The 24 Interview Lessons I Learned on the Way to Getting My First Full Time Job

Hello all,

I was suddenly grabbed by an idea to write down the lessons I learned from the ten interviews across seven different positions and 6 different companies I attended in the past 2.5 months on the road to my first job out of university. I started brainstorming in rough chronological order by the date of interview so don't construe this as a list by importance, EXCEPT for the first and last points, which I believe to be the most crucial. It is not exhaustive, and I may add to it if a) I can be bothered, and b) they come to mind.

I've included some tips and tricks (such as "use the security guards and receptionists to build confidence") as well as some classics (such as "go to the correct building") which you all probably already know. I had to find out to use them all the hard way. Here goes…

1. Interviewing is like dating

You have to play hard to get, but not too hard to get, and you probably won't get what you want until the third date. Focus on speaking slowly and limit your hand gestures especially. I made this mistake and appeared too easy to please. Employers want to employ someone who is "cool" (as far as banking goes) or a mathematical prodigy. Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that you are the latter.

2. Anticipate and exploit the "tell me about yourself" question

Anticipate: prepare and rehearse the bare bones of your story; I used the M&I guide to structure mine. This answer can be paraded out for every interview you go to and all that needs to change is the last sentence. Exploit: take this chance at the beginning of the interview to speak slowly and calm down. This is the perfect opportunity to address point 1.

3. Identify whether the interview will be primarily market based or competency/position based

This is an easy question to answer and should be completed immediately upon beginning your interview preparation, and will guide your focus.

4. If the interview will primarily be market based, read as much as possible beginning a week in advance (or upon invitation)

I recommend each day reading the appropriate sections of the FT's Markets section and anything appropriate from the two editions of the Economist released prior to the day of the interview. Personally, I find that Bloomberg has too many "flashing lights" to find good market insight so I focus on those two sources. Having an interpretation and holistic view is important.

5. For the love of God, if they ask how do you keep up with markets, say (at least) "the FT, the Economist, and Bloomberg"

In my personal experience in the UK not saying WSJ will not leave a sour taste, but maybe it's different in the US. I guess you could also mention certain blogs and your own simulated or real portfolio, but you need to hit the big three to ensure they don't think you are an ignoramus.

P.S. if you can't afford a full subscription to these magazines just buy them in the short period leading up to the interview, hopefully your outlay will be worth it. Also consider public libraries which could well have them available for free.

6. Pick an article from the FT and the Economist which you can confidently talk about

I've found that interviewers will let you pick the news to talk about. Anticipate this request and pick stories which are different (but still relevant). For example, the Economist recently published an article about maple syrup cartels in Canada. The interviewer will probably be able to wipe the floor with you regarding typical news stories so try and find something where you are the teacher.

7. Use Bloomberg to learn particular indexes, rates, etc.

You may encounter, like I did, an interviewer who confuses perfect memory of index levels with someone who follows the market. Anticipate this threat by memorising key equity index levels, commodity prices, currency rates, and bank rates in the days leading up to the interview.

8. Always be prepared to answer: why this company? Why this position/team? Why this asset class?

A classic, but I found that once I had my competency answers down, these were all that changed from interview to interview, and it meant I wasn't clogging my head with answers to too many questions.

9. Never admit that you would be better suited to another job

The interviewer may insist you would be better in a different department considering your education, work experience, etc. Deny this to the death, and in a friendly (but insistent) way, reinforce your key point to the "why this position" question.

10. Never admit that you want to be doing anything different in the next 3, 5 or 10 years

Even though it is highly unlikely that you will be in this job and with the same company for your whole life, it's important to make it appear so. Focus on the soft skills side of things here with regards to ambitions.

11. Never lower your guard

You may have been blessed with a friendly interviewer who you get along with, but beware: being too informal will set off alarm bells along the lines of "what if they do that in front of the client?".

12. Go to the correct building

Your employer may have multiple offices in a small area. Check the address given to you on your invitation and check with the security guards before entering. Do not allow your interviewer to have to cross the road to collect you.

13. Always arrive 15 minutes early

This will show that a) you're punctual, b) you're eager, and c) you will save them some time if they are ready to start early. Why 15 and not 20 or 30? Refer to point 1…

13. Utilise the security guards and receptionists to build your confidence

These are people who are paid to be helpful and friendly. Say hello, how's it going, smile, etc. which will make you think you boss all social situations. Bonus point: if you do get the job, being friendly with your non-immediate colleagues is vital and you could utilise this boost every day.

