Advice & insights: masterclasses from industry leaders

Breaking Into Finance: Mark Ross’s Expert Advice

Mark Ross

Mark Ross

Mark Ross

Key Takeaways

  • Emphasize Technical Skills: Showcase transferable skills by highlighting technical aspects of your experience, useful for sector shifts within finance.
  • Innovate Your Resume: Distinguish yourself by featuring unique projects or programs, like a stock trading app, to move beyond traditional resume content.
  • Maintain Professionalism: Avoid simple mistakes like inconsistent dashes and bullet point formatting to keep your resume polished.
  • Highlight Innovative Solutions: Use examples of creative problem-solving, such as developing a task management dashboard, to demonstrate initiative.”
  • Value the Hobbies Section: Humanize your resume with hobbies to make personal connections with interviewers, enhancing memorability.
  • Strategize Salary Negotiation: Leverage a second offer for better terms and tactfully navigate salary discussions to highlight your role suitability first.

Resume Building for Finance Professionals

In the fast-paced world of finance, standing out from the crowd requires more than just a polished resume and solid interview techniques—it demands a strategic edge. Mark Ross, a career coach for finance professionals, shares invaluable insights into crafting resumes that make an impact, navigating the nuances of finance interviews, and mastering the art of salary negotiation. From highlighting technical skills to the art of leveraging hobbies and innovative projects, Mark’s guidance is designed to propel finance professionals into their desired career trajectory. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the field, his advice offers a roadmap to not only catch the eye of potential employers but also to secure the position and salary you deserve.

“I certainly did. It was a fellow who had worked in equities for six years that was looking to move into the fixed-income space. Making such a move is a challenge to say the least but he prepared his resume so elegantly. Rather than focusing on the business aspect of his work (which would have been all equity focused), he highlighted the technical aspects of each position he held; which all translated very nicely into a career in fixed-income.”

“The problem with “by-the-book” resumes is that the only measures left to compare these resumes by are grades and prestige. If you’re not a Harvard 4.0, you’re not the best resume. The best way to spice it up is to do something radically different. Instead of focusing primarily on school and experience, maybe create a section which focuses on a stock trading program you’ve developed. It will help you stand out and give you a great talking point during the interview.

“There are two that come to mind, and they aren’t finance related. Microsoft Word offers different length dashes based on how they are created. I’ve seen so many resumes where the date ranges have different length dashes. So many. Another is the inconsistency with have periods at the end of bullets. Are they sentences or not? Decide!”

Yes, myself! When I was working at Morgan Stanley I spent some free time developing a task management dashboard to help the team prioritize and organize the income requests from the risk managers. It was not in my job description or even related to finance, but every time it was brought up during an interview the feedback was always: “that’s awesome; we need that tool on our team!”

“The hobbies section is super-important! It gives you the chance to demonstrate to the interviewer that you are a human with human passions. You might even get lucky and share a passion with the interviewer which can instantly make the atmosphere more relaxed!”

Interview Preparation for Finance Roles

““Tell me why you think J.P. Morgan calculates risk using a 1 year look-back period and we use 4?” It was the first time I heard of a bank directly ask why they choose a different methodology than their competitor. They wanted to see if I could think quickly on my feet, and essentially come up with TWO reasons for choosing a look-back window.”

“This is almost always on a case-by-case basis, but often take an online certificate program or joining a “light” continuing education program and fill the void with advanced learning.”

“A shot of tequila (KIDDING!!). But seriously, there are three things you can do to be less nervous during interviews:

  • Get a good night’s rest and take a long shower in the morning.
  • Be ridiculously prepared, both in terms of content pertaining to the job, as well as your resume itself.
  • Complete MANY mock interviews.”

“People focus way too much on the role, and way too little on their own resume. More than half the interview will likely be dissecting your resume so make sure you have follow up information on every single bullet!”

Salary Negotiation in Finance

“I made one up myself years ago, and I love it to this day. When things are going well, ALWAYS try to get a second offer. Amount doesn’t matter. Company prestige doesn’t matter. With this in your back pocket, use this line: “I appreciate the offer and above everything really want to work with this firm but I have a competing offer that is very attractive. Do you think we can bring this up by 10%? I did this personally, and it works wonders.”

How do you navigate the tricky waters of salary talk during an initial interview?

“It’s certainly best to avoid discussing salary until they have seen how much you have to offer. If they bluntly ask “what are your salary expectations?” simply respond: “I understand that these roles typically have a pretty wide range. If you don’t mind can we first see if I’m a good fit for the firm and if the firm is a good fit for me? I’m sure we’ll align salary-wise later on”.”

What’s a polite way to decline a first offer without shutting down negotiations?

“I really appreciate you making me an offer. I understand that many candidates applied for this role so this is a big deal. However, I’m finalizing conversations with a few other firms as well. Could I get back to you next week?”

Can you share a story where someone played their cards right in a salary negotiation?

“I had a client with absolutely no full time experience get offered an Analyst (entry-level in finance) position at $95K. He was happy but I told him that he was worth more, especially given his advanced degree. He went back with: “I truly appreciate the offer and do want to work with you. However, given my advance degree, relevant projects and internships, I think I would be selling myself short accepting a position at the Analyst level.” Six hours later the offer came back at $105K and an Associate title!”

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