From the category archives:

Job Interview Questions

If you’ve been raised as the progeny of Western Civilization, then you’re probably aware of the Seven Deadly Sins. If you went to Catholic school, then you can rattle them right off:

  1. Lust
  2. Gluttony
  3. Greed
  4. Sloth
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Pride

Even if you’re not from around here, you still are very likely to have a similar litany of prohibitions. If you’re Hindu, for example, you are possibly proscribed from the Arishadvargas, the six negative passions, which map almost one-to-one with the list established by Pope Gregory I and later popularized by the poet Dante Alghieri. (Good news, Hindus, you’re allowed sloth.)  So what does this have to do with pursuing your investment banking career?

At this point, you might be saying, “Sure, but if it wasn’t for greed, nobody would be going into investment banking in the first place.” Fair point. Fortunately, the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald suggests a new list of seven sins for the career-minded professional, and greed didn’t make the cut.

According to columnist Sylvia Pennington, the following bad behaviors are to be avoided at all cost:

  1. Arrogance: Maybe you really do know it all — that merely primes you to “remain the smartest person who never got promoted.”
  2. Spinelessness: The best leaders understand they themselves don’t have all the answers. That’s why one of them hired you. Don’t display the boss’s ignorance in front of clients or your firm’s upper echelon, but below decks you owe him or her the courage of your convictions.
  3. Selfishness: There might be no I in “team,” but GS, JPMC, AIG, HSBC, VTB and BMO all get along perfectly well without “U”. You want to get noticed? Get noticed for being a team player.
  4. Ruthlessness: Quality of life isn’t just about acquiring things. It’s about acquiring friends. If you’ve even gotten in the door of an investment banking firm, then you’re already associating with the kind of people you’ve selected to spend your life with. Some of them might be your competitors in the deal you’re working on today, but any and all of them can be lifelong friends. If they like you. If they trust you.
  5. Incompetence: If you wanted to never have to learn anything new, you should’ve majored in history. Banking is always changing. Stay informed. Stay current. Stay sharp.  
  6. Laggardness: Don’t just expect change, embrace it. Enjoy it. Advocate for it. Be that individual who suggests process improvements. Remember, the person who raises their hand is usually the one who gets assigned the task. Are you up for the challenge? 
  7. Drunkenness: The point of loosening up at work functions is to build camaraderie, not to get polluted on somebody else’s tab. Being a boorish sot can, and will, get you fired. “I was drunk, and you were buying the drinks” is not an excuse for bad behavior. If the boss can’t tolerate your actions at the risk of creating a precedent, drunk or sober, you will be escorted out.

Notice what cardinal investment banking sin is not on the list? “Don’t get caught.” It’ll go better for you if you just assume that, if you commit any one of the enumerated sins, you will. So don’t.

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Job interviews can be daunting.  And when you are asked a question that is completely unexpected, well, we don’t want you to get blindsided.   Take a look at this question…and the answer.  Would you be able to come to the same conclusion?

Q: Inside of a dark closet are five hats: three blue and two red. Three smart men go into the closet and each selects a hat in the dark and places it, unseen, upon his head. Each man knows that the closet contains three blue hats and two red and that the other two men have the same knowledge.

Once outside the closet, no man can see his own hat. The first man looks at the other two, thinks, and says, “I cannot tell what color my hat is.” The second man hears this, looks at the other two and says, “I too cannot tell the color of my hat.” The third man is blind. The blind man says, “Well, I know what color my hat is!”

What color is the blind man’s hat and how do you know?
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Investment banking job interviews can take many directions. One thing is for sure, your logic and quantitative abilities will be tested. Here is a common question that asks the candidate to dip their toe in the water – so to speak.

Q: You start with a single lily pad floating in an empty pond. If that pad grows and the surface area of the pad doubles every day, it will take 30 days to cover the entire surface of the pond. If instead of one lily pad you start with eight lily pads (each identical in characteristics to the original lily pad), how many days will it take for the surface of the pond to become covered?

A: The trick here is to figure out the relationship between …
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5 Ways to Exude Confidence in a Job Interview

December 30, 2013

Investment banking is a unique career. Even if you’re on the lowest rung of the ladder, you’re making what in any other field of endeavor would be considered a very nice living.  If you get laid off, you’re handed a severance package which proves that it pays better to be out of work on Wall […]

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Tough Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

November 4, 2013

You might not have heard the name Martin John Yate before, but it’s not because he’s not trying. He has written at least 14 books on career advancement, and is considered an authority on getting your name out there. Among Yate’s works is Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions, much of which has little to […]

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Behavioral Questions for Investment Banking Jobs

January 17, 2011

There’s one kind of interview question for a potential investment banking job that can open up a Pandora’s Box full of problems, unless you are prepared. That’s the message from Bradley CVs Ltd., in a recent article. What are they? Behavioral questions that are intended to reveal how you might act in a future situation. […]

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Responding Better in Investment Banking Job Interviews

January 10, 2011

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 […]

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