14. Use the walk to the room as a chance to build rapport

If the interviewer walks you to the room use the chance to chat about their weekend, where they are from, etc. Treat it as if you were catching up with a friend. Remember, once you've surpassed the required technical barrier to entry, they only want to know if they could have a beer with you after work. Of course, this opportunity presents itself again if they walk you to the exit at the end of the interview.

15. Always have questions prepared for the interviewer

A classic but remember to prepare some standard questions and also find out some more about their background. Link to point 1: the most interesting topic to an individual is themself.

16. For a telephone interview, have your application, CV, and three prepared answers in front of you

(The prepared answers from point 8). I found I performed best when sitting down but still with good posture. You can "hear" someone slouching on the phone. Make sure you smile when you speak, this is also broadcast but luckily the interviewer cannot see your maniacal grin which would, of course, violate point 1.

17. If your technical ability is questioned by HR, blag

This is less effective strategy when faced with practitioners, but it's likely that an interviewer from HR will not know the technical side of things and you can overstate your confidence in the matter. If you come back for a second interview, remember to learn more about the skill as part of your preparation.

18. Have the same drink as the interviewer

The interview room might be catered with tea, coffee and water. Have the same drink as the interviewer which will make you seem more similar to them.

19. Don't drink the whole drink

Your chosen (by the interviewer) refreshment could be seen as an outlet of nervousness if you touch it too much or finish too quickly (indicating a dry mouth and nervousness). Don't finish the entire glass/mug and never go for a refill unless offered by the interviewer.

20. Don't sit in a funky seat

It's best not to rock the boat, so if there are three seats on either side of the table, just go the middle one like they expect, and if you find yourself at a triangular table sit on a different side to the interviewer/s

21. Always try to talk about sport

Sport is a typical medium through which strangers begin to bond. If you are asked what you do to let off steam/relax/for fun, always make sure you include the sports you like. Follow up by asking if they follow any sports and which teams #instajob

22. Mirror body movements and focus eye contact on the person asking the question

These two points will ensure you build subconscious rapport with the interviewer, but for the love of God don't make the mirroring too obvious.

23. Practice your prepared answers and test yourself

Rehearse answers to your prepared three questions, record yourself, and listen back to it. This way you can moderate timing, phrasing and structure. Testing yourself is the best way to learn this by covering up the answers then writing them down somewhere else. However, don't build a full script; you just need to know the one or two word cues which structure your answer.

24. Never underestimate the power of luck

You might turn up to your interview and find that you grew up in the same place, enjoy the same sports, or have a shared hobby. Remember point 14: pass the technical barrier then simply build rapport. This is easier when you have a shared connection. It turns out that your awesome degree, awesome grades, immaculate CV and cover letter, and intense networking pale in comparison to the effect of a lucky connection you have to the interviewer. Dorothy, it looks like you had what it takes all along.

Comments (91)

Nov 30, 2015 - 3:32am
mrwhite, what's your opinion? Comment below:

@canarydwarf: Thanks for your post! How did you prepare the technical/finance questions? Any link/post that I need to read?

Nov 30, 2015 - 4:33am
canarydwarf, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I was interviewing for markets based positions so doing the news prep did the most for me. I also made sure I knew definitions for related products (common and slightly exotic derivatives, for example). A lot of this came from investopedia but I had a good idea already from my education.

I think it was important as well not to overlook what would be considered an easy question (e.g. "what is a bond"), because on the simple stuff you really need to hammer home your answers.

I remember reading in Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman that when given two instances to assess, the assessor will anchor their belief on quality of the first instance. If someone answers question 1 well, the assessor is more likely to cut them some slack if they give a mediocre answer to question 2.

Nov 30, 2015 - 6:41am
Ironuts, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Being honest about 10 has never been an issue for me. On the contrary, interviewers seem to have appreciated that I have some ambition and I'm not a sycophant telling them what I think they want to hear. However, these were not cookie cutter IB analyst interviews, so it's a judgement call.

As for 19... you really need to chill out mate. If you're worried about failing to appear confident to the extent that you moderate your fluid intake, you're clearly a nervous wreck and have no chance of being viewed as genuinely confident. I could say that for 18 right through to 23 actually... not bad advice, but if you're chilled, confident and are able to turn it into a discussion rather than an interview, these things are largely irrelevant. I really can't emphasise enough how much of a hindrance I think over thinking is.

