Every year, firms have to make their way through hundreds or even thousands of applications. From the firm perspective, first-round interviews are a way for them to narrow down their search to a manageable size. On the candidate side, the first-round interview is where you can help the hiring team understand why you’re a great fit for their firm and the industry.
The first-round interview is typically held between the informal “phone screen” you will have with a recruiter and before what’s known as the “Superday.” A Superday is the last step in the recruiting process. It lasts all day and takes place in-office where you will meet with multiple employees from the firm. You can read our tips for Superdays here.
For the first-round interview, you will receive an email from the bank’s recruiting team. This is usually a thirty-minute phone call with a more junior member of the team (maybe an Analyst, Associate, or Vice President).
First-round interviews are usually short phone calls, but virtual face-to-face interviews are not uncommon, especially now. Ultimately, you don’t have very much time to make a thorough case for your candidacy, so it’s important to communicate a succinct and impactful story about yourself, your motivation to enter banking, and your interest in the firm. You can read our blog post about crafting your story for investment banking interviews here.
The following prompts/questions are the most important to answer well since they display your understanding of the role, expectations, and personal qualities that will make you a valuable member of the team:
- Tell me about yourself
- Why are you interested in investment banking?
- Why are you interested in the firm?
After the introductory “small talk” at the start of the call, the interviewer will give an introduction about themselves and their time at the firm, and then turn their attention to you to answer the above questions. While these are typically the most commonly asked questions, you should prepare for numerous behavioral questions such as:
- "Can you talk about a team project or some kind of group activity you've worked on before?"
- "What was the most difficult situation you faced as a leader and how did you respond?"
Through our research, Suited has determined that there are three basic skills that enable someone to be successful in an Analyst position: attention to detail, critical thinking, and logical reasoning. These competencies have been proven to be highly predictive of future performance, relevant to the job at hand, and do not cause adverse impact to any group. In the first-round, interviewers may try to assess these competencies, and others, so you should have examples ready to share that speak to your capabilities.
After the general behavioral questions, the second half of the interview will be more technical. Questions will be more basic in nature, but be prepared to elaborate on these concepts if follow-up questions are asked. Among the most common questions are those abou
- Valuation Methodologies
- Accounting & The Three Financial Statements
- Formulas (such as Free Cash Flow or Enterprise Value)
Again, remember that first-round interviews filter candidates to make the best use of the firm’s time throughout the Superday process, so it is critical to answer all of the technical questions correctly in this less-lenient stage. Like behavioral questions, any question here can be advanced and may test the limits of your knowledge. You can access our study guide to investment banking here.
After the technical portion there will be time for you to ask questions. During this time it is crucial to display an understanding of the industry and legitimate interest through the questions you ask.
As you wrap up the call thanking the interviewer for their time. Then, send an error-free follow up email thanking them again.
Some additional tips we have found helpful for first-round interviews:
- Find a quiet place to take the call that is free of distractions and background noise
- If the interview is face-to-face, be sure to dress in business professional
- If the interview is not face-to-face, you can have a pencil, calculator, and blank piece of scratch paper for math
- Refrain from reading answers from a script—interviewers may be able to tell, which minimizes your credibility as a candidate
- Stay calm and act naturally—never lose sight of the fact that the interviewer is simply another human being you are having a conversation with
Remember, as for any interview—preparation is key. Be sure to spend time researching the firm and your interviewer(s) (if you are aware who/they are). Approaching every interview with preparedness and a positive, upbeat attitude will yield you fantastic results come decision time.