Key Interview Takeaways - 2nd Year Analyst Perspective

Sitting at my desk here just waiting for things to wind down so thought I’d give back to the community and try my first long form post. I did some interviewing last year but this year I was heavily involved for both SA and FT interviews so thought I’d lay out some observations / behind the scenes commentary that can be useful for people going forward (likely for the next recruiting cycle at this point though haha).

Context: 2nd year analyst at a MM (non-NYC). Not everything should be taken as gospel here as what I look for in interviews is going to be different from what an MD is looking for, not to mention different offices, firms, etc. This feedback is just from my experience as an analyst interviewer and processes will vary from bank to bank.

Background on the process: There’s usually a meet and greet with drinks / appetizers the night before and then your standard superday with a ton of back to back interviews. Immediately after all the interviewers meet in a room and we decide right then and there who gets an offer, who doesn’t, and then sometimes set aside a few candidates as backups.

First a really obvious note. If you don’t get an offer it’s not because you were a bad candidate. Maybe you were equally qualified as somebody else but that person had a referral, went to a better school, or whatever. This was mentioned by another poster in a different thread, but somebody could’ve gotten an offer on an earlier superday who is worse than you and you’re just unlucky in that now there’s only one spot left. It's tough but that’s how things go. Also just in general don’t be a weirdo.

Now onto the more important notes:

1. Thank You:

People always remember to say thank you at the end of a conversation, but one small thing that helps you start off on the right foot is to thank them at the very beginning. Whether this is a superday, phone screen, or networking call, always preface the conversation with something like “thank you so much for taking the time to do this”

2. Fit:

Maybe it’s just my bank, but fit is absolutely king. At the end of the day one of the most important things is “is the person I want to be working next to me at 2am?” Had a candidate who interned at a GS/JPM/MS and got a return offer but wanted to work at a MM. Fantastic undergrad with a stellar GPA and balanced boutique internships while in school, in addition to having MBB experience. Now this is not the type of candidate my bank usually sees. Everyone rated the candidate fairly highly but everybody was like “they would be great but wouldn’t want them in my group”, or even just straight up “I wouldn’t want to work with them”. Thus no offer. Even small things like wearing a gaudy class ring is only going to hurt, not help you, because seriously who wears a class ring normally?

3. Meet & Greet

Go to the meet and greet. Yes, it’s optional and yes it might be tough balancing classes or whatever, but nearly 100% of the time going will help your chances as long as you’re a normal and interesting human being. Usually helps with the fit thing per point number 1

4. One bad interview:

If you crush it in 7/8 interviews but absolutely blow it in one, you could very much be screwed. Doesn’t matter if the interview you blew it in was with analysts or an MD, but there have been times at the roundtable where one person will speak up about something that came up in their interview and that’s enough to eliminate you from contention. Obvious but this is especially true if the bad interview was with somebody senior

5. Professionalism:

One thing I often do is drop my guard a bit and get more casual, aka “act more like a bro”. This is not your chance to prove that yes you are indeed a super bro. It’s fine to make connections and share in the story or whatnot, but you have to keep some semblance of professionalism since it is an interview after all. If you can’t keep it together here how can you be trusted with clients?

6. GPA:

DO NOT say “I was really busy” or “I had a lot of things to balance” as an excuse for your GPA is so low or something like why you didn’t pursue the honors program at your school. Seriously this is the lamest thing to say. There are numerous other candidates that also did a varsity sport, or also worked multiple part-time jobs while in school and have a better GPA so if you can’t sell me on this then I’m 100% not going to put a vote in for you to get an offer. This is an especially strong point for me because I worked 2 part-time jobs while in college, played a varsity sport, did a ton of extracurriculars including being the editor of one of my school’s newspapers all while graduating with a 3.8+ and Phi Beta Kappa

7. No excuses:

I guess the main takeaway from the point above is just don’t make excuses. Really true for people who didn’t get return offers from previous internships. Also as somebody from a liberal arts background as well the last thing I want to hear about why you don’t know technicals is that your school doesn’t offer accounting

8. Don't lie:

It’s generally painfully obvious when people lie, so don’t do it. This is more true for FT interviews when people try to inflate their internship roles or whatnot but if you can’t speak to a certain task/project, don’t lie about it on your resume

9. Finance is a small world:

Assume finance is a small world so don’t talk negatively about your previous internship or say you got a return offer when you didn’t. If I have a buddy at another bank where somebody previously interned, the first thing I do when I get the packet of resumes is shoot them a text and ask them how they were as an intern. Senior guys have even better connections and will always check to see if somebody said x reason for why they didn’t get an offer was true or not (related to previous couple points)

