Hal T. Horowitz
Originally published in Leasing News
Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018
Your interview is winding down and you’re confident about your responses to the questions you anticipated. You covered your technical knowledge, how rates are calculated and the importance of understanding the impact of basic financial ratios on a company’s ability to repay its debts. You spoke to your soft skills, your management style, work ethic, creativity and you’re feeling good about how you demonstrated your ability to communicate and interface with others. You covered your background, your goals and your vision, and you stressed your accomplishments; you spoke to your knowledge of your market and you brought it all together explaining how the aggregate of your skills and experience will add value to the firm if they hire you.
And then your interviewer asks how you see the next quarter shaping up. Or what you foresee trending in your market this year. Caution: This is not a casual question aimed at creating small talk to wind down the interview. This is a question, the answer to which may be subjective, but also in which your interviewer already has a preconceived opinion. And since his opinion, whether it agrees with yours or not, wasn’t formed in a vacuum, neither had yours better be.
Whether your primary discipline is commercial banking, equipment financing, asset-based lending, consumer finance or investment banking, there is a myriad of resources providing year end wrap-ups, quarterly forecasts, indices, confidence levels and just about any other trending activity in your field and market. “I think we’re going to have a good year,” is just not going to cut it in an interview. If you’re not up to date on what is happing in your industry, you are not the strongest candidate for the position, and not likely to make the short list. With the information and discussions put out on social media sites and by trade associations, house organs, blogs, newsletters, search engines and the seemingly endless list of Websites they tag that are focused on your specific industry and market demographic, you have no excuse for not having an informed response to what’s going on. Or what is likely to occur.
This is not a test that you should need to cram for before an interview. It’s just common sense, or so it seems to me, that you need to anticipate any potential volatility, even in the most stable of times, to adapt quickly to change, said to be the only constant. And if change doesn’t occur rapidly, or you don’t have an interview this week, the fact that you can speak, not just to what you do, but the macroenvironment in which you do it, adds value to you, as a candidate and as a professional. Having an informed and plausible vision, knowing which of your competitors are merging or being acquired, whether housing will remain stable, machine tool sales are likely to increase or when to anticipate a rate modification by the Fed, should all be a part of your kitbag of talent. It will command as much respect by your interviewer as your ability to parse financial statements or assess the value of collateral.
Keeping abreast in today’s ultra-connected business world is not difficult. It need not take more than mere moments a day to read a blog open and read a Google notification. White papers, webinars and podcasts abound. News articles are shared, forwarded and retweeted constantly. Many, if not most, of these resources are free and all of it can easily be accessed. You’re either reading or downloaded this from one such free source right now.
To say the market is due for an adjustment just because you heard someone else say it, and not be able to debate your opinion is meaningless and will be counterproductive to your goal. You don’t want to do well if you’re interviewing or pitching a new customer. The market is too competitive to do well. You want to nail it. Your next employer needs to know how you’ll represent the company. Your next client needs to know that for him to rely on your direction, you need to know what’s happening in the other directions. You need to know what you’re talking about. You need to stay topical.