Preparing for Tough Investment Banking Job Questions

As the fall job-hunting season kicks into high gear, you may want to be prepared for some of the more out-in-left-field type of questions. Interviewers often lob unusual questions just to rattle you, and to see how well you think on your feet.

Let’s assume that you are already well prepared for the softball questions such as, why do you want to work in investment banking? Why this firm? Why did you leave your last firm? Why so soon?

But answering the trickier ones is often not so much about answering quickly, as it is about offering a creative response that causes even the most jaded interviewer to sit up and think, “Hmmm… this guy has something worth listening to.” An article in the Globe and Mail had some suggestions, based on feedback from several top career coaches. Here are a few:

Where do you want to be five years from now? Okay, this one you should expect. But how you answer it matters. Don’t go into exact titles or salary levels, the experts say, because it shows you might leave the firm if you aren’t promoted quickly enough. Instead, say something like, “I hope to still be working for this company, with newly acquired skills and responsibilities.”

What skill do you think needs improvement? Nobody likes to admit their weaknesses. But you can be prepared for this question by picking something minor that you are already working to improve, such as your ability to speak a foreign language.

What was the last book you read? If you’re not proud of your reading list, you can dodge this one by saying you are an avid reader not only of books but of articles related to your industry. But you had better be prepared to discuss one or two interesting articles.

What person, real or fictional, would you like to trade places with for a week? This one’s a real trap, according to the article, because the interviewer may hate the person you choose. They suggest something along the lines of, “I haven’t thought about being someone else, but there is one person I deeply respect, and that’s my Dad.” They’ll have to respect you for this answer.

The article also has suggestions for ways to communicate your “brand,” demonstrate your passion for the industry, and be unexpected, but in a good way.

What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in an investment banking job interview? Add your comments below.

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