A job interview is often a nerve-racking experience, and this might be especially true of questionnaires at investment banks. Suited up, in an intimidating corporate environment and possibly facing by a panel of experts, it’s only natural that you should feel a little nervous. But the good news is that you needn’t be - by reviewing the following questions, you can prepare yourself to enter the interview with confidence, charisma and every chance of success.
As you review them, bear in mind that you might be faced with different variations of them, and you should be prepared to adapt your responses as necessary.
These are the most predictable questions, and, for that reason, often the most revealing. A candidate who isn’t prepared to discuss their skills and experience with confidence and authority will likely be seen as unserious or, even worse, incompetent.
The trickiest of these preliminary questions is the oft-used “tell me (or us) about yourself”. This provides you with a valuable opportunity to share important details of your CV, and also demonstrate your personality. However, it’s vital that you keep your response relevant and concise. For example, it’s fine to discuss your passion for karate if you also emphasise how it’s taught you self-discipline and the ability to perform well under pressure.
Investment banking is a popular career choice and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a prestigious occupation with perks ranging from travel to ritzy client lunches, and the salary, even for graduates, can be enormous. In their first year on the job, graduates can earn between $90,000 and $100,000, not including bonuses. By comparison, the overall median starting salary of bachelor degree graduates in 2015 was closer to $55,000 (according to GradAustralia’s surveys).
For all these reasons, investment bank positions are hotly contested, and recruiters are free to select only those graduates whose skills and talents are matched by a genuine passion for the job.
Questions about your career choices are designed to gauge how serious you are, and get some sense of whether or not you’re willing to make a genuine long-term commitment to a company that will invest significant time and resources in training you.
Your answer to a typical question like “why did you apply to work for us?” should reveal your in-depth knowledge of specific opportunities within the company. It should also show that you’re familiar with the bank’s primary clients, current deals or major objectives. Finally, recruiters are often impressed by candidates who have taken the time to reach out to current and former employees, and can show how this has influences their choice of graduate program.
Life in an investment bank can be intense - the stakes are high, the clients are demanding and every day brings new opportunities to make, or lose, enormous sums of money. Before they can be confident that you have the temperament for the job, recruiters will want to ensure that you understand exactly what it entails.
This section of the interview provides you with a great opportunity to discuss your experience, and how it proves that you’ve got what it takes to make it in the banking sector. It will also reveal to recruiters whether or not you’ve researched the specific position for which you’re applying - so make sure that you do!
Investment banking recruiters have observed that many candidates apply for roles with insufficient knowledge of the bank and the industry. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the complexity of investment banking! Instead, be prepared to answer general questions about both the industry and the specific responsibilities of your role.
It’s simply not enough to have a strong academic record or a list of internships - most of the your fellow candidates will boast similarly impressive CVs, which means that it’s on your temperament and personal suitability that recruiters will place the most importance.
Think about how best to answer the questions above and also consider what you might introduce as your own ‘unique’ competitive edge. For example, if you’ve studied French, you might talk about your potential to excel in the analysis of European financial matters by liaising directly with colleagues abroad.
Reading through the questions so far, you might have begun to worry that recruiters aren’t interested in your personality outside of how it fits within investment banking. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Well-rounded candidates with diverse interests are highly prized by recruiters, who see them as having something ‘special’ to offer the organisation beyond their generic skills. Furthermore, many investment banks are keen supporters of hobbies, sports and cultural activities, frequently investing in programs designed to keep their workers fresh and happy.
In this section of the interview, recruiters will be looking for evidence of how you’ve handled challenges and opportunities in the past. The more specific your examples, the better. It’s also a valuable chance to show that you’re somebody who learns from experience and thinks about how to things even better the next time around.
The first trick to acing technical questions is to familiarise yourself with the job and its specific duties. For examples, if you’re going for a research analyst position, you can expect questions about data aggregation and modelling. Similarly, if you’re hoping to be a trader, you’ll need to know the precise differences between futures, bonds, risks and a range of other financial products.
It’s a good idea to also review your general financial knowledge. Perhaps the best online resource for doing this is Investopedia, which covers everything from junk bonds to the differences between market capitalization and market value of equity.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll be faced with a brainteaser, but it helps to be prepared because recruiters do love throwing a curveball from time to time. The key to answering oddball questions like those above is to remember that it’s more about your process than your answer. Recruiters want to see that you can approach an unfamiliar challenge with determination, creativity and logic. You can show this by carefully considering the question, asking any clarifying questions of your own and sharing the steps you’d take to solve the problem.