Equity Research - Interview Questions

Patrick Curtis

Reviewed by

Patrick Curtis WSO Editorial Board

Expertise: Investment Banking | Private Equity

Positions in equity research are available for seasoned professionals and new hires. New hires out of school will start as research associates and move up the chain to a research analyst after gaining experience. Before any of this though, you must get the interview and show the interviewers you have what it takes. The best way to prepare for these interviews is to follow the markers, learn the common questions asked and practice tirelessly.

Equity Research Questions - Fit/Behavioral

As with most interviews you will most likely start out with the standard set of behavioral questions, some of which are listed below

  • Tell me about yourself/Walk me through your resume
  • Why equity research?
  • Why this firm?
  • Potential 5-year plan
  • Tell me about a time when… faced a challenge, worked on a team, etc.

Prepare a handful of anecdotes that you can use and mold to answer a variety of questions. Here's a good tip from @esbanker", a private equity analyst, of things to keep in mind when answering fit questions:

esbanker - Private Equity Analyst:
Some key words that should guide your examples for fit questions in Equity Research - analytical, detail oriented, excellent writing skills, strong verbal communication, at ease with financial modelling. Some people tend to think that Equity Research Analysts are mainly 'bookish', but i'd argue that teamwork still plays an important role, especially during earnings season. arguably the most important fit question is why do you want to do equity research as opposed to something more "prestigious" (IB) or "exciting" (S&T).

People generally suited for equity research role are those who are good writers, can follow a routine, interested in financial analysis and enjoy working independently in a quiet environment. Obviously you must be familiar with the work that an equity researcher would do such as building financial models, performing industry research, talking with management of companies they follow, and writing the reports.

Techincal Equity Research Questions

Unlike ib interviews, equity research technical questions tend to focus more on actual investing and figuring out your thought processes, but it's best to be prepared for everything.

  • Pitch me a stock
  • What do you think about X industry?
  • What's your investment philosophy?
  • If you had $X to invest, what would you do with it?
  • Why might a tech company have a higher PE than a grocery retailer?
  • Tell me when you would see a company with a high EV/EBITDA multiple but a low PE multiple.
  • What's beta?
  • Why would you unlever beta?
  • Enterprise value vs. equity value?
  • Can equity value be larger than enterprise value?
  • Know the major valuation methodologies
  • Why do some like Warren Buffett prefer EBIT multiples to EBITDA?
  • How is valuing a resource company (e.g. oil and gas) different from valuing a standard company?
  • What do you use for the discount rate in a DCF valuation?
  • How do you calculate the terminal value in a DCF valuation?
  • Market questions

Answers to most of these can be found online, but for things related to the market it's just a matter of staying up to date. Read the front cover of the WSJ journal and other sources like the FT, subscribe to newsletters you can get daily through email, and always be looking out for new investment ideas that you can bring up in an interview if needed.

Equity Research Associate Interview Questions - The Stock Pitch

The stock pitch is arguably the most important and most common question you will be asked. It would be best to have 2-4 stocks in mind that you can pitch, i.e. large cap, small cap, stock to short. Know things like the stocks P/E ratio, revenue, ebitda, net income, margins, products, competitive risks, areas of growth, company strengths (brand name, cash supply, management, etc.) Also know basic valuation metrics for the company like EV/EBITDA and have at least 3 solid points that will help support your argument.

Here's a sample stock pitch, courtesy of @esbanker", a private equity associate.

esbanker - Private Equity Associate:
Well, I've recently been following Copa Airlines, a Panamanian airline company, currently trading at $xx per share. Recently, the airline industry has been underperforming the markets for several reasons: compressed margins from the volatility in oil this year, increased competition from low-cost carriers, and overleverage by most airlines (think American or Air Canada).
While many airline companies are in desperate need of restructuring, Copa airlines has seen their revenues - now at $1.4 billion - grow at a robust 10% compounded over the last 5 years. Copa boasts EBITDA of approx. $350 MM, Net Income of around $240MM which translates to roughly 18%. Margins have remained stable over the last few years and are significantly greater than other airlines.
After running a basic DCF (5 year projections), Copa has an implied price per share of $xxx. In terms of comps, Copa is trading at an EV/EBITDAR of 7.7x which is slightly less than the industry median of 10.3 x, and a PE ratio of 12.9 x relative to an industry median of 14.1 x. Given Copa's strategic positioning in Latin America, its strong operating and financial performance of late, and its relatively cheap share price, I would strongly recommend to buy Copa Airlines.
(note, some of the numbers are out of date - this is from an early 2011 model)

Check out a video about the stock pitch below.

