Interview: FactSet (Round 2)

The Position: Consultant

After submitting my CV and cover letter to FactSet, a month passed by and I figured a WMR had gone off somewhere.  Then out of the blue, I received an email on Monday at 4:30pm asking me if I could be in London on Tuesday for an interview and assessment.  Sure, I only plan my life one day in advance.  Thankfully for them I have no life.  And I know beggars can’t be choosers but that’s cutting it quite close.  I always give extra kudos to companies who give plenty of notice.

So I arrive at a nice shiny building in London’s east side.  This building had about 12-15 floors; FactSet occupied floors 3, 5 and 6 if I remember correctly.  I check in at ground floor reception, am given a badge, and sent to the 5th floor.

Upon exiting the lift I am greeted by another security obstacle.  A receptionist comes and lets me in and I am told to take a seat.  While I am waiting, two other applicants arrive and we make small talk.  We are then escorted to the hottest boardroom I have ever set foot in.  And I haven’t set foot in a lot of boardrooms, so for the sake of my future career, I’m hoping this one was the exception.

We would start working on three different exams and whilst doing those, one at a time we would be pulled into another room to be interviewed.

Each exam should take you 30 minutes and the topics covered are:

Financial Markets – I can see how this test would be tough for those who have no experience in the area.  But no worries, they take applicants from any discipline and all training is provided should you get the job.  As an aside, if you’d like to get acquainted with how the City works, I recommend picking up a copy of Philip Coggan’s The Money Machine: How the City Works.  It’s an easy read and easy on the wallet too.  Questions on the exam included simple calculations using parameters such as EPS, P/E, market cap, weightings, etc, etc.  (most included formulas).  Also covered were basic investment return calculations, general knowledge on EU indices (eg.  what country is the CAC located?), and role of the Bank of England (eg.  what does it set?).  I got stumped on a question asking to calculate net income per share from some information given.  They didn’t give the amount of shares outstanding, and I wasn’t sure how to derive that from diluted earnings per share.

Numeracy – a general knowledge of algebra is needed here.  If Company A’s market cap is twice as large as Company B’s, and Company B’s market cap is three times as large as Company C’s, what is Company C’s market cap if all three market caps add up to $70m? Sanjeev and Rafael both enter a 100m race and Sanjeev wins. At the moment Sanjeev crosses the finish line, Rafael still has 5m to go.  To make things fair, the two boys race again but this time Sanjeev starts from 5m behind the starting line.  Both run at the same speed as in the first race.  Who wins the race? a) Sanjeev; b) Rafael; or c) they tie.  There were a couple brainteasers like these, and then there were confusingly easy ones like: what is 80% of 64?

Excel – You are given a laptop with three worksheets open in Excel and a list of instructions.  You get a point or two for each task you complete.  On the first worksheet you are required to do various formatting and function fixing to some data.  This makes up the largest part of the exam with respect to number of tasks.  But to any frequent user of Excel, should pose no problems.  The second worksheet consists of a large table of data and you are required to make some more advanced edits to formatting and functions.  What do you do when you don’t know how to do something in Excel? Use the help feature! I cannot stress this tip enough.  The third and final worksheet had a small table array in which you were required to use the VLOOKUP function to complete the missing values.  I recommend Googling this function and following a tutorial on how to do a basic vlookup.  It’s not hard, but it helps to be familiar with it beforehand.

I was lucky enough to be called for an interview last and so I had enough time to finish all the exams beforehand and take a bathroom break.  And thank goodness for that because my exam anxiety wouldn’t have allowed an interruption, let alone my bowels.

One of the major problems I have with interviews is the introduction.  I can never remember names.  My brain seems to only have the capacity to carry with it the name of one person I meet during a day.  If two people are interviewing me, I’m screwed.  And sure enough I instantaneously forgot the first guy’s name as soon as Gary introduced himself.

Lesson #2: Develop a system for remembering names.