Best Response
Dec 11, 2015 - 3:16pm, what's your opinion? Comment below:

3 Secrets For Your Next Interview (Originally Posted: 09/18/2012)

Hey Monkeys,

We are in the middle of recruiting season so I wanted to make sure you are ready to go. Here are 3 secrets so you can come out ahead:

  1. Don't Underestimate Behavioral Interview Questions. Most of you are probably already studying the Technical Interview Guide so that you can answer these questions with confidence, but how many of you have polished your story? This is what makes the difference between an A candidate and an A+ candidate. Are you confident? A few weeks ago we released a new and improved Behavioral Interview Guide with even more sample questions and SAMPLE ANSWERS. Pick up the Investment Banking Prep Pack which combines the Technical Guide with Flashcards, the Behavioral Guide and the Networking Guide and saves you $30! There is a reason the WSO guides are the industry standard...we guide you step by step so you can ace your interview.

  2. Slow down and breathe. No matter what you hear in the forums, you won't die if you mess up a question. Slow down and take the time to clear your thoughts before diving head first into an answer. Silence and pauses can display confidence and "ummmmms" can show weakness. Gather your thoughts and then proceed to shock them with your rock solid technical skills and genuine answers to the fit questions.

  3. PRACTICE now and practice often. Either get a Wall Street Mentor to do a mock interview with you and/or find a friend that you can practice with incessantly that can give you a realistic interview. We can't emphasize this need to mess up 100 times before you really become a skilled interviewer. Would you wait until the day of an athletic event to run through a mock session? Then why are you so reluctant to practice out loud in realistic setting. Even better, if you can video tape yourself, you may find some horrifying tendencies that you can fix now. Want to watch how the competition is answering those questions? Check out the WSO Video Library.

I wish you all the best of luck. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.


  • Patrick

ps - We also recently released a new and improved WSO Networking Guide. If you already own the Behavioral Interview Guide or WSO Networking Guide, please forward a copy (from the same e-mail you have stamped on the PDF) to [email protected] and she will get you a copy of the latest version...

pps - Please let us hear about your success in our Success Stories forum. We love hearing from our members breaking in. Make your fellow primates proud!

Nov 30, 2015 - 1:02pm
canarydwarf, what's your opinion? Comment below:

As for 19... you really need to chill out mate. If you're worried about failing to appear confident to the extent that you moderate your fluid intake, you're clearly a nervous wreck and have no chance of being viewed as genuinely confident. I could say that for 18 right through to 23 actually... not bad advice, but if you're chilled, confident and are able to turn it into a discussion rather than an interview, these things are largely irrelevant. I really can't emphasise enough how much of a hindrance I think over thinking is.

Haha fair enough mate. To be fair, I tend to look back and analyse things and I like to make strategies, and especially don't like making small mistakes if they can be avoided, which I can counter in a way with small rules and routines. I agree that being confident and able to turn the interview into a discussion is vital. I think when writing this list I was also thinking to myself that I would love to have had a guide which gave explicit instructions that could be used, but overall, the best way to appear confident, of course, is to be confident.

This is why I think number 8 is very important as well since it will focus your preparation and ensures that you don't over-prepare.

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Dec 1, 2015 - 2:49pm
Anonymous Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think that its a pretty good point actually. Personally I know I have two nervous "ticks", and one of them is drinking water to fill silence in conversations, esp. on first dates.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:18pm
SonnyZH, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey Patrick, if we have previous WSO Interview packs, would we have to pay any additional fees for the extra/new material?

[quote]The HBS guys have MAD SWAGGER. They frequently wear their class jackets to boston bars, strutting and acting like they own the joint. They just ooze success, confidence, swagger, basically attributes of alpha males.[/quote]
Dec 11, 2015 - 3:20pm
esbanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'd like to echo the "Don't underestimate behavioral interview questions" especially the most common question of all: "tell me about yourself" or "walk me through your resume."

nailing this question is so important since it will dictate much of the tempo for the rest of the interview. if you answer in a concise, well thought-out, and upbeat manner, then the interviewer is more likely to be positively inclined to you throughout the interview. moreover, the interviewer will be more inclined to look passed a poor answer on a technical question.

keep your answer tight - aim at around 3-4 min - and chronological, with logical transitions that implicitly answer "why" you made each move in your career. lastly, finish off your answer with why your previous experiences make you a great fit for this firm and how this job is inline with your long-term career goals.

get this answer down (practice, but never memorize) and you're about halfway there.

