If you have recently graduated with your finance degree, are looking for an analyst internship or a permanent position, or already have a solid analyst job, you need to stand out. It may seem challenging to stand out as a financial analyst, but this article is a great starting point for those who want to impress their managers.
There are approximately 290,000 active financial analysts in America, which grows yearly. In addition to this, there are ~58,000 finance graduates each year. There is stiff competition for analysts; you must be the best you can be to shine out from your compatriots.
This article is split into two parts, one for standing out as an analyst during your job search and the other for excelling within your current analyst position.
Standing out as a financial analyst during the job search
To rise above the competitive landscape of financial analysts, you need to identify unique ways to rise above the masses. Later in the article, we will outline several concrete ways you can do this, but first, let’s jump into some finance degree applications.
Unique applications of a finance degree
The easiest way to create a tactical advantage for yourself in the job search is to find a niche. If you’re trying to be just another securities analyst at Goldman Sachs, you’ll have a difficult time unless you graduated from a big school and have a perfect resume. Here are a few finance niches that you can pursue to set yourself apart:
Venture capital is an exciting track to consider, especially if you’re not all that interested in spending your life in front of a computer screen. Jobs in VC are usually quite communication-focused; you’ll end up meeting and idea-generating with start-up executives from many industries.
VC is an excellent path for anyone looking to gain a little experience in many areas. As a bonus, you’ll also generate a killer network after just a couple of years working in VC.
Hedge fund manager
If you’re all about maximizing gains, you should become a hedge fund manager. You’ll manage and develop a deep portfolio of securities and analyze global macroeconomic changes. The best part is that the traditional fee structure of a hedge fund makes this an extremely lucrative business.
Corporate financial modeler
Another great niche you can explore is a career in financial modeling. You’ll be tasked with creating predictive models for raising capital, acquisitions, and allocation. If you are interested in this career path, you must be an Excel expert. If you aren’t willing to spend eight hours per day in Excel, the financial modeler course isn’t for you.
Landing an entry-level financial analyst job or internship
After choosing what field within financial analysis is the best for you, you can focus on dialing in your job search strategy. Read J2T’s guide on creating a targeted job search strategy for a more in-depth look at this.
There are many ways that you can increase your chances of landing your dream analysis job, so here is a list of strategies explicitly tailored for financial analysts:
Learn unique financial analyst skills
A great way to stand out as a candidate is to show that you are interested in unique topics that are not necessarily an ordinary skill shared by most candidates. Here are a couple of interesting financial modeling skills you could learn to improve your chances of being noticed:
Monte Carlo simulation
A great skill to demonstrate to your future employers is Monte Carlo simulation. Monte Carlo is a method for expressing the various outcomes of a complex system with lots of random variables. These simulations are good for showing the entire scope of possibility for a given system, i.e., a company or security. Monte Carlo is one of the top risk-analysis skills, so if you aren’t already comfortable with it, we suggest you learn and show it on your resume.
Sensitivity analysis is another interesting topic you should learn as a financial analyst. This analysis is a great way to predict how increasing or decreasing a particular variable by a specific amount will affect the dependent variable, i.e., stock price, revenue, or EPS. While this is similar to a Monte Carlo, it uses a set list of constraints and variables and is not randomized.
Stand out in your interviews
Financial analyst interview skills
Every analyst should know how to perform well in an interview; a large part of your job is communication. If you don’t have the proper communication skills, there is no chance that an employer will consider you for employment. There are several concrete ways to showcase your communication skills in an interview as a financial analyst.
Make a portfolio
You should create a portfolio with your past work (usually excel spreadsheets and figures). A portfolio shows what you’re capable of doing and the quality at which you do it. As we mentioned above, if you’ve learned special modeling skills, this will set you leaps and bounds apart from other candidates. When your portfolio (usually submitted with your application) comes up in your interview, you can look sharp by walking them through the details of your projects in depth. This is one of the easiest ways to shine out from other interviewees.
Know the common questions
You should be aware of common financial analyst interview questions. Before the interview, think about what you’d say and come up with a list of significant points that you’ll touch on. Look over this list, and formulate general answers to each of them. This strategy is a little risky; you must ensure you don’t sound scripted.
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- Could you give an example of a financial analysis that went wrong? What were your takeaways from your mistakes?
- If you could pick one metric to evaluate a stock, what would it be, and why?
- What is NPV, and why is it important?
- Could you explain the idea of solvency in detail?
- What is your profitability model of choice, and why?
- What makes you want to be a financial analyst?
