Getting a coveted interview for an investment banking job is an accomplishment in itself. At least you know at this point that the bank is interested in your background and sees you as a potential candidate.
However, investment banking job interviews are among the most stressful and intimidating in the financial services industry. So you will have to prepare rigorously if you want even a chance of getting past the first round. You will have to prove you have what it takes to hit the ground running in this competitive industry.
First, a word about the interview process. The number of interviews you have and who you will be meeting varies greatly by bank. But in general, there will be a first round interview by a lower-level investment banker such as an Analyst or Associate. This first round is designed to weed out those who are judged not capable or lacking the skills to do the actual job. You also need to show that you really want to work in investment banking, and are not just “testing the waters” to see what happens. Interviewers can spot that attitude a mile away.
Those who survive the first round are invited back to something called “Superday,” a day packed with up to 20 interviews by people at every level of the bank from Analyst to VP and Managing Director. During Superday, each interviewer will look for different qualities in a candidate, such as leadership, ambition, technical skills, numeracy, etc.
At the end of Superday, the bankers will gather for a discussion and usually come to a consensus on the best candidates. Out of perhaps 1,000 resumes, 30-50 who received first interviews will be whittled down to 10 or so interviewed on Superday. Among them, perhaps 2 or 3 candidates will receive job offers.
The odds are stacked against you, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you don’t have to “blow away” the other candidates to get to the next round. Like a racehorse, you can win by a nose. You just have to be slightly better at most things than other candidates.
Second, it should be obvious that you’ve got to do your homework and prepare thoroughly, if you want any chance to making it through. Gather as much information as you can about the firm you’re applying to. If you can demonstrate your knowledge during the interview, it shows your interest in the firm and your professionalism.
Start with the firm’s website, their “About Us” section, philosophy and history. Learn the special strengths of the firm. For example, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are leaders in retail distribution. Explore their latest deals, press releases, what areas of the firm are expanding or contracting and why.
You should brush up on the basics of investment banking, and be able to answer fundamental questions about topics like efficient market theory, CAPM and valuation methods.
Next time we’ll look at how to get past the first round of investment banking job interviews and ace your “superday” meetings.