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How to Crush Your First-Round Interview

So you’ve made it to a first-round interview for a role that you’re excited about. Congratulations! But how do you make sure that you’re prepared to go in and crush it? We put together a  list of tips to help you navigate the interview preparation process and increase your odds of moving on to the second round.

Master The Basics

In any first-round interview there is a high probability that you will get asked the same three questions to start. These are typically 1) Tell me about yourself, 2) Why this sector/industry?, and 3) Why this firm? By preparing in advance for these three questions, you’ll get yourself off to a good start and make a positive early impression. You will come across as composed and thoughtful, which is likely to be how your interviewer remembers you.

In terms of preparation, work on drafting up three bullet points for each of these questions. It’s better to have a solid outline versus an exact script for your responses, so that you don’t come off as robotic and ingenuine. It’s usually obvious to an interviewer when you’ve memorized your answers, so avoid that approach. Additionally, if you get nervous and forget something from your script, it may derail your entire answer.

Typically, first-round interviews cover more of the “fit” aspects, meaning they will likely run through various behavioral and fit questions to better understand your professional experiences, interests, and goals and whether these mesh with the culture of the firm and/or the team. So prepare some bullet points for your past experience as well as some of the common fit questions.

Practice Makes Perfect

This is something your youth sports coach probably said, but it also rings true when preparing for interviews. Repetition is your friend – run through your ideal responses to interview questions in front of the mirror or with a classmate to get as much practice as possible. You can also record yourself and replay your answers, tweaking anything that you want to improve. 

Over time, you’ll be able to deliver your answers with a lot more confidence, which will show throughout your interviews. This is not to say that you should memorize anything exactly (as we discussed in the prior section), but rather be ready to deliver your main bullet points confidently.

Speak Slowly and Enunciate 

Going into your interview, remind yourself to slow down. Many people subconsciously speed up their speech when they are nervous, making them more difficult to understand or causing them to ramble. Try to enunciate your words, take pauses wherever necessary, and speak at a normal tone and volume. Maintain steady eye contact, smile, and try to imagine that the person you are speaking to is a close friend or relative. Your nervousness will likely subside after the first few minutes of the interview, so making sure you start off strong is key.

Research Your Interviewers

Before each interview, look up the people who will be attending to see if you can find anything in common. This could be that you both went to the same college/university, support the same sports team, or share other similar interests such as hiking or music. This can usually be found on their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles and will give you valuable insight into the type of people they are outside of work. By arming yourself with this knowledge, you will be able to connect with your interviewer(s) on a more personal level and increase the chances of making a positive impression. You will also demonstrate that you have done your homework and genuinely care about the interview process for the role.

Small Talk is Key

Using the tip above, you should always start the interview in a light, friendly, and conversational way. Try to build rapport with the person you’re meeting with by asking about their day, if they tuned into any recent sports games or anything else that will help you come across as a genuinely interested person. This will likely soften the tone throughout the rest of your interview.

If you are skilled at doing this you will also start the interview in a more conversational format, which is a great way to get things going. It will demonstrate that you can carry a conversation and will make the interview generally feel more natural versus a disjointed question and answer session.

Ask Thoughtful Questions

Another powerful way to leave a lasting impression is to ask good questions at the end of an interview. As an interviewer, you can tell how much someone has prepared for the interview by the caliber of their questions. Oftentimes, candidates will ask general questions that they most likely found Googling for ideas, which is not the best approach. It is best to structure a question using specific examples to demonstrate your preparation.

For example, instead of asking “Where do you see opportunities in the market right now?”, you might ask “I saw your firm invested in X asset. Does the firm have long-term conviction in this asset class, or was it more of an opportunistic investment?” Or instead of asking, “What is the culture of the firm?”, you might ask, “I heard that the firm has a competitive yet collaborative culture, based on talking with Y person on the team. I’m wondering if you could give me an example of a situation where this manifested in the team?”.

The questions above lead the interviewer to speak about their views on the market or the culture of the firm, but the second examples demonstrate that you have made an effort to research the firm beyond the surface level. This will make a lasting impression on your interviewer and will increase your odds of making it to the next round.

Closing Thoughts

By following the tips above, you will set yourself up for success by coming across as genuine, insightful, and a prepared candidate, which should dramatically improve your chances of making it to the next round. Also, remember that the interview is as much for you as it is for them. Ask insightful questions and try to walk away with a better grasp of the team dynamics, culture, and investment strategy of the firm, so that you have a better idea if this is the right role for you.

Looking to learn more? Check out our various professional resources! Whether you have yet to break into the industry or are just starting out in a new role, we have everything you need. All you need to bring is your effort!

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