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No Extracurricular Involvement or Relevant Work Experience?

Five lightbulbs, only one is lit

Farhan Ahmed

by Farhan Ahmed

3rd Year Finance Student

Here are three little tips to help you stand out in your interview.

You aspire to work in the lucrative financial industry, but have only worked as a supermarket cashier? Scared that you will fail to answer technical questions during your interview? Keep on reading to discover three thing that you can do to stand out amongst a pool of qualified candidates.

  1. Learn a new skill or get a professional certification

Oftentimes, having a certification or expertise in a certain skill can help you distinguish yourself in an interview. Below are some ways to you can stand out, specific to your specialization, without needing years of education or any experience.

  • If you are a Marketing student, you should look into the new Digital Marketing Certificate Telfer now offers to its students. With the advent of social media and data‑driven marketing, this course will teach you how to use social platforms to their full potential to reach your target market.
  • If you are in MISA, arm yourself with the power of analytics by completing the beginner Google Analytics Certification course. It’s completely free! You can also look into learning a new programming language such as Python, C or Java.
  • If you are a Finance student looking to build a career around investments, talk to the finance lab manager on DMS second floor about how you can pursue the Canadian Securities Course and the Bloomberg Market Concepts certification. Although the CSC can be quite expensive and time consuming, it serves as a good foundation for learning the materials covered in the CFA exam. Also, most firms will reimburse you for the expense after you get hired anyways so you can consider it a win-win!
  • Interested in Accounting? Why not become proficient in softwares such as Quickbooks, Sage or SAP, just through YouTube? Those are used in most small businesses and government organizations. I once got passed over for an accounting job because the employers were looking for a student who knew how to use QuickBooks.
  • If you are studying International Business, use your free time to learn the basics of a new language. You can also spend your mornings reading the news on global markets or listen to podcasts on your way to class. You won’t believe how impressed the recruiters will be during the interview.

These are just a few examples of what you can do to get an edge over other candidates in your specialization. Although they do require quite of bit of self‑learning and discipline, the value you will get from them is priceless.

  1. Read specialized books and bring them up in your interview

Reading specialized books highlights the fact that you are a dedicated learner even outside of your required classroom learning. Also, it is a great way to show recruiters that you possess the knowledge of a particular industry, without having any prior work experience in that sector.

Wait! There’s more!

Reading regularly will enrich your vocabulary, which in turn will improve your communication skills. This will give you an edge over other candidates, as you will be able to express yourself with extra confidence and sophistication during your interview.

Some classics that should be on every business student’s reading list are: The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, Good to Great by Jim Collins, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies by McKinsey & Company.

I am positive that after giving these books a read, you will be able to finesse your way through technical interview questions without any work experience.

Naturally, you don’t have to limit yourself to books. I remember tying back one of my interview answers to an episode of the TV show Suits.

  1. Follow-up after your interview

Have you heard of the serial position bias? Hiring managers typically interview candidates individually in sequence and then make decisions after all candidates have been considered. Studies show that the human brain is more likely to remember the first (primacy effect) and the last (recency effect) interactions and are more likely to forget those in the middle. As a result, your chances of moving on to the next stage depend not only on your merits but also on how well recruiter remembers your evaluation.

That is why a crucial part of your job hunt is to follow up with your interviewers. It could be as simple as sending them a thank you note for their time. This will help refresh their memory, and, due to the recency effect, they will subconsciously be more likely to keep your name in mind.

You will learn more about this topic in your Organizational Behaviour course in second-year.

At the end of the day, remember that employers know you are just starting out, which means that they will be much more impressed with your interpretation of “experience” and with the way you relate it to their questions. My advice to you is this: be yourself, keep it honest, and use the strategies above to make one killer of an impression! Good luck!