At Harrison Careers, we’re constantly enforcing the mantra of preparation to our clients – you do not want to walk into the interview room less well-prepared than the other candidates. You DO, however, want to be perceived as the candidate with best technical knowledge.

This article explains how you can increase your chances of nailing the interview by boosting your technical knowledge.

Very few interviewers have the skill to really evaluate your level of technical expertise during a 30-minute interview. Candidates are typically much better prepared than interviewers.

Good candidates anticipate the technical questions they will get asked, and they prepare 3-4 minute answers that will sound convincing.

Great candidates lead the interviewer to ask the candidate what she wants to get asked!

The technical knowledge you need varies according to the business area you are targeting. However, you must demonstrate that you have made the effort to learn the technical aspects of the business. Here are some ways to achieve that:

    • Read the annual report of the company, which you can always find online and download. Usually they run to a few hundred pages. Focus on the first 30 pages.
    • Research reports from investment banks (if targeting finance)
    • Subscribe to Trade journals. If you find the subscription expensive, ask the provider for a free trial or a few back copies (it doesn’t have to be the latest issue of the journal) so that “you can check that you really want to subscribe”. Big city libraries stock a surprising number of professional journals.
    • Perform online research. Spend enough time online and you are guaranteed to find some technical material that you can use to impress your interviewer.


To prepare for the most important interview of my life with the Goldman Sachs convertible bond team, I managed to get hold of a couple of convertible bond research reports, and I read them cover to cover. They were quite technical, and were promoting yield-enhanced securities. I thought I would be able to show off the great preparation I had done. The head convertible trader seemed to be impressed when I brought up the research, but he eventually cut off my lengthy summary, and asked me what “parity” was.

I did not know.

It happens to be the underlying equity value of a convertible, but more importantly, anyone who knew anything about convertible bonds would know this basic information. It was embarrassing, but I still got the job offer. My interviewer (the head convertible trader) told me afterwards that he had been impressed that I was the only person he had interviewed who had gone to the effort of reading some research.

Which brings me to my main message – if you want to set yourself apart from the other candidates, you have to get technical.

Everyone at your university is smart, and most are hard working. Most are articulate, and most have examples of impressive things they have done in the past, even if they cannot necessarily articulate these with the ideal structure in interview. Most people realize that to get hired, your interviewer has to like you, and this means projecting charm, energy, enthusiasm, and generally getting them to think you would be a fantastic person to have on the team.

Great competency answers get you past the first round, but they do not get you the job offer. Imagine you are the convertible bond trader looking to hire a trading analyst from Princeton or Imperial. You would not be interviewing them if they were not smart and generally impressive in the first place. You will not hire anyone you do not like, but everyone is trying so hard to impress you that you will probably like most of them.

Where that leaves you as an interviewer is trying to figure out how to decide which of the 10 great candidates to offer a job to. It usually comes down to how well you think they understand the job, and how good their technical knowledge is of your business area. It will not be enough for you that they understand trading, because there have been enough campus presentations so that everyone gets the basics. You will hire the person who has gone the extra mile and acquired knowledge that other people do not have. This could be research reports, extensive contacts with people within the firm, or really convincing trading ideas (that have been plagiarized from newspapers – after all, why come up with your own ideas when financial journalists will do it so much better than you will?), or a number of other sources. Talking to the people in the year above you probably will not be enough.

If you really want to maximize your probability of getting the job offer, then before you walk in to the most important interview of your life, make sure that you know you have more technical knowledge than the candidates you are competing with.

At Harrison Careers, we spend all our time helping clients get and pass interviews with elite companies. Get In Touch to let us know how we can help you!