Position: Sales & Analytics
I’m going to jump straight into the interview here, simply because it was the defining part of my day at Bloomberg, and the memory is fresh.
After discussing my interest in finance, Sales Manager John posed the following question to me:
“Your CV is great. But if you want learn about finance, you’re better off going to a bank. Why do you want to work for Bloomberg?”
Here is where the interview could have gone one of two ways. Both paths crossed my mind.
Response 1: You’re right, John. Sorry for wasting your time. I’ll go work for a bank. It’s an easy thing to get into after all.
Well it couldn’t exactly be summed up into one response. Because what Sales Manager John had just shot at me was a bullet. And I knew that what he was really asking me was, “How can I be sure you’re not going to just stick around here for a year, get the experience, and then shoot off to UBS across the street?” A killer question that will easily end any interview. I began to dodge the bullet.
“Well, I believe Bloomberg can offer me the chance to advance my career much more rapidly than I could at a bank. It has a flat, meritocratic structure that encourages development and gives employees a firm grounding in many aspects of capital markets. Where as at a bank, you focus on one thing only.”
Yeah… that did it, good response. Dodged. Forgot I was dealing with a salesman here…
“…Okay. Say we offer you a job here at Bloomberg, but UBS across the street offers you a position there at the same time. Who do you choose?”
Okay, how does one even begin to form a reasonable response to that? To anyone with even the slightest bit of interest in the financial markets, getting offered a job in investment banking is like winning the job lottery. Well… it is to me at least. He knew this, somehow.
Now what I should have said was,
“I don’t think the lifestyle of an investment banker is suitable for me.”
What I ended up saying was,
*Takes a deep breathe* “Well part of why I’m here is to learn if Bloomberg is a suitable company for me. Does it offer me the future that I want? I’m not sure what UBS can offer me. I haven’t applied to them. I don’t think I’ve applied to any banks actually. Well I applied to a lot in my 3rd year but never heard back from any so developed somewhat of a distaste for them.”
John doesn’t look satisfied.
“Well I mean, if Goldman Sachs offered me a job tomorrow… I’d probably go with Goldman Sachs, but that’s not even a reasonable scenario because there’s no chance of that ever happening.”
“Okay, let’s get something straight. What I want out of a career is something I will enjoy, something where I can be in a position that allows me to leverage my leadership skills, to exert a positive influence to those around me, and where I can contribute to the bottom line and make a name for myself. If that career can be in the capital markets, something I’m really keen on, then all the better. But that’s not the only industry I’m looking at. I’ve applied for finance positions in a range of companies, such as GE, Caterpillar, GlaxoSmithKline (lie, but will do), Imperial Oil. So if Bloomberg can offer me a career that answers to my career objectives, then I want to work for Bloomberg.”
John and the other interviewer seem to accept this hastily assembled last ditch effort.
…Think I might still be in this.
So to anyone on their way to Bloomberg’s next recruitment event, seriously think about the following before stepping foot into their lovely London headquarters:
Why did you even come here? (Lesson the 4th)
The rest of the interview was standard. You already know to have your CV written on the back of your hand. With any financial services firm, you should be going in with a recent news story you can discuss. And this isn’t just quoting the news of the day. The interviewers are looking for you to actually comment on the story. They want your opinion.
Also since this was a sales-specific role (even though the position isn’t sales at first, and you don’t have to end up in sales either), they are going to ask you to sell something. My fellow applicant friend was given the ol’, “Sell me this pen” treatment. I on the other hand was given a job-specific version based on my prior expressed interest in taking on a development role in emerging markets. “We send you to some country in which we have zero presence in order to sell our product, what’s the first thing you do?” Another one was, “There are 2 banks beside each other. They are the exact same except one uses a competitor’s product and the other uses no product at all. Which bank do you choose to pitch to and why (there is no wrong answer)?”
A word of caution though, there is no preset interview structure at Bloomberg. And I have this straight from our event guides. The interview goes according to where you take the interview. So a lot of my interview for instance was spent trying to prove to them that I actually wanted the job. But everyone else I spoke to had to answer the same question to some degree.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED
Couldn’t think of a better subheading, but aside from the interview, this is how the day went.
Arrived at the building, chatted up the reception talent, told to stare into the camera in the wall. What? Yeah, never experienced this kind of security before. I looked around. There were in fact a lot of security guards. Oh right, today’s terrorism colour code is reddish-orange: “Be vigilant. “ Oh really? What’s going on? Who’s in danger? “We can’t tell you. Just be vigilant.” I guess someone actually takes the government seriously. Was given an orangey-red name badge to wear around my neck and told to go upstairs.
Was greeted by the hustle and bustle of employees grabbing drinks and snacks at what appeared to be an open plan cafeteria on the mezzanine foyer, free of charge. Sweet. Bloomberg gets a point.
Introduced myself to some other applicants and was then taken to a meeting room at the end of one of many floors filled with Bloomberg terminals. A very nice building indeed. Giant aquariums filled with coral and tropical fish. Art displays dotted about. One of which was a pond made from computer screens showing a pond. Nice one guys…. I pointed out its assured green power source. To which our guides candidly replied “No comment.”
So we were given a short introduction to the firm by what was probably one of the company’s most attractive analysts. Extra point for your salesmanship here Mr. Bloomberg. A brief Q&A followed.
We were then taken to the helpdesk area where we each shadowed a generalist. My generalist wasn’t really interested in me really. Just kind of sat and did her thing. Mind you she was already busy helping a person who actually worked there and needed to be shown what to do.
The helpdesk is where all graduates start. From what I saw, you don’t actually speak to any clients; the process is all taken care of via the terminal’s instant messaging system (how does one then develop their communication skills in preparation for sales?). And you can be answering a number of client queries at the same time. There didn’t seem to be any pressure to answering questions quickly. And if you didn’t know the answer, you could just transfer them to a specialist without the client even knowing. The questions I saw being asked sounded very basic. “How do you make a chart comparing daily volume and volatility?”
I must interject here and mention that all employees do get a key card that allows them to log onto Bloomberg from their home computer, mobile or laptop. A private trader’s wet dream.
So after the shadowing, we were split up and one group was sent for their interviews, and the other was sent on a tour of the building. I was in the latter group. No need to elaborate on a tour. We saw many floors of terminals. The one cool bit though was seeing the newsroom for Bloomberg TV. They were doing an interview and we walked past. A fellow applicant, Vladimir, and I gawked at anchor conducting an interview. We were motioned by the producer to get lost. Extra point.
Then came the interview. Won’t go into that again.
My summary? I think John had a point. Maybe Bloomberg isn’t for me. I got the impression that I was a bit too qualified for the job (not to sound modest). But you didn’t need a university degree to do this job – just an interest in financial markets and a passion for customer service. Getting into sales and getting the chance to work internationally in an emerging market would be the bee’s. But the competition to do that is immense, and I wouldn’t gain much personally if I failed to do that (and I imagine it would take years to get to that position). So where am I meant to go? I’m not experienced enough to get into IB, but my ambitions are too great for it’s auxiliary markets. With every interview I go through it seems I get further and further away from the answers. Maybe this lost generation crap has some substance to it after all.
Lesson #5: Fuck that shit.
Tomorrow I have my second stage interview with FactSet (one of Bloomberg’s competitors). I have to give a 5-minute presentation on why I think I’m right for the company. Here we go.
UPDATE: Read about my next interview with Bloomberg here. Go Figure.
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