Here are some of the most common investment banking interview questions, together with tips on how to package the answers to your advantage.
The good news is that most investment bankers aren’t that creative, so they tend to stick with the same questions over and over.
1. Tell me about yourself
This is the most common question and you should definitely take the time to prepare and customize it for each interview.
Instead of casually telling your life story, grab the opportunity to set the stage and guide your interview to ask questions to your advantage. How to do it? You can see how I handled my own i-banking interview questions here.
2. Tell me more about this experience in the resume
For follow-on answers related to your resume, it helps if you can give concise example with specific information and data (remember, finance people LOVE numbers). This can give your answer a lot of substance.
3. What do you like best about your school / current job?
Try to pick an example that can show the attributes of good investment bankers, e.g. fast learner, taking ownership of work, the ability to work long hours and handle stress.
For example, you can talk about your experience in a non-profit organization where you lead a team of X number of students to teach underprivileged children in your neighborhood for Y years, where you learn by experience how to raise funds and handle unanticipated and stressful situations. (the phrases in bold italic are good keywords)
4. What is the most challenging situation you ever face, and how did you overcome it?
This is essentially the same question but with a negative tone (and thus more tricky). In addition to putting in the relevant keywords, do remember to end the answer with a positive spin.
5. Have you ever worked under intense sense? What was it and how did you deal with it?
This is a variation of the question above, but even more applicable to an entry-level investment banking job where you will bound to experience many stressful situation. Again, the most important thing is to end with a positive note.
6. Please give me an example on how you learn from a mistake.
Same as above, but more general. A good answer would be to talk about a specific example where you learn about a few key i-banking attributes from this experience.
7. What motivates you to bring out your best in a job?
This is a question on both your passion and your strength. Try to combine the two and give a specific example.
8. How do you see yourself 5-10 years from now?
This is a favorite among senior bankers, because they want to figure out what the “kids” aspire to these days.
The best way is to answer the question in stages.
For example, you have set goals for yourself to achieve such and such (clearly success in the i-bank you are interviewing at must be one of them, but shouldn’t be the only one) and talk about how we plan to achieve them within this time frame. In this way, you get yourself covered without sounding too cliché.
9. How do you see your career path down the road?
Same as the previous question. Organize your goals into stages and talk about each of them.
10. Tell me about your dream job
Yet another aspiration-related question, but for this one you should focus the answer on your passion.
You can talk about how investment banking will get you the experience, network and money required to launch the job of your dream. For the dream job itself, it should be your true passion and the wackier the better.
11. Why are you interested in investment banking?
This is another very common interview question. A good way is answer the question is that
12. Why are you interested in [the firm’s name]?
Make sure you research on the firm before the interview and get a basic understanding of the company’s strength and the major competitors.
You might also want to learn about the firm’s current issue but there is no need to talk about it unless the topic comes up (try to stay positive throughout the interview).
13. Why do you think you are the best person for this job?
You should thank your interview for this question because it hands you the opportunity to present the best in you specifically for the job.
Treat this as a variation of a self-introduction and give concrete example as support.
14.Why should we hire you?
Very similar to the one above, but the way the interviewer asks it (short and blunt) implies he/she prefers a precise, no-nonsense approach.
Answer the question in point form, e.g. start by saying: “there are three reasons” and use 3 keywords to highlight the 3 reasons, followed by short explanation or supporting examples.
15. Are you applying to other firms?
Be honest and say yes if you are. The important thing is not to linger on because this is certainly not the focus. If the answer is “no”, you’ll need to explain it or you run the risk of being dishonest or over-confident.
16. Please give me 3 adjectives that best describe you.
It has to be positive and ideally fit naturally with what the firm is looking for in an interviewee. Give specific examples to support your answer as well as to provide more content for conversations that follow.
17. If I ask your professors / co-workers to describe you, what would they say?
This is another question you should be thankful for. Treat this as a way to ask for reference, only that you can control what the reference has to say (isn’t it nice?)
Try to mention people with authority, e.g. prominent professors or your boss to give weight to what you say. Again, match the good qualities with what the firm is looking for.
18. What are your strengths?
I generally like to stick with 3 strengths and talk at length about it, instead of rambling on with all the positive adjectives you can think of.
19. What are your weaknesses?
This is a tough question. Many people advise to disguise a strength into a “weakness” so it appears as if you are perfect. But a far more sincere approach is to talk about a real weakness that you had before and how you overcome it with diligence and commitment.
The weakness, however, should be rather mild and definitely not one of the “deadly traits” for investment bankers, e.g. laziness, carelessness, freaking out in stressful situations, lack of integrity.
20. What irritates you about your fellow students / co-workers?
This is the time you can talk about those deadly traits. Don’t get too excited and sound arrogant.
21. Do you fellow students / co-workers find you irritable in any ways?
This is a trap. Try to think hard but can’t recall any, and tell the interview you generally get along with everyone well. Then give an example on how well you work as a team.
Don’t brag — saying your friends find you irritable because you are too smart will most likely backfire.
22. What has been your biggest disappointments?
Similar to the weakness question, only easier because you can talk about something out of your control and how you overcome it without bad feelings.
23. Tell me about something that makes you laugh.
This is one of those out-of-the-blue questions. You can link this with one of the key experiences you want to highlight because it should be something you are proud of.
24. What’s your favorite books / person?
Usually interviewer asks this type of question only if he/she has nothing to ask from the resume. That’s not a good sign. Anyway, you should prepare to talk about your favorite “stuff” just in case.
Well, depending on the firm and your background, you may or may not be asked a technical question. The only one tech question I got is “how do you describe goodwill?”, which I have to say is quite easy.
If you have a non-accounting, non-finance background and you are interviewing for bulge bracket firms, chances are that 95% of your questions are non-technical.
However, If You Are:
They may drill you on the technicals.