How Do I Prepare for an I-Banking Interview?

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Be well prepared for that first-round interview. Insiders tell us it’s obvious when candidates are prepared: They come off poised and committed. Even before you sign up, be sure of what kind of job you’re seeking, whether it’s in corporate finance, sales and trading, or research. It’s true that the content of first- round interviews will be similar no matter what, but a lack of focus will hurt you.

When your recruiter casually asks, “So, which other firms are you interviewing with?” it isn’t a trick question. But here’s a bad answer: “Well, of course an M&A job with your firm is my first choice, but I’m also talking to Goldman Sachs about a trading job and Credit Suisse about a job in the research group.” Remember, focus is important. Pick one area of concentration and stick with it. And be careful which competitors you cite. “You’ve got to build momentum for yourself,” says an insider. “If you answer with names they’ve never heard of, they wonder if you’re just grabbing at whatever is out there. You need to know the hierarchy of the firms and what it means when you answer that question.”

Your recruiters will be looking for a skill set matched to the job you’re pursuing. In corporate finance interviews, recruiters will focus on your analytical skills and experiences. Before your interview, walk through your resume and identify an experience or two that required your supreme powers of analysis—even if it was just writing an investment plan for your summer job earnings. “Even if you’re an undergrad without previous experience in the financial industry, emphasize the analytical aspects of those things you have done,” says one insider.

Interviews for sales and trading jobs will seek to evaluate your people skills, particularly those related to negotiation and relationship building. Demonstrate your ability to persuade. Expect to be asked questions regarding your sales experience and negotiations you’ve been involved in.

The recruiting process places special demands on liberal arts majors. They definitely have a shot at a finance job, but banks are far more used to taking on economics and finance majors. Play offense. Talk about the life experiences that have helped you develop your analytical skills.

We interviewed insiders and asked them what questions an I-banking job candidate can expect—and prepare for—before an interview. Here are several representative questions. Be prepared and you’ll have an easier time with the unexpected material as well.
• What most excites you about a corporate finance/ research/sales/trading job?
• Why do you want to work for this bank versus our competitors?
• Who is our competition in our major product lines?
• Tell me about a couple of stocks you follow.
• Sales/trading: Pretend that I’m a portfolio manager for Fidelity. Explain to me why I should buy the latest IPO the firm has underwritten.
• Research: You’ve just been hired as our firm’s new XYZ industry analyst. In two weeks, you’re scheduled to address a growth-stock conference on industry trends. How are you going to prepare?
• Corporate finance: In a merger discussion, Moon Microsystems says Plum Computing is worth $23 per share; Plum says $34 is more like it. How would you arrive at a valuation?
• Tell me about your leadership experience.
• Tell me about a high-stress situation you’ve been in. How did you handle it? What could you do better the next time?
•What did the stock market do last week?
•What do you think of the Fed’s shift in monetary policy?
•In which areas is our firm the strongest? The weakest?
•What career opportunities are you exploring other than I-banking?

From The WetFeet Insider Guide to Careers in Investment Banking.

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