Listed in this chapter are a wide range of questions you should be prepared to face in investment banking interviews. In each case, we have provided a sample reply, or notes on what you should think about in formulating your reply.
We encourage you to incorporate every thought that we’ve given into the responses to these questions that you might otherwise give. Trust us: we are drawing on a wealth of experience in the investment banking recruiting process on both sides of the table. At the same time, we have provided a solid framework for how successful potential investment bankers have approached these questions. It is your job to make each answer your own, something that is not only believable, but fits your personality. If you fully prepare for each of these questions, you will have very few surprises in your interviewing process. Good luck!
General “Why Investment Banking?” Questions
Q: What is investment banking?
The investment bank performs two basic, critical functions: acting as an intermediary for capital raising, and as an advisor on M&A transactions and other major corporate actions. As an intermediary, it connects companies that need capital with investors who have capital to spend. It facilitates this through debt and equity offerings. As an advisor, an investment bank counsels companies on such corporate actions as mergers, acquisitions, spinoffs, and restructurings.
Q: What exactly do investment bankers do?
Investment banking is the business of raising capital for companies and providing advising services on financing and merger activities. Thus, for example, a company will approach an investment bank when it needs to raise capital or when it needs advice in negotiating and structuring an acquisition of another company. Here are examples of some of the different functions a banker will perform, as well as some other important basics to know about the job:
- Underwriting: an arrangement whereby investment bankers raise investment capital from investors on behalf of corporations and governments who issue public securities (“public offering”). These securities can come in the form of equity (IPO, secondary equity issuance) or debt (high-grade debt, high yield bonds, government securities, etc). Investment banks make money by securing underwriting fees (% of the capital raised) from the public offerings.
- Financial Restructuring: provide advisory services including recommending the sale of assets (corporate divestitures), potential bolt-on acquisitions and merger opportunities, or even working with M&A bankers to sell the company entirely.
- Investment Banking Job Hierarchy: Analysts → Associates → Vice Presidents (VPs) → Directors → Managing Directors (MDs)
- General Pitch Book: Created by the bankers and used to guide introductions and presentations during a sales pitch. Pitch Books contain general information and include a wide variety of selling points, such as an overview of the investment bank, including details of its specific capabilities in research, corporate finance, and sales & trading, and usually provides updates on industry/market and recommendations on the optimal capital structure strategy for the company.
- Deal-Specific Pitch Book: Highly customized depending on the situation; includes valuations, comparable company analyses, and industry analyses, as well as the bank’s reputation, prominence and acumen of its research analysts, performance on past/similar work, and information on rankings/expertise.
Q: Why do you want to be an investment banker?
Responder #1: As I have grown in my career, I have had the opportunity to work in various jobs and have been able to converse with people involved in a variety of career tracks in different fields. Among these are law, education, entrepreneurship, medicine, non-profit organizations, investment banking, and sales and trading. Based on these experiences and contacts, I decided that the most appealing field to me was investment banking.
In particular, I believe investment banking offers the best environment for growth and development in the areas of finance, economics, and accounting—all important areas for business. Banking offers a tremendous amount of training, a steep on-the-job learning curve, a competitive work environment, and talented people to work with. As a result, I believe it offers the best opportunity to enhance my skill set and apply it on a real-life and current basis. Furthermore, I enjoy situations that involve analyzing strategies, environmental conditions, structure, and future opportunities. There is no other industry that I know of that offers a first-year graduate with the amount of responsibility that investment banking offers. I can’t think of a better way than to hit the ground running right out of school.
Responder #2: The best advice my father gave me was “whatever you do, put yourself in a position to succeed.” And I think right out of college, investment banking offers the best experience available for people who want to work in the corporate arena, hands down. I know the work was going to be tough and the hours excruciating, but I enjoy the pressure and challenge to deliver that seems to come up on a daily basis. Also, in my view, finance is unpredictable and exciting; I enjoy the fact that there is never a typical day.
Responder #3: I think for me the work is rewarding. Nowhere else out of college will you get a better corporate experience. The work will always be challenging and you’re going to be working with some of the brightest people. This fosters a competitive environment in which you are almost forced to grow professionally on a daily basis.
I think that’s one of the main reasons I want to come to New York: the competition. One of the great advantages working out of New York is the networking opportunities available with so many bright, hard-working young professionals around. Chicago will always be my home, but New York is the center of the financial world and I want to get the best experience possible.
Q: What qualities do you think would make you successful investment banker?
