10 Tips from a Sberbank recruiter

Based on an interview with Olga Korotkova, recruiter at Sberbank’s HR block

  1. Explore professional areas adjacent to your area of focus

Sberbank needs curious and independent thinkers with strong teamwork skills.

Any specialist needs an understanding of business processes in addition to subject-matter expertise. He or she should be aware of why a certain product needs developing. We used to have a lot of managers, while frontline employees focused on their small tasks. However, once we switched to Agile, or Sbergile, as we call it, even an intern without work experience has the opportunity to make decisions. Even the most proficient expert cannot complete the development cycle on their own, which is why we need people who are ready to interact with multiple colleagues all the time. A strong introvert is not likely to do well in such an environment.

  1. Make sure your job application meets the requirements

When emailing your CV, make sure to indicate the professional area or position that you are applying for, such as Back-End Developer or Financial Analysis Economist. The best file name to use with your CV is not “1245” or “Mary”; go for something like “CV_SmithJ” to make it easier for the HR specialist to find and memorize it.

  1. Remember to write a cover letter

A good CV with a strong cover letter always attracts more attention than a good CV without one. The letter should contain three or four sentences explaining your motivation and areas of professional interest. You can also provide links to your projects, at Github, for instance, so that the hiring manager who will assess your CV can see the quality of your code and get a better idea of your technical background.

  1. Do not waste time on recommendations

It can be a turnoff for hiring managers, who may see it as an attempt to put pressure on them through authority figures. Similarly, it is a bad idea to mention that your mum, sister, grandma, or brother-in-law works at Sberbank too. The hiring manager might take it as a sign of your insufficient qualification, which you are trying to compensate for with your connections. Sberbank does not abet nepotism; we are interested in what you can and want to do.

  1. Remove irrelevant or excessive details from your CV

A perfect CV is one page long and includes information about your education, relevant internships, participation in hackathons and contests, and hard skills. You need not write that you are responsible, friendly, or reliable, list your hobbies, or share personal life details.

It is best if you abandon the standard CV template of job search websites like Headhunter.ru in favour of a more concise format. I strongly advise against including a photo, especially if you choose to follow the latest trend of using a cropped wedding pic. (Apparently, some applicants have only worn a formal suit to their wedding.) Applicants for IT vacancies can get extra points for including a CV in English. Considering that all good books on Python and R are in English, it is a way for you to prove your knowledge of the sources. Importantly, you should only send a CV in English if you can actually speak it, not if you had to Google translate it (trust me, you can’t conceal it).

  1. Take time to prepare for the job interview

Under the SberSeasons programme, each student has no more than 15 minutes of face time with the hiring manager. You need to use this time to show that you are more than another intern; make them see a future member of the team. Whenever we hire interns, there is a 99 percent possibility of permanent employment.

If you truly view Sberbank as your number one employer, take the time to explore our projects, products, development strategy, and values in advance. Our top managers, including Herman Gref, often make presentations on their work, and you can find them on our digital channels.

Before the interview, it is crucial to revise everything you have learned about the programs you are interested in and have listed in your application. You can also practise solving logical problems. It is possible that your interviewer will ask you a few questions to assess your logical thinking.

Furthermore, you will need to explain why you have decided to apply for this internship. Remember that “to gain new experience” is a bad explanation. Think of what you want to learn, what position in the team you would like to occupy, and what you hope to achieve in five years’ time.

Besides, the notorious question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is indeed very important. However, saying that you aim for a leadership position so as not to show a lack of ambition is no longer necessary. Today hiring managers understand that being a leader is not for everyone; many employees prefer horizontal growth, so make sure to think your answer through.

  1. Choose the right outfit for the interview

Forget the black-and-white formal attire. Sberbank has long since abandoned a rigid dress code (with the exception of employees who interact with customers). The best interview outfit is business casual or a shirt with jeans. Naturally, you should refrain from looking eccentric or sloppy, so no tracksuits or sequined miniskirts. However, a casually elegant style will agree with the general setting, as the hiring manager is most likely to wear casual too.

  1. Be sincere

If you are nervous or don’t understand the question, just say it. It is much better than letting the question hang unanswered. Be friendly and remember to smile: we are looking for team players and people with strong empathy skills. It is tremendously important to ask questions about the department’s work. Thus you can demonstrate your interest and find more about your future responsibilities. Do not barrage the hiring manager with questions about your paycheck, medical insurance, and other benefits — you can settle the details with the HR specialist later.

  1. Follow up but don’t pester

Calling your recruiter to find out how your interview went or whether they liked your CV is definitely over the top, but writing one or two follow-up emails is a good idea. First, it is another way of showing your interest. Second, we are only human — someone could have misplaced your CV or contact details, so there is no harm in drawing attention to yourself.

  1. Refrain from adverse criticism of Sberbank

The bank’s flaws are common knowledge; tens of thousands of people are working on fixing them to make our bank better. Once, a potential intern opened his interview by slamming our queue management system — which, in itself, is not a crime, but the hiring manager who was interviewing him had been on the development team. The candidate met all the criteria but never got the internship because the impression was strongly negative.

Everyone here understands that Sberbank is not perfect. However, it is preferable to voice your criticism after you get the internship — and join us in our effort to make Sberbank better.

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