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.
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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