10. Shake hands:

I can’t believe I have to say this but please for the love of god stand up to shake somebody’s hand. More than once had people stay sitting down when I walked in. Like seriously wtf are you so excited about being there you’re rocking a full on stiffy and need to hide it? Tape your dick to your leg if this is a recurring problem or something

11. Try-hards:

Too much polish is a bad thing. If you’re constantly dropping words like “duality” into your interview, you’re going to come off as sleazy, if that’s even the right word for it

12. Don't be a douche:

Name dropping all the time makes you seem like a douche. If anything it’ll just undermine your credibility of how you got to sit in the seat across the table from me

13. Technical Interview Questions:

This is a more well-known point but if you have a finance or accounting background in undergrad, I’m going to grill you harder on technicals than somebody from a liberal arts college

14. Don't creep me out:

Don’t mention stuff you would’ve only known by looking me up on Linkedin or whatever. THIS IS CREEPY

15. "Do you have any questions to ask me?":

It’s weird how much weight the “do you have any questions to ask me” portion of the interview has on people’s perceptions of you. I mean if you’re a stellar candidate this doesn’t matter as much but this section really is what can tip the scale in your favor if people are trying to decide between 2 candidates. Also, don’t ask something stupid like “how do you think x tax subsidy is going to affect your industry?” You’re just going to sound like a tryhard

16. Two on one interviews:

If the interview is a 2 on 1, look at both people equally. People notice if you’re staring at the MD the whole time or if you are ignoring the female interviewer. Related to the above if you’re interviewing somebody from industrials and somebody from something “sexy” like tech, don’t ask 3 questions about the tech industry and nothing about industrials

Pretty much all I can think of now. Might add on to the list later but feel free to shoot with any additional questions. Hopefully, people find this insightful, apologies for the kinda messed up formatting.

Sidenote 1: People might disagree with me on this but the way I think about interviews is I am actively looking for people to eliminate from the process, and not looking for people who should get the job. Because fact of the matter is if I cut person x really it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things since person y will be just as adequate. It's a numbers game and there are just more qualified candidates than there are spots available generally.

Sidenote 2: When prepping for interviews, there's no excuse to not take advantage of the resources out there available to you. Best value for your $ IMO is the WSO IB Interview Course. I pretty much entirely relied on this resources when I was recruiting for SA positions and it was all I needed.

I went to a liberal arts college with not even a single intro accounting class so I think that speaks to its efficacy. Just put in the time and dedication to studying and then finding people to practice interviews is really all it comes down to.

Mod Note (Andy): Throwback Thursday, this was originally posted Nov 2016

Best Response

Good shit Penguin. Much needed after that laughable humble brag disguised as advice that kid put up earlier. I'm going to add a few things:

1- When its Q&A time, it's a good idea to ask me how much time we have left. If we have 2 minutes left, don't waste those precious minutes by asking me why I picked my bank. Too vanilla of a question, and you won't stand out. If we have 10 minutes, its a good idea for you to sneak it in there or else I might be wondering why you didn't ask.

2- Penguin talked about "over polished tones & mannerisms", but in my experience under polished is much more widespread problem. If you know you're that guy that uses "like", "man", "so basically" as punctuation (you know who you are) try not to.

3- When I ask a technical, don't look for confirmation by saying "right?". Just don't do it. Fake confidence for the easy technicals, open with "Well I'm not sure but the way I would go about..." for more conceptual questions you're not sure about.

4- As OP mentioned, do NOT talk bad about your past internships if they were even remotely related to finance. If you did some programming or engineering gig and didn't like it however, by all means tell me why you didn't like it (but don't talk shit on the people you worked with or the company).

5- As OP mentioned, your level of bro-ness should always be 3 increments lower than where I'm at. So if I'm at a 6, you should be at a 3. If your director is being formal, you should be at a 0.

6- "Just be cool", "Don't be a weirdo", in other words just fucking play it safe. If you answered all the fit and technical questions intelligently, didn't lose your cool, asked 1-2 good questions at the end, you will have automatically maximized your chances of receiving an offer. Please don't try to get creative by asking me if I have a dog, asking if my tie is hermes (its not btw and now you look like a retard) or make small talk about elections. You don't need to do any of that.