I can be successful in investment banking because I have a “whatever it takes” attitude. In many ways it can be inconvenient and draining to do so, but it’s been ingrained in my head to have an entrepreneurial mindset and to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
I had my first work internship with a paint company, during my freshman year of college. During the spring semester, interns were expected to go to their hometown once a week or once every two weeks in order to have enough time to do marketing and sales work. Obviously for freshmen in college, this can be very taxing. I knew it was going to be tough, but I tried to dedicate as much time to the program as possible. Some weeks I went home twice a week if I had to get marketing work done for the company. It was through this experience that I learned how hard I can work when I’m put to the test. I believe I can be successful in investment banking because I’m a grinder who will do whatever it takes, whenever it takes.
Importantly, as I to go into banking, I know what I am getting myself into. I know the grueling hours; I know what level of work is expected of me. This isn’t a position I am applying for simply because I “see the dollar signs.” I know banking could be an invaluable experience that would help set me on the right course for professional success in the future.
Other important qualities for a banking analyst:
- Being a fast learner
- Being energetic
- Having a “Work hard/play hard” attitude
- Good attitude and a team player
- Not being afraid to ask questions nor to be wrong occasionally
- Strong attention to detail
Q: What do you think an analyst does on a typical day?
I know analysts are expected to go through 2 years of intensive finance boot camp. I expect the hours to be long, mostly doing financial modeling, making pitchbooks, doing due-diligence, and yet again having to reschedule plans with friends!
Q: Why do you want to work for this Bulge Bracket Bank?
I like the prospect of getting the exposure to many professionals, industries, products, and concepts in a bulge bracket firm. I know that in that environment I’m going to get access to the best learning experience possible. Also, I like how (this particular bank) has both a more casual and entrepreneurial environment than many other banks. I also think that being in an Industry group, I will be able to get more exposure to a multitude of products. This is an important consideration for me.
(IMPORTANT RELATED NOTE: Make sure you know about the culture and philosophy of the bank you’re interviewing at! You want to express that you understand the firm/group’s view on this idea, and that with them you’ll be “working for the smartest people in banking, who will challenge you to learn more.”)
Q: Why do you want to work for a Middle Market bank?
My #1 priority is to be in New York. My view is, “if I’m going to be working 90-100 hours a week, I want to be near my family and friends in NYC.” In addition, (this Middle Market bank) offers a unique experience, an opportunity to gain exposure to higher-level executives, and also more opportunities, if I work in the M&A group, to work on both buy-side and sell-side deals. That’s definitely something that is a key consideration for me. I want to work on deals that are really important to the people involved because it will give me the pressure to perform to the best of my ability—this is an important factor in the role I am seeking. Finally, I feel that with the long hours I am going to be working, I want to be working for a firm that I enjoy. The fact that (this bank) is rated as one of the “Best Companies to Work For” is definitely a plus.
Q: Why do you want to work for Goldman Sachs?
I want to work for Goldman Sachs because I want the best overall experience possible. I want to work with people who are smarter than I am, so that I will be continually challenged to become better at what I do. Also, I believe that, hands down, Goldman Sachs would offer me the best deal experience. Goldman invented and has since revolutionized, many times over, what defines an “investment bank.” Only Goldman Sachs can offer a superior deal flow across all products and markets.
When it comes down to it, the work is rewarding and I enjoy it. My internship this summer definitely affirmed that I want to do investment banking at least for a couple of years. Although I will be making a 2-year sacrifice outside of work, I enjoy the challenge to execute and I can’t see my see myself working for a better firm than Goldman Sachs. This is a sacrifice I am most prepared to make for the sake of my career and professional development.
Q: How was your internship experience at Barclays?
I had a great experience with Barclays. I worked with the Consumer Retail group in Chicago, and it was a very tight-knit group: 28 professionals including the Vice President and Managing Director. Though I enjoyed the experience and I got a glimpse of a variety of deals, it did not offer the extensive network of people that New York provides. I received an offer from the Energy group, but I know that if I instead work for Goldman Sachs, I’m going come out with a network of the best and brightest people on Wall Street.
Q: Tell me about a deal you’ve worked on?
NOTE: Attention, ladies and gentlemen! If you have prior investment banking experience the interviewer will be much more likely to want to spend a lot of time talking about your experience in detail. The most important thing to take away here is: Do not write down deal experience on your resume unless you are very confident you understand everything that happened in the deal process (within the obvious limitations of your rank within the company). If an interviewer starts asking you questions you don’t know, then it could mean the end of your interview process with that bank.
