you can speak to a company sooner via video conferencing, take advantage of it.

Would you suggest candidates who are new to video conferencing practice via Skype or Facetime?

Yes, definitely for a video conferencing interview, but also in general. Do a practice run with someone who is objective who can give constructive feedback, whether it’s a phone or video interview. Practice sessions with a trusted person who can bring things to light that you weren’t aware of.

Whenever people ask me: “What’s the biggest key to nailing an interview?” It’s all about preparation. Knowing the organization and topics that are critical to them. Taking the time to know something about the interviewer personally. Are they on LinkedIn? Has their name been in a recent publication? Candidates should be armed with this kind of information.

At what point in the interview process should banking candidates ask about salary, benefits and bonus opportunities?

Typically, the beginning of the interview process is not the right time. Once you’ve had a number of interviews, and it appears the interest level is very high on both sides, the conversation gets a bit easier.

One great way to start the conversation is to ask the interviewer if they would like you to run through your compensation history. One of the biggest problems I see is when candidates ask about compensation without tying it into the organization. You can say: “I’m very interested in the company, I think I’d love it here. I’ve walked you through my resume and background, would now be an appropriate time to review my compensation history?”

Compensation conversations are often the hardest part of the process. What you want to do is profess your interest, offer a few bullet points as to why you’d be a great fit and then begin your compensation conversation.  Also, engage with your recruiter to be your advocate.

Any resume errors that you see too often?

Typos. Spell check is a great feature, but it’s not fool-proof and can’t check for context. You should have multiple eyes look at it.

Also, resumes that go on forever – three, four, five page resumes, especially if you are junior, is too much.

Does that mean you subscribe to the one-page resume theory?

No, I don’t subscribe to the one-page theory. Sometimes it’s just not possible, but you need to be concise and relevant. Think about the position you are applying for and be mindful of those required and desired skills. Ask yourself: Is something I did 15 years ago really relevant today?

Think about it from an interviewer’s perspective. You need a resume that speaks to your profile for the job in question. It’s the tool that will help you gain that next conversation with the hiring manager. Keep it tight and concise. A good rule is no more than two pages.

Do you suggest candidates tailor their resume to each job they’re applying for?

Give thought to the specific role. Never lie, but if there is something you want to highlight because it’s more relevant to the job in mind, do it. Then shorten up pieces that aren’t as relevant.

What about cover letters?

I counsel people that unless you can convey a message that is important and distinct from your resume, you don’t have to submit one. At that point, it’s just another piece of paper to review.

If you have some sort of tie to the organization or an individual, that’s a great opportunity to include a cover letter.

What kind of questions should the interviewee ask the interviewer at the end of the process?

Even before they start asking questions, it’s important to do a recap with a recruiter or hiring manager. Something along the lines of: “This is why I feel I’m a fit, but is there anything you want me to go into detail about?” This way you can highlight the things they think are more important.

Remember, additional information often comes out about future position or projects. If candidates don’t prompt those questions, they can take themselves out of the running for future positions.

As for questions, you should do plenty of research about the company, asking about relevant topics. “So I see your company has opened offices here, tell me more about these initiatives,” etc. You want to broadcast a unique curiosity in the company and the interviewer. And it doesn’t have to be business-related. BNP Paribas sponsors many philanthropic initiatives. You can talk about that. Generally, try to think outside the box and avoid clichéd business questions like inquiries about stock price.

When working with an internal recruiter at a bank, is it OK to reach out directly to the hiring manager after initial contact?

For us, once a candidate has initial contact with a recruiter, that person will help them navigate throughout the process. Think of a recruiter as the central point of contact that needs to be kept in the loop. Don’t run your own show. It hurts no one but yourself.

You want to work at a prestigious bank. How should you go about networking?

Jot down every name that you know who could be connected with the firm. Look through your personal network, alumni groups, even volunteer organizations. Generally speaking, you’ll find at least one person who works there or knows someone who does. Ask them for coffee, get insights into the company culture and tips on how to excel in an interview, even if you can’t get one for six months or a year.

AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor

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The essential daily roundup of news and analysis read by everyone from senior bankers and traders to new recruits.