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Dec 11, 2015 - 3:21pm
egress, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I just bought the new Behavioral Guide several days ago, and it's pretty amazing. The sample answers are extremely helpful, if not terribly creative. (The things this sample kid excels at, well, they make it easy to talk about his excellence.) Let's be real, though--these behavioral interview questions are not the right time to get terribly creative.

The best part is that the sample answers give you a sense of the tone you should strike. It's been invaluable. I checked out the BIWS guide before buying this one, since there's a bit of a debate here about which one is better. I haven't seen the previous version of the WSO Behavioral Guide, but the one I bought a few days ago? I think it's better.

WSO Content Intern
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Dec 11, 2015 - 3:22pm
Sandhurst, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Shameless self promotion.

But for serious, the mock interview prep is worthwhile.

"There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat."
Dec 11, 2015 - 3:23pm
Art.Vandelay, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Probably a bad question to ask people trying to sell the package, but is the behavioral interview guide useful for other interviews besides banking, such as Big 4 accounting, or maybe corp. finance?

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:24pm
egress, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The behavioral guide is separated into different sections: industry questions, personal questions, situational questions, tricky questions (about you, not about the job), other questions (tell me a joke), and what to ask your interviewer.

I'm thinking that only the industry questions would be different, since that part is meant to gauge how well you know what you're getting into and how well you fit into a specific skill set.

WSO Content Intern
Nov 30, 2015 - 8:16am
wintercoat, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Beautifully written. I've actually thought about writing something like this once if/when I received an offer but you pretty much covered everything ha. Where will you be going this summer?

Also, I can tell you interviewed for like buy-side/ER/AM positions. Did you interview for IBD positions as well? If so what was your level of success with them?

There are certainly many points that carry over to both industries, but I think that it would also be helpful to announce your background from the start so people understand the bias in your framing of tips that you can't control.

You speak in in varying levels of verbosity.You often adopt the typing quirks of others as you find it boring to settle on styles.
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Nov 30, 2015 - 1:05pm
canarydwarf, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It was for an immediate start full time offer BB MO role.

I did indeed interview for those types of positions, but not IBD I'm afraid, so this list would need extra advice for positions of that nature.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:29pm
Throwback, what's your opinion? Comment below:

When i was in college, I had an interview with a guy that used to be on a team I was on. He called my coach the next day and told him I was really nervous, and that he could get me to the next round, but that I'd have to calm down. So my coach called me up, told me this, and then suggested that I take down a couple of shots before the next one. I did, and things seemed to have worked out.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:30pm
dangerdavies, what's your opinion? Comment below:

you may think you know your resume inside and out but you have to be able have what my college career counselor called the "double-layer" answer to the big 5 questions- 1) what are your strength / weaknesses? 2) why are you choosing our company over xxxx? 3) why should we hire you over the other 10 people we already talked to today? 4) give me an an example of when you worked hard on a project OR worked well within a team (and what was your role in the team?) 5) do you have any questions?

the "double layer" answer is just to make sure you have examples and can talk about any thing you say as an answer to the five questions. you will get some version of most of these standard questions and yes, it's easy to practice what your initial answer is for these questions, but people forget that your interviewer will naturally follow up on your answers with more questions. so many people never have a good answer or more substance for the follow up to your initial answer. prepare for the follow ups to each of your answers with lots of examples and always tie that back to why all of what you just said ties back to the fact that you know this would make you a valuable asset to their company.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:31pm
BankerNoMore, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You have to have a good story about who you are, how you've gotten to where you are, and why you are interested in the opportunity. I ran across a number of people that assume all banking analysts are out interviewing with PE firms and hedge funds just because that's the next logical step. You have to convince them that your reason is better than "because I can't stand to be in banking anymore."

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:35pm
BanKing, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That's the basic story. Next to DCF and multiple valuations, you should know the LBO deal inside out. How is value created, what is leverage, why more debt than equity, what are possible exits, what's the phases of an acquisition/exit. Moreover, you should know industry trends, such as the tendency in leverages and typical exits, as well as the multiples that might be paid in the specific industry where the company has its speciality. Also, be aware of the common ratios in credit documents, such as total leverage, cash cover, interest cover, etc. Know the company as well, the AuM, the teams (you generally have their CVs on the web), their last big deals, their history, their immediate competitors, the markets they are in, their funds and size, etc. Good luck!