Ha yeah that post was my original inspiration. Never thought about #1 which is a really good point - I'll definitely use that for my own purposes in the future. As for #2 one good way to practice this is try talking for 1 minute without using any of those filler qualifiers. You can talk about anything but stand in front of a mirror, practice with a friend, whatever. You'll probably be surprised by how hard just 1 minute is.

Otherwise good tips all around.


I think this might be the most controversial thing I put on the list. For me I guess it does depend on what's being brought up. If I forget to mention where I went to school if they say "I noticed you went to x college and as somebody else with a liberal arts background did you..." then that's acceptable versus something super specific.


That's true. What's the weirdest thing someone's asked? During an interview with my current firm, I asked an associate about his greek experience (i was greek in college) and created a great talking point. I guess it's never really hurt me but I'd be curious to hear something that miffed you or someone you know.


Excellent post and silver banana for you sir.

All these are most certainly things I thought about during my interviews and process.

Not going to lie I wear my class ring everywhere, but I went to a southern school where that is the norm. So to be honest if someone didn't think there was a fit because of my class ring the feelings would most certainly be mutual.

Different strokes for different folks I suppose.


Yeah this is definitely a region specific nit. If you're interviewing down south then yeah go for it, but if you're anywhere else the question is how does wearing the ring help you in an interview? It's not like you need to make a statement about where you are going to school since the interviewers will know when you tell them, plus it's on your resume. This isn't going to be the reason somebody gets dinged, just saying it likely won't help if fit is ever an issue. I just know that at my bank in roundtables stuff like this does get pointed out sometimes.


I understood what you were getting at. I definitely agree its not going to help you in a interview. I can most certainly see this coming up in a roundtable. From my perspective once someone has even a lick of not being a good fit the reasons for not hiring them seem to be plentiful/ anything you can find. And when the fit is seemingly good things that were called out for the other person don't apply. Maybe that's just my experience with Big 4 recruiting, but it seems quite transferable here.


SB'ed. Great contribution.

To whomever is throwing the monkey shit, or to those don't agree with his approach, you're missing the point. He's giving very detailed insight into how he and his firm look at people in interviews, which is tremendously valuable for someone trying to figure out how to put their best foot forward in this kind of interview. Feel free to disagree, but from his chair, them's the facts.

Other firms will have differing opinions on both what the ideal fit is and how to select for it, which will impact the overall culture of the firm. I interview differently than he does, and I might select someone for an offer who wouldn't pass his filter.

But it doesn't make him wrong.

"Son, life is hard. But it's harder if you're stupid." - my dad

Will come back to this and elaborate but it's all about framing. Do you acknowledge that yes, maybe it's not ideal but then you make up for it with factor x, y, and z? Did you make some mistakes early on and actively work to fix them in later years? Or are you straight up making excuses?

Edit: The WSO behavioral guide has some good answers to this question. Key points are whatever you do, don't make excuses or apologize for what it is.

This question can be a good time to show you are well rounded and while you don't have a 4.0, you were able to participate in activities x, y, z, etc. that help make you a more well rounded person (and might even lead to things beneficial to banking!) You can say stuff like "Playing 4 years of a varsity sport is a commitment I made to myself, my coach, and teammates - much like how we are expected commit to 2 years as an analyst. I believe that my GPA is actually at a solid level due to playing this sport in addition to being involved in club x where I am in charge of x, my involvement in my school's newspaper, and having a work study job. All these have taught me a wide variety of skills I wouldn't have gotten only in a classroom and I believe being well rounded is more important than having gone through college and do nothing but study, even though I could've had a higher GPA."

Or if you had bad grades early on in college, this is a great way to say something like this: "Early on I was too focused on having a good time in college and approached classes like how I did in high school. I quickly realized this was not sustainable and ever since then have adapted my study habits. I learned to prioritize tasks and now I lay out all my to-do items in a planner. So if you look at my grades from year to year I went from a 3.1 freshman year to a 3.7 sophomore year, all while participating in the same number of extracurriculars as before."


NuclearPenguins you probably have the best username I've seen on WSO. that's half the reason I commented. the other half is to shamelessly ask for your opinion on laterals from another role (ie. strategy / corp dev / treasury / structured finance).

Were you involved in recruiting with this process at all? If so what was the experience / process like?

Regardless, thanks again for the solid post.


Haha glad you like my username!

My group did have a couple of potential lateral hires come through though we didn't actually hire any laterals. Key here again is fit - this is especially important in my group because we are pretty small (1-2 new analysts per year) so if we have a bomb hire the other analysts are going to be fucked and so will future generations of analysts in my group since the training being passed down will be subpar.

