Tackling tricky graduate interview questions at BAML assessment centre

The ability to influence is essential across all BAML graduate’ll need to be able to persuade people to believe in your idea.

It’s likely you’ll have two interviews at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch assessment centre. A past candidate said the first, with human resources, went over his CV, motivations for applying and knowledge of the bank. While the second, with a senior member of staff from the chosen division, was more technical. Below we explore some of the types of questions that could come up during your interviews.

BAML example question: what are the biggest issues facing BAML today?

It’s expected you’ll be asked ‘why us?’ and ‘why this division?’, which may be straightforward commercial awareness questions for you to research and answer. However, if you require guidance on these questions, specific advice is available.

Trickier questions that’ll enable BAML to better gauge your knowledge of the business and industry may also be asked, such as the one above or, ‘What distinguishes us from our competitors?’ It’s useful to brainstorm other possible questions that might be asked.

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Read BAML’s graduate employer profile and the ‘about us’ section on its website for a general overview of what the bank does and who it serves. That should be your foundation. You should then find out what’s going on in the marketplace and how it may affect the business. BAML’s own reports and surveys will undoubtedly give you some ideas (you may have to dig around the web for these).

Particular financial online/offline publications – such as Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and City A.M. – or the business sections of newspapers including and The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph will also help you to deepen your knowledge.

BAML example question: what will you struggle with most in this role?

This question could also be worded along the lines of, ‘What do you think will be a challenge in this role?’ It’s advisable you view the ‘struggle’ as a challenge. Doing so will give you room to conclude your response with the skills or qualities that you’d apply to overcome the challenge, as opposed to talking extensively about something you may find difficult. This question is designed to assess your understanding of the role rather than your weaknesses.

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Research what the job entails. BAML’s website contains outlines of the graduate schemes. For more detail, check if there’s more information on LinkedIn, which the bank uses to advertise jobs. On LinkedIn you’ll also be able to read the ‘job details’ section of graduates who have completed the programme, or are currently doing so.

BAML also has a presence on Twitter and Facebook. Decide if it’s worth checking those out for extra details about the role you’ve applied for. However, if you have any specific questions, it might be worth contacting the recruitment officer. If you have broader questions about the investment banking industry, visit TARGETjobs Finance.

Relate what you’ve found out to the working world. If you've applied for a client-facing role, would dealing with their demands within a tight timeframe be a challenge? If you have gone for a technical position, would you need to brush up on your IT skills?

BAML example question: tell us about an idea that you managed to sell to your colleagues

The ability to influence is essential across all BAML graduate schemes. On the global corporate banking and debt capital markets analyst programme, graduates will ‘help to generate ideas and cross-selling opportunities for new and existing clients’.

On the technology developer and analyst scheme, entry-level technologists will be expected to provide ‘fresh thinking’. To deliver on both of these objectives, you’ll need to be able to persuade people to believe in your idea.

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Recognise that BAML recruiters don’t expect you to arrive at your interview with a perfected persuasive technique. What they will expect, however, is that you can identify the importance of being able to influence a decision and identify when the skill should come into play.

You’ll be able to convince them you’re at that level with a good example. Did you persuade colleagues at work or university to agree to your idea? What was the outcome? Remember to pinpoint the approaches or strategies that you used. Did you argue your case with logic? Did you focus on the needs of the group?

BAML example question: tell me about a time when you built a good relationship with a client

Focusing on the needs of the other party is a key ingredient when dealing with clients, or co-workers. Once the other party is convinced that you’ve got their interests in mind, he/she is more likely to trust you. Trust is one of BAML’s top-five corporate values.

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Choose an example where you can clearly show that you took time to listen to the client carefully and found out about their interests and expectations. These steps are essential to winning them around.

Remember not to view clients as just paying customers of a company you worked for. They should be seen as the recipients of the products/services you deliver in a range of settings, be it in a classroom or on a football pitch.

If you don’t have a specific corporate client-related experience, focus on when you have engaged with peers, students or attendees. Did you complete a teaching English as a foreign language course and build good relationships with the students? Think about the techniques you used.

BAML example question: explain three features of object oriented programming (OOP)

You could be asked to explain OOP or to discuss the disadvantages of using indexes, along with a series of other ‘tech’ questions if you’ve applied for one of BAML’s technology programmes. Some previous candidates have said their BAML interviewers had a list of basic and advanced technical questions, and they wish they had come to the interview better prepared.

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Go over the job description to anticipate the types of questions that could be asked. Also check LinkedIn for any current or previous BAML technologists, to see if there’s more information on the requirements of the role.

Then compare your findings to what you did in your computer science, mathematics, physics or engineering degree (BAML specifies that it wants graduates from certain degree disciplines) as well as your related work experience.

BAML example question: can you give me an example of a time you showed resilience or motivation in the last 6–12 months?

BAML wants all its graduate recruits, irrespective of the scheme they’ve applied for, to have the ability to withstand stress and hit targets in the face of obstacles. The graduate roles, especially front office, are challenging and require sustained mental concentration. The bank says, for instance, that among the responsibilities of an entry-level analyst on its global loan products analyst programme is to ‘perform intensive qualitative and quantitative analysis.’

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Pick a recent example. Doing so will show how ‘ready for work’ you are, and your recent university, work-related or extracurricular experiences may be more pertinent to the role. An example where you encountered an unforeseen challenge, or the project took longer than you had expected would be particularly effective. Following through in these circumstances would show that you are resilient and motivated.

Can you think of any examples? Examples could be training and completing a marathon in spite of injury; gaining good academic grades in spite of illness; or following through on a fundraising bid after others dropped out.

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