For undergrads and MBA students, the news that they have been selected for an interview at an investment bank comes with both excitement and dread. A position as an analyst or associate in corporate finance can be the first step towards a highly successful and highly lucrative career. Investment banking interviews, however, can be some of the most intimidating interviews out there, so let's take a look at how to get prepared.
Before we jump into interview practice mode, we should take a step back and think about how we want to come across in the interview. In short, investment banking candidates should come off as bright, confident and likable.
In the final cut of selecting a hire, investment banks have already determined which candidates are smart and capable, so the decision comes down to who they like the best. So in addition to knowing a thing or two, candidates must remember to come across as a fun person to work with as well.
Know Your Story
Like any interview, candidates should have stories prepared about their lives that discuss their past, present and future. These are great answers for the standard questions:
"Tell me about yourself." Or "Walk me through your résumé." "Why are you interested in investment banking or this firm?" "Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?"
Candidates are highly likely to receive these or similar questions in any interview, and having succinct, practiced answers to them will give the impression of a polished candidate.
Your past story should highlight events that have qualified you for or gotten you interested in investment banking. Your present story should demonstrate why you want the particular position, how it is a logical step from where you are coming from and perhaps touch on where you hope the position will lead.
Your future story should discuss how investment banking will lead to where you want to go. Good future ambitions might be a managing director position in investment banking, a principle at a private equity firm, a CFO or perhaps and entrepreneur. In any case, you should communicate that those are long-term ambitions and you look forward to the experiences you'll have in the position you're interviewing for.
Know the Industry and Firm
Where investment banking interviews begin to get trickier is that firms will expect you to know what you're getting into. If you confuse an equity analyst position with an analyst position in corporate finance, for example, you will not make it any further in the process.
You should understand the major divisions within an investment bank - sales & trading, corporate finance, research, etc. You should understand the hierarchy of positions within corporate finance - analyst, associate, vice president, managing director - and what each position does.
At the macro level, you need to understand the major differences between bulge bracket investment banks, middle market and boutique investment banks. You should also have a good answer for why you would prefer one type over another (and be sure that you prefer the type you're interviewing with).
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