Also be sure to check out this thread on S&T interview questions created by @Gekko21": S&T Interview Questions. Most if not all the things in that guide can also be applied to a equity research interview in terms of types of questions and how to prepare.

Read More About Equity Research on WSO

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Patrick Curtis is a member of WSO Editorial Board which helps ensure the accuracy of content across top articles on Wall Street Oasis. He has experience in investment banking at Rothschild and private equity at Tailwind Capital along with an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. He is also the founder and current CEO of Wall Street Oasis This content was originally created by member theglazeb and has evolved with the help of our equity research mentors.

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Comments (132)

Oct 31, 2011 - 5:43pm

A stock pitch written out? There are lots of stock newsletters out there that pitch ideas and stocks - get past the 'make a million dollars with this junk mining company' headline and they will generally pitch you the idea (if that's what you're looking for?). Google stock gumshoe, he tracks, follows, and makes assumptions about the companies those newsletters are pitching. You may want to research the firm you're interviewing to see what their slant on investments are. You don't necessarily have to mirror them, but if they are long term value guys, you probably don't want to pitch a stock idea based heavily on technical indicators.

Although I'm sure articulating and supporting your idea well is more important than the idea itself.

Oct 31, 2011 - 5:48pm

some key words that should guide your examples for fit questions in ER: analytical, detail oriented, excellent writing skills, strong verbal communication, at ease with financial modelling. some people tend to think that equity research analysts are mainly 'bookish', but i'd argue that teamwork still plays an important role, especially during earnings season. arguably the most important fit question is why do you want to do equity research as opposed to something more "prestigious" (IB) or "exciting" (S&T).

as for as stock pitch goes, id recommend finding a business that you are really passionate about (hopefully it's something a little more interesting than brand names like google or apple). There is no exact formula for a pitch, just be logical.

Here's I went about it:

start by talking about the industry and one or two recent trends that are particularly interesting or worth noting.

then link those trends to the company you're pitching, explaining why the company is well positions.

talk a little bit about the operations and finances of the business, ie. market share, end market, key customers, revenue, margins, ebitda, working capital requirements, capex requirements. (don't have to go through all of them; pick 3-4 that are particularly strong; you just want to be able to give some specifics)

I would then transition into valuations: intrinsic first, then followed by relative valuation. for comps I would go with the basics: EV/Revenue, EV/EBITDA, PE, PEG, and lastly - if your feeling confident - Id throw in there an industry specific multiple; just be careful because if the interviewer knows his or her stuff you might have to go into more detail.

Comps helps you transition to how the company stacks up to others in the industry, and you can finish off with why it has a competitive advantage in both the short run and long run.

Finish off with an assessment: make your buy, hold, or sell opinion explicit. THIS IS KEY.

best of luck!

Capitalist
  • 4
Nov 1, 2011 - 4:01am

Hi esbanker and nate,

Thanks for the comments! These are great.

esbanker -- I actually just realized that I don't have a good answer for why Equity Research Analyst rather than IB or S&T. What is the best way to approach that topic?

nate -- thanks for the link! I've been looking at gumshoe, but it isn't quite what I am looking for. The stock pitches in those newsletters tend to use a lot of inflated rhetoric rather than solid facts and sound, logical reasons for buy/hold/sell. Gumshoe is analyzing those use letters to see if the information they present makes sense (typically not the case).

What I am looking for is a model answer to a stock pitch question. I.e. in an interview, when asked, "pitch me a stock to invest in" what would be the best way to answer that?

The format that esbanker gave is great start for an outline, but I am looking for a model answer where I can see how it is done and then I will find my own industry/company and emulate that model answer.

Any help would be appreciated

Thanks!

Best Response
Nov 3, 2011 - 11:15pm

Say that you are interested in equity research because you are a very curious person who is really passionate about understanding the fundamental and macro drivers of a company. In terms of skills, say that you have to be in tune with the markets in ER (overlap with s&t, without all the high risks), but you gain the modeling and analytical skills of an investment banker. Not to mention that for the most part, the lifestyle (hours) are more palatable.

Sample of pitch me a stock (i'd say somethign along these lines - though I would probably fine tune it a bit).

Well, I've recently been following Copa Airlines, a Panamanian airline company, currently trading at $xx per share. Recently, the airline industry has been underperforming the markets for several reasons: compressed margins from the volatility in oil this year, increased competition from low-cost carriers, and overleverage by most airlines (think American or Air Canada).

