Below is a guide to the key competencies and strengths firms tend to expect from candidates and why these competencies are required. Use these as a starting point and consider how your own experiences have helped you to develop them. You could reference some of these skills and capabilities when answering application questions.
- City employees regularly work in teams with internal colleagues and with clients and other firms. Organisations will therefore expect you to demonstrate that you are a strong team player, eager to contribute and able to listen to and encourage others.
- As you progress through your career, you are likely to move into a more managerial role involving, for instance, responsibility for training junior employees. Firms therefore tend to value leadership experience.
- City transactions regularly require the analysis of copious amounts of complicated data. Such analysis can facilitate financial planning and/or help City workers to formulate advice for clients.
Attention to detail
- Strong attention to detail is of vital importance, whether you are drafting contracts, inputting figures into financial models, drafting emails to clients or proof reading documents for supervisors. Small mistakes could lead clients (or supervisors) to perceive the firm (and/or you) as unprofessional, whilst larger mistakes could potentially give rise to a whole host of legal and financial issues for clients.
Organisation and time-management skills
- City workers are typically expected to juggle multiple projects for a number of clients at the same time. It is essential that they remain aware of all relevant deadlines (which can change at a moments notice) and keep up to date with any changes in those deadlines. Organisation and time-management skills are absolutely essential. Start by arriving on time for an interview!
- City work typically involves ample contact with other professionals. Firms will want to know that you will interact positively with colleagues and contribute positively to the firm’s culture. It is also essential that you will be able to be professional and effective when representing the firm to clients and in your dealings with other organisations with which the firm cooperates.
Ability to think laterally and innovatively
- Top City firms charge substantial amounts for their services. Increasingly, clients are instructing them only when they have particularly challenging and unique issues to resolve or strategies to execute. Firms want candidates that are able to think creatively and laterally to ensure client problems are tackled effectively.
Adaptability and flexibility
- City workers may be expected to work for and interact with a broad range of people who approach work in very different ways. Cultural awareness, including an ability to adapt your working style and the way you present yourself when necessary, can be essential. In addition, working hours and deadlines can be unpredictable. Candidates may have to demonstrate that they are willing to remain flexible with their time and travel.
- As you become more senior, you may be expected to bring work into the firm and this is often facilitated through networking. An ability to make connections and build relationships is therefore essential.
Communication skills, presentation skills and confidence
- Many City careers involve presenting to and regularly liaising with clients, other firms and employees within your firm. Confidence and communication skills are essential, as is an ability to deliver engaging, professional and concise presentations.
Motivation & ambition
- City work can be very demanding. Firms look for candidates able to rise to the challenge and excel. Demonstrating a commitment to personal development may help to show that you are such a candidate.
- Firms want to know that you will stick around even when long hours and less interesting tasks arise. Demonstrating that you have been able to commit to tasks in the past can help you to prove that you are a worthy candidate.
- An ability to negotiate can be an essential skill. It is important if you are a lawyer negotiating contractual clauses, a consultant negotiating deadlines or a director in an investment bank negotiating fees.
Ability to work under pressure
- Where deadlines are impending and things go wrong, City careers can involve working under a lot of pressure in order to meet client expectations. Think about times when you have excelled under pressure in the past.
By Jake Schogger - City Career Series