This was a relatively smooth operating interview for me compared to previous gong bashers.  Mostly because I had already done one with their main competitor, Bloomberg, so knew a decent amount about the industry.  The 30-minute interview was conducted by an account manager (who managed 8 accounts; 400 bankers in total) and Gary from HR.  Questions asked were (and thanks again to Econ1 for helping out my memory here):

-Tell us about yourself.
-What was your favourite module in university? Why.
-Which one did you least enjoy? Why.
-What are you hobbies? (For some reason I let them in on my recent foray into online poker; positive response though I think).
-What role do you take up when working in teams?
-What did you do during your gap year? (“Years” in my case).
-Tell us about something in the financial news that interests you.
-Explain what FactSet does as you would to someone who knows nothing about our industry.
-What sorts of clients do we cater to?
-Who are FactSet’s main competitors?
-What makes FactSet different from its competitors?
-What do you know about the role you are applying for?
-Do you have any experience in a customer service position?
-What is your preferred department, IB or IM? (Read my review of a great introductory book on IM here).
-What other jobs have you applied for?
-Where do you want to be in three years?

Ending with the usual, “do you have any questions for us?” This is an extremely important part of any interview.  And I once again refer you to Dr. Paul Redmond’s book The Graduate Jobs Formula for some great ideas for questions.  My questions were:

-Could you tell me more about the details of the graduate scheme and what exactly is involved?
-What are some graduates doing within the company who entered the scheme 3-5 years ago?
-I have noticed that the company has received a lot of Best Employer awards; could you explain why you think that is?
-How is the CFA involved with the scheme?
-What happens next in the application process?

With regards to the last question, there is one more interview/assessment day.  You are put on both the IB and IM teams to see what they do.  As well you sit with a help desk consultant and watch him take some calls.  And at the end of the day you are required to give a presentation to a panel of heads.  An interview will fit in there somewhere.

With regards to the CFA question, I will tell you what he told me.  The CFA is a lot of work, and everyone he knows who is doing it tends to spend his or her evenings and weekends in the office.  He also recommended not starting it until you had completed your first year at the company.  There is just too much to learn, and it will interfere with the learning process involved with your actual job.  But yes, they will sponsor you to do the CFA exams and it is highly looked upon within the company.  To which I quipped, “So it’s basically like doing a masters… with a full-time job at the same time.” To which they agreed.

Sounds fun!

On the whole, it was a pretty successful interview in my opinion.  My one regret was not speaking louder during the interview.  But everyone I came across in that place was really soft-spoken.  It was a bit odd.  The place as a whole was generally pretty quiet.  So I thought I would just go with the flow and relax.  Nevertheless:

Lesson #3: Speak clearly and with precision.

It was nice meeting you, Gary.  And you… buddy 😀

UPDATE: Just found out that I’ve been invited back for a 2nd interview.

KEEP READING: If you would like to advance your understanding of Investment Management (“IM”), read this post.

BOOKS mentioned in this post:

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53 thoughts on “Interview: FactSet (Round 2)”

  1. Mr.Noughty (and Naughty) Graduate, thanks a lot about this blog.I have the same assessment with FactSet and I will prepare based on your experience.

    See you on board!

  2. Hey dude. I really like this blog you’ve got going. I’m in the exact same position as you by the way. Not easy is it?

    Anyway I was hoping you could help me out with something. I’ve got an interview coming up with FactSet and wanted to know what your answer to their question regarding your preferred department (IB or IM) was. I’m quite clueless as to how I should answer this since I’m assuming there’ll be a lot of overlap in the kind of products that they use. Personally I have no preference since I just want to get an insight into the world of finance.

  3. Hey Anony,

    Thanks for reading.

    I really can’t remember what I said. I wasn’t quite prepared for the question myself. I said one, but then switched to the other as their use of the abbreviations caught me off guard.

    I would just say what you just told me. That you have no preference but hopefully you’d find out as you worked your way into the job. You aren’t required to specialize until after a year in at least I believe. I can see no harm in saying that. Besides, if you say you are really into investment banking, they’ll just say, “so why aren’t you applying to investment banks?”

    Hope that helps. And good luck!


  4. Lol you read my mind dude. That’s exactly why I didn’t want to say investment banking.

    How’s your job hunt going btw? I just realised this is going to be the second interview you and I both have attended (the first being BA Pensions).

    P.S I’m loving the picture of Dustin Hoffman. That’s one of my favourite movies.

  5. Oh you went to that one too? Seems like ages ago.

    Haha yeah he nails that role so well. And I would say he stole that pose from me but that would just be a flat out lie, and historically infeasible.

    The job hunt is not going is well as I thought it would be. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t pulling at least some of my hair out. Have written a few letters to Santa. Waiting to hear back. I think the companies are actually out to get me. Had 3 rejection letters arrive at once today. Ridiculous really.

