Best investment banking interview Guide
I was in your shoes about 5-6 years ago, worked as an investment banking analyst at a /Houlihan/ type firm in restructuring, got an offer for direct promotion to associate, passed on that to go to grad school in Europe, and have recently returned to take my associate perch in the same group. Take my word for whatever you will.
I do drill my analyst interview candidates hard on technicals. Not obscure things, just testing how well they know the basics and how they think about things and whether they can apply and think on their feet a bit.
Here are a few observations from our latest superdays which I've had the pleasure of participating in:
The First Impression
1. The biggest thing I AM looking for is humble confidence and a person I would like to have a beer with.
2. Don't come on too strong/overenthusiastic or I'll think I will be annoyed with you on the first week on the job. Sit up in your chair. Don't wear weird socks. Fake smiles/laughs are a no no. A quick joke is a gamble - could be a plus, or I could just think you're silly.
3. A simple "Nice to meet you, thank you guys for taking the time" is a great hello.
4. Don't flub the handshake. Stay standing until I sit down
5. Be punchy, brief, and learn how to end a sentence. Can't tell you how many times people have gotten into trouble by rambling off into some ass-backward irrelevant tangent. Learn to be comfortable with a little silence here and there while we absorb your answer
6. Walk through the resume in 1 minute or less - I know you've had an interesting life but I don't need to hear about it now - maybe we come back to it at the end of the interview
7. Listen, listen, listen!!! So many mistakes come from just not listening carefully and being in the moment
1. For an analyst interview we expect a working knowledge of, , and comp transactions, the, and the . That's pretty much it. You should nail those.
2. Nailing those means knowing what they actually MEAN, not just being able to recite formulas. Most candidates cannot tell me WHY we look at in simple terms.
3. Lay out the broad strokes of your answer from start to end, and then go more detailed and work the problem. Think out loud. Consultants are great at this. Bankers are not.
4. Again, brevity is king. Do not ramble on tangents - briefly note there is another wrinkle you might want to come back to later, but get to the answer to the question I just asked
5. Explain things first in kid terms - a favorite of mine is to tell the candidate to pretend I am a client CEO and you are selling my company. I have no college education or finance background. Now explain to me the DCF in 5 minutes or fewer. I am looking for you to lead with: "Potential buyers will see your company as a stream of future cash flows. We need to project out and then value those future cash flows."
6. Placing these sorts of things into context is more of an associate interview skill - but if you can do it as an analyst (esp important if you have banking on your resume) you will stand out
7. To re-emphasize point 3, walk me through every calculation you are doing. I want to hear you think out loud. The process matters far more than your answer and gives you a chance to demonstrate a grip on the concepts. Honestly I wasn't even checking the math in many of these most recent interviews - I would sometimes just ask of a simple calculation "Are you sure?" to put on a little pressure and see how you respond. I am looking here for you to take 5 seconds, double check your math, and answer with a confident "Yes, I am sure."
8. On that note, I always like to say "Maybe" doesn't put men on the moon. You need to be sure on your answers, so write clearly, label things, and don't rush. Practice your hand multiplication, addition, subtraction, division. Don't ever ask ME if your answer is right because I probably don't know. Just check it and know that it is right. That will be your job soon enough if you do well here
9. When relevant, it's nice to relate the question to something you have done in the past, but don't go on profusely - stick to the question and answer it
10. If you find yourself getting stuck or panicing, just tell me where you're having trouble - if it's just that you're not remembering a formula, no big deal, I'll probably help you get it. Half the battle is seeing how you handle adversity.
11. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know" to a tough technical. As an analyst, I expect you to ALWAYS tell me when you don't know something, and never an answer.
12. If you give an "I don't know" follow it with "But here is what I am thinking - tell me if I am on the right track." And walk me through your thoughts. This is a great analyst quality because it shows that you'll think about a problem critically before you call me and ask about it, and I know you'll remember it better the next time it comes up
1. Before you ask us questions it's nice to say "I've done lots of research on your firm and talked to a lot of people so I know your firm pretty well, so I really want to hear more about your own personal experiences here."
2. Some good questions to ask your interviewers: 1) Tell me about a recent deal you've worked on that you liked. 2) What are the next steps from here? 3) How have you liked your experience here so far? Anything surprise you, good or bad? 4) Tell me about what you guys do for fun.
3. Some questions to avoid: 1) What are the hours like here? (get that info later from an insider that you know better) 2) Anything related to compensation 3) What are your plans after banking? (we can't answer that and we'll all say we're planning on staying in the near term...duh...)
4. Don't stand up until I stand up.
Questions, disagreements, comments, fire away. As always, if you like it put a banana on it, silly enough it actually encourages me to write more (bravo Patrick and Andy, bravo!).