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:39pm
Ganthor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Behavioural Interview Tips? (Originally Posted: 05/14/2009)

I have an interview on Tuesday (not in IB, I just posted it here because it will get the most attention and IB seems to be well known to have behavioural interviews) and I know that the interview will consist of a lot of behavioural ones (I know there was the manhole question last year). Are there any tips or strategies that people have found successful? I plan on just googling it and trying to prepare for some common ones, but I'd still like to have some tips when I have to answer them on the spot.


EDIT: I am also wondering what is a good way to close an interview (besides just saying thanks for interview, opportunity, time)? Also wondering if interviewers (in general) would be impressed if you brought a fancy folio with you and took notes when she says something important (yeah, sounds weird considering you wouldn't be listening if you're writing down something, but I think they might be impressed if you record information they say, makes them feel important?).

Nov 30, 2015 - 12:34pm
StoicTrader, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The part about mirroring body movements is literally so huge it should be higher up on this list. Tony Robbins does an awesome job on youtube explaining why it is so important to be like the person whom you are trying to impress or build a relationship with.

Mirror what they do and their energy, people like others that they feel are the same as them. If they are laid back, act laid back, if they are energetic act energetic.

Honestly, if they cross their legs and are leaning back, cross your legs and lean back, it's something you would never think about unless coached on, but try it next time you are networking or trying to build rapport with somebody. Mirror their body actions, positions and energy and witness how you act as a magnet when trying to relate to them.

twitter: @StoicTrader1 instagram: @StoicTrader1
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Nov 30, 2015 - 1:09pm
canarydwarf, what's your opinion? Comment below:

100% agree with you. I'm really interested in the "self-help" industry so this was something I came across a while ago. My favourite part is when you realise that it's working and you can almost feel a link between you and the other person.

Visualising too, is very useful. I use this a lot for working out (visualising yourself lifting the weight to completion) although I confess that I didn't use it for my interviews when I should have.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:40pm
Bernie_M, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Are you talking about behavioral interview questions or logic questions? If I'm thinking of the right manhole question (why are the covers round), this is not a behavioral question. Behavioral questions generally start off with something like, "Tell me about you time you ______" or "describe a situation where you _________".

If these are the types of questions you are referring to, you can do a google search and find a list of common questions. Generally, you will be asked questions about leadership, teamwork, persuasion, ability to multi-task/handle pressure etc.

If you're talking about logic questions, you're on your own there. I doubt there is any way you can prepare for those types of questions.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:45pm
Ganthor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm competing against 21 other people for ≤8 positions, so I know have to stand out, especially when I have one of the first interviews. I'm just wondering if anyone knows of an effective way to close an interview, I know you have the thank them, but what's the best way possible?

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:46pm
mrngorickets, what's your opinion? Comment below:


You can find this info by using search box in the top of website with some keywords related before posting questions.

If you want to get more materials that related to this topic, you can visit:

Best regards.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:48pm
NOMNOMNOMNOM, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Be yourself. The interviewer is going to think you're a weirdo if you're writing things down for no reason. If they say something worth writing down, then write it down. You're time is better spent paying attention to what the interviewer is saying and thinking of relevant questions.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:49pm
prudentinvestor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

What is the biggest lesson you learned while interviewing? (Originally Posted: 05/19/2012)

During the course of an interview have you ever learned an important lesson that you wish you knew before? I am not referring to the process about getting an interview.

Nov 30, 2015 - 12:39pm
StoicTrader, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Also, other thing I wanted to add is actually before the interview, visualize the end result.

Visualize the interview going well, shaking hands and meeting everybody and visualize signing the offer. The process of visualization is huge. It works best with repetition too.

As soon as you find out you are interviewing for something you want, take time every day to visualize the end result and the process of the interview going very well. Helps build confidence, similar to what athletes do.

twitter: @StoicTrader1 instagram: @StoicTrader1
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Nov 30, 2015 - 1:26pm
wintercoat, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you find some time, can you walk us through a full visualization routine for a first round interview? Where do you limit yourself? Do you always go through the whole interview with questions/answers? Might be a benign question but I'd be interested. Maybe do a superday as well

You speak in in varying levels of verbosity.You often adopt the typing quirks of others as you find it boring to settle on styles.
Nov 30, 2015 - 3:29pm
StoicTrader, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Never actually visualized the whole entire interview and detailed questions although I was prepared for that.

