Although most investment banks in North America and Europe have already hired their 2013 summer intern classes, banks in Australia are just beginning to accept applications for their latest internship programs, and interviews are on the way. For those interested in an investment banking internship, here are five interview questions every prospective intern should be able to nail.
1. What interests you most about a career in investment banking?
This is one of the most common questions used to assess a candidate’s interest in and understanding of the investment banking division. You need to be aware of the key skills and attributes demanded of professionals working in this area and be able to demonstrate examples of how you possess these skills. Be ready to articulate why you think you are a suitable candidate and what qualities you bring to the table. Candidates need to be analytical, detail-orientated, enthusiastic, hard-working and responsible. The use of examples will best illustrate this.
2. What differentiates this company from other companies you are interviewing with?
This question tests to see if you have conducted research about the industry and in particular about the firm you have applied to. As a starting point, visit the company website to learn as much as you can about the firm, its structure, divisions and core values. In terms of researching the industry, make a habit of regularly reading the financial press and keeping up to date with market trends and recent transactions. The key is to demonstrate that you have an interest in and understanding of the financial world beyond what you have learned in class. Researching the firm in this way will demonstrate to your interviewers that you have a genuine interest in the company, which is something that they will be looking for.
3. Which industry or product teams interest you and why?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. The aim is to assess whether or not you have an understanding of how the investment banking division is broken down. In general, there are industry teams and product teams. Industry teams provide industry-specific expertise and guidance, and work with the appropriate product teams to generate ideas about potential transactions. Product teams specialize in a particular financial instrument and partner with the industry teams to execute a variety of transactions. Different people have unique reasons for joining different teams. Some may be interested in the more product focused teams such as the mergers and acquisitions team, whereas others will be more interested in a particular industry focused team, for example metals and mining.
4. Provide an example of a situation where you had to manage multiple competing deadlines? Were the deadlines met?
Multi-tasking is an important skill required in banking. Your interviewers will want you to demonstrate, using real life examples, times where you were required to carry out several tasks at once and work towards multiple deadlines. Examples can be drawn from every area – your academic work, previous work experience, as well as extra-curricular activities or voluntary work. The key will be to explain the challenging situation, how you prioritized the different tasks, actions you took towards ensuring the deadlines were met and the result or outcome of the situation. If you did not manage to meet all of the deadlines, it is important to show what you learned from this and how you would tackle a similar situation in the future.
5. Tell me about a time or a project when you faced a crisis late on a Friday night and there was no one you could contact for help or advice. What did you do?
To succeed in investment banking, the ability to work independently and respond quickly to unexpected situations is essential. This type of question is asked to see if you take a calm and practical approach under pressure. Don’t forget to demonstrate your common sense, forward thinking abilities, ability to take initiative and problem-solving skills. The ability to review the situation post-crisis in order to prevent similar situations happening again would also help get you credit when answering this question.
There are numerous types of questions and variations of the above that you might come across in an interview (in fact, there are so many that it would be impossible to outline them all here). In a nutshell, it is important that you structure your answers, portray confidence and adopt an honest approach during the interview. Think about each question before responding and do not be afraid to ask for further clarification on what the interviewer is asking. If you don’t know the answer, it’s ok to say so but make sure you offer an alternative suggestion or point of view which demonstrates the knowledge you do have and steers the conversation in a direction that you are more equipped to answer. This will help your interviewers to see how you think on the spot. Finally, make sure you have read and understood the job description and that you are comfortable speaking in detail about anything that you have included on your resume or within your application. Good luck with your interviews!
This post was sponsored by J.P. Morgan.