by Nicolas Doumenc Comments (21)

General Electric’s Financial Management Program: An Insider’s Guide on How to Break In

General Electric FMP InterviewNicolas is the founder of 300 Finance Gurus and has advised more than 100 clients on their cover letters and resumes. He’s focused on Investment Banking and Corporate Finance recruiting in Europe and provides his clients with strategies on networking, LinkedIn and interview preparation (full bio at the bottom of this article.)

Have you ever found yourself applying for a job, but also having no idea why you’re applying?

I’ve seen it a lot.

Sometimes, if the company is seriously understaffed and needs people ASAP, you can get away with it.

But you really can’t get away with it when you apply for corporate finance rotational programs, such as GE’s Financial Management Program.

Unlike banks, which largely have the same set of “values” (make money!), normal companies have different values and cultures… and they prefer different candidates.

You can learn the process of applying for a job perfectly, but if you’re not the right person for the role, none of that matters.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at what it’s like on the job in the GE Financial Management Program, including pay and exit opportunities.

In Part 2 today, you’ll discover how to break in, including:

  • What the “perfect candidate” for FMP roles looks like, and how to figure out if it’s for you.
  • What the recruiting process looks like, and why assessment centers are even more critical than in IB interviews.
  • Why making corporate finance your “Plan B” if banking doesn’t work out is a recipe for disaster.
  • Insider information on the recruiting process from someone who went through the whole thing successfully (me!).

These tips are intended for the Financial Management Program at GE, but the criteria and the process are very similar for corporate finance graduate programs at other F500 companies.

So if you’re interested in corporate finance at Apple, Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, or any other company that size, here’s what you need to know:

Part 1: Are You the Perfect Candidate?

Before you submit any applications, you need to figure out if your profile matches what the company wants.

Here are some of the points that GE cares about:

Academics

The royal path to the FMP is a finance or accounting degree at one of GE’s “target schools” with a GPA above 3.5 (or equivalent, such as 2:1 or better in the UK).

You can compensate for a lower GPA with networking and impressive leadership experience, but if your GPA is below 3.0 it will still be extremely-difficult-to-impossible.

GE regularly recruits people with engineering degrees, so you don’t necessarily need accounting or finance classes, though they certainly help.

If you are coming in with a non-finance degree, though, you need to showcase your interest in finance somewhere on your resume – if you look like a pure engineer who wants to code all day, you will not get interviews.

Leadership

GE is looking for candidates who are “made of more.”

Corporate finance team members are typically less “Type A” than investment bankers, but FMPs are the most “Type A” of the corporate finance bunch.

They are more ambitious and outspoken than average, and they usually have at least one leadership entry on their resume that makes them stand out.

FMPs also tend to be willing to work more than average, so if the thought of a 50-60 hour workweek scares you away, you’re not a good fit for the program.

International Background

Being “international” is a just a plus in the US, but in Europe this is a key requirement. You’ll have to travel a lot and interact with people from different countries, so not having any experience abroad is a big drawback.

You need to have excellent spoken and written English since this will be your main language wherever you are in the world.

But speaking another language on top of English will give you more of this “international” flavor they’re seeking.

It can also be a huge advantage to speak Italian when you are trying to convince the Italian controller to send you data!

Excel and IT Skills

As an FMP you will be doing a lot of work with Excel and IT systems, so you need to be good with both.

Interviewers won’t give you a hardcore Excel test, but they might ask you questions about the projects you’ve completed using Excel.

Commitment to Your Country

I’m not talking about patriotism here!

If you come from a “developing” region like Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, or Asia, you need to be committed to going back to work there.

GE is not recruiting you so you can get a job in London after the FMP – they want you to go back to your country and build a pipeline of future local leaders.

Still Here?

If you have most or all of these qualities, great… but the job still might not be for you.

So before you hit the “submit” button on your application, consider the following points first:

Is This Your Plan B for Banking / PE / Something Else?

If you’re only using FMP as your backup plan, you are going to hate it.

FMP is for people who can picture staying in corporate finance, or a related area like risk, for the next 10 years.