I just saw myself walking into the bank, meeting everybody, everything going really well, getting along with everybody, making a good impression and leaving the bank feeling very happy with my performance.

And the most important part is to see the end result of yourself getting the offer, signing it and celebrating with whoever will congratulate you in your family. Worked for me. It doesn't have to be extremely detailed.

twitter: @StoicTrader1 instagram: @StoicTrader1
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Dec 2, 2015 - 10:00pm
tsunami0, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sounds like youre looking for a detailed answer so here goes.

You can think of this like a movie - where the beginning and the start of the journey is emphasized. You visualize the beginning - walking in, smiling, enjoying yourself, saying hi, shaking hands, sitting down. I usually expect the first question to be along the lines of "Tell me about yourself / walk me through your resume". Having already prepped that over and over, I internally say my response in my head.

In movies, then they whirlwind through the rest of the journey. In the interview, they like the answer, the rest of the convo goes well. We're smiling, listening, even chatting casually.

Then you visualize the final stretch and the win. You finish up, the mood's great, you firmly shake hands, and walk out feeling confident. Then the offer letter, the call comes in, and it's all celebrations.

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Dec 11, 2015 - 3:52pm
bfin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Blast central time or Mountain time? hahahahahha. You are a winner in my heart.

The answer to your question is 1) network 2) get involved 3) beef up your resume 4) repeat -happypantsmcgee

WSO is not your personal search function.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:53pm
YMCM-IB, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The key is being yourself. If the company doesn't pick you for who you are then it just isn't a good fit.

Keep looking and unless there is something seriously wrong with you some company will take you for who you are.

Also know the basic technical questions. Go in showing you at least prepared a bit. Most interviewers expect everyone to know how the statements link together and what a dcf is. They ask it as a formality to make sure you prepped. If you don't know this its usually an auto ding cause it shows you don't really want the position since you couldn't even put in like an hour to prep.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:54pm
cwinner, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agree with the above and just be yourself. There can be a lot of pressure to do everything correctly, but at the end of the day, it's about you and if fit in the firm.

And also I say know technicals and basic behavioral questions like the back of your hand. It makes you a lot less nervous that you know just about as much as you can going in so that you can handle any curveballs thrown at you and more importantly, you can again be yourself have a conversation with the person and never sound rehearsed.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:55pm
lone star state, what's your opinion? Comment below:

i dunno about lessons, but you definitely learn more about what you're looking for in a firm in terms of culture when you're able to compare and contrast. also when you ask interviewers why they got into investment banking, it can sometimes help to actually understand your own desire to break in asides from money, prestige, etc.

Dec 11, 2015 - 3:57pm
HORUS, what's your opinion? Comment below:


Keep it together and you will go far..
Dec 11, 2015 - 3:58pm
HORUS, what's your opinion? Comment below:


Keep it together and you will go far..
Dec 11, 2015 - 3:59pm
Kassad, what's your opinion? Comment below:

BB Interview: Afterthoughts & Lessons Learned (Originally Posted: 06/04/2012)

Hey WSO,

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing with a BB (DB, RBS, JPM) in New York City for FT IBD, and figured I'd share my experience here for anyone who wants to know what it's like. It was a series of interviews through which I met a large part of the bank's IB team, and though I don't think I'll get the offer (more on this later), it was definitely a learning experience and has provided me some valuable information since it was my first BB interview. I combine a bit of my experience interviewing for MM firms and boutiques as well, but most of this applies to my most recent experience.

I hope this helps people in knowing what to expect. Keep in mind that arbitrary points of the experience are redacted or changed to preserve confidentiality and prevent identification of myself or the firm in question.

Some background on me:

  • Recent graduate (May)
  • Bad GPA
  • Good work experience + extracurriculars (3 internships + school club leadership)
  • Complete non-target (zero on-campus recruiting and no-name in the banking world)
  • Some networking (not a lot but definitely not zero); resume drops, online websites, recruiter websites, etc.

This interview was set up through a head hunter whom I reached out to some time ago.

The interviews consisted of a series of fit, behavioral, technical and brainteaser questions. Some of the things which I (correctly) prepared for included the "debt vs. equity capital structure" question, to correctly differentiate between loans and bonds, and to account for depreciation on the accounting statements. Much of the conversation was driven by knowledge found in the CFA L1 FR&A book (which I looked over the day before to get ready). One thing I noticed is that the more questions I correctly answered, the more difficult the following questions would be, which shows that they're gauging one's knowledge of topics rather than just bombing questions on the interviewee.

