If you are a new graduate or exploring your first ESG investing role, this essay will be a useful resource as you prepare for your interviews. In ESG Investing 101 we described the broad spectrum of roles that fall under the ESG investing banner. While no interview is the same, this essay is most applicable to responsible/sustainable investing roles, as they are the most common.
Getting an email from HR asking for your availability for a first round interview is exciting. Congrats! One of the first things we recommend candidates do is ask for more information about the interview, if it is not already provided. How will it be structured? What types of questions will be asked? Who will be the interviewers? Is there anything to prepare for? You may not get answers to all these questions, but there is a good chance you will get some additional information that will be useful as you prepare for the interview.
Now that you have your interview date and know a little more about the structure of the interview, it is time to start preparing. We generally recommend focusing your prep on two areas: company and industry research, and interview question prep. It goes without saying that you should read the job description multiple times as it should guide what areas to focus on as you prepare. Bonus points if you find other job postings that give you a sense of other roles in the company.
Company and Industry Research
You should split your research into company-specific research and broader ESG industry research. When researching the company and team, make sure to develop a good understanding of the following topics. Some of these are obvious, but you’d be surprised at how unprepared many candidates are.
- The company (What type of investor or consultant/data provider? What types of investments or asset classes? How big or small?)
- The industry (Who are their main peers/competitors? Who are considered ESG leaders and why?)
- The team (Who is the head of the team? What is their background? How is the team structured? What is the background of team members?)
- Company activity (Read the latest annual report, ESG report, and other prominent public disclosures or press/news releases)
- News about the company (Are they in the news? What topics? Positive or negative?)
Researching the latest ESG industry trends will demonstrate that you are able to speak broadly about the space and are interested and passionate about ESG investing. Some areas to look into include:
- Latest trends and events (What is currently driving news around ESG investing in the relevant industry? How does that news impact the company?)
- Key industry developments over the past 6-12 months (What ESG regulations and policies are impacting the company? What peer activity is driving others to act?)
- Topics you are passionate about (Have a viewpoint and perspective on specific topics that you are interested in, whether that be climate change, human rights, diversity & inclusion, or any other ESG-related area)
Interview Question Prep
Once you have a good understanding of the company and ESG industry trends, dive into preparing for questions that are likely to be asked. Interview questions are often broken into behavioral questions (e.g., “tell me a time when”) and technical questions (e.g., about the role itself). And don’t forget to prepare your own questions to ask the interviewer at the end.
There is a plethora of behavioral interview resources, and so we will not attempt to address those here. But we recommend picking the 5-10 most likely behavioral questions you will be asked based on the job description, and write out how you would answer them in a structured format using a simple framework (e.g., situation, action, outcome). This process should be good preparation for any behavioural question, even if you don’t get asked the exact questions that you’ve prepared for.
Technical questions will depend on the role you have applied for. If you have applied for an ESG research role, you should prepare answers on your research process, how you gather information, how you determine financially material ESG issues, how you communicate and present your findings, and how you get buy-in from end-users. If you have applied for an engagement role, you should prepare answers on the latest proxy voting trends and best practices, key industry groups driving collective action, and your approach to identifying and engaging on material ESG issues and delivering results. Common areas to get familiar with include:
- Industry groups and reporting frameworks: United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI), UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)
- ESG materiality frameworks: Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), IFRS International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB)
- ESG data and analytic vendors: MSCI, Sustainalytics, ISS, Refinitiv, Bloomberg, FactSet, S&P, Moody’s.
- Stewardship and engagement: Proxy voting advisors (ISS, Glass Lewis), key industry groups (30% Club, Climate Action 100+, Net Zero groups)
A good interviewer will give you the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. Make sure you prepare for this, as you are also interviewing the company to ensure they are right for you. Some areas to consider include:
- Organization and team culture
- Working style and environment
- Future team plans and growth opportunities
- Role specific questions
- Key challenges and opportunities for the team
- Topics the interviewer is most excited about
Oh, and after the interview, always send a brief thank you message!
Best of luck for your interviews! We hope this was helpful. Join our mailing list to get notified of new learning resources. And be sure to check out the latest opportunities on our job listing page; we add 3-5 of the best new jobs daily.