To Whom It May Concern:
Investment Banking Recruiters & Hiring Managers Anonymously Give Tips on Virtual Interview Etiquette

Investment Banking Recruiters & Hiring Managers Anonymously Give Tips on Virtual Interview Etiquette

By  
Suited

We asked the recruiters and bankers at our partner firms to anonymously share their recommendations for candidate interview etiquette. Many of these are specific to virtual interviewing, which is a new practice for many of us. Use these insider tips to prepare yourself for your future interviews, and good luck!

01.

DON’T LOOK AT YOUR NOTES 

Typically when you are interviewing in person, candidates are not permitted to have notes with them. However, with the virtual format, recruiters and hiring managers have noticed candidates glancing down at their notes during the course of the interview.

It might be worth putting your notes completely away,” says one hiring manager who called this new habit out. “If one person is staring into the camera during technical questions, and the other is clearly looking at notes, we can use that as a differentiator between candidates.” 
02.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY, EVEN AT HOME 

This is one we heard a lot. Just because COVID-19 has forced all of us home into a more comfortable and familiar environment, it’s still important that candidates dress for the role. “I know many of us are more casual right now, but a sweatshirt to an interview is not acceptable,” warns one recruiter. 

03.

COME PREPARED WITH QUESTIONS 

Coming prepared with questions for your interviewers is crucial for both in-person and online interviews. “One question that I think is easy to throw out to the person who is interviewing you is ‘Why did you choose this firm?’ If you talk to multiple people at a firm you can start to draw commonalities between each person and get a sense for why people like working there,” says one recruiter we spoke with. 

She also recommends having a minimum of 2-3 questions prepared about the firm, the culture, specific deal flows, or their special programs. More often than not, you know who you are going to be interviewing with, so it’s even recommended you think of specific questions for each person based on their job, department, or professional history, most of which is readily available and free on LinkedIn.

“If you’re unable to think of questions on the spot related to what you and your interviewer spoke about, questions about the company’s culture and the structure of the team are always good go-to questions,” says a recruiter at another firm. 

04.

BE ENTHUSIASTIC! 

Yes, being isolated for the last 8+ months instead of face-to-face has caused us all to become a little less engaged than we once were, but recruiters and bankers want to see that you are interested and excited about the opportunity. One partner says, “I think the virtual setting can make it a bit more challenging to show your personality and interest in the firm, so students should be conscious of this when interviewing.” 

05.

IF YOU WANT TO ACCEPT ANOTHER OFFER AND THE INTERVIEW IS IN LESS THAN 48 HOURS 

This is one the trickiest situations to navigate, as it has the most potential to damage your reputation and cause headaches for the firms. While there are a few schools of thought on how best to handle, if you follow certain rules of engagement, you should be able to avoid making any bad impressions. 

The main problem recruiters noticed this cycle was that because students are not traveling to interviews, many candidates only gave a few hours (or even less than an hour) notice that they have accepted another position. 

If you have the opportunity to accept an offer, and you have an interview with another firm within the next 12-48 hours, we highly recommend not immediately accepting and proceeding with the other interview. These firms have put in time and effort into considering your candidacy, and you should give them the opportunity to demonstrate their culture and potentially persuade you to work there instead. 

It’s also important to consider the fact that you may want the opportunity to work there in the future, and having gone through an interview, or even being extended an offer, can really advance your future candidacy.

If a candidate thinks they ever want to go work for us, you want to make a positive impression,” notes one recruiter. “It’s always worth going through the interview. Let’s say you intern for one company, end up not liking it, and then want to re-recruit for a full time role with us — having a good interview on your record is going to make your life a lot easier.” 

Another firm mentions the fact that waiting until the last minute to cancel can also impact another student's future. “The interview slot could’ve been given to another student interested in the position, and the professional already carved out time to conduct the interview,” says a partner recruiter. 

06.

IF YOU WANT TO ACCEPT ANOTHER OFFER AND THE INTERVIEW IS MORE THAN 48 HOURS AWAY 

However, if you accept another offer more than 48 hours in advance of your next interview, be sure to let the recruiters know ASAP. How a candidate handles this situation has the potential to salvage that relationship, with one recruiter highly recommending the candidate personally call the recruiter to tell them the news. “It’s about being respectful. Call the recruiter and thank them and the team for the opportunity.” 

07.

IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL ISSUES, KEEP YOUR PHONE OR EMAIL NEARBY 

In the world of virtual interviewing, technical issues are going to happen. One firm notes that it’s important to keep your email or phone handy if the interview is having trouble getting started. “Most times,” one recruiter notes, “candidates are not checking their emails or phones since they’re focused on the interview, and when something goes wrong we end up wasting the scheduled interview time trying to get a hold of them.” 

08.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER TO A QUESTION, DON’T RAMBLE 

If you don’t know the answer to a technical question, it’s best to be upfront about it. If you can make an educated guess, recruiters and bankers would rather you say something like “I don’t know the answer to that, but if I had to guess I would say “X” for “Y” and “Z” reasons.” 

If you can’t make a coherent guess, one recruiter recommends saying something like “I’m so sorry but we haven’t covered that in my class yet. It’s better to just be honest and avoid the rabbit hole.” 

Sometimes interviewers are intentionally trying to push candidates to the point at which they don’t know,” says another hiring manager.

If someone has pushed you to the point where you are lost, yet you’ve answered all the other questions just fine, it may even be a promising sign that they were impressed with how much knowledge you already demonstrated. Consider ending with a statement like “I promise you I will never not know the answer to that question again!”