October 28, 2016
Top Investment Banking Interview Questions
If you’re interested in a career in investment banking, then you know that it’s a competitive field with plenty of challenges and opportunities. In order to prepare yourself to become an investment banker, it’s important to know not only what your career path will look like but also how to prepare for the interview process. The hiring process for investment banking typically consists of two to three rounds of interviews, with each round focusing on both technical questions and cultural fit questions.
Here are the top questions you’re likely to encounter during an entry-level investment banking interview.
1) Tell me about yourself.
This is often the first question in any interview and one you should always be prepared to answer. When interviewers ask this question during an investment banking interview, it’s because they want to know that you’re passionate about the field and that you can bring something unique to the table. The key to answering it well is to talk about your academic and personal background in a way that shows that you’d be a good fit for the position. For example, if you’ve been interested in finance for a long time and have been reading The Economist since middle school, you should mention that. Or, if you’re an English major with a newfound passion for financial markets and a minor in business, you should talk about how your diverse skill set can help you succeed in the industry. No matter what your background, being able to present yourself as a well-rounded individual with a genuine interest in finance will go a long way towards impressing the interviewer and helping you stand out from the crowd.
Pro Tip: Since banks are increasingly interested in hiring candidates with diverse backgrounds, don’t be intimidated if your background doesn’t include a business or finance major. Instead, focus on the skills and experience you can bring to the position and demonstrate how these will make you stand out.
2) Why do you want to work in investment banking?
When an interviewer asks this question it’s because they want to find out how passionate you are about becoming a banker. Since investment banking is a notoriously fast-paced and challenging industry, showing that you’ve done your homework and are truly interested in the field is a crucial part of convincing the interviewer that you’re aware of the challenges and willing to meet them. One of the keys to answering this question well is to show that you have a working knowledge of financial markets and a genuine interest in how deals get done. For example, if you recently read about an interesting technology merger in DealBook, be sure to mention why the merger piqued your interest and how that specific deal fits in with your more general interest in finance.
Pro Tip: Knowledge of financial markets and trends is particularly important when answering this question so being up-to-date on industry news and having two to three examples of relevant deals will show that you’re genuinely curious about the industry and well-prepared for the interview.
3) Why do you want to work for our bank in particular?
This question is designed to test your knowledge of the company you’re interviewing with and its position within the industry. The key to answering it well is to show that you know general financial information about the firm such as where their stock price is trading and what industries they focus on. The best way to find out this information is by reading through marketing and press materials on the company’s website and then doing additional research in trade publications such as American Banker and MarketWatch. If you’re interviewing for a position within a specific division, such as the natural resources group, it’s also important to talk about past deals that the firm has done and to mention how these deals have impacted the industry as a whole. Trade publications like the ones mentioned above will also come in handy here, helping to spotlight relevant deals that you can use as examples.
4) Where do you see yourself in five years?
Another question you’re likely to encounter in almost any interview, this question aims to find out more about your career plans and to determine how committed you are to a long-term career in banking. When preparing to answer this question, focus on how the role you’re applying for aligns with your future goals and explain why becoming a banker is a crucial part of your career path. For example, if you want to continue on the investment banking track and become a VP or managing director, talk about how the entry-level role you’re applying for will offer you the opportunity to advance in your career and achieve your goal within five years.
5) What are the ways of valuing a company?
This is one of the most challenging questions you’re likely to encounter during the interview process because it’s designed to test your technical knowledge of the field. In order to answer this question successfully, it’s important that you have a working knowledge of banking and understand valuation methodologies. The best way to develop this knowledge is by taking a business or finance class during your time in college and doing additional reading on sites such as Investopedia. By showing the interviewer that you understand the technical side of the position, you’ll also be demonstrating a willingness to learn and to become an integral part of the industry.
6) How many golf balls can fit in a Boeing 747 jet?
Another type of question you’ll encounter during the interview process is a brain teaser.
These questions are designed to test your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities and are often unrelated to the actual field of banking. In order to ensure that you’re not stumped by any of the brain teasers a hiring manager might throw your way, it’s important to practice several of these as you prepare for the interview. Luckily, sites such as Investment Banking Brain Teasers offer sample brain teasers and tips for coming up with solutions.
Pro Tip: Hiring managers are less interested in the answer itself than they are in seeing how you think through a problem. To demonstrate that you approach problems thoughtfully, be sure to ask follow-up questions and to “show your work” as you come up with your answer. For example, when answering the golf ball question, you could ask the interviewer whether the 747 is empty or full, or whether the cabin is pressurized. By showing that you’re able to come up with thoughtful solutions to problems, you’ll also be demonstrating your ability to understand complex ideas and business models, a crucial skill in any investment banking position.
Although the interview process for investment banking can be a challenging one, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to show potential employers that you’re enthusiastic, curious and knowledgeable about the field. By knowing what questions to anticipate and preparing your answers, you’ll be sure to impress the hiring manager and get one step closer to landing the job.