The interviewer will also want to know if you did any sort of valuation modeling for the deal. If so you’ll need to really understand how the company functions (the economics of the industry, how the company makes money, how investors value the industry) and how you valued the company (DCF, multiples, etc.). Make sure you know why the company wanted to sell itself, raise debt or equity, acquire companies, or be bought by other companies. Be able to connect corporate valuation with corporate strategy.
Q: Why do you believe you would be a good investment banker?
I think one of my best attributes is the ability to learn quickly and to be efficient with my time. Currently, I have a 3.7 cumulative GPA, which isn’t amazing, but taking into account that I have run my own business full-time during school and am supporting myself through college, I think it’s a good accomplishment. I didn’t always have enough time to put into my studies, but I knew that if I was productive and efficient, I could still achieve strong grades.
Q: What is one concern you have about investment banking?
One possibility: Honestly, my biggest concern with investment banking is the politics that come along with the business world. I definitely had a first-hand experience with this problem during my internship. It was complicated by the fact that I had to move locations and, on top of that, change groups. I currently have an offer with Bank of America Merrill Lynch Healthcare, and it’s the offer I wanted since it’s arguably one the strongest groups at BAML, but it wasn’t one of my favorite experiences of the summer.
Another possibility: One concern I have about investment banking is the balance between work life and family life. Family and friends are an important part of my life because they have shaped the person that I am today. That is why my #1 priority is to stay in New York. If I’m going to be working 90-100 hours a week, then I want to be as close to family as possible.
Q: What do you think an analyst does on a typical day?
Analysts do what they’re asked to do. They are at the bottom of the Investment Banking hierarchy, which is very rigid. Like in the military, there is a chain of command that you need to fall into to be successful.
Analyst responsibilities can vary from running financial models or pitch books independently, to the most minuscule of duties including making copies and setting up conference calls. A typical day for a highly-sought analyst can be simply categorized as: doing whatever makes their Associate’s/Vice President’s/Managing Director’s life easier.
Q: Would you prefer a product or industry group? Why?
Personally, I would prefer an industry group, simply because I think it would give me more exposure to all types of deals and investment banking products. Also, in particular I enjoyed the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications space that I worked in this summer. But honestly, I’m not too worried about what group I am in, because I have confidence that each group will offer relatively similar experience overall.
Q: Why should I pick you instead of someone from Harvard?
Yes, I am from the [Insert College], but I think I can offer experience that other students can’t. I chose this college mainly because it was in-state and had lower tuition. I’ve definitely learned a lot and have been stretched far beyond simply the confines of academics by having to support myself through college. I’ve taken full advantage of all of the academic resources the school has to offer.
Being from a non-core school, I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I know I have to prove myself. I intend to use this as motivation to work hard and demonstrate my ability. And also, I know I’m a good analyst. I think my track record speaks for itself, moving from a regional office to the best group at [insert bank].
NOTE: Be careful of how you come off when saying this. Be humble but confident. Speak of your accomplishments specifically, and what makes you a good asset, but don’t talk about “how great you are.” If you need to illustrate that you have ability, come from an absolute rather than relative place. Say “I am skilled at X” rather than “I am better than almost anyone at X.”
Q: What are 4-5 skills that you think are essential for banking?
- Strong work ethic
- Positive, courteous attitude
- Strong attention to detail
- Ability to learn quickly
- Not afraid to ask questions when stuck
Q: Where else are you interviewing? Are you interviewing outside of banking?
I am currently only interviewing at investment banks; I am not interested in any other field at the moment. At the moment I am only interviewing at 2 other investment banks.
NOTE: Whether it’s true or not, we strongly recommend that you state that you are only interested in investment banking. If the interviewer finds out you are evaluating other fields, he may question how serious you are about banking. Also, if you can name the other firms you are interviewing with, feel free to do so. But make sure not to fabricate any other interviews. Wall Street is a small place and bankers have friends at almost every other bank. There is a very good chance your lie will be caught, and it will be an embarrassing end for your chances with that bank.
Q: If you had the opportunity to jump early to a Private Equity or Hedge Fund like some of the other analysts/associates here, would you do so?
No I would not. I firmly believe in loyalty and I plan on committing to the firm for my full two year program. I think investment banking will give me a great platform if I were to choose to join the buyside, but I definitely would not leave early.
Q: If we gave you an offer right now would you accept?