    Onwards and upwards though right


  6. I know what you mean I had 3 rejection letters myself the other day. It’s a pain in the ass. Might I suggest you consider careers in accounting? That’s who I’ve had the most positive response from so far.

    Also do you think you could help me out with one last thing regarding factset? For the excel and financial markets test what all do i need to know?

    Thanks a million for your help bro.

  7. Yeah I’ve actually started to focus more on roles that support the ACA or CIMA. Just had an interview on Thursday and going to an assessment centre for another this week.

    I wrote everything you needed to know above! Couldn’t have made it more easier for you guys haha. If you have a background in finance, the test is a cinch. If not… well, you may find it a tad more difficult. Most of it is multiple choice. They’ll ask stuff like, “in what country is the CAC exchange based in?” “What is the main role of the BoE?” (monetary policy). They’ll ask you to calculate some basic financial ratios, but most questions give the formula. Basic stuff like return per share and market capitalisation.

    For the Excel test, google “how to use v_lookup tables”. This is all stuff I’ve already said in the main post. I’m sorry I can’t remember anything else. It was all fresh in my mind when I wrote it so it doesn’t get any better than that.

    Relax, you’ll do fine. That stuff is all learned in training and on the job anyways. It’s the interview they are looking to see how you perform in.

    The most important thing you need to know is why you want to work for Factset and no where else. Nothing else tops that. It’s the reason I didn’t get the job.

    Kill it.


  8. Wow nice post, probably one of the first times ive read all the comments in a blog/article.

    I applied today and got invited to the assesment on thursday, which means I have only a day to prepare! I like the pressure tho.

    They also didnt say anything about an interview after the test, was that the same as your experience? Or did they specifically say they would interview you after the tests?

  9. Thanks Tom,

    Just had a look at the email and they did mention that it would include an interview. I’d prepare for one regardless. Seems a bit odd that they’d only bring you in to sit the tests.

    Good luck,


  10. Hey TNG, and everyone else, this is an awesome blog, I sat down tonight to research the factset tests and stumbled across this, brilliant stuff. I am sitting the tests on Monday – very short notice, a situation made ten times more difficult since I am currently working in a full time job and plan to pull a sicky!

    In my invitation email at the bottom the guy writes:

    “FYI – Should you be successful in this assessment stage you will be invited to a short interview (45 Minutes) on a different date”.

    For this reason I am thinking that I won’t be interviewed at all? I have researched the tests and researched the company so this would be fine, however I have only 3 days to prepare for a potential competency interview (figuring out good responses to Econ1’s interview description – quite a worrying prospect!

  11. Hi guys – good post! Have been applying for investment jobs for a couple of months now (it’s not going fantastically well…), and was invited to the FactSet assessment day last week (which I’ve just returned home from). I did a bit of prep last night, then found this blog half an hour before leaving and subsequently sh*t myself as I had gone off in totally the wrong direction! Found parts of it difficult and other bits v straightforward.

    Anyway, just wanted to ask how the job searches are going? Have either of you done the IMC? I’ve saved for it but am not sure whether I should be spending over a grand with no gaurantees…

  12. Thanks a ton TNG! your blog is a masterpiece.. I have this interview tomorrow.. and reading your blog makes me feel better about the whole process… My only concern is do they throw random financial questions at you? Having not done finance modules at Uni i do tend to struggle a bit when things get too technical.

  13. @Ben – If you have the money then go for it. I have no idea if it helps or not. It would definitely show your motivation. I have never done it myself, as I have no money. The tricky part is, if you were taken on with a company in a relevant position, they’d pay the fees for you. So who knows! One of those questions to be asked at a career fair.

    @Anonymous – I’m happy to hear you enjoy what I’ve done here. Really is a pleasure to hear from people who it has helped. I really can’t recall if they asked me any financial questions, bar the ones on the financial markets exam. My gut says they didn’t. And if you haven’t done any finance modules, I’m sure they’d much rather be interested in hearing why you want to work for a financial data provider.

    Good luck guys,

    -The Still Unemployed TNG

  14. @Anonymous Dec 16, 2010

    Sorry Blogger put your msg in the spam bin. Never saw it until today. Hope the assessments went well for you and that you didn’t draw too much suspicion calling in sick the second time (if and when you were invited for the interview).

