So, you want to join a FinTech business?

As a specialist FinTech headhunter that works with both early stage and established businesses, I receive calls every week from active candidates who are looking to make a move from their current, typically corporate, role into a high-flying “FinTech” business. However, there is a pattern forming in the advice I find myself giving candidates and the outcome of each call.

On these calls, I see myself asking the same four questions:

What stage of business do I want to join?

Typically, what attracts people to smaller businesses, is they can have a greater impact and take on more responsibility than in the corporate world. Earlier stage businesses require a different skill-set (and mind-set) and will require you to be highly hands-on and broad in your knowledge. A larger business, as it grows, will prefer individuals who become increasingly specialist in their area of knowledge.

Before making the decision to pursue the FinTech industry, I would ask yourself where you could add most value and how well you could adapt to the start-up environment – something which many candidates underestimate.

Which five companies would I most like to join and why?

I always find it surprising when candidates can’t answer this question. My best piece of advice here is to:

  • Take time to research the sector. If it’s FinTech you’re trying to move into, have more to say than “I hear it’s really hot right now” (yes, somebody actually said this last week).
  • Produce a clear list of your five favourite companies, have a clear reason for why, and you will find yourself more prepared for making this search.

What start-up experience do I have?

Making the move to an early-stage business is difficult and almost all of these businesses are looking for people who are “hands on” and have “growth experience”. But how can you move into FinTech with no experience? It’s up to the individual to be proactive in their interaction with the FinTech community. Join mentor programmes, attend events and advise early stage businesses. If you don’t already have this experience, it’s time to start getting out there and finding some.

What examples of past “hands-on” experience can I give?

When interviewing, I spend a lot of my time trying to understand whether candidates can provide evidence of being hands-on. The client is looking for you to give concrete examples of exactly what you have achieved and how.

This is especially relevant in larger organisations where you are operating as part of a matrix – another reason why, if you’re managing a 200 person team, moving in to a start-up business of 50 may not be the right move.

Lastly, when it comes to your CV, keep it short and sweet and only include the most “wow” and relevant points. Give solid statistics, briefly explain what you achieved and make sure it flows from experience to experience. Tell a story.

The search for any new job is always going to be lengthy and time-consuming. FinTech is ever-evolving and needs intelligent, creative and ambitious people to make it better. Research, thoroughness and preparation are key in any job hunt but in the FinTech start-up world especially. You need to be able to tell your new employer where and how you could add value to their business using solid past experiences – if you have no FinTech experience, what else can you bring to the table and how quickly can you learn?

Be serious or don’t show up

The first few months of the year through spring are some of the best times to consider a career move, with the combination of a contemplation through January and typically the opportunity to pick up bonuses in February and March. As a result, I thought I would share some tips on how to maximise your impact while interviewing if you want to be on the front foot.

Interview Preparation

The key here is to approach every interview process as if this is your ideal next role so that YOU have best prepared if through the interviews the opportunity really is enticing. You’d be surprised to which extent people’s perception of a role and business significantly improves having met with the leadership team, seen the office environment and heard more about the role and opportunity from those on the front line. If you haven’t fully prepared or don’t go in with 90+% commitment, the opportunity is probably already lost…and I’d argue you’re doing yourself a disservice.

  1. Research the company thoroughly
    There are hundreds of free resources available but some of the most obvious include; the corporate website, LinkedIn, Duedil, Google News, Reuters & Wikipedia. You should be looking for information on what the company does, where it operates, its ownership structure, the reputation of the management, company history, values, mission statement and any recent developments or launches
  2. Research competitors or threats if any?
    You want to make sure you have a strong sense of how they stand up against their competitors and ultimately where, if any, the threats and opportunities lie. However, don’t become disenchanted if they aren’t the market leader, that’s often when you can add the most value!
  3. Research the management team and interviewers
    In particular, the stakeholders this role will be interacting with. Have a look at their professional profiles – where have they worked before? What did they study? Where have they lived? Do you have any connections in common? Familiar interests, awards, qualifications … This will start to give you a sense of the culture and types of people they hire. You may also meet them during the interview process and building rapport through familiarity is powerful.
  4. Experience the customer journey
    Unless you’re applying for a job at Virgin Galactic or Sunseeker it is vital that you experience the customer journey and where possible, buy the product or use the service. If they don’t give you an opportunity to drop this into the conversation, create one! It will demonstrate the effort you’ve put in and you will have a much better understanding of what they do and don’t do so well. If you don’t have experience and an opinion, you’ll be judged negatively from the get-go.
  5. Re-read your CV and the job description
    I know you know your CV, you lived it, but have you really invested time into understanding how your CV relates to the brief? And is all the relevant information included in your CV? If not, you may wish to highlight this in the interview or send over an updated version in line with the brief beforehand (I strongly advise the latter!).
  6. Ensure you’re dressed appropriately
    Call up reception or headhunter and ask for the dress code if you’re not sure. You don’t want to be under or over-dressed. Know your audience.
  7. Prep call with the headhunter
    Most headhunters will instigate this but if not, ask. Ensure you have a day or two before hand to speak with them about their view on the company, culture, personalities of those you’ll be meeting and of course, the format of the interview. You can use this invaluable opportunity to ask any outstanding questions you have and have time to get some answers.
  8. Consider what you want to get out of it
    Take time to consider what your ambitions and career goals are. This is as much an opportunity for you to interview the business as it is for them to interview you – the fit needs to be right on both sides. Will it meet the expectations of your ideal next career move? Will it provide you with the necessary challenges and opportunities? Will you get the autonomy you require or support necessary to grow? Prepare questions that will enable you to answer these. However, don’t come across too strong, you may want to spread them out over one or two interview stages focusing on the most critical first.

We hope this provides some guidance but above all be yourself. Be calm, confident and prepared. There are of course so many ways you can get an edge on your competition but ultimately, go the extra mile and you’ll be in the strongest possible position.