So if you’re applying just to get a better eventual job in corporate finance, or to get into a Top 10 MBA program and then to get into banking, you should reconsider your plans.

Are You Flexible?

Flexibility is key for future FMPs.

Not only will you relocate every 6 months, but you’ll also have to relocate quickly.

If you are in a relationship, it’s tough to have no visibility at all on where you’ll be next month – so make sure you are OK with that.

Besides the location, you’ll have little control over what type of rotation you do next, so you have to accept what comes your way and make the best of it.

Overall, FMP is not for you if you’re a control freak who needs to have the next 24 months all planned out.

Can You Persuade Other People?

As an FMP, you have exactly ZERO formal, hierarchical clout.

This means the only way to get data or get your projects implemented is to convince other people to do it.

That’s why you need to be great at pitching your ideas and nagging people until they cave in and do what you need. If you don’t have that skill set or you hate doing it, FMP is going to be a very long 2 years!

Do You Have a Big Picture View?

A lot of your tasks will be “monkey work”: you’ll be doing reporting, consolidation, data reconciliation, etc.

So if you just focus on that unsexy perspective, you’ll be miserable.

You need to understand the big picture and how your “menial” tasks fit into the whole process: it’s the only way to have a good time and become a better analyst.

Do You Love Networking?

Networking is very important for landing the FMP offer (see below), but once you’ve won your offer, you need to keep it up because you’ll have many opportunities to meet finance leaders.

If you enjoy meeting people and building relationships, FMP is great because every 6 months you’ll work with a different team. If you can stay in touch with everyone, you’ll build a strong network by virtue of those rotations.

If networking comes naturally to you, you’ll thrive; if you’d rather sit in a cave and work by yourself all day, not so much.

And Do You Love Excel Even More?

You will be spending 60%+ of your time in Excel, so you need to love it.

Excel and VBA macros are the best way to add value early on, and if you can build solid, automated processes, people will be very impressed.

Part 2: The FMP Recruiting Process

So you’re convinced that the GE FMP is in your future, and you’re close enough to the “ideal candidate” to have a good shot… what’s next?

Here’s a rough outline of the process:

  • Step 1: Network with current FMPs in advance.
  • Step 2: Apply online or on-campus – yes, you still need to do this. And you still need a customized resume/CV and 3-4 short essays.
  • Step 3: Do a 30-minute first round interview with HR to determine whether or not you’ll advance to the assessment center and/or next round of interviews.
  • Step 4: If you’re in Europe, Africa, or Asia, do the assessment center, which might consist of 4-6 interviews with finance managers and HR, along with group games or group case studies; if you’re in the US, it will just be additional interviews.
  • Step 5: Win the offer… if you’ve done well in Step 4.

The biggest difference is that more of your success depends on the assessment center.

Unlike in IB / S&T / other interviews at the big banks, you will not go through multiple rounds of interviews before the AC – so you really need to be on your “A game” that day.

Also, doing an internship at GE gives you a big advantage in winning these roles – more so than if you completed an IB internship at a bank and wanted to convert it into a full-time offer.

If you can do an internship in a division with an ex-FMP manager, you’ll have a much better story for interviews (“I’ve worked with people who did the program”) and you’ll get to attend a ton of networking events to meet leaders in other divisions at GE.

I’ll focus on the key differences in the recruiting process for FMP in each step below:

Step 1: Network Your Way into the Financial Management Program

You already know from the hundreds of articles on this site why alumni / LinkedIn / other networking is so important, and it’s still important for FMP roles – and the only way to get interviews if you’re not at a target school.

Networking actually works better for these roles because:

  1. FMPs receive fewer “networking” emails than investment bankers and they have more free time, so you’ll get a higher response rate and more time on the phone with them.
  2. You don’t necessarily need to come up with “creative” questions because FMPs take fewer networking calls; asking about the job itself, typical career paths, etc. are all fine.
  3. If the FMP is any good at his/her job, he/she will have more influence with the head of FMP than a junior banker would have with his/her MD.