  15. Thanks for the prompt response to my last post, TNG!! Am sure you will land a good job soon…

    as for me.. fingers crossed for tomorrows interview!!

  16. Hi TNG,

    This blog has been very useful to me, especially seeing as when I got the email, I had no idea what to expect for the assessments (seemed a bit daunting, truth be told).

    I am most worried about the Finance test, and was wondering when you say “general knowledge on EU indices” (this is possibly a stupid question) does that mean for example interest rates and things like that?

  17. Oh ok brilliant. Thank you for your help! I hope you get the job you want…your site has proved very helpful for people like me!

  18. Factset has invited me to the last and final round of interviews. I’ve decided to withdraw my application. They asked me why. I ignored this question when I was emailed them for a travel expenses claim. I’m normally not this rude. But this is why…

    Why I dont want to work for Factset:
    1)Unlike Bloomberg’s 1st round of an extremely short competency interview over the phone, Factset has decided to test people using 3 assessments. A little bit intimidating at first, and its shows how serious they are about job applicants. Until you realise these tests are very easy (accept for the Vlookup bit, which you (I) wouldnt have been able to do without TNG). So they were fine, lets move on. The HR lady I met was actually a high school friend of mine (though I havent spoken to her for ages), she was very distant and didnt even bother ‘catching up’ with me. Starting to get the gist of Factset. 1st time I went to Bloomberg, I saw a trendy, stylish, modern, buzzing ‘all you can eat for free’ canteen. 1st time at Factset, was sat at a simple lobby with the same few people walking up and down the corridor. Saw no other life form whatsoever. Oh except for the 40year old receptionist who didn’t look so happy and didnt bother to notice me. Fine.

    There were only 3 of us doing the tests, in a meeting room, with the HR lady popping in once or twice to check up on how we’re doing. 1st time at Bloomberg, met appx. 10 other candidates, all nice, funny, smart-looking people…people who I would want to work with in the future. Still no sign of anyone working at Factset other than the receptionist, my high school friend, and a couple of others…where is everyone? More importantly, is there going to be free food for us when we get the job? Tests were easy, short bye, and we’re off.

    2nd round: same HR lady, I get to meet a HR specialist and a senior ‘consultant’ lady. Hey….nobody told me I was going to be interviewed by a panel, they didnt actually mention anything in the invitation actually. I got a bit worried when the HR lady said I’m going to meet some senior people…already? Nevermind, another meeting room and no other life form. Everybody’s serious, no smiles, fine. I mean Bloomberg was all serious too during the interview, but i kinda expected that because TNG had prepared me well. So iguess theyre equal on this serious, stressful, no smiles thing. However, at Bloomberg I had the chance to see the ‘other’ side of these employees out of the interview room….nice, funny, enthusiastic, motivated, fun people! Factset= interview, bye, home. I dont think they realise that I might want to know more about the company like the way they want to know more about me, its supposed to be a 2-way process. At bloomberg, (1st in-house round) I got to watch a consultant work, i got to see the broadcasting studio etc. At Factset, just lots of empty meeting rooms, empty kitchen area, lots and lots of cubicles…(I asked Factset about their culture)The senior consultant lady mentioned they employed graduates mainly so the workforce is young, fun and sociable. Did not see that. I normally believe things after I see it for myself.

    So this is why Factset isnt for me. But damn Bloomberg for rejecting me. My advice: dont forget to say (and explain) why you have always dreamt and wished about working for Bloomberg since u were born.

    p.s. the Traverstine paved toilets at Factset just makes it even more old-fashioned and dull compared to Bloomberg. Bloomberg owns their entire building, Factset works on levels 5,6,7?

  19. Hi TNG,

    Dude congrats now that you are employed! And thanks a ton for this blog, I was trying my best to anticipate some of the FactSet questions and this is such a relief. Can you pls tell me a bit more about the Excel qns, apart from fucntions such as V-Lookup were there any other that you remember clearly while working on the formatting and data manipulation?
    advanced edits to formatting and functions – stuff like DAVERAGE, DCOUNT, DSUM, etc?!
    and also the finance qns, you mentioned invt return calculations, were the formulas provided like for eps and p/e calculations or did they expect you to know these?