Probably the biggest thing is ensuring that the likely older hire will be ok coming in as a first year analyst and taking guidance from existing analysts younger than them, in addition to being willing to throw away certain old habits they acquired at their previous job(s). I feel like potential laterals often think that just because they have previous work experience, that they should be credited for that right off the bat. Sorry but this is banking and not your standard corporate job so the standards are different, unless you previously worked in management consulting or something also super demanding. I know some other groups at my firm let people start as first years then have the option for early promote if they prove themselves - start as a 1st year in February and by the time June rolls around if you've established you're actually good then immediately bump to a 2nd year with the rest of "your" class.

My group is currently looking for an associate lateral and one thing I've noticed is some people who either have (1) prior work experience + 2 years of MM banking or (2) only 2 years at a BB trying to come in as an associate. That's probably not going to happen. Scenario 1 goes to the above paragraph where just because you have prior work experience doesn't mean you're going to get credit for that. Scenario 2 might seem counter intuitive but trying to come in as an associate is likely going to hurt you if you come from a BB. What my group has experienced is that analysts there don't have as good of a handle on how to run a process by themselves since their groups are so much bigger. Especially important in my group which is small even by MM standards and often you have deals with just 1 senior banker, 1 associate, and 1 analyst, or in our current scenario a senior banker and say, 2 analysts.

A lot of the other questions are similar to regular FT recruiting though and drilling into why they didn't pursue IB earlier is obviously important and so is making sure that these people are switching industries for the right reasons.


I gotta start posting more during American thanksgivings - that was solid reply man, thanks!

You made a good point about previous experience - it sounds like it's more of an attitude thing than the rest. I'd imagine this becomes more of an issue as you become more experienced (outside of IB).

I've heard of the differences between BB vs. MM/boutique at a junior level. The only follow up question I'd have for you is how is your team/group/bank organized? Do you still have the product vs. industry group split or are you kind of just working on whatever comes through?

I'm not too sure how the MM scene in the US works - in Toronto we got the Big 6 (which pretty much does everything), 2-3 "MM" shops (or equivalent) and a ton of (reputable) boutiques. A lot less "no name" boutiques (which I hear is very common in the states).

Most of the people I know in boutiques/MMs here tend to get staffed on literally everything, from coverage to M&A (more so with the boutiques). I've met one or two MM guys that have done multi-sector coverage/execution when they were understaffed, which sounded insane. Can you relate to this?


I had my first super day on the other side earlier this month and here is a mix of things my firm told us to look for and things that I did personally. We had a 2 day Super Day outside of NYC where day 1 was networking between the managers and analysts, and the candidates. Day 2 was back to back to back interview with the managers.

While I agree with not being a creepy stalker, looking up your interviewer's LinkedIn if you are given his/her name is not considered weird, and may even be expected in some cases. It shows you give a shit about what people in the company do. Refer to any information you find on someone's LinkedIn IMPLICITLY ONLY. I.e. if they are heavily involved in charity's ask what the firm's volunteer or corporate responsibility culture is like.

Be aware of the company's current strategic, operational, and financial positions as reported by newspapers such as The Journal, but don't bring them up unless you are specifically asked. It's okay to have an opinion, but again, don't dish it out unless asked. Never tie in a political opinion here, even though it is easy to do.

On networking day, don't try to stand out. It won't do you any favors this round. If food/drink is provided, have a small bite even if you are so nervous you can't eat. Don't gorge, but my fellow analysts would never want to work with someone who can't enjoy free food.

Spend at least some time networking with the other candidates. We were told to specifically earmark candidates that befriended their peers.

Do your best to not treat people differently for any reason (particularly gender, race, appearance, status). If it's obvious you do this you would get dinged even by people who are prejudiced themselves.

Before the interview try to be aware of things you do when you are nervous, such as checking your watch or touching your face. I wouldn't even wear a watch, use your phone until you report to the office then turn it off.

Best interview clothing combination is navy or charcoal suit, white shirt, and a diagonal striped classic tie less than $100. Not worth taking a risk on anything else. Not even that light gray suit, pink/purple/houndstooth shirt, or Hermes tie your dad got you to interview in.

If you can't answer a technical, try if you have a clue, but admit what you don't know with grace, promise to follow up, and you might get lucky (I did).

Lastly, it is not required but following sports and pop culture can only help you. Have 3 go-to small talk topics. I use Football, movies that are in theaters or most people have seen, and running outdoors. For the most part someone has identified with one of these 3 topics.


As a lateral candidate, one of the questions I asked at a final round was "do you think the incoming presidential administration will have a positive or negative effect on the IB industry?"