So once you have spoken with least 10-15 solid contacts, start reaching out and asking directly for referrals to participate in their recruiting process.

Of course, you also still need to apply online, which leads us into Step 2:

Step 2: Customize Your Resume and Write Your Essays

I’m assuming you already have the resume templates and all the resume advice offered on this site; here’s what I’ll say beyond that:

  • Focus on Money Saved – Your job as an FMP will be to improve, automate, and simplify processes, so you should highlight anything similar from your past work experience.
  • Insert GE Values Everywhere You Can – The 5 GE values are “External Focus,” “Clear Thinker,” “Imagination & Courage,” “Inclusiveness,” and “Expertise.” So you should rephrase work experience entries and insert these words wherever you can.
  • Be Prepared for HEAVY Background Checks – Don’t even think about “hiding” your GPA, padding your resume, lying about dates, etc. – it is guaranteed to backfire. A F500 company does far more thorough background checks than a 5-person boutique bank.

After you have your resume, you’ll need to write short essays answering questions like “Why should we choose you for the program?” or “Describe a time where you had to step up and lead others.”

These are very similar to the competency questions given by banks, and the same ‘STAR’ (Situation, Task, Action, Result) structure applies.

My #1 recommendation is to reference the discussions you had when networking to write these essays, and, if possible, to get a current or former FMP to review your essays as well.

Step 3: Prepare for Interviews

Previously, I wrote about how to prepare for more “general” interviews on M&I with a six month plan.

Here’s how FMP interview preparation is different:

  • Your Story: Instead of saying, “Tell me about yourself,” they’ll say, “Tell me how your whole life has prepared you to be an FMP,” or something else much more specific. So you CANNOT use a generic ending like “I want to become a trusted adviser or an investor.”

That might work for some roles, but for FMP you need to explain why you’re interested in working at GE for the long-term and improving the company.

You might say something like, “I spoke with 5 current and former FMPs, and they mentioned work projects such as X, Y, and Z which really interested me – I want to work across 3-4 business lines, such as A, B, and C, and improve the company’s performance with those assignments, also getting to know different teams in the process.”

  • Your Supporting Anecdotes: You should always reference people you’ve spoken with networking, but you should also prepare 1 story for each of GE’s 5 core values. They may not ask a specific question on this, but they do rate each candidate on each of the values above. And they’ll expect you to know key facts such as the CEO/CFO, the strategies of different business units, and even the high-level financial statements.
  • Technical Questions: There aren’t any in the first round HR interviews, because they test you later at the AC (or in later interviews in the US) and because they expect to “train you” anyway. So you should NOT spend time memorizing how Depreciation changing by $10 impacts the financial statements, at least for first round interviews.

I would highly recommend scheduling a few mock interviews with current or former FMPs to get feedback on your story and see how well your “fit” responses line up with GE’s core values.

Your first interview with HR is a straightforward 30-minute call with questions like:

  • Why the FMP?
  • Why General Electric?
  • Why do you think that you are a good candidate?

Be careful to “adapt” your responses to Human Resources: I’m being very nice, but I think you get my meaning.

One time I interviewed with an HR rep who was only 2 months into the job, and I knew more about the program than he did.

Step 4: Rock the Assessment Center

The Assessment Center is THE place where GE really selects candidates, at least in the EMEA region.

You start the day with a company presentation and a program presentation over breakfast.

If you’ve already interned there it’s pretty boring, but it can be a good time to prepare your own questions for interviewers; they always sound better when they start with “This morning during the presentation, the head of HR said…”

After breakfast, you’ll spend the entire day on everything below – which might happen in any order:

Accounting Test

You’ll be quizzed on concepts such as debit vs. credits, the financial statements, how business decisions affect the statements, and so on.

If you’ve studied accounting these questions should be easy enough; if not, learn/review the basics beforehand.

Note that these are the only real “technical” questions in the FMP recruiting process.

Interviews

You’ll usually go through interviews with 3-4 finance managers from different business lines at GE, as well as 1 interview with someone from HR.

The questions this time around are not that much different, except now everyone is evaluating you and comparing notes.

