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How to make a strong first impression in a Wall Street job interview

Wall Street hiring managers hate wimpy handshakes.

You might cringe when you hear clichés such as “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” but it's still true – and it’s applicable to the Wall Street job interview process. Here's how to ensure you start out right.

Get a good night’s sleep the night before

Especially if your interview is early in the morning, go to bed earlier than usual the night before if at all possible. Scientists say that insufficient sleep – six hours or fewer – can have serious consequences.

“No one appreciates a job candidate who yawns,” says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide. “Also, don’t drink alcohol the night before, because depending on how much you drink, the smell may linger.”

Practice introducing yourself

You must have a concise, confident and impactful way to introduce yourself … and it should be so well rehearsed that it’s smooth as silk, according to Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, co-founder of career coaching firm SixFigureStart.

It should include the number of years of experience you’ve had in the field; a quick mention of a huge accomplishment that saved the firm significant time, money or effort; and why you have passion for this position/company/industry and, most importantly, why you are a really good fit for this position.

“Show them how you can be the answer for their pain,” Thanasoulis-Cerrachio says.

Don’t overlook the obvious

Show up on time, but don’t get there too early.

“Nothing is more annoying than a candidate who arrives late,” Cohen says. “It suggests that you don’t take the interview seriously enough to be there when you’ve committed to be there and that you don’t value the interviewer’s time.”

Project the right body language

Your body language should be positive.

“Wear a great smile when you say hello, and use a solid handshake,” Thanasoulis-Cerrachio says. “Maintain a confident posture – hint … act confident even if you are not.

Cohen agrees that you should smile and use a firm handshake when introducing yourself to the interviewer.

“A candidate had a very weak handshake, so I encouraged him to practice and to imagine that he is someone who he admires who has a firm handshake,” Cohen says. “He gripped my hand firmly and I asked him, ‘So, who are you envisioning?’ He said, ‘My friend Catherine.’”

Dress to impress for a Wall Street job interview

A unanimous piece of advice: Make sure you’re wearing the right clothes, meaning an “impeccable” outfit that is appropriate for the interview.

“If you’re going to a startup, they won’t be wearing suits so you may look out of place, whereas at an investment bank you do need to wear a well-tailored suit,” Cohen says.

“Don’t have keys, change or anything else that jingles in your pockets,” he says. “Keep cool – moderation is the key to making a good first impression, anything in excess makes the interviewers uncomfortable. You should avoid strange or overly enthusiastic behavior, for example, if your arm gestures are wild, will be turn-offs.”

Take advantage of opportunities to mention your accomplishments

Go into the interview with an idea of a few strengths you want to convey regardless of the questions, says Janet Raiffa, career coach, the former head of campus recruiting at Goldman Sachs and the former associate director of the Career Management Center at Columbia Business School. Think about the answer to every question being some reason why they should hire you.

“Use the opening question – most likely some version of ‘tell me about yourself’ – to say as many positive things about yourself and to give examples,” Raiffa says. “This might be the only chance you have to sell yourself if the next questions are more analytical or pressure-based.

“Don't worry about bragging or coming across as overconfident,” she says. “Confidence is one of the most desirable traits in an applicant.”


Make sure that you are listening throughout the Wall Street job interview and take a moment to respond if you need one.

“If you aren't listening you may very well end up answering the wrong question, and slowing down your responses keeps you from sounding over-rehearsed,” Raiffa says.

Photo credit: chombosan/GettyImages

AUTHORDan Butcher US Editor
  • GV
    GVP+ Venta
    19 October 2017

    And the applicant must not forget that the application is a mutual sale: he must sell his attributes to the company and also the company must sell its benefits to the executive

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