What you need to know before your investment banking interview
Got an interview for a graduate job or internship at an investment bank coming up? Find out the five things you need to know to prepare for your big day, whether it is in person or virtual.
Think about what appeals to you most about the investment bank that you have applied to.
There’s more to investment banking interview preparation than going over sample questions with your friend the night before. It’s crucial that you have a firm understanding of the different stages involved, what banks are looking for in graduate and intern recruits, and the knowledge and skills you’ll need to demonstrate.
We’ve picked out the five things you need to know to stand you in good stead for your interview.
1. The types of investment banking interviews you’ll face
There could be up to four interview stages involved in the recruitment process at investment banks. It’s important that you’re clued up on all of them, as you’ll be able to start working on how to impress recruiters once you’ve got your head around the format.
Second-round interviews – sandwiched between the first and the assessment day – are rare in the graduate recruitment process but may be included to decide who will be progressed to the assessment centre. For internship roles, this stage is more common and will typically be the final interview. During the Covid-19 pandemic it is likely that your final-stage interview will be a video interview too.
Budding interns are likely to be be interviewed more than once and by a number of different people.
Likewise, most investment banks run assessment centres for graduate roles that comprise between two and four interviews. There is usually a combination of one-to-one and panel interviews with HR team members, potential line-managers and senior members of the bank. During the Covid-19 pandemic your assessment centre may be held virtually, but much of the same advice and preparation will be helpful.
Occasionally, a final-round interview that comes after the assessment centre is held. This is to whittle down the strongest candidates that have made it through the process to a chosen few. It’s important to bear in mind that interview stages vary across employers and schemes.
2. The differences between internship and graduate scheme interviews
While interviews for graduate and internship positions are broadly similar, the level of technical knowledge expected from graduate interviewees is a lot higher.
It is assumed that graduates will have completed a banking internship and will subsequently have first-hand experience to draw upon. You’ll need to use your work experience to back up your claims and prove that you could do the job that you’re applying for well.
Although the ultimate goal for most undergraduates applying for investment banking internships is to eventually secure a graduate job, make sure you focus first and foremost on what you will learn from the internship. In the interview ensure you don’t answer the question, ‘Why do you want to be a graduate analyst at this bank?’, instead of ‘Why do you want this internship?’.
A good way to make your answer specific to the internship is to focus on its structure. For example, if it’s rotational and this appealed to you because you like the idea of experiencing several different specialisms, include this in your answer.
3. Preparation is key to investment banking interview success
The technical knowledge, in-depth industry understanding and experience required to succeed at interview means that you must begin planning well in advance. You simply wouldn’t be able to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills in just a few weeks.
This is why it’s a great idea to start scouting for extracurricular activities and positions of responsibility, and researching financial trends and issues early on at university. For example, you might become the treasurer for the debating society or choose to follow a particular company’s share price over a year and see what affects it. It may be more difficult to join university societies and other extracurricular activities during the current Covid-19 lockdown but look out for ways to get involved virtually or develop your knowledge and skills from home.
It's also important to spend plenty of time practising answering typical questions you may be asked so that you'll feel more at ease on the day itself. Don't leave this until the night before: book a practice interview at your careers service or schedule in some time with a friend. You could also try the online video interview practice resources provided by our partners Shortlist.Me.
4. The answers investment banks want to their interview questions
You will almost definitely be asked a question to the effect of, ‘Why have you decided to apply to us?’. Interviewers want to know that you’re applying to this particular investment bank for a specific reason and that it’s not just another in a long list of investment banks you’ve applied to. You can also use this question as an opportunity to convince the interviewers that you’re dedicated to a career in investment banking, and that you’re not just attracted to the glamour of the industry.
To answer this question well, you’ll need to take some time to think about what appeals to you most about the investment bank that you have applied to. Number three on this list will help you here: before the interview be sure to research the bank’s current initiatives, key areas of focus and market position. Ask yourself what is unique about this particular investment bank, and make sure you're aware of its values. If you can talk about these confidently, you will come across as well-researched and interested.
Competency questions are also likely to come up in at least one, if not all, interview stages. The STAR approach can help you answer competency questions effectively: describe the Situation, say what your Task was, explain your Actions and tell the interviewer what the end Result was.
5. Use the TARGETjobs employer hubs
The TARGETjobs employer hubs contain specific information about the organisation, advice on applying to individual investment banks and suggestions as to how to tackle the different questions you might be asked. Don’t just look at the banks that interest you – take a good look at all the advice on offer, as banks tend to ask similar questions.
Article last updated 2 March 2021.