You should:

  • Look up all your interviewers on LinkedIn that morning (you’ll gain access to the list of names then), and prepare specific questions for each person beforehand based on his/her background.
  • Write down the names of everyone who interviewed you – they love to ask questions about whom you met with, whom you’ve spoken with, and so on.

Group Activity – Outside the US Only

While the interviews are straightforward, the group activity tends to trip people up.

Note that those group activities are only part of the Assessment Centers given in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

This “activity” could be anything from building a GE scanner replica with pieces of wood to a case study where you need to convince bankers to lend you money for a business.

The task itself is not complicated, so it’s more about how you interact in a group and how well you perform when 10+ people are observing you and taking notes.

To succeed:

  • Address everyone in your group by their first names. Yes, you have to learn the names of everyone in your group for that day. And yes, they’re specifically watching to see if you do this.
  • Try to take a “structuring” role such as the timekeeper or the note-taker. Don’t be the guy or girl who absolutely wants to be the “group leader” or it will backfire.
  • Don’t forget it’s just a game. I saw people getting very angry during the group activity, which is a deal-breaker when it comes to getting an offer.

If you’re lucky, you might even get an individual “debriefing” where you have to comment on your performance and the performance of your group.

Lunch and Breaks

Lunchtime and breaks in your interview schedule are NOT “time off” – they invite current FMPs to lunch, so it’s a great chance to meet them and ask questions in a more casual environment.

They can give you tips on your interviewers, good stories to cite, and possibly even good recommendations if they like you.

Whatever you do, do NOT go to one of these breaks and just sit there by yourself.

Step 5: Did You Win the Offer?

If you won the offer, congrats!

You can’t really “control” where you end up, but you may want to reach out to your interviewers and ask them for tips and advice before you start.

If you weren’t so lucky, you could consider other options:

  • Look at another corporate finance internship at a Fortune 500 company. If you can’t do FP&A at GE for your internship, doing FP&A at Apple or Exxon Mobil is close enough. Bonus points if you do the internship in the same industry as the GE division you want to join.
  • Audit firms are also a good option. Working there shows you are interested in finance, and it helps you build a solid accounting foundation.

One advantage of doing an internship outside of GE is that GE employees who refer you will get a bonus of around $2,000 USD if you apply to GE and later get the job.

So an internship elsewhere can actually help your networking efforts if you play it smart.

Conclusion

I hope this two-part series helped you figure out if the FMP is the right first job for you.

If it is, you now have all the tools you need to network your way in and rock your interviews.

And if not, there’s always the Big 4, consulting, wealth management… or even equities in Dallas.

If you have any question or comments let us know below!

About the Author

Nicolas Doumenc is the Founder of 300 Finance Gurus, a website where he grills 300 Managing Directors, CFOs, Vice-Presidents, Associates, and headhunters on their best networking and interviewing techniques. He also offers career coaching and resume/CV editing services there.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

Loading the player...
We respect your email privacy

Comments

Read below or Add a comment

  1. hi. do you give specific interview advice with respect to recruitment in other companies like Citibank. – EMEA Management Associate program?. I did really like the details about GE recruitment process. I will be glad to get that for Citibank specifically for the sub Saharan Africa region

    1. We do not, sorry.

  2. Hi Nicolas,

    first of all thx for the great article, considering the rather scarce online info about the recruitment process I think your insights are really helpful.

    I was wondering if you have tips on how to prep for the finance quiz ?

    Thx !

    1. If you are a GE intern there are several trainings available on the intranet to prep it. If you are external just review the accounting and finance basics (I/S, B/S… all the elements within it).

  3. I know you it was touch on above, but any further insight/advice for the FMP internship? Specifically at the GE Corporate in Fairfield, CT where I’ll be this summer. Currently a sophomore at a top state school looking to break into investment banking. It is a still non-target, but we have a fairly strong alumni network on Wall Street, a good student investment fund, and many co-carricular programs that help student break in; also maybe 5, no more than 10, people get into bulge brackets each class. How will this look to recruiters for rising senior summer analyst positions? 3.8+ GPA, good extracurriculars/leadership, and currently a wealth management intern at a major global bank. Also planning to possibly get an internship in equity research, valuation, or maybe at a boutique investment bank in the fall. Any advice/insight would be greatly appreciated it.

