Interviewing for a SA or Analyst position? Here's what I'd want to hear as a VP.
For years now, I've read these forums and rather enjoyed most content - whether or not it's actually useful information or a "Day in the life of ananalyst," I'm always glad I stopped by.
One thing that keeps reappearing on these forums is the question and often wrongly answered, "How should I prepare for an interview?" As my (hopefully helpful) gift back to the forum, here is what I can say sitting in the VP seat and having sat through countless cycles of on-campus recruiting:
Gents and ladies, it all comes down to you answering enough questions that makes the other side come to the conclusion that hiring you makes MY life easier.
You may be thinking, "how do I do that?" You may also be thinking, "oh, no problem. In the bag." Well if you said the later, you likely fall into the "insufferable" camp and chances are you aren't going to make anyone's life easier, regardless of how talented you may be.
Making the associate and VPs life easier is the golden gate to acceptance, my friends. Here is how:
1. Demonstrate pristine knowledge of Word, Powerpoint, Excel and Outlook
While this may seem obvious, I don't think people realize that you live in these programs. You draft memos in word, build CIMs and weekly updates in, build models and all-else in excel and with the e-mail traffic you are going to get on deals, knowing how to keep a clean inbox is paramount. Know how each program links with each other. If you can get get your hands on macros, know short-cuts, and be as good as possible day 1, it will help.
2. Be so good at financial modeling I tell my friends about you
Pretty plain and simple, I want you to be able to crush this skill. I mean, be so good that everything from the formatting, to the links, to the footnotes, to the print screen, to the formulas would make a. In no particular order, by the time you hit the desk I would ideally like you to be able to: 3-statement model, , / , perform comp and precedent analysis, and be able to tie it all together in a tidy power point.
Yes, your analyst training course will get you up to speed on this. Evermore, there is so much out there to help you learn these skills prior to the interview (I highly recommend the Adventis bootcamp andFMVA course). Yes they cost money, but if either or both of those certifications show up on your resume, I know you've got the bolts and self-interest to hit the desk running. While others factor in other aspects of what makes a good analyst, this to me is the most important part.
When you're running several deals at once, you've got to have the numbers hammered down in a clean and concise fashion. If your senior associate or VP is running late to a call and a sponsor/buyer asks a specific question about the model and you can speak to it for us, boy does that put a gleaning smile on your senior's face and a token in your bucket. If you can demonstrate this via the questions you're asked in the interview (i.e. technicals, but really expound upon it and tell us how good you are), you're going to be in the driver's seat going forward.
3. A genuine interest in being an investment banking ANALYST
When we meet for 15-30 minutes, I don't know whether it's been your life's dream to become an IB MD, whether you're just pulling into the station for 2 years before PE, or if you're doing this because you saw Wolf of Wallstreet. However, what I do want to know is that you want to be an investment banking analyst for the next two years. That means you are interested in not pretending to be an MD, but are someone who is genuinely curious about the deal process, committed to making the time sacrifice to be one, and are going to be a reliable person to work with for the next few years.
Being an analyst can be a lot of fun. Seriously. Some of the best friends you'll have going forward are the folks you'll meet in the bullpen. You'll ask questions to each other, go drinking together, and even cover for each other when a fire drill happens and you're 3 sheets deep at the end of the world.
But beyond that, you are a person who knows what the analysts job is to do both fun and un-fun. I get pulling together a PIB is not that stimulating. I get putting together 6 slides of a comp analysis can get a little glazy as well. However, to be able to talk to it, you need to be able to do it in your sleep. Express to us you know what an IB analyst does (prepare pitches and explain what's in one, different types of analysis, managing data rooms, managing buyer lists, etc...) and talk how your both technically and mentally in to do just that.
4. The airport beer test
This is usually the part of the interview where you get asked something softball like, "what do you do in your free time?" At this juncture, this is where we can see to some degree whether or not after a 3 day sprint to get, you're worth spending another 2 hours in the sky lounge with drinking a few beers. Are you genuine? Humble? Mildly interesting? Can you take a freaking joke? Out of all the things candidates can fake, this usually isn't the one, and if it's a tie between candidates (and there usually is one), this is the tie-breaker.
So how do I prepare?
Know your technical questions. 9/10 these are the softballs from.
Demonstrate your skills to hit the desk as if you were going to start in 48 hours. It may be overkill to some, but if I think you pump out a nice first draft of a pitch already, you'll be good to go
Practicethe money to attend courses. Not only will you actually get an idea of what you'll be doing as an analyst, you'll inevitably be able to answer any "drill-down" questions with ease
Ask yourself "why do I want to be an IB analyst?" and frame the answer as if you answering it in an interview. It should hit: (1) What you know the job entails, (2) Why you have an interest in it, (3) Why you'd be good at it, and (4) What steps you've already taken to get good at. You answer this correctly and you'll give yourself a great chance.
Practice your answers in a mirror. Seriously, it works. You're going to sound so much more confident.
I'm sure some of this is somewhat repetitive to what others have posted on this board, but I've yet to see it aggregated. Hopefully this helps, and know that like anything else, the proper preparation is what will give you the best chance.