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Application advice from Nomura's intern and graduate recruiters

Don’t feel you have to show a tunnel-vision interest in banking.

Sarah Vincent and Caron Marks, formerly co-heads of graduate recruitment, had much to say about getting hired by Nomura – so TARGETjobs grabbed a notebook and asked them the questions that we thought you’d want to know the answers to!

Do candidates need to have a spring week and internship at Nomura in order to apply for graduate roles?

Caron: ‘Like many investment banks, we do very little top-up hiring on campus for our graduate roles; we expect to hire most of our graduates through our internship. But you don’t have to have been to one of our insight programmes in order to apply for the internship.’

Sarah: ‘Our spring insight programmes are very competitive and so I wouldn’t expect a huge number of candidates for the internships to have done insight days or weeks with us or one of our competitors. However, it is useful if you have because it is a way for you to demonstrate how you have already engaged with the profession and with us.’

Caron: ‘We design our insight programmes to be a pipeline into the bank so we will keep in contact with you afterwards. For example, our women’s immersion programme is a paid and practical introduction to investment banking and it is a good way to encourage young women to consider a career in banking.’

You’ve changed your application process this year. Why?

Sarah: ‘Previously we asked for a CV and covering letter, but we found that we were getting a lot of generic letters and we weren’t able to see anything personal about the candidate. So, this year, we are asking for a CV and answers to three application questions: one about why they are applying to Nomura, one asking them to tell us something different about them that we won’t be able to see from their CV and one asking them to tell us about something they’ve read in the news recently.’

Caron: ‘We are really looking to find out more about you as an individual with these questions – what is unique to you and important to you. We are looking for individuals who can relax after managing a big project, as much as someone who is technically proficient.’

Sarah: ‘Absolutely. So for the question asking them to tell us something about them we wouldn’t see from their CV, it is perfectly OK to talk about how important their personal and familial relationships are to them or how they like to give back to their community. We’re interested in finding well-rounded candidates; don’t feel you have to show a tunnel-vision interest in banking.’

Any mistakes that candidates should avoid?

Caron: ‘With CVs and answers, you do see a lot of “copy and paste” mistakes where candidates refer to the wrong desk or the wrong bank (for example Credit Suisse) and you do see a lot of grammatical errors. Write your answers from scratch and get someone you trust to proofread your application.’

Sarah: ‘And our online tests aren’t difficult, but they do require practice and focus. It’s frustrating that a number of able students seem to take them with only 50% concentration, as they do not tend to make it through to the next stage.’

What makes Nomura different in your view?

Sarah: ‘Nomura is an Asian global investment bank so graduates will get exposure to lots of different cultures and working environments. We have a very respectful and collaborative culture within the bank and when recruiting we want candidates to be respectful, team orientated and collaborative.’

Caron: ‘I agree with that. It’s also no secret that our bank is entrepreneurial and that there should be new ideas presented and put forward. Ideas should be challenged – just respectfully. When answering the application question “why Nomura?” – and throughout the process – we hope that candidates would demonstrate an understanding of our culture.’

Sarah: ‘We are much smaller than some of our competitors so the interns and graduates coming in will have a much broader range of work to do and more exposure to senior people. Many applicants find this appealing.’

Throughout the recruitment process, you score candidates against six competencies. Tell us about them.

Sarah: ‘The important thing to note is that when we assess against competencies, we are aware that we are hiring interns and graduates and we are looking for an understanding of our competencies and for potential, rather than for perfection. Our “culture and conduct” competency has been explained above; we are looking to hire people who understand our culture and can act accordingly.’

Caron: ‘“Client-centricity and business acumen” is looking at both client management skills and commercial awareness. For example, we might ask candidates: how much research into the bank and the industry have you done? What issues do you think are important for the business right now? How would you advise clients?’

Sarah: ‘“Strategy and innovation” looks to assess whether the candidates – whether for a front desk role or operations – can look at things with a fresh pair of eyes: whether they can make something better or more efficient. We might ask them to describe a recent change they have made.'

Caron: ‘“Communication and connectivity” is, needless to say, about your communication skills and how you relate to others – this is something that is seen throughout the recruitment process. “Execution and delivery” on the other hand is about how you get things done. We might ask candidates to tell us about a time when they had so much to do that they didn’t think they’d get everything done and how they managed that, or we might ask them about their style of working, such as whether they prefer working in a team or by themselves.’

Sarah: ‘Yes, in our “leadership and collaboration” competency we put equal weight on both leadership and teamwork. We don’t value one more highly than the other. Not every graduate needs to be a “leader”.’

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