Why this matters:

A portfolio manager needs an in-depth understanding of financial markets, economics, and investment theory. Companies and individuals vary widely on their investing strategies, risk profiles, and preferences, which may also change over time based on their goals. The answer to this question can help you gauge the candidate’s familiarity with your company’s investment philosophy, as well as inform training needs.

What to listen for:

  • An overall understanding of different investment products on the market
  • A diverse approach explained with enthusiasm and confidence
  • Rationale for why a particular investment type suits the company’s needs at this particular time

Why this matters:

A strong portfolio manager candidate has experience serving clients with varying risk tolerance. To maintain client satisfaction, a portfolio manager must understand how to evaluate risk, select investments that align with client preferences, and adapt over time. This question assesses the technical competence of a candidate, though many particulars can also be taught during training.

What to listen for:

  • A thoughtful process for assessing risk and researching investment opportunities
  • Understanding of common risk categorization methods (standard deviation, beta, VaR, or CVaR)
  • General knowledge and familiarity with asset reallocation, diversification, and dollar-cost averaging

Why this matters:

Portfolio managers often join professional networks and pay annual dues for access to ongoing educational opportunities. This question allows a candidate a chance to showcase curiosity, drive, and highlight their commitment to ongoing education and training — whether that’s reading respected publications, attending seminars, developing relationships with mentors, or other transformative learning experiences.

What to listen for:

  • Self-motivation and goal-orientation, which may include non-work-related hobbies and activities
  • Self-sufficiency and time management skills that suggest a pursuit of excellence
  • Work experience that highlights communication, teamwork, and leadership capabilities

Why this matters:

A portfolio manager oversees a team of financial analysts who produce reports and offer recommendations to inform strategy. Portfolio managers often communicate with investment bank analysts, sell-side firms, and individual clients directly. Ultimately it is the portfolio manager who is responsible for communicating the investment strategy, explaining decisions, and providing portfolio performance updates — good or bad.

What to listen for:

  • Evidence of excellent interpersonal skills and strong communication abilities
  • Commitment to accountability, adaptability, and proactive problem-solving
  • The ability to relay information with tact, explanation, confidence, and solutions

Why this matters:

Portfolio managers thrive in demanding and high-stakes work environments. Daily challenges involve managing data fragments across portfolio, order, and risk management platforms. Some may find it difficult keeping tabs on regulatory changes and real-time market analytics. Portfolio managers must collaborate with a wide variety of constituents, requiring patience and finesse with different personality types.

What to listen for:

  • Honest assessment about past challenges, with demonstrated capacity for introspection
  • A positive outlook on difficult situations that demonstrates maturity and resourcefulness
  • A case study style presentation of what the candidate learned from enduring the challenge

Why this matters:

Many portfolio managers remain in this position for a few years before transitioning to hedge fund manager, private wealth manager, senior portfolio manager, private equity manager, or trader. As some companies offer greater mobility than others, this question can help you determine whether the candidate’s ambitions match the company’s opportunities and needs.

What to listen for:

  • Enthusiasm about learning, growing, and developing aptitude in the role
  • Demonstration of reliability, commitment, and loyalty, along with a willingness to progress in a career
  • Someone who sets goals, has a vision, and has personal ambitions in line with company opportunities

Why this matters:

The best portfolio managers are autonomous, competitive, decisive, and tenacious. Yet they’re also humble, emotionally stable, analytical, and communicative. These professionals are insatiably curious by nature and there is a natural ability to see past short-term trends or volatility to the prevailing wisdom at the end of the line.

What to listen for:

  • Appreciation for aspects of the job, whether it’s the variety, ability to make a difference, or relationships
  • A genuine interest in investing, growing a nest egg, and learning about new products
  • Compassion, people-orientation, and focus on providing great results for clients

Why this matters:

Portfolio managers aren’t just overseeing investments; they’re working with a team of analysts and clients, too. Soft skills that apply to this role include excellent communication, problem-solving, motivation, a positive attitude, and grace under pressure. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but a self-aware candidate can articulate where they shine and where they have room to improve.

What to listen for:

  • The ability to discuss relevant strengths with humility
  • Honest, introspective assessment of weaknesses — and a willingness to overcome them
  • Informative anecdotes that illustrate the candidate’s journey and personal goals

Why this matters:

An internal wellspring of motivation is necessary to weather the storms of the finance sector and ultimately achieve a rewarding career. Standout candidates may share an experience when they received a boost of energy, a shot of enthusiasm, a realization of meaning, or a renewal of faith in their ability to perform at work.

What to listen for:

  • Recognition that this role requires unique knowledge, talents, abilities, interests, and skills
  • Love of overcoming challenges, problem-solving, and applying flexibility to meet obstacles
  • A story that highlights a career turning point or moment of personal achievement
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