Fit questions were simple enough to answer, but you must ABSOLUTELY have your story down for these larger firms, as they will ask you some pretty involved questions about why you're doing what you're doing. Some may ask you directly, but the question they're trying to answer is, "why do you want this job?"

Another important thing that I didn't think was important until the interview: your "Interests" line at the bottom of your resume is VERY important. Every analyst, associate, VP and MD that I met with asked me about the stuff on my interests line and the conversations generally veered into that territory after a few minutes of technicals. Some analysts stuck to pure accounting and fit questions, but mostly everyone asked about my interests.

Finally, there were brainteasers. So as to not give myself away I won't reveal which, but I was asked 3 in total and they weren't too hard. As a matter of fact, you can easily find them online on a "top 10 brainteaser" countdown or something. The interviewers were very nice about going through them and mentioned that I was the only candidate to answer one of them correctly (I answered all of them correctly).

Overall, the interviewers were very nice and responded well to my follow-up emails, but I'm somewhat assured that I won't land this gig. Reasons being:

  • Pedigree. I'm not an Ivy kid and the whole team has MS, MA, MBA and other degrees and certifications, whereas I'm a random state school kid. Even the analysts all had MS and MA degrees or certifications (CFA).
  • Grades. My GPA is terrible, and this is likely the sole reason I won't get in.
  • Interests. Had I known it was literally THIS important, I'd have added more to it and been ready to talk more about those things.

So that's it. In the end, FT interviews are like dating: it's a numbers game, and if you're not playing it or playing it like crap, you'll never get hooked up. And even if you're good, she might not want you (same for the fat guy; she may just want the crappy candidate as well).

I haven't got an official word, but I'm likely in the "wait until something better turns up" pile, and something better will most assuredly show up. But discouraged I am not – this showed me how things work at BB firms, and since I'd never been to one I have to admit that it was a bit like walking on clouds for the first time. Now I know I can land interviews – next on the check list is fixing my weaknesses and trying again.

in it 2 win it
  • 5
Dec 11, 2015 - 4:02pm
captainkoolaid, what's your opinion? Comment below:


Disclaimer for the Kids: Any forward-looking statements are solely for informational purposes and cannot be taken as investment advice. Consult your moms before deciding where to invest.
Dec 2, 2015 - 10:05pm
tsunami0, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agree on the dating and chatting as friends (#14) tips. Pretending you're catching up with an old acquaintance is best way I've found to establish rapport.

Dec 11, 2015 - 4:09pm
PIE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Your personal Interview TIPS (Originally Posted: 10/16/2009)

Interviewing is a fairly new task that I have come to experience. I have read many of the "good" interview responses through WSO / M&I and other websites but I have yet to find a way to project these answers in a confident and convincing way.

During interviews, I tend to stumble over my words and dont pronunciate clearly. Could anyone give me some pointers to this if this has happened to any of you? I would appreciate it very much.


Dec 11, 2015 - 4:10pm
Billy Ray Valentine, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Just focus on speaking slowly and clearly. Chances are you are not speaking clearly because you are trying to speak too fast. Your aren't in a rush so just relax and take your time.

The threads on this site, as well as the interview guides are REALLY great resources to how to answer the questions the way the interviewers want to hear, so read up on those.

But in terms of pronunciation etc, just slow down and breath and you should be fine.

NEVER lose your BlackBerry

Dec 11, 2015 - 4:11pm
AdvisorPrime, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Two points that I think will help you:

1) ALWAYS feel free to ask for a few seconds to come up with your responses whenever they ask a question that you don't immediately know the answer to (whether fit or technical); use this time to structure your responses so you're concise and organized in the delivery

2)Echoing Convenience, I'd say slow down your talking to as slow a pace that still sounds normal; most people when under stress start increasing their words per minute by a significant amount.


Academic & Corporate Interview Preparation

Academic & Corporate Interview Preparation
  • 1
Dec 11, 2015 - 4:12pm
monkeyinasuit, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Curious about the walk me through your resume question. Do you talk about what you did on the job and what you got out of it for each one? I have a lot of work experience and sometimes I feel like I'm talking too much even if I just state what I did... I think interviewers get bored, any thoughts?

Dec 11, 2015 - 4:13pm
Banker88, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you're asking about projecting your voice well, there's no better solution than to just practice out loud.