YES. I will sign right now!
Q: What other investment banks do you like the most?
NOTE: Suggest one bank that you admire in the industry and state a good quality it possesses. Then counter that with saying the bank you are interviewing at also has this great quality, and might even be better. An example: “Goldman has a well known and highly respected corporate culture and teamwork philosophy. However, [Insert Bank] has exactly that but after talking to employees at the bank, I’m convinced that the level of teamwork and culture here are very strong, and probably a better fit for me.”
Personality & Experiences Interview Questions
Q: Walk me through your resume (i.e. tell me about yourself).
NOTE: You should really know this question well, it is guaranteed to be asked. When you answer this question, your goals should be: 1) Display your personality and let the interviewer get to know you better; 2) Walk through your life decisions/accomplishments and how it has shaped you; and 3) Convince your interviewer that you are truly interested in investment banking and you have the skills necessary to be a successful analyst.
A majority of interviews will start out with the interviewer asking you to “walk me through your resume.” This gives the interviewer a chance to read over your resume and also to get to know you. This is a situation in which you can talk about your background, and also use an opportunity to make your case for why you want to be a banker. Give the interviewer a story that shows your achievements and how everything fits together for you to be a successful investment banker. Make sure to point out how each job has let you take on more responsibility, or required you to acquire more finance/business knowledge than the one before it. Be clear about the progression of your career and why investment banking is the best logical next step for your development.
Above, I recommend that you start with where you grew up. However, make sure to spend a majority of your time talking about your most recent job experience and the classes you are taking in college. You should avoid pointing to or verbally referencing your resume when answering this question—the story should stand on its own entirely without the resume. This is your first impression, and this is difficult to do properly, so make sure to practice this repeatedly until you get it right! Plan to spend about three minutes or so on this story (no more than five minutes).
Q: Why did you attend [insert school] college?
Upon graduating high school, I was accepted to 8 schools, among which were UNC and IU. Relative to other schools I visited, the combination of business curriculum, research facilities, specific professors, atmosphere on campus and personal fit allowed me to make this decision and I felt without a doubt that [insert school] was the school I wanted to attend.
I knew going in that I would have to work extremely hard to differentiate myself not only from my classmates, but also from the candidates I would be facing in the banking interviews. I have pressed myself to learn as much as possible about the banking industry. While I understand that I have an incredibly long journey ahead of me, I believe that my personal, professional and academic accomplishments to date have positioned me for success in the banking world.
NOTE: To the extent that it’s honest, be sure to say that you looked at a lot of colleges and you chose this college because of a strong business/finance/economics program or a strong academic curriculum. If you attended the school for some sort of scholarship (academic, sports, musical, etc.), be sure to point that out.
Q: Why did you major in [insert major/degree]?
NOTE: If you are a business major try to discuss your interests in that field. If you are a non-business major, express that you are always interested in a challenge and that you chose your major because you have a real interest in the field at the time you picked it. If there is a logical connection between your major and banking, this is the perfect opportunity to illustrate it eloquently.
Q: What are your 3 greatest strengths?
- Hard Worker: I am a very hard worker—I like to do what it takes to get the job done. I like to lead through example, and even when the overall hours are going to hurt, I’m definitely not someone that’s going to complain.
- Attitude: I have a positive attitude. I enjoy working with other people and am courteous and fun to be around. Within investment banking, I know what I’m getting myself into and know that the hours are going to be tough, but I’m definitely a person that doesn’t complain and will be fun to work on a deal team with.
- Networking: I try to build my network of business contacts every time I have the chance. I’m smart enough to know that there is always something important to learn from others.
Q: What are your 3 greatest weaknesses?
- Big Picture Thinking: One of my criticisms this summer was that I concentrated too much on getting my work done quickly without sometimes taking a step back and thinking about the rationale behind everything. This can be advantageous for getting individual tasks done, but I realize this limitation will hinder my professional development down the line, and it is something I will need to improve as I gain more responsibility.
- Communication Skills: I’ve never been fully comfortable speaking in public. I knew that communication skills are an essential skill no matter what field you go into, so I took initiative last semester and joined a class focused on helping students prepare for public speaking. This forced me to speak in front of groups that put me out of my comfort zone. It has helped quite a bit but I know that I will constantly want to improve my communication skills.
- Networking: I think my greatest weakness would have to be networking. Initially, I am soft-spoken with people. I like to concentrate on my work, so much that it often hinders me from developing relationships. That’s exactly why I want to go to New York, so that I can work on my people skills and build my network.
