Responding Better in Investment Banking Job Interviews

It’s not enough to be ready for certain questions in your investment banking job interview. The nuances of how you answer those questions can make all the difference to a skilled interviewer.

That’s the view of Sam Geist, a recruitment consultant interviewed by the Globe and Mail. Geist shared his list of top 10 interview questions, many of which will seem familiar to you. However, it’s his comments on how the more successful candidates answer the questions, which proves to be the eye-opener. To start with, here are his top 10 questions:

1. What was your most challenging job? Why? What did you learn from this job?

2. What was your least challenging job? Why? What did you learn from this job?

3. In what situation did you find that you had to overcome major obstacles to meet your objectives? What did you do? Why? What did you learn from the experience?

4. Who do you admire most? Who do you admire least? Why?

5. In what situation did you attempt to do something, but failed? Why did you fail? What did you learn from this situation?

6. Describe a bad experience that happened to you. What did you learn from it?

7. Describe a situation where you tried to help someone change. What strategy did you use? How did the situation end?

8. Describe a mistake you made in dealing with people. What did you learn from it?

9. What was your best learning experience? What was your worst learning experience? What did you learn from each of them?

10. Describe the last major change you made. Why did you do it? How did it work out? What did you learn?

When it comes to answering these questions, beware of common pitfalls of many candidates, says Geist. One is generalization. Weaker candidates tend be more general in their explanations, rather than having specific facts and figures. Weaker candidates tend to have more trouble explaining what they learned in difficult situations, rather than being open about their mistakes and confident in the lessons learned.

Weaker candidates tend to focus more on what happened, rather than on “why” it happened, and what they would do differently in the future. Weaker candidates also tend to be more reluctant to acknowledge their role in failures. Stronger candidates are able to analyze both failure and success and acknowledge their role in both.

It’s human nature to be hesitant to admit one’s mistakes. But savvy communicators know that by admitting what’s known as a “non-fatal flaw”, a minor weakness or shortcoming, it builds credibility in everything else you say. Maybe this is why interviewers trust and believe the candidate who admits to his or her failures, mixed in with the successes.

Agree or disagree? How have you handled talking about a major setback or failure in your career, in an interview situation? Add your comments below.

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