  4. Great, it’s good to hear this! Thank you for your prompt reply!

  5. How are FMP graduates compared to the mint CPAs exiting from the Big 4s? I always have this perception that high level corporate finance jobs are held by either ex banker or CPA escaping from the accounting firms..

    1. That’s not really comparable. A lot of F500 companies promote from within so you won’t see a lot of ex-Big4s or ex bankers there. It might be true in smaller firms that all the big finance guys are from the outside but for F500 your best bet is to join early and grow there through internal programs like the FMP.

  6. I was an FMP intern and my experience was so different to yours that I wanted to give a few thoughts of my own where our opinions differ. Apologies for hijacking!

    Part 1: Are You the Perfect Candidate?

    Academics: Whilst it is true that GE will look for people who have a 2:1 at a minimum, it is absolutely not the case that GE has “Target Schools” in the same way banks might. In my experience, the majority of FMPs from the UK went to what I would consider 4th rate universities, such as UWE or Aston. This, however, is not the case outside of the UK, with many of the Italian FMPs having studied at Bocconi.

    International Background: Based on the people I have seen hired in the UK, it is absolutely not necessary to have an international background. The vast majority of FMPs and FMP interns I dealt with had never spent any significant time outside the UK. A willingness to relocate and an international outlook are more than sufficient. It is worth noting, however, that there were people from many different countries outside of the FMP. I think in that respect it is the most diverse workforce I have been a part of.

    Excel and IT Skills: I really wouldn’t worry about this too much. All the excel work that FMPs do is very basic. If you know some basic functions such as Vlookup and If statements, you’re 90% of the way there. There is no financial modelling etc. so it’s really not something to worry about.

    Is this your Plan B for Banking / PE / Something else?: I completely agree that if the FMP is your fallback plan after failing to get into banking etc. you’re going to hate it. Most of the smarter FMP interns I knew actually wanted to do banking or something related to it, and were bored (perhaps even depressed) within weeks of starting their job at GE. What I would say, however, is that all of those interns I speak of decided to leave the company before even applying for the FMP, and all of them went on to much better jobs they were significantly more interested in.

    Rightly or wrongly, my experience suggests that having the GE name on your CV will open doors for you if you get in and out quickly. Unfortunately, I do not believe that would be the case if you stay for the full two years, as you’re not developing any skills that would be useful in a Banking / PE type environment.

    Do you have a big picture view?: I sort of agree with this, but I look at it from another perspective. I think that if you see the big picture and recognize that you are one person in a workforce of 300,000 doing a job (which could probably be automated) that makes virtually no difference to the direction of the company or its bottom line, then you’re going to hate your time there. If, however, you’re more of a details and task orientated person, you’re likely to enjoy the job a lot more.

    To use myself as an example, I would spend all week doing various different tasks, most of which could have been automated (but this would require a techie), all so that my manager’s manager’s manager could populate one cell in a spreadsheet at head office in the States. That cell was one of hundreds, and was only used for forecasting sales, which I take to mean spinning a story for Wall Street analysts. That cell had no impact on the earnings or profitability of the company. Taking this big picture perspective, I often wondered whether there might be something better I could be doing with my life.

    Part 2: The FMP Recruiting Process

    I can’t speak for the FMP recruitment process, but I can for the FMP intern recruitment process.

    Stage 1: CV and covering letter.

    This is where most people fail. I lead Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the recruitment process for the next set of FMP interns, and the quality of CVs and covering letters that would come through was horrendous. I don’t mean purely in terms of content, but presentation, style etc.
    Examples include a CV 5.5 pages long, or a covering letter all in lower case that starts with the word “hi”. The lesson here is make sure what you’re submitting up to scratch and you’re already a long way there.

    Stage 2: Telephone interview.