NOTE: What most candidates fail to do is to actually give real strengths and weaknesses. This might sound counter-intuitive but this is a chance for you to be honest and focus on the qualities interviewers are looking for when answering the question. When listing your weaknesses, make sure to list real weaknesses, but make sure you can demonstrate that you are aware of them and explain how you can improve upon them.
Q: Give an example in which you encountered a difficult situation while working in a group.
I worked in a bunch of small groups during my senior year internship within Financial Management. Each student had a really busy schedule, and I took initiative to help reprioritize everyone’s schedules and found areas to compromise. This helped to balance workload and work quality for the group.
In the same situation, there was a person in the group that was not doing his work. I helped to solve the problem by helping him discover his strength and letting him focus on his strengths while the others helped to fill the gap.
Q: Give an example of a time you had to work hard, and how you got through it.
During my sophomore and junior years of college, I was juggling schoolwork while essentially working full-time and trying to balance this with internship recruiting, making phone calls, setting up meetings and doing interviews. I was able to successfully balance all of this by keeping very organized priority sheets and setting daily goals for items to be completed. It was a difficult process, but it enhanced my overall sense of being able to do whatever was necessary to accomplish my goals.
Q: What kind of feedback did you receive from your previous internship?
NOTE: The best way to answer this is give specific examples of times where you demonstrated attention to detail, willingness to work harder than everyone else, or a time when you helped add value to the group. These are all great to mention—simply saying you did well and had great feedback isn’t enough.
Q: Did you receive an offer from your previous internship?
NOTE: Tell the truth here. If you did, then great. If not, then say you did not receive an offer. There are plenty of potential reasons why a company might not hire you back: Your group was simply not hiring full-time, the poor economy forced cutbacks in the hiring program, etc.
Q: Give an example of a time when you were very driven/committed.
During my first semester of freshman year, I joined the college ROTC program. It was a grueling program wherein I was going to bed at 9p.m. every night, and waking up at 4:30a.m. (I was very thankful that I had a very considerate and patient roommate!) At some points I definitely wanted to quit, but in the end it was worth it. There were only 3 out of 10 freshmen who made it through the program, and I was one of them.
NOTE: Talk about teamwork or something you are really involved with, especially if it involves working with others. This question is another way to ask, “what are your strengths?”
Q: Give an example of when you failed or made a mistake.
During my last internship I had to help out another intern. I taught him some concepts incorrectly because I was rushed, and I made the incorrect assumption that he would figure it out. He didn’t and that friend had to quit the internship program. We were very close, and it was devastating. I felt responsible. From that experience, I learned that I had to take being a leader much more seriously, and that my example was crucial for others to succeed. I also learned that I must show better attention to detail and not assume everything is running well without my input.
NOTE: Really think this one out and give a truthful answer. Again, this is another “weakness question.” Where possible, explain what you’ve learned from it and how you can improve.
Q: Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
Five years is a long way down the road, but I know that finance will always have a grip on me. I could see myself in investment banking for the long-term, but that would have to depend on my performance and my family situation. I would definitely like to stay in financial services, using the skills I’ve learned and continuing to build solid and meaningful professional relationships.
NOTE: You want to demonstrate that you are committed to investment banking, but you don’t want to be disingenuous by stating that banking is the only job you’ll ever want to do. If you’re interviewing for an analyst role, you don’t need to demonstrate that you are committed to investment banking long-term; bankers are in a two-year program, and then they’re out. Be sure, however, to mention that you are very excited about becoming an analyst and that you want to learn as much as possible, get as much transaction experience as possible, etc.
On the other hand, if you’re interviewing for an associate position out of MBA school, you will need to demonstrate commitment to investment banking.
Q: Are you interviewing for jobs outside of investment banking?
NOTE: I would say no to this. You want to get across that you’re interviewing at only investment banks or at least that banking is by far your main focus. Even if you are hedging bets by interviewing in other fields, it’s important to not give the interviewer any reason to doubt your commitment to the investment banking analyst role.
Q: What motivates you?
What drives me the most is competition. I always want to be the best in everything I do, whether it is academics, sports, or even poker. Another example is golf: my Managing Director took me to the golf course for the first time this summer, and since then I’ve bought my own Callaway clubs and have gone to the driving range every other day during school. Once I decide I want something, it becomes all I think about and strive for. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?
NOTE: This can be a tuition answer for some people, i.e. working hard to pay for school. Besides that, be sure to discuss any awards or academic/professional achievements you have had.