I actually got thoughtful and detailed feedback from the interviewers in response. I know to stay away from politics generally, but since this is a very recent significant event I went ahead it. Any strong opinions on if this was a good or bad question to ask?


I generally think the best questions are when people ask questions that the interviewers can relate to - good because the questions come across as less canned, and more interesting for people to answer. Questions that show you have genuine interest about the job are good too. Definitely do not ask yes or no questions or questions that aren't relevant to the job. And definitely don't ask anything about money or perks.

"As someone else from a liberal arts college, what was the hardest part of the transition to working in banking?" "You briefly mentioned the firm's culture earlier as a differentiating factor, I was wondering if you could elaborate more on that?"

In your case you can ask things like "What do you think analysts who weren't former interns should focus on to be the most successful?"

If you're going to ask more general questions, stuff like "What do you like most about working in x group" always works well too. Honestly though as long as you don't ask stupid questions you'll be fine here.


For #14: personally, I understand that some people are weirded out by it, but I never understood why. You put things on LinkedIn for the express purpose of having people look you up. Nobody should be surprised or creeped out when interviewees look interviewers up on LinkedIn. If anything, is just a sign that they did some basic research.

"There's nothing you can do if you're too scared to try." - Nickel Creek

For #14: personally, I understand that some people are weirded out by it, but I never understood why. You put things on LinkedIn for the express purpose of having people look you up. Nobody should be surprised or creeped out when interviewees look interviewers up on LinkedIn. If anything, is just a sign that they did some basic research.

It is just awkward to go so far in depth and bring it up with the interviewer. If you can do it professionally, kudos.


I mean I think that it should be acceptable to ask "I see you worked at firm XYZ. How do you feel about your current firm vs. your old firm?" However, I think you have to be careful to not be creepy.

"There's nothing you can do if you're too scared to try." - Nickel Creek

Great post. I think I've mentioned it before, but your point about not getting an offer not necessarily meaning that you were a bad candidate is very true.

Coming out of IB, I interviewed for a corp dev role that I was very much interested in. The phone initial phone screen with HR went well. The subsequent phone interview with a corp dev VP went so well that HR called me back the same day to schedule another phone interview with the head of corp dev. That interview also went well. They flew me out to their HQ where I met with everyone in corp dev, as well as the CFO and VP of IR. They took me out to lunch and spent the entire time talking up the firm, selling the position, and insinuating that I would be working there. A week goes by and I finally get the call: I got dinged.

I waited a few weeks and then went to LinkedIn to see if I could find who got the spot. I found the guy and was completely floored. He went to HSW undergrad, was an IB analyst at a top BB, went to HSW for his MBA, was an associate at another top BB, and even spent two years in the Peace Corps. I knew I interviewed well, and I knew that they liked me at the firm, but this guy was clearly more qualified than I was. I am actually surprised that they even flew me out to their HQ.

EDIT: And I completely agree with your edit. ib interviews are 100% about subtraction, not addition. Resume piles are too big and the amount of applicants too large, so the only way to find good candidates is to first cut the fat, so to speak. Unfortunately, this results in IB interviews being fairly predatory in nature. It's one thing that I really did not miss when interviewing for corp dev roles.


I also try to give the weirdos a voice during the deliberations, worked once, usually doesn't.

The guys interviewing always forget how fucking nerve wrecking it was, particularly for non-target kids getting their one shot/one opportunity (shout out Eminem).


It just seems weird to me... hard to explain it. Like what's the point of bringing it up to your interviewer? Goes back to what I said earlier about what's exactly being brought up though and how it's done. I do acknowledge this might be an unreasonable viewpoint, though I've had some pretty odd experiences with people asking way too personal things before.

Good other post btw, +1 on that.


+SB, Overall solid post and agree with a lot of these points.

You haven't particularly went one way or another on this point, my one issue that comes up with analysts doing FT interviews is the "finance bro" concept. This job is not rocket scientists and you can teach almost everything but there are some that prefer the candidate with the 3.4 GPA that reminds them of their boy from their fraternity than the 3.8 GPA slightly nerdy kid. I agree that some of these folks come off weird and you wouldn't want to work with them (and thats something these kids need to work on, just don't say weird things). Others are normal but just not as "cool" as the finance bro and likely would not be in your circle of friends in undergrad. However, this is not enough to disqualify them in my opinion. From working with both types of analysts, I've seen these slightly nerdy 3.8GPA kids crush the finance bros almost all the time.


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