    Thanks in advance TNG, this blog has been such a REVELATION 😉

  20. Just to say thank you very much for your insightful information. I have this set of tests on two days.

    Extremely grateful :)

    Hope your well


  21. You’re very welcome Sen

    A word of caution however: I’m sure by now FactSet has caught wind of this page and have adapted their approach accordingly.

    Just be yourself, don’t be nervous, and know what you want out of it (duh… a job right?).

    To everyone out there still in the job hunt process, if you want it, you’ll get it. Sorry I haven’t been posting lately. Keep at it!


  22. Hi!

    Your blog is really helpful and interesting to read! I am attending the factset assessment day soon and I was hoping you could tell me whether the finance and numeracy tests were multiple choice or open ended?


  23. hi TNG, do you remember how many questions there are for the numeracy and finance tests? 20? 30? etc..

    I have my assessment on Monday so any help will be great!

  24. Hey, I’ve been asked to come in for the 3 assessments, but the interview hasn’t been mentioned. Were you told that you were going to have both in the same day for yours?

    Great blog btw, really helpful! :)

  25. Thank you very much for the info! I was preparing to travel down for Manchester for an interview tomorrow afternoon after getting through the telephone stage, but looking at what the interview consists of it’s unlikely i’ll get through to the second assessment. Thank you for saving me the time, really helpful feedback!

  26. Hey TNG,

    I just got through to the next stage after the 3 tests and I have been asked to prepare this 10min microteach thing. Did you ever have that? any advice?


  27. hi thank you for this blog. You actually helping me now.. on what topics i need to read regarding the excel exam! :)) hoping that tomorrow I will past the Exam and interviews.. and definitely I will get the Research associate position… *crossed fingers! :)) thank you so much!


  28. Thanks a lot for the information, this blog was very helpful.. Stupidity on my part prevailed though as I managed to fail the maths and excel parts of the assessment. The excel test was very accurate, the v-look up uses the first database you are given, this caused me some problems as I was looking at the second database which wasted a lot of time! The maths test was exactly the same as described above – with some percentage changes and algebra thrown in for good measure. The finance test was also very similar.

    I’ve applied for about 25 positions and have final received an offer. Perseverance is the key to success as depressing as it can be.

    Thanks again,

  29. Hey, I was wondering if anyone knows the process for Microteach? I have passed the excel/numerical/financial tests and the HR interview, and now I have been called in for the assessment day comprising of team-building activity and a microteach presentation.

    Any tips?



  30. Hi, I was wondering if anyone knows whether there are any interviews at the assessment centre? I got an email saying their would be a microteach, group exercise and lunch, I just don’t want to get caught off-guard.

    Also thank you a lot for this blog, while the format has changed slightly a lot of the information (even some of the questions you posted) are still very valid!


  31. Hey, really would love to know if anyone has any information on microteach and the group task? any information would be great!

  32. Would also really like to know if someone has any feedback on the assessement centre with especially the microteach but also the group task?


  33. This is great stuff! Anyone got more info on the microteach and group activity? I made it through the telephone part and the tests yesterday.

    Thanks again!

  34. Hi TNG,

    You mentioned that some formulas were given for the finance part of the exam. So does that mean we are expected to learn formulas for the finance assessment and if so which ones? I don’t think I’ll have time to learnt them as I have exams and a presentation to prepare for my dissertation…


  35. No, that’s not what I mean. The formulas given were what was required to answer the questions. If you are worried about not being prepared for the mathematical/finance assessments you will undoubtedly face at all job interviews, then look some practice ones up online. If you don’t have enough time to prepare, then make time. It’s up to you whether you want a job or not.

    If you consider yourself decent at math, and have a basic understanding of how equity and debt work (learnt in all intro to finance classes, e.g. share price x, # shares outstanding y, question: what is the market capitalisation?), then you will be fine. If you are not good at math, and don’t know the answer to that question, then you will have a hard time entering this line of work.


  36. I have been invited to the first stage with the three tests and face to face interview. Was wondering if anyone has recently done it and whether it has changed much? also how specific does your answer have to be to how a consultant might solve a problem for a client. I would have thought giving an explanation of guiding them through helpdesk solutions or arranging a visit to their office to solve a technical problem that may arise with their analytical software would suffice as an answer based on what we read in the job description?

  37. Hi Anon,

    I’ve just come across your post that you were invited to a face to face interview recently. How did it go? Were the questions different to what has been explained above my TNG?

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