While many airline companies are in desperate need of restructuring, Copa airlines has seen their revenues – now at $1.4 billion – grow at a robust 10% compounded over the last 5 years. Copa boasts EBITDA of approx. $350 MM, Net Income of around $240MM which translates to roughly 18%. Margins have remained stable over the last few years and are significantly greater than other airlines.

After running a basic DCF (5 year projections), Copa has an implied price per share of $xxx. In terms of comps, Copa is trading at an EV/EBITDAR of 7.7x which is slightly less than the industry median of 10.3 x, and a PE ratio of 12.9 x relative to an industry median of 14.1 x.

Copa has recently acquired Aero Colombia to gain significant exposure to the growing Colombian market (~xx% of market share), as well as provide quicker access to Brazilian airports. Air traffic in Panama is also expected to grow by xx% by 2014 due to infrastructure development and increased trade from the Panama canal expansion. Given Copa's strategic positioning in Latin America, its strong operating and financial performance of late, and its relatively cheap share price, I would strongly recommend to buy Copa Airlines.

(note, some of the numbers are out of date – this is from an early 2011 model)

hope this is somewhat helpful

Capitalist
  • 9
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Nov 7, 2011 - 1:32pm

Hi all,

Thank you so much for the help!

This is really great. Now, I am still a newbie when it comes to equity research. Do you have any suggestions of books or guides that I could read in order to understand equity research a little more? Ideally this would be in simple/layman's terms as I haven't had any prior banking experience and I am fairly lost.

Essentially, a "equity research 101 for dummies" type of book would be extremely helpful if something like that exists.

I found this one book, but it relates directly to the interview. What do you think?
http://www.amazon.com/How-Get-Equity-Research-Analyst/dp/1905823932

However, it still doesn't explain the industry to me in enough detail so that I can feel as though I am getting a better grasp on the topic.

Essentially, how is S&T different from equity research? What exactly would I be doing on a day to day basis? Am I more concerned with internal dynamics of a company or macro economic market factors? Who's money are we investing? What are mutual funds? etc etc. Lots of really basic (and I'll admit, probably very laughable questions for most of you). But I'm trying to learn as much as I can quickly.

Thanks! And my apologies if I am being incredibly annoying with my basic questions. I'm trying to read guides or books that will help me understand what equity research is, so that I am no longer as lost.

Nov 7, 2011 - 1:57pm

You can think of the research department as the think tank of an investment bank. In BB's there are usually several divisons: the macro analysts, the equity analysts, the fixed income analysts.

I can speak mostly for equity research, where I started my career in finance. My team was comprised of 3 more people: an associate, a junior analyst, and a senior analyst (note that in research an analyst has seniority over an associate). You usually cover a "universe" of stocks within an industry (ie, aerospace and defense, construction and engineering, automobiles, technology, telecommunications, etc).

your work will consist of getting acquainted with the industry and the companies you cover. get ready to pour over 10-ks and 10-qs. there is quite a bit of financial modeling (tho this will realistically be about 30% or less of what you do overall). lots of focus on the operating model. investment bankers usually have the luxury of using equity research reports for growth projections. but in equity research you have to do tops-down or bottoms-up analysis to come up with these projections from scratch. you run valuations just like in IB, but the metric of choice for analysts is EPS since this is what ostensibly makes a stock move up or down in the markets. your main output is research notes, which could be industry-specific, trend-specific, or (most often) company-specific. these research notes make it to the S&T so that they can add color to their decisions. other investment firms pay quite a bit of money to gain access to these notes.

hours are not bad, usually 7 to 7, but it depends on the team. during earning season (when companies report earnings every quarter), things get a lot more hectic as you have to listen in on earning calls, revamp your models, and publish several notes in a constricted amount of time. had to stay in past midnight a few times.

personally, i hated my team, but i did gain an strong framework for analyzing companies. i don't really know what you mean by "what are mutual funds?" or, more specifically, how that relates to equity research.

pm me if you have more specific questions (i am happy to send you a sample equity research report so that you familiarize yourself).

Capitalist
  • 6
Nov 7, 2011 - 2:03pm

About the Stock Pitch (Originally Posted: 08/27/2009)

I am quite new to all of this so forgive me if this question sounds ignorant. I wanted to know about the nature of the stock you are supposed to pitch during ER interview. Do they only want to hear your arguments for the immediate growth of stocks? Or would it be favorably looked upon to argue for the long-term growth potential of certain stocks that may see little immediate gains?

  • 1
Nov 7, 2011 - 2:08pm

the Stock Pitch (Originally Posted: 08/24/2010)

I am quite new to all of this so forgive me if this question sounds ignorant.
I wanted to know how I should go about pitching a stock for a Greentech Investment firm interview coming up. The pitch itself needs to be 5 minutes long - any ideas on where to start, what to talk about etc.?