Q: What was your favorite class in college?
While I found all of my business courses interesting, the most interesting class I took was Psychology. I found the science of human behavior fascinating, and I’ve identified a number of such findings that can be applied to better understanding the capital markets.
Q: Why should we hire you?
I believe you should hire me because as a diligent, organized, and goal-oriented person, I will work hard in any task presented no matter how difficult or time consuming it might be. I always strive to perform the best that I can. Schoolwork is a good example— when assigned a task, I organize myself and my materials in order to work efficiently, and then set to work on the task. I perform the necessary research in order to ensure that no mistakes are made, and I check my finished work repeatedly to ensure that it is high quality. I believe my 3.83 GPA can attest to this.
Q: Why are you applying to this firm? Why RBC?
[Insert bank] is one of Wall St.’s most successful firms, with the necessary size to offer the potential for a better working environment than other firms—one that is more personable and intimate than that at the larger banks, and offers better opportunities for growth for its employees. Compared to other bulge bracket firms, [bank] seems to have a better culture from my perspective. Also, over the past few years, [bank] has been one of the few continuously successful firms—it avoided most of the catastrophe that befell Wall Street in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis—and appears to have great potential for continued success and growth. I am looking to learn more about financial services and would very much like to be a part of this firm’s success.
Q: Give me an example of a time you worked as part of a team.
Most recently, I had to work as part of a team for my Management and Organizational Analysis class. We organized the teams at the beginning of the semester and were required to create a business idea. From there, we issued various reports on strategy, structure, and culture, and developed a presentation and final report encompassing the development plan for this business. I discovered that working in a group can be challenging due to differences in working styles and personalities. Conflicts can arise and team dynamics are hard to manage. As a team member, I sometimes would take lead roles of organizing research assignments, meeting times, and the production of a final product. However, I helped others and received help in return. Each member contributed in his or her own manner–someone would invariably step up when the need arose–and there was always a system of checks and balances.
Q: What is the biggest risk you have taken in your life?
I am conservative and risk-averse by nature. That does not mean I do not take my chances. However, when I do take chances, I base them on a rational analysis so that I can ensure success to a certain degree, and fully understand the risks involved before “taking the plunge.”
Q: What motivates you to put forth your best effort? What type of work environment brings out your best effort?
Any challenging situation motivates me to put forth my best effort. I want to succeed, and I enjoy accomplishing goals and overcoming difficult obstacles. When I face a challenge, I strive to overcome it by working hard and going the extra mile so that I can make good things happen.
Q: What do you see yourself contributing to our organization, both in the short term and in the long term?
In the short term I see myself contributing my energy, enthusiasm, hard work and willingness to learn. In the long term, if the opportunity arises, I would continue working with JPMorgan and contributing to its growth and success.
Q: What do you do for fun?
While I don’t have the time or resources to do them as much as I would like, I greatly enjoy traveling and scuba driving. I find other parts of the world very interesting from a cultural and geographic perspective, and would love to travel much more later on in my life. I also participate in club hockey. I’m not good! But I have met some really nice friends through the local program and I hope one day to get better at it.
Q: What is your favorite book?
I come from a family of nutritionists, and they recommended The Wellness Revolution, a book that predicts that the sales of vitamins and other health-related items will grow to over $1 trillion annually within the next 10 years. I thought their argument for this was very interesting.
NOTE: Do not say Liar’s Poker or Harry Potter. Be sure to give a truthful answer that’s somewhere in the middle—appropriate for a business conversation, but not disingenuous for the sole purpose of looking good.
Q: Tell me something about yourself that is not on your resume.
My club hockey team in college recently won the nationwide club championship that competes with 80 other colleges. This was a big success not only for the team but also for myself, because I have been successfully balancing a tremendous amount of schoolwork with interviews and practice.
Finance Industry Interview Questions
Q: What’s the difference between investment banking and commercial banking?
An investment bank offers advisory services in M&A and other corporate transactions, and also acts as an intermediary between investors and companies in need of capital. Commercial banks work more on the monetary/transactional side, where they take deposits from clients and lend money to individuals and insitutions.
Q: What is the Glass-Steagall Act?
The Glass-Steagall Act was a law that separated commercial and investment banks because of the belief that the two businesses created conflicts of interest. Banks were essentially blamed for the Stock Crash of 1929 and the start of the Great Depression.
Q: What is a fairness opinion?