    This is normally based on a standard script so that all applicants have a fair and equal chance, and there is objectivity in the screening. The usual questions come up, such as why GE, competency questions etc. Almost always, the questions will be very standard and nothing should be a surprise.

    Stage 3: 3x Face to face interviews.

    Two of these would be with finance managers, one of these would be with an HR person. At the end of the day, they cast votes on who they want to give jobs to.

    It probably sounds like I’m quite scathing of the FMP internship I did, which is true to some extent, so I thought I would round this comment off with a couple of positives:

    1 – Very few graduate jobs will allow you to travel around Europe for 24 months.

    2 – The money is pretty good (if you’re from the UK, it varies elsewhere in Europe) and starts in the low to mid £30s. One you consider than you keep your UK salary, but could end up living somewhere with a lower cost of living for 6 months (e.g. Poland) and you have your flat paid for by GE, it’s quite a good proposition.

    I would caveat this by saying that the money isn’t so great as you advance in your career, and GE don’t put you through any recognisable qualifications that would help you get employed elsewhere. As such, you might want to see the attractive initial package as golden handcuffs.

    3 – At GE you’re often told that what you get out of the experience is entirely down to you, and I even remember hearing “If you act like a CFO, you’ll be treated like a CFO”. Whilst this isn’t entirely true, what I would say is that you’ll potentially have the opportunity to do things you might not on other FLPs. For instance, I lead the recruitment process for the next lot of interns which I quite enjoyed, so I’d say that if you put yourself out there you might get a shot at some interesting opportunities.

    1. Thanks for adding all that. The author worked in a non-UK location, which may explain some of the differences you observed.

      1. Hi David,

        First thanks a lot for taking the time to write all of that. I do agree with most of what you said so I’m just going to bring my view on the things I disagree with. Keep in mind though that the article is not just about FMP in Europe but FMP worldwide. I was based in Europe and spent a lot of time in London or with UK FMP though so I know about the process there too.

        1. GE recruits from their target schools almost everywhere in the world…except the UK where the scope is much larger.
        2. Excel and IT skills – I don’t agree with this. You can get into quite complex Excel projects, some of them involving macro. Most of the top FMPs are really good with Excel (on top of other skills).
        3. For the big picture view and your example I agree in some cases, especially since you were an intern at the headquarter. But in some rotations you can have a pretty big impact on a business, not only by consolidating numbers but by actually analyzing things that FP&A managers or CEOs use to make decisions

  7. I live in Australia and plan to apply for a Graduate Corporate Finance position with an ASX 200 company. Would you know if the information provided in the article is relevant when applying for companies outside USA?

    1. Australia is always a special case so I’d bet it’s not the exact same. What you can learn on this article though is the “spirit” of corporate finance recruiting. It’s more about the right fit with the company and its values than getting people who can execute on the work flawlessly for 2 years like in banking.

  8. Do you happen to know if the recruitment process for corp fin advisory roles in the big 4 is similar?

    1. Corporate finance as we use here is not like transaction services or M&A, it’s the internal finance departments of large companies with Financial planning and controllership functions.
      Corporate fin advisory roles in big 4 are more like investment banking roles in terms of recruiting.

      1. Thanks so much for your prompt reply! Another quick question, what would you say are good exit opps for the role after a few years being ” groomed” by the company?

        1. If you want to know more about the exit opps and everything else I recommend you check out the part 1 of the article here:
          https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/general-electric-financial-management-program/

  9. do you ever use sql or compute over large data sets over distributed computing systems?

    1. Not really no. Excel is the main tool here with some plugins to analyze large sets of data. But as an analyst in finance you don’t really use sql.

  10. Hey guys,
    I hope you liked the article. I’m here to answer all of your questions!
    Nicolas

    1. Hi,
      First of all, thanks for the tips!!

      I am going to participate on the business case presentation and interview panel in Brazil and I don’t know any FMP. I would like to know how exactly I can approach someone. Just looking in LinkedIn and sending a message?

      For what I understood networking is essencial right?! If you have an advice on how to send a message and how to find some FMP would be very helpful!

      Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *