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What every candidate should know before an investment banking interview

What every candidate should know before an investment banking interview

By  
Suited

You just got the news that you have secured a phone interview with an investment bank who is interested in learning more about you. How can you ensure you are as prepared as possible for what’s next?

We’ve laid out what every candidate should know before getting on the phone with a recruiter or a banker. 

01.

Request an Informational Interview 

If you get selected for a phone screen, you can request what’s known as an informational interview at most investment banks. A good time to do this is during the initial screening call, which almost always happens with a recruiter from the firm. The objective of an informational interview is to speak with a banker before the formal first-round interview to directly ask how you should prepare. You can also request this via email. 

You can use the informational interview to also learn more about what the firm is looking for in a candidate. The following questions are appropriate to ask: 

  • What type of individuals typically do well at the firm?
  • Can you tell me a little bit about the culture?
  • What is the intern training program like?
  • How can I prepare for the first-round interview? 
  • How can I prepare for the super day interviews? 
  • What types of technical questions should I be prepared to answer?
02.

Learn Your Technical Skills 

For the foreseeable future, firms will continue to expect interns to have a basic understanding of particular finance principles. The first thing you should do is check if your school’s career center has access to Vault or other IB prep guides. Look for and download their guides to Investment Banking and Investment Banking Interviews. These resources will teach you most of what you need to know for the interview, and everything else can be learned on the job.

If you cannot access available guides, we have created a Suited Investment Banking Study Guide to act a summary of what you should be prepared for. There are lots of free resources online that provide a more in-depth look at these concepts. We like the free articles and sample models provided by Macabacus.

  • Basic Accounting | Know how to read a Balance Sheet, Cash Flow statement and how they all flow together.
  • Valuation Methods | Understand the four main valuation techniques (Comparable Transactions, Comparable Public Companies, Discounted Cash Flow, Leveraged Buyout) and how assumption changes in each impact implied value.

  • Transaction Process | Learn how major financial transactions get executed.
03.

Understand How the Process Works 

Your basic understanding for this unique recruiting process can help you feel confident and ready for what’s ahead. Here’s how it normally works: 

  • Candidates apply between April-July 
  • Initial screening may occur via phone with a recruiter. They’ll try to suss out your background and your understanding of the firm and industry in an effort to gauge your interest in the role
  • If requested, an informational interview will be set up between you and a banker 
  • The first-round, formal interview with another banker will follow.
  • This banker will most likely ask you to walk them through your resume. They will also ask you why you are interested in banking and specifically why you are interested in working for the firm. They may also ask you some brief technical questions to validate you know enough. 
  • Super-days are considered the final round of interviews.
  • Typically these happen in-office with many other candidates simultaneously (but separately). Because of COVID-19, they will happen digitally via video. During these interviews, you will meet with multiple members of the team and they will be determining your technical competencies, personality fit, and assessing your behavior. While the technical questions will be more robust than the previous round, they will typically be simple questions and answers (ie; you won’t have to work on a whiteboard or computer).
04.

Practice Being Professional and Confident 

For many candidates, this may be your first real high-pressure interview. It’s okay if it feels awkward or tense at times. However, it’s a good idea to practice the expected questions aloud (and even recorded) so you can hear how you sound. You should practice being friendly and professional at the same time. If you can, it's great to get friends to pretend to interview you to practice in a low-pressure way before the big day.

Confidence goes a very long way in interviews. Be honest about what you don’t know, but also know that technical skills are easily learned, and if you are calm and express your confidence in your ability to learn, that may be enough! 

05.

Dress Appropriately

The finance industry is highly professional, and even at times conservative. We suggest avoiding wearing anything that will make you stand out in a bad way. However, do not take this to mean you should avoid wearing anything that celebrates or is required by your religion, culture, or background. But, for example, if you are deciding between a standard tie and a bowtie, we recommend keeping it classic.