Discover your dream Career
For Recruiters

10 personality traits needed to succeed in finance

Your resume can check every box on and you may hit all the right notes in your cover letter, but if you don’t let have the 'right' personality, then you’re unlikely to get an offer. Soft skills and personality traits are key to getting hired.

Whenever recruiters or hiring managers are asked about what they are looking for, they always say soft skills – the things they can't teach you, such as leadership, a strong work ethic and conflict management. The following are the top soft skills and personality traits that recruiters and hiring managers seek out.

1. You must be positive 

So many hiring managers hire for attitude and train for skills, because they believe skills can be taught but kindness, thoughtfulness, insightfulness and willingness to go all out for the team are inherent characteristics, according to Amy Adler, a career coach at Five Strengths.

2. Emotional intelligence

Financial services hiring managers and recruiters look for candidates with the ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence, according to Kim Ann Curtin, an executive coach and the author of Transforming Wall Street. James Runde, Morgan Stanley's longest serving investment banker, believes that emotional intelligence is the main attribute needed to succeed in the sector.

Can you read a person as well as you read a spreadsheet?

“It’s not really a soft skill – it’s the number-one foundational piece for any professional in their work,” Curtin said. “If you can’t read people to tell where they’re coming from, you’ll struggle to find success."

3. A growth mindset

Adler suggests preparing to respond to questions such as: How did you change over your career and grow as a professional? Are you willing to learn new things and to work with new people in new environments?

4. Adaptability and resiliency

Investment banks love the idea of instilling resilience in their employees. They have specialists come into train their staff on how to be resilient. Financial services firms want people that are able to adapt to various situations and able to learn new programs and instructions as technology and the organization change over time, according to Hallie Crawford, the founder of Career Coaching.

Depending on the organization’s culture, hiring managers typically like the idea of adaptability, flexibility and resiliency in the face of so much change, whether it’s rising interest rates potentially impacting M&A, new regulations, new management teams, new investment strategies or new sales tactics, according to Alyssa Gelbard, the founder and president of Resume Strategists..

“Being a fast learner and showing that you can get up to speed quickly with new products new technologies, as well as the ability to work across functions and be a team player, will help you,” Gelbard said. “Hiring managers are looking for someone who has intellectual curiosity and wants to go beyond the basics – can you be decisive and move on to the next thing.”

5. Persistence

Adler said hiring managers wonder: Are you willing to stick with a problem until you identify the ideal solution? Are you a won’t-give-up/won’t-give-in type of employee?

6. Communication skills

Crawford stressed the importance of effective listening, being able to explain something complicated in a way that the listener can hear and writing skills.

7. Empathy

Be empathetic. Clients have to trust you enough to figure out the problem – companies in competitive industries don’t want to tell you their problems, said Runde. The key to career success is relating to people, and that takes empathy, he said.

8. Sense of humor 

People who take the position seriously but don’t take themselves seriously and who have a sense of humor are likely to pass the “who would you want to have a beer with?” test, according to Kevin O’Connor, a managing director and the general counsel at Point72 Asset Management. Can they focus on the big picture and not get bogged down by day-to-day challenges?

“We deal with a lot of issues, sometimes short deadlines and unreasonable demands by our clients, so the job itself can be hard on any given day,” he said. “I don’t want the job to be made any more difficult because people don’t get along with each other."

9. Interpersonal skills

Crawford said hiring managers want to hire candidates who are able to work as part of a team, communicate and work well with clients, provide empathy for their situation when they are frustrated and shepherd them through working with your organization.

10. Vision 

Adler suggests asking yourself: Can you see beyond the task and into the way the specific task fits into the larger corporate goal? Can you define that corporate goal, or even the steps it takes to get there?

Photo credit: GettyImages

AUTHORDan Butcher US Editor
  • FX
    FX Bergmeister
    4 February 2019

    Great analysis. Describes the guys and gals I know who succeed.

Sign up to our Newsletter

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

Boost your career

Find thousands of job opportunities by signing up to eFinancialCareers today.
Recommended Jobs
Michael Page
Finance Officer/Manager - DIFC, Dubai
Michael Page
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Sign up to our Newsletter

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