Dress up in a button down or suit so you're in the right mindset. Then interview yourself in front of a mirror and speak slowly and clearly. Also try in front of a webcam and watch yourself. Once you're quite comfortable, you can ask a friend or relative to interview you.

In terms of coming up with convincing answers, well that's a different story.

Dec 3, 2015 - 6:30am
YE777, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I agree with all the points you mentioned. I recently received an offer from a mid-tier BB IBD after multiple phone/in-person interviews and dinner/reception events. It is very important to rehearse all questions to see whether it fits your story. A good answer for one can pull you down later if it doesn't match with the answer you are going to give for another question. Also, always appear humble!

Dec 11, 2015 - 4:14pm
rothyman, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Interview Blunder.. Lesson Learned (Originally Posted: 12/28/2011)

Well here's a little lesson for all of you who are young like myself and lack the knowledge of someone that may have a good amount of interviews under their belt (30+).

I went to interview this morning at a Hedge Fund in the city. Prior to my interview I did all my homework.. what kind of fund it was, who was the fund manager, what countries they operated in, AUM, etc. You get the idea.

I went over questions in my head about explaining the way their fund makes profit (in their case volatility arbitrage).

So the interview starts and they ask me what I know about the company and I start rattling off all this information. The two people interviewing me look at my sort of puzzled. Then they ask me what I see myself doing in 5 years.. so I tell them that I see myself in ER or PM down the road and that I'm studying for my CFA, I want to be FO, etc. They both nod but still, they give me this look as if I am from mars.

THEN it hits me. I'm interviewing for for an MO job at this hedge fund. These are OPERATIONS/MO GUYS. In the haste of getting all worked up about interviewing for a hedge fund, I totally forgot who my audience was and what I was interviewing for. None of these guys knew anything about valuation and probably thought I was a complete dousche for acting so knowledgable in the interview. All they were looking for was someone to handle trade settlements and PnL.

If you're a non-target like myself and you have to go the alternative route to land a FO job (getting your foot in the door with BO/MO first), always remember your audience. Get that shit out of your head that says, 'I want to be this and that in 5 years and be a MD'. Most likely the people interviewing you don't give a shit and will dislike you for being so 'above' them.

Thankfully I caught myself midway through and managed to smooth things over by telling these guys that I liked to solve operational problems, etc. But the damage was done.

Word to the wise.. get to know your interviewer, then decide on your gameplan.

Dec 11, 2015 - 4:20pm
Eddie Braverman, what's your opinion? Comment below:
Hahah you're a dick.
I hate you.

Sorry, guys. I always thought you just had to submit to a blood test and as soon as your extra chromosome was confirmed you were in.

Dec 11, 2015 - 4:21pm
Angelus99, what's your opinion? Comment below:

SMH....This guy...smh

Dec 11, 2015 - 4:22pm
nikolas, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Tips in the interview (Originally Posted: 07/07/2012)

Hi all,

I am working in one of Financial service company specializing in derivative valuation. I enjoy the stimulating work that I have since I am exposed to different derivative products and involved in building pricing model.

Recently I had an interview with one of investment bank for a job in valuation. The recruiter keep insisting that the job that I am applying will be unlike my current job. It will involve boring and repetitive work, will not be technically challenged and questioning my reason wanting to switch the job. At the end of the day, I did not pass the interview.

I would like to ask, what would be the best way to respond in that situation. I understand that the job I was applying maybe quite boring, however, I am looking forward for the environment and future career progression (from what I understand, as I got more senior in the bank, I would be able to expose myself in more technical aspects). I was trying to convince him that but I failed.

Any suggestions?

Thanks, Nikolas

Dec 4, 2015 - 10:52pm
wintercoat, what's your opinion? Comment below:

What he meant is don't bombard the interviewer with 1000 details and minutia gives no fucks about. ie: its always best to keep everything succinct and let the interviewer ask if he wants to know more etc.

You speak in in varying levels of verbosity.You often adopt the typing quirks of others as you find it boring to settle on styles.
Dec 11, 2015 - 4:23pm
futures trader man, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Next time you're in an interview like that focus less on your interest in technical areas and focus more on your hard work ethic. They probably didn't hire you because they thought that you would not be motivated/interested in the role and were able to find someone else who wouldn't mind the brainless drudgery.

"Well, you know, I was a human being before I became a businessman." -- George Soros
  • 1
Dec 11, 2015 - 4:24pm
[email protected], what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Jul 11, 2019 - 3:02pm
IBplz78, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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