A fairness opinion is an independent assessment issued from an investment bank regarding the price offered in a merger or acquisition. It is provided for a fixed fee, typically by an institution not involved in the transaction.
Q: What are the different arms of an investment bank?
The primary arms are Sales and Trading, Corporate Finance (also known as Investment Banking), and Research (Equity and other Instruments).
Sample Interview Questions asked for a Post-MBA Associate Position
Post-MBA investment banking interviews have been described as “quick and painful.” The banks are the first firms to interview on campus (early in the second quarter), and the process is usually over within a week or two. Because the interviews last between thirty minutes and one hour, the interviewers like to get straight to the point. Besides knowing your resume thoroughly, prepare concise answers to standard investment bank interview questions. Listed below are questions that are frequently asked in the interviews.
Top 10 Associate-level Interview Questions:
- Walk me through the highlights of your resume. I’m interested in the decisions you have made.
- Why investment banking? Why our bank?
- How do you value a company?
- Why did you choose Kellogg?
- What other firms are you interviewing with and why? Are you interviewing with consulting firms also? What career opportunities are you exploring other than investment banking?
- What were your grades in college? What were your grades for the first semester at [Kellogg]? What was your GMAT score? Be ready to explain any weak points.
- What qualities would you consider most important for a career in investment banking? What are your greatest strengths? What are your weaknesses?
- What do you understand the responsibilities of an associate/summer associate to be?
- Describe an important current or recent event in the market?
- What questions do you have for me? (NOTE: Always have at least two questions prepared per bank.)
Questions for the Interviewer
These questions are important because it shows the banker your interest not only in the firm, but also in the conversation with the interviewer. Try asking about 4-5 questions at most—you don’t want to be over-eager, nor come across as someone who asks too many questions!
Basic Questions to ask the Interviewer
- How long have you been with the bank and how has your experience been?
- What do you like/dislike most about working with this bank?
- How do you compare working here with other banks at which you have worked?
- What kind of responsibility does the typical Analyst/Associate receive?
- What differentiates a good Analyst from a great Analyst?
- What’s your favorite deal that you’ve worked on at the bank?
- Can you tell me about your Associate training program?
- How do Analysts/Associates get staffed at your bank?
- On what types of deals are you currently working?
- How is the deal flow at the bank? In your group?
More Targeted Questions to Ask the Interviewer
- What’s the difference between a good investment banker and a great one? What kind of qualities do you look for when inviting Analysts to stay on board for a third year? What makes them stand out?
- What qualities do you have that helped you succeed in investment banking?
- What are Citigroup’s goals? Are they looking to overtake Goldman or Morgan Stanley in some area, or are they content with simply doing business the way they have?
- How do you distinguish yourself from other bulge bracket firms?
- Where do you want to be 5 years from now?
- Why did you choose this career path?
- On a typical day in this position, what do you do? With whom do you interact?
- How do you manage work, family, and community involvement?
- Describe your typical first-year assignments.
- What is the most effective way to find employment in this field?
- Has the work changed recently due to technology, the marketplace, or competition, etc.?
- How did you find your job?
- How do you see this job changing in the future?
- Where does your work fit into the organization’s objective and structure?
- Is there a “career path” that most professionals in this bank or group tend to follow?
- What is the demand for people in this occupation?
- What are the basic prerequisites for a job in this field?
- In your opinion, what would assist me in preparing for this career? (clubs, classes, experiences)
- What is your level of freedom to solve problems and take action on issues?
- What are the opportunities for advancement within the bank?
- What personal qualities or abilities are important to be successful in this job?
- What part of this job do you find most satisfying? Most challenging?
- Are there other sources of information you might suggest to students interested in this field?
- What advice do you have for students who are considering this career path?
- What impact does the state of the economy have on your job, workload, and deal flow?
- What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since coming out of school?
- What industry/product group do you work in? Which are offered in your office?
- What are the current drivers in this industry for M&A? How is it different now than it has been in the past?
- What announced deals are have you worked on? What are some of the key considerations in these deals?
- What attracted you to investment banking originally?
- How much responsibility will I take on when I join the bank?
- What are some of the exit opportunities from banking? (Ask Analysts, they very aware of this issue. This question only applies to individuals interviewing for analyst positions.)
Additional Question Types
Resume and personality questions
- Be ready to explain any line on your resume.
- Are you a leader or a follower? Give me an example of your being successful in each role.
- What was your favorite class so far? Why?
- What classes are you currently taking to get ready for the summer?