Many thanks

Nov 7, 2011 - 2:14pm

Equity Research - Pitch a Stock (Originally Posted: 12/21/2012)

Hey there fellow monkeys,

Can anyone please give me a step-by-step guidance on how to analyze a stock/company? At what accounts/ratios to look at and how to derive conclusions from them...and should I refer to other data except from this?

Also does anyone know where I could find a sample analysis of a stock as I have searched the Internet but unsuccessfully..

Nov 7, 2011 - 2:36pm

Penny stock pitch in ER interview (Originally Posted: 04/02/2013)

Hey all,

Just a question to all you ER guys for an upcoming interview I have. I wanted to know if it is appropriate to pitch a pink sheet stock as a sell in an ER interview and if that's seen as the equivalent of pitching something cliche like apple.

Thanks

Nov 7, 2011 - 2:44pm

Pitch Me A Stock - ER interview (Originally Posted: 05/07/2013)

Hi guys. It seems that in an equity research interview, the inevitable pitch me a stock question is going to come up.

What I wanted to know is how much in detail should this stock pitch be? What facts and figures are you expected to know? Some people suggest having 2 or even 3 stocks ready for a pitch, so it seems like it'll be difficult to remember figures for all the companies? Will last year's revenue, profit, current share price, P/E be enough? Also, should you rate it simply buy/sell or provide a target price too?

Any other comments regarding the stock pitch will also be appreciated. Thanks.

Nov 7, 2011 - 2:49pm

Stock Pitch - Normal to have 2-3 catalysts be top 2-3 risk factors (Originally Posted: 12/28/2013)

I am currently working on a stock pitch for my own educational purposes. I am going through the company's 10-k looking at some of the risk factors they mention and many of the top factors that I believe should be mentioned are also the catalysts I have put for the company's growth. For example, a potential catalyst for this company is opening new stores/expanding their geographic footprint (since they are only located in one part of the country currently). However, one of their main risk factors is that they may not be able to open these new stores successfully and operate them profitably. Is this normal to have some of your top 2-3 catalysts also be your top 2-3 risk factors? I don't really see a way around this happening. If anyone has some thoughts/insights, I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

Nov 7, 2011 - 2:51pm

Stock pitch for mutual fund equity research position? (Originally Posted: 04/17/2014)

I know for HF they usually ask for stock pitches during the interview..but what about an equity research position with a mutual fund? Do they ask for stock recommendations? (this position is for experienced hire: 1+ years of experience)

Nov 7, 2011 - 2:53pm

Prepare stock pitch for 20 minute ER interview? (Originally Posted: 04/25/2014)

I have what I guess is a superday (isn't it kinda late to have one?) for a Summer ER internship. I am speaking to 4 people, 20 minute each. This is the first time I interview for an ER position, so I'm not sure how to prepare. I don't really have a stock pitch, although I could just use the stock I'm researching for a valuation class. Should I prepare a stock pitch? 20 minutes seems like a really short amount of time for an interview including a stock pitch.

Nov 7, 2011 - 2:59pm

Stock Pitch: A Page from MBB's Book? (Originally Posted: 12/30/2014)

This question is addressed to WSO users with work experience in ER. If you were listening to a 1-3 minute stock pitch from an inexperienced candidate, how would you react if the pitch was largely focused on "corporate strategy" points? E.g., competitive positioning, market segmentation/sizing, 5 forces industry analysis, etc.

This is not to say that the pitch would exclude fundamental analysis; just wondering what ER analysts/associates thought of corporate strategy as it pertains to investment theses. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Nov 7, 2011 - 3:02pm

Topics for Fall Equity Research Interviews (Originally Posted: 07/28/2016)

Simply put, what is everything a student should know going into an internship interview for Equity Research this fall? Examples from past interviews and/or emphasis on current events would be appreciated

Nov 7, 2011 - 3:04pm

E/R 1st Round Interview (Originally Posted: 08/12/2009)

Hello all,

I am looking for some guidance on how to perform and what to expect for a first round equity research interview via telephone. This is for a BB and will be conducted over the telephone.

I would like guidance on the process from top to bottom (Fit, Qual, Quant, Behavioral...everything).

Anyone who has actually going through or is working in equity reaseach please chime in with what division (to see if questions are geared towards the sector) and with what level bank (ie. Boutique, MM, BB).

TIA!

