Finance Recruiting Step 1: Understand the Industry

By Michael Jimney, Financial Leadership Program (FLP) Correspondent

Going through internship recruiting as a Finance major can be stressful.  Months of preparation culminate in only a few 30-minute interviews to prove that you are, indeed, more qualified than the hundreds of other candidates the firm is considering (all of whom go to schools with larger footholds in the finance industry).  Once you finally make it past the interviewing gauntlet, otherwise known as a Super Day, you will wait, seemingly forever, for a phone call with some good news.  Taking the time to develop the skills necessary for finance recruiting can determine whether you will be waiting for your dream firm to offer you an internship or if you will be evaluating your back-up plans.  As a senior here at Baruch, I survived this process.  I would hardly classify myself as an expert, but I can pass down some wisdom I gained after experiencing this process firsthand.  Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of posts on how and when to develop the skills you will need during the finance recruiting process.  This week, I will be tackling Step 1: Understand the Industry.

Recruiting for a typical junior is a long process.  While applications are due in December and January, there is a lot of prep work that must be done during the fall semester.  It may seem like a disproportionate amount of pressure getting placed on one semester of school, but it is important to understand that a successful summer internship could lead to a full-time job offer upon graduation.  To ensure your hard work pays off, invest time to do your homework about the industry for two reasons:

1)      You will know which roles best suit your interests.

2)      You will be able to speak intelligently to professionals.

While the second point is very important for networking and interviews, the first point can actually be very complex at this early stage.  Most students have a preconceived notion about the world of finance.  As a result, they quickly bucket themselves into a particular career path.  Usually these careers center around Investment Banking (IB) or Sales & Trading (S&T) because those are, by far, the most well-known roles.  I, too, was guilty of this and realized that it presented several problems.  Firstly, I did not have a realistic expectation of what such a position entailed nor what skills were required to successfully secure my place.  Secondly, there were several positions I had never considered and even some that I had never heard of which would fit my skill set far better.

Take the time during this initial step to actually learn about all of the diverse roles available in the world of finance.  Go beyond the job descriptions and focus on learning the actual skills required in each job.  A role like Credit Risk requires a similar skill set to IB given its focus on valuation and analysis of capital structure, but it has a different daily schedule.  Students who enjoy the markets and are therefore considering S&T can apply that interest to Asset Management, Market Risk or Wealth Management.  Finance and Operations also provides exposure to the world of finance by taking advantage of project management skills which most students do not fully appreciate.  Explore the Vault guides to learn more information about roles you find interesting (they can be accessed by logging into STARR search,  Such information might include what Analysts are expected to do on a daily basis, what skills they need, what their work/life balance looks like, and what you will actually be learning once on the job.  While learning about different careers, remember to research which companies actually employ those groups/roles.

When you transition from researching finance positions to understanding the financial companies, a good place to start is by learning about the major firms.  The biggest things you will want to take away are: what lines of business they have, how the firm makes money, and how they stack up against their peers.  The finance industry can be complex so understanding the big picture can help later in the process, when more exotic firms or concepts arise.  Annual reports are a great place to get specific company information (but can be very complicated for financial firms).  Try leveraging additional resources like financial websites and a Bloomberg terminal, available in the Subotnick Center (, which can give a more simplified look at the industry.  Once you have the basic map of how major firms operate, it will be easier to understand the roles they contain.

At this point in the recruiting process, your goal is to form an opinion on a few target positions and companies upon which you can focus your efforts.  Landing a job requires hard work, so you want to make sure you are working smart.  Your interests and targets may evolve as you learn more.  It is important that you make a conscious effort to expand your understanding on a regular basis.  For the truly dedicated, this is a great time to get involved on campus with a professional club.  As a member of the Wall Street Club and the Financial Leadership Program, I benefitted from listening to guest speakers share about the industry or teach a specific point of finance.  These activities gave me greater exposure to experienced points of view.  Baruch is a school full of students who willingly go above and beyond to break into the financial services industry, so your classmates and alumni should not be overlooked in your quest for information.

Reaching out to students here at school is one thing, but communicating with industry professionals is a totally different league.  In Step 2 of this series, I will cover how to effectively prepare your soft skills to ensure you are getting the most from networking.


How to Succeed at a Job Interview in IT

By Jason Ioffe

The field of Information Technology (IT) covers a plethora of career paths which support the backbone of nearly any modern industry – from medicine, to finance, to video games and countless more. Database administrators ensure the security of a company’s most precious data, and cloud architects guarantee stable access to that data, anytime and anywhere, through internet-based distributed computing networks. Software engineers and web developers work together to create powerful, intuitive tools for an organization’s customers and internal use. All the while, IT consultants find themselves constantly seeking ways to improve the technological foundation of a firm. Finding a steady career in any of these roles is contingent upon mastery of concepts in computer architecture, and this mastery should be made perfectly clear to an employer during a job interview.

In my experience, most prospective employees are turned away from positions in IT due to poor performance during technical interviews – especially software and web developers. Speaking as a developer, I can tell you what traffic lights, whiteboards, and word puzzles have in common: they can all come up during your interview. While companies will not usually expect you to write efficient code on the spot, they will still evaluate the way that you think and organize the world around you. It will not be uncommon to hear thought experiments such as “How many traffic lights are in Manhattan?” or “How many cows are from Canada?” If your instinct is to immediately search the internet to provide an accurate answer, then you will disappoint your recruiter. Questions like these, though seemingly useless or bizarre, exist to test your analytical approach. For instance, let’s take “How many women in the United States earn over $150,000 per year?” An efficient approach would be to first limit the group to the amount of people who earn over $150,000 per year, which would be a very small subset of the US population, and then extract the women from the result to derive your answer. Being able to organize available data to reach solutions with minimal strain will get you far in the world of IT.

Sometimes, time sensitive tasks may require you to work quickly. IT interviewers commonly ask prospective employees to draft solutions on a whiteboard. These may range from visualizing the organization of data flow within the firm to actually solving small programming puzzles. If you are a programmer, you will likely have to design simple algorithms or data containers. Do not be afraid to adopt a naïve solution in these time-sensitive circumstances – it is better to be timely and right than end the interview without a solution.  For instance, you may be asked to find the shortest distance between two given words in a text file. An acceptable approach would be to test every word against every other word. This would be considered “N Squared” complexity, and you should be familiar with “Big O Notation” to describe the complexity of computing algorithms.

Even if your dream firm uses database architectures or programming languages you haven’t mastered yet, be optimistic and show that you can adapt. After all, the concepts are the same. IT is not so much about memorizing exact syntax, but rather being able to analyze and organize the world around you.

Introducing Recruiting Round Up

The STARR Career Development Center (SCDC) offers a variety of services to students.  One of the most buzzed-about services that we offer is our On-Campus Recruiting Program.  On-Campus Recruiting (OCR) refers to employers, from various companies, coming to campus to recruit young professionals for either internship or full-time positions.  In addition to holding first round interviews at the SCDC’s offices, employers typically come to campus for presentations, recruiter-in-residence events, and other guest speaking events.

While On-Campus Recruiting is a wonderful component of the SCDC’s services, learning how to navigate the recruiting process can take some education.  As a result, we decided to create a new category of articles on Starrlights that would address the challenges and opportunities that often arise around OCR and job searching in general.

If you have specific topics that you would like to see addressed in this section, please don’t hesitate to add your thoughts to the comments.