Basic interview skills
Now that you have some analyst-specific interview skills locked down, you should also have basic interview skills. Here are some tips that are essential for any great interview:
- Research the company: what it does, who its customers are, and its culture
- Express interest in a future with the company
- Ask killer questions: try to ask intelligent, thought-provoking questions that indicate that your potential insight
- Clearly describe your interest in the job and why you decided to apply
- Always send out thank-you letters or messages to your interviewers
Work with a recruiter
Another great strategy you can employ in your financial analyst job search is working with a recruiter. Recruiters are deeply intertwined within their industries and have all the most critical connections. If you are unsure how to begin your search for a recruiter, read J2T’s guide, “How to Find and Partner with a Recruiter.”
J2T is a recruiting and staffing firm that solely focuses on accounting and finance roles. J2T is a women-owned business exclusively serving the Colorado and Montana markets with the overarching goal to help you in all areas of the hiring experience. J2T Flex facilitates all operational accounting needs, including contract or contract-to-hire. On the direct hire side, J2T Recruiting specializes in Sr. Accountants/Analysts through CFO and touches everything in the corporate accounting and finance organizational chart.
If J2T seems a good fit for your analyst job search, please contact us today about beginning a partnership with us!
Standing out in your financial analyst job
If you’ve already found a job and are currently working within the industry, it's easy to get comfortable. To climb to the success you want, you need to focus on building your skill set in many areas. Here are some strategies that will help you become a great financial analyst:
How to be a great financial analyst
There are several core principles to being an excellent financial analyst; here is a brief outline of them:
- Analytical Ability - focus on increasing your analytical abilities as much as possible. This is the core ability of any analyst; if you’re unable to draw intelligent conclusions from data, you won’t be helpful to your firm. This HBS article is an excellent start for increasing your analysis capabilities.
- Entrepreneurial attitude - One underrated aspect of analysts is entrepreneurial attitude. This is a valuable perspective; entrepreneurs are always looking to optimize and better their processes, leading to higher profits.
- Feedback seeking - As an analyst, you need to be open to any feedback. There is no better way to improve your skills than having an expert look over your work. Try to get feedback whenever possible; it improves your performance and looks good to your managers.
- Technological proficiency - Make sure you are an expert in each software package you use. If you spend your days in Excel, learn the keyboard shortcuts and try to streamline all your everyday tasks. This will make you more efficient and makes the job more enjoyable.
- Communication skills - You should always be looking for ways to increase your communication's clarity and brevity. People love working with analysts who can get their point across quickly and efficiently; it saves both parties time.
Learn new software packages
Exciting software packages are being released every day, and some may change how financial analysis is done in the future. To stand out as an analyst, you should devote yourself to learning some of these cutting-edge packages.
This tool is especially effective if you’re in the small business space; it's a tool that combines financial analysis with forecasting and automatic reporting. Fathom is one of the best ways to streamline small-scale business financial modeling.
Tangent Works is a groundbreaking new tool that specializes in forecasting time-series data. It can autogenerate forecasts and insights from your existing data faster and easier than any other method. If creating large, complex forecasting models scares you, check out this tool.
Mosaic Tech is an excellent way for finance teams to interact and work together during analysis. Its goal is to avoid “siloed” data, data that are unseen and not understood by other areas of the company. This tool merges these silos to create a holistic view of a company’s finances.
Read books on financial analysis
Another great way to stand out is by reading books that will alter your view on analysis. You’ll learn so much from reading a book outside of the job; you can apply and synthesize your newfound knowledge each day you go to work. It also doesn’t hurt to mention these books to your managers; if they hear that you’re learning outside of work, they’ll be over the moon.
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
In Superforcasting, Tetlock and Gardner describe their ideas on the practice of forecasting in general and what makes it so difficult. This book is chock full of soft knowledge (you won’t find any robust models here), but it is a vast perspective changer on intelligent, accurate prediction. You’ll come out of this with a new view of what it means to predict and a set of guiding principles to assist you in your job.
Financial Modeling (The MIT Press)
For a more concrete look into modeling, we suggest you check out this core text. This is a traditional textbook, so don’t expect it to be a page-turner. However, you’ll learn the most valuable and fundamental aspects of modeling in Excel. If you want to be an expert in modeling, this is a great palace to start.
Now that you’ve learned the skills required to stand out as a candidate and a working financial analyst, you’re on your way to success. J2T thanks you for reading!
Written by Jordan Gibbs
Jordan Gibbs is a content writer for J2T. He has a Master of Innovation Management degree and a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. Jordan loves to be creative in any medium, whether it be writing, music, or art. He is also passionate about nature; he’s happiest when he’s in the mountains.