Below is an example of my investment banking interviews and answers with a bulge-bracket firm. This is an attempt to show you how I put my interview secrets in practice to achieve success.
The following is a campus interview. It took place in my college in the beginning of the school year.
Interviewer: Hi Stephanie, I am Derek. Nice to meet you.
Stephanie: Hi Derek, thanks for coming over to Chicago to interview us.
Interviewer: Sure, no problem. I’d like to get out of Manhattan once in a while. I am from the Midwest myself (smile). Anyway, let me give you a short introduction. [Derek talked about where he graduated and that he is a third-year analyst]. OK, Stephanie, can you tell me about yourself?
Note: a subtle appreciation is returned with some useful information (that Derek is from the Midwest and maybe there is something he doesn’t like about Manhattan)
Stephanie: Sure. I am from Canada and towards the end of high school, I decided to study and explore places beyond my home country. Most of my friends went to either West Coast or East Coast, so I decided to go to the Midwest to get the most unique experience.
I was warmly welcome at my School, the University of Chicago where I major in Economics and Public Policy Studies.
I like Economics because I find it an intriguing way to analyze our daily lives in a systematic way, and I like Public Policy Studies because I want to understand how policies around the world drive and affect businesses and daily lives of common people.
I try to put my studies in practice by volunteering in the nearby public school right there (pointing to a direction) where I lead a group of fellow college students to hold scientific experiments with 30 kids every week, and it has been an amazing learning experience.
Interviewer: That’s great. Can you tell me about this volunteering service? I see that you mention it here in your resume.
Stephanie: Certainly. The program was launched by Reese Wilson, a graduate student who has founded a similar program when she was at Yale.
The idea is to provide an opportunity to 8-12 year old children in underprivileged school where scientific experiment is non-existent. As you may agree, the excitement of dissecting an insect or the discovery of how things work in nature is the best way to bring out the passion of learning among the kids.
Because I fully agree with Reese’s vision and I have never missed a session, I am quickly given the responsibility to lead a team of newly-joined volunteers on this program, from fund raising, brain storming scientific experiments with the children, to buying materials, coordinating and implementing the actual experiments… it involves a lot of teamwork and countless stressful moments, but the pay off is priceless.
(Pause and see if interviewer is interested in learning more. He is.)[Continue to give specific example of teamwork, and stressful situations e.g. meeting deadlines and managing unexpected reaction from the children]. All these experience has helped me in my other jobs, such as the internship at the Senator’s Office.
Interviewer: The children’s stubbornness reminds me of one of my clients, ha ha. Yes, the Senator’s office (scanning the resume). That’s cool. Can you tell me more about it?
Stephanie: Yes, of course. [Mentioned the “brand names” e.g. Senator Carol Moseley Braun and one specific example of how my work has effectively assisted the Senator.]
Interviewer: It’s great to study at a metropolitan city isn’t it, with all these exciting internships… Now tell me, why are you interested in Investment Banking, instead of, say, a non-profit organization?
Stephanie: I did think about NGOs and international organizations such as World Bank, and so I seek the advice from one of my mentors, Professor Truman who is an authority in international business. After a good conversation, he recommends me to start in a firm with the highest standard and most demanding clients, and after I have the best training under stressful situations, I can almost do anything thereafter.
I understand that investment bankers at [the firm] serve the CEOs of the biggest corporation and without questions these should be the toughest and smartest clients. I can also imagine the analysis and presentations done for them have to be the highest standard in order to get businesses from them. I also like to work with smart people and build a valuable network down the road so all-in-all I think Investment Bank is the best place to start my career.
By this time, you should have covered all your strength:
Interviewer: Excellent Stephanie. Do you have any question for me?
Stephanie: Yes. You asked me why I wanted to get into investment banking. Could you share with me why you are interested in investment banking and what’s your experience so far?
Interviewer. That’s a great question. Sure. [Derek went into detail how he got offers from investment banking and management consulting and how he chose between the two, and his experience at banking so far.]
Note: This is one of the best questions because:
Interviewer: Anything else?
Stephanie: I understand that you are working in New York Headquarters. Have you thought about opportunities in regional offices, e.g. the Chicago office? What’s the difference between the two?
Interviewer: It’s amazing you asked this question because I am in the process of making a decision myself. [Derek talks at length about an opportunity to transfer and get promoted to an associate in the Chicago office, but he is also thinking about business school. He talks about the difference in culture between the office and the city.]
See how I pick up his casual comment on Manhattan and twist it into a relevant question.
This is another good question because (1) the answer is going to be useful for you; (2) it shows that you have a genuine interest in the firm and is thinking about the specifics.
Interviewer: It’s been great chatting with you. [Derek talks about the process, that I should hear from him within a week]. Here is my business card. Let’s keep in touch.
Stephanie: Thanks a lot for the interview and the sharing. I’ve learned a lot and I look forward to hearing from you soon.