Prep For The First Interview To Get The Second

The research and prep necessary before your first interview in the public finance industry.

Now that we covered all the concerns over the last three weeks, you’ve made the decision to start the process, and we arrive at the interview phase.  Much has been written in the general media on interviews. In my humble opinion, I do not believe they apply as much to our industry.  The main reason being that your first interview is not going to be with somebody from HR (Human Relations), but it’s going to be with your potential future manager. With that as our backdrop, let’s look at the steps you need to address before the interview begins.

An Interview With Who? 

As I mentioned previously, the likelihood that you will be interviewing with your future hiring manager is extremely high. In rare instances a recruiter such as myself may recommend for you to have a general informational meeting with HR; however, I only do that in rare and specific circumstances.  For example, I am currently working with a candidate considering making a move, and we felt it was better to have an introductory call with the person responsible for the administration of recruiting. We did this because that individual is extremely knowledgeable about the firm, and this would be a good first step.  Does that mean we did not prepare since this is not the hiring manager? Categorically not! There still needs to be preparation for any first interview. With the advent of social media and websites, it is easy to do due diligence on the person or persons you’re going to be speaking with. Let’s start off with that.

Know Your Interviewer

Scanning the company’s website is the first step any public finance professional should undertake, even if you know the individual well. Reading their bio is crucial. Finding out how long they’ve been at the company is also paramount. Why? This will tell you a great deal about the firm itself. Titles don’t mean as much as authority, so I would not be as concerned about someone’s title as their responsibility. Looking at a company’s org chart may be another clue to the role of the hiring manager. After you’ve read their description, then see how many (and who) are reporting to this hiring manager. This will give you a good indication of the breath of the department. It will also indicate what divisions that manager may be responsible for as well. Lastly, scanning the site could lead you to knowing one or more people at that firm which you may choose to reach out to. However, I would not contact anyone until after the first interview, and then again, I would do it with permission from the hiring manager.  However, sharing you know an individual at their organization is always a plus, provided you know them well and they will give you a strong recommendation.

First Interview Prep & Your Goal

Now that you know who you’re interviewing with and their role you need to start preparing to answer interview questions. Let me say at the outset that within the field of public finance I have not seen firms or hiring managers deliberately try to trick anyone. The purpose of the interview questions is to determine if there is a potential fit between you, the candidate, and the company.  The first interview is more of a date. Both parties should be ascertaining if they want to learn more after this interview. The questions that will be asked will be open ended, so that you (the candidate) can share what is most important about your background and what you were looking for in your next position.  It is not yet time to discuss any financial considerations, but rather to demonstrate your ability to communicate, resonate, build rapport, and leave them wanting more. The goal of the first interview is to have a second interview.

Prepare Your Story & More

In addition to open-ended questions, a good interviewer is going to find out your story. They are going to delve into your background and what you have accomplished over your career.  They’re also going to want to know about your current situation and why you are interested in making a move. It is going to be up to you in the first interview to sell yourself by demonstrating your ability to generate revenue within that first year or protect expenses (if on that side of the equation). In preparation, you should also be able to share a quasi-business plan that you have thought about in earnest, which will enable the firm to get a feel for you. To summarize, this is your show. It is now show time and you are the master presenter. If you fill that role, there will be a second interview.  Goal Accomplished!


If you would like to discuss your options, please reach out for a confidential conversation at 760-477-1284 or email at [email protected]. He can also be reached on LinkedIn. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here, which is a compilation of our weekly blogs, so you never miss one. You can find our listing in the “supplier and services” section of the Red Book under the title of “executive recruiting”.

About Harlan Friedman, JD & Founding Member, H. Friedman Search LLC. Harlan is a thirty-year veteran Public Finance Banker turned recruiter who specializes in the placement of all levels Public Finance Bankers, Healthcare Bankers, Municipal Advisors, Compliance Officers, Issuers, and Bond Counsels.