Intro To Investment Banking Interviews

by Derek Loosvelt | March 10, 2009

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Investment banking positions and other finance positions are some of the more stressful and demanding positions on the planet, and the interviews reflect this fact. In fact, insiders say that occasionally, an interviewer will yell at an applicant to see how he or she will react. Interviews normally go three or four rounds (sometimes as many as six or more rounds), and these rounds can have up to six interviews each, especially in the later rounds. Investment banking and finance interviews are also known for being deliberately stressful (as opposed to the attendant nervousness that goes with any interview). Some firms may ask you specific and detailed questions about your grades in college or business school, even if your school policy prohibits such questions. At other firms, interview rounds may be interspersed with seemingly casual and friendly dinners. Don't let down your guard! While these dinners are a good opportunity to meet your prospective co-workers, your seemingly genial hosts are scrutinizing you as well. (Hint: Don't drink too much.)

There are generally two parts to the finance hiring process: the "fit" part, and the technical part. In asking technical questions, the interviewer wants to judge your analytical and technical skills. If you don't know the basic concepts of finance and accounting, your interviewers will believe (rightly) that you are 1) either not interested in the position 2) not competent enough to handle the job. While most of this book will be devoted to helping you ace the technical aspect of finance interviews, arguably a more important part of the interviews is what is called the "fit" interview. As you go through recruiting in finance interviews, understand that you compete with yourself. Most firms are flexible enough to hire people that are a good fit.

The "fit" interview

They call it the O'Hare airport test, the Atlanta airport test, or the whatever-city-you-happen-to-be-applying-in airport test. They also call it the "fit" interview or the "behavioral" interview. It means: "Could you stand to be stranded in an airport for eight hours with this person?" Although bankers may have reputations for being aggressive individuals, don't act that way in your interview.

And while your performance in the fit interview partly depends - as the airport test suggests - on how well you gel with your interviewer, it also depends on your ability to portray yourself as a good "fit" as an investment banker, asset manager, etc. In other words, interviewers will try to suss out what your attitude towards work is like, how interested you are in a career in the industry, and how interested you are in the job for which you are applying particularly.


I'm a hard worker

As a general rule, you should emphasize how hard you have worked in the past, giving evidence of your ability to take on a lot of work and pain. You don't have to make things up or pretend that there's nothing you'd want more than to work 100-hour weeks. In fact, interviewers are sure to see through such blatant lying. Says one I-banking interviewer, "If somebody acted too enthusiastic about the hours, that'd be weird." If you ask investment bankers and others in finance what they dislike most about their jobs, they will most likely talk about the long hours. Be honest about this unpleasant part of the job, and convince your interviewer that you can handle it well. For example, if you were in crew and had to wake up at five every morning in the freezing cold, by all means, talk about it. And if you put yourself through school by working two jobs, mention that too.

Got safe hands

As with all job interviews, those for finance positions will largely be about figuring out whether you can handle the responsibility required of the position. (In many cases with finance positions, that responsibility will mean making decisions with millions or billions of dollars at stake.)

An interviewer will try and figure out if you've got "safe hands" and won't be dropping the ball. "This is a critical I-banking concept," says one banker about safe hands. The idea is: 'Can I give this person this analysis to do and feel comfortable that they will execute it promptly and correctly?' The people with 'safe hands' are the ones who advance in the company. They are not necessarily the hardest workers but they are the most competent." Make sure you bring up examples of taking responsibility.

From the Guide to Finance Interviews

Filed Under: Finance

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