- What are your 5-10 year (long-term) career plans?
- What are your proudest accomplishments? What was your most challenging professional experience?
- What do you do to relax?
- Tell me a joke.
- Who has influenced you the most, besides family members?
- Say you are at a meeting with a client and your Managing Director is giving a presentation. You suddenly notice a mistake in some of the calculations, which you have prepared. Do you mention it? When? What do you say?
- What is one skill that you think is most relevant to investment banking?
- Based on your course load and work experience, you seem to like marketing. Why are you interested in finance?
- What is one word that describes you the best?
- How would your classmates describe you? How would you characterize yourself in a group dynamic?
- Highlight your quantitative accomplishments.
- Describe an ethical decision you had to make.
- If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be and why? (This is not a joke! This question actually gets asked.)
- What’s your favorite book?
- As an Associate, what tasks would you like to spend most of your time doing? What percent of each day do you see yourself spending on those tasks?
- Describe a time that you failed. Why did you fail, and what did you learn?
Questions on Investment Banking as a Career
- Why investment banking rather than consulting? Sales & trading? Research? Finance positions within corporations/industry?
- What do you hope to accomplish over the summer?
- Which group do you want to work for inside investment banking and why?
- Which investment banks are in the “Bulge Bracket”?
- Rank the investment banking firms on Wall Street in your mind. What criteria are you using and why? Where do we fit? Who is our competition (in the major categories)? What differentiates our firm? What are our firm’s strengths? Weaknesses?
- If you were the CEO of our firm, what major changes would you implement?
- Describe a typical day of an investment banking analyst.
- Do you understand the lifestyle issues associated with this profession? Why don’t you have a problem with these issues?
- What is your greatest concern about investment banking?
- What is your personal Beta? How do you come to that estimate?
- How would you spend $1,000,000 if it were given to you (besides investing it)?
- Which of your college achievements are you most proud of?
- What relevant (i.e. finance, economics, etc.) classes have you taken so far? What did you get out of each of those classes and which classes did you like best?
- How do you feel about the long hours in investment banking?
- When did you discover that you wanted to be an investment banker? How?
- Do you understand the level of commitment an investment banking job dictates?
- Give me an example wherein you had a lot of responsibility. Can I trust you with a critical project?
- Can you think of a time when you came up with a creative solution to a difficult problem?
- Tell me about a time when you were working with someone and who wasn’t pulling his/her weight. How did you handle the situation?
- Discuss a difficult ethical decision you recently faced.
- What is your most challenging professional experience?
- What is the one thing that you wish you knew before working in investment banking?
- Give an example that demonstrates your analytical skills.
Random Questions (that are occasionally asked!):
- Tell me something about you that is not on your resume.
- Suppose I were going to rank you and 30 of your peers on one quality, with the winner receiving something very desirable, such as one million dollars. If you are allowed to determine that quality, what would it be?
- What did you eat for lunch?
- How do you like Chicago?
- What do you like to do when you’re bored?
- Think of the team you worked with, and give me a word that describes each team member.
- Are you more risk-averse or risk-seeking? Give me examples.
- Let’s imagine you died and are giving a speech at your funeral. What would you say?
- While interviewing for a Chicago office, the interviewer tells you that he/she is getting the impression that you are more interested in the New York office. (You are.) What do you say?
Final Interview Tips
Don’t give too much background information in the interview. Investment bankers care greatly about efficiency, and they are there to interview a bunch of people quickly. Jump straight into questions being asked. Be direct and concise, but courteous and affable. Be confident with your answers. Don’t use “ums or ahs.” Practice answering these questions if you find yourself having difficulty doing this.
Remember that for a lot of these questions, most people are going to have the same answers—this doesn’t mean you need extraordinary stories to stand out from the crowd. All it means is that you need to make your answers memorable. Here’s an example: if you’re talking about pulling an “all-nighter” with work, remember that a lot of people have done this. To make your response interesting, try giving some context for what was going on that night. Maybe you had heartburn, or your girlfriend was sick and calling you every hour, or you realized in the middle of the night that you hadn’t shaved in 2 days and had a client meeting at 9 a.m. the next day. Maybe your colleagues were passing out at their desks but somehow you persevered. The stories need to be precise, have an introduction, and be easy to follow. But they also should be memorable, and adding just a little bit of colorful detail around the margins in the story can help make you much more interesting to the interviewer.←Investment Banking ResumeInternational Investment Banking Recruiting→