Landing A Job in Investment Banking
Investment banking interviews are long and comprehensive, however, they portend the intensity and pressure of actually working at an investment bank. You need to go into each phase of the process fully prepared for the kinds of technical and personal questions you’re almost sure to be asked.
While the investment banking interview process does vary somewhat depending on the bank, you can expect it to follow this basic format. (Check out our best job interview tips.)
Landing an interview with an investment bank is just the beginning of the process, as most investment banks have several rounds of initial “introductory” interviews designed to identify candidates who are strong not just on paper.
Depending on your location, the first round of the investment banking interview process is likely to be done over the phone. Many banks occasionally send alumni to their college campuses for in-person, speed-dating-style interviews at a career fair or other event.
The early interviews are primarily focused on technical questions about accounting and valuation models to demonstrate that you know the basics. If done over the phone, try to avoid the natural tendency to rely on notes, as the shuffling of papers and long pauses are usually dead giveaways that you’re looking up an answer to a question. Instead, take a few days to thoroughly brush up on the specifics so you can quickly and confidently fire off your answers.
Sometimes, but not always, there is a second and perhaps third round of phone or quick in-person interviews. This is generally the case for larger college campuses that have an established pipeline to Wall Street. Again, these interviews are meant to cover the basics around valuation, discount rates, cash flow, and other common topics that you absolutely have to know and be comfortable with on Day One of any associate or analyst role.
If you make it to the next round, you’ll be invited to an on-site Superday at the investment bank. This will involve an intense full day of interviews.
There is normally a small reception or outing the night before for the interviewers to meet the candidates informally. Consider this event to be mandatory and a serious part of the investment banking interview process, as many initial hiring decisions may be made during these events. Do your best to build rapport with the employees at the firm. Avoid the tendency to simply mix and talk with your fellow candidates.
The following day is Superday, you’ll spend the entire day meeting with different hiring groups, even if you’ve indicated a group or practice preference previously.
The interviews can be one-on-one or with small groups.
Interview questions are of two general categories:
- Technical – Do you know the technical basics of accounting and valuation?
- Fit – Are you a good fit for the investment bank’s culture?
You will also be asked questions to see what you actually know about the investment bank with which you’re interviewing. You must know the bank’s history and current activities.
At the end of Superday, you’ll rank the groups you interviewed with and they’ll rank you. If there’s a match, you’ll be hired. Other firms just hire directly from the pool of candidates.
Shortly after Superday, if not by the time you make it home, you can expect to hear a decision from the bank. Congratulations, if you have been made an offer! This is just the beginning of an exciting and rewarding career. If you are rejected, don’t take it too personally but do make a point of asking your contact/s at the bank how you can improve or where your shortcomings are. Either way, be sure to reach out to as many contacts as you can to thank them for considering your application.
Complications may arise if you are in the process of interviewing with multiple banks or receive an offer from a group you’re not interested in joining, as the bank usually expects a quick reply about joining the firm. Be careful if you choose to accept a job but then continue interviewing with other banks in hopes of landing a “better” position. You don’t want to burn any bridges on Wall Street.
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