Nov 7, 2011 - 3:11pm

Interviewing For A Specific Group- Equity Research (Originally Posted: 09/07/2017)

I have been fortunate enough to land a few interviews for equity research positions for specific groups. Based on your experiences, what level of knowledge of the industry is expected for an entry level ER associate role? Should I have a long and a short for companies within the group I'm interviewing with? Or is it expected that coming from a big 4 background (auditing tech companies) that I would not have that much knowledge about the specific industries? So far to prepare I've been reading recent news on the WSJ etc. about companies within the industries, in addition to looking over some industry primers.

Nov 7, 2011 - 3:16pm

Boutique ER Interview Prep (Originally Posted: 12/07/2017)

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"The ceiling is the roof"
Nov 7, 2011 - 3:18pm

Equity Research Interview Final Round (Originally Posted: 01/18/2018)

I have my final round for an equity research associate position today. The analyst said it will be a report writing assessment where he will provide an M&A press release and presentation, and I will have 2 hours to turn a report around. He said there doesn't have to be any quants, he's only looking for thought process, structure and writing style.

Does have anyone know how these reports are typically structured and what type of information is usually included? I'm thinking of starting out with a brief summary of what my revised EPS projection and share price would be, followed by 3-4 main points from the deal that will impact the business. Then I will expand on each of the main points and conclude with why I think my EPS projection/share price is warranted.

If anyone knows where I can find a sample, that would be helpful as well - last round I based my report on one of the analyst's reports and he specifically mentioned the structure and writing style was great. Unfortunately I don't have access Thomson/Capital IQ/Bloomberg so I am only limited to Google.

Nov 7, 2011 - 3:20pm

2nd Round Interview -- ER (Originally Posted: 07/29/2013)

First round interview went pretty well. It took them 3 weeks to finally get back to me and schedule a second round interview.

On Friday, I met with two new people and both meetings went very smoothly. Then I had a "writing test' which was a quick and dirty mock case study where I had to write a mock earnings press release. I used DCF with some applied assumptions as well as some quick valuation methods to arrive at the current stock price and a target price. It was not as easy as I expected though and they purposely inundated you with extra information.

After the writing test the person I met with in the first round took me out to lunch with the group. Lunch went pretty well, and at that point I was kind of expecting an offer. No offer and they told me they were still interviewing other candidates for second rounds and they didn't have a definite timeline. This surprised me. I guess they will review my writing sample, but I went from feeling very good about the interview to somewhat confused in that they didn't even offer me a timeline.

Given that they took so long to get back to me after the first round, should I expect another couple of weeks to hear back?

Nov 7, 2011 - 3:29pm

5 things to think about during an ER interview to make it sound like you know what you are talking about (Originally Posted: 04/27/2014)

I noticed there wasn't a lot of interview advice particularly geared towards ER so I'm just writing down a few things to say during an interview that will definitely make you stand out.

1) If you get the question who is the most important client to you, always answer the trading desk. They are the ones who risk the bank's capital so they should get priority. For any material news on your universe you should always send a quick email to the traders covering your space telling them how this is going to effect your stocks.

2) Actually invest in the stock market. It is painfully apparent when a person is lying about a stock they say they invested in but haven't. Open up a Scott Trade account and throw a couple hundred into a name you like. You will definitely get a crash course in investing when you have skin in the game.

3) When you pitch me a stock don't just tell me if it's a good buy or a good sell. Tell my why is this a good price point to enter and what is a good price to exit out of. Follow that up into why should I invest in this particular sector over another. Bonus points if you manage to say the phrase "sector rotation" correctly in your pitch.

4) Don't get wrapped up on your initial sector coverage. Odds are you're going to move sectors quite a bit in your career. What you should most care about is the analyst you are working under. He will have the most impact on your career and how much you learn.

5) Don't be a complete finance geek. Have an interest outside of work and be able to back that up with small talk. Tell me about your upcoming study abroad plans to Spain or your opinion on NFL free agency this year or that iPhone app you are programming. The interviewer will want to know if you are personable or not. At the end of the day ER is a relationship business. Our goal is to help generate volume for our trading desk and to service our clients. That DCF you spent 3 days working on, the 50 page report you wrote and that 20 company slide deck are just means to an end. They are just tools we use so we are be able to speak to our clients.

Nov 7, 2011 - 3:50pm

Undergrad ER interview (Originally Posted: 06/20/2009)

What kind of questions/interview can I expect as an entry level ER analyst at an NY BB? Will I have to walk someone through a DCF or WACC, or is that reserved for MBA interviews? How in-depth does a stock pitch have to be? Will I have to know specific numbers from the companies' financials?

"Give me guys that are poor, smart, and hungry. And no feelings." - Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street"
  • 1
Nov 7, 2011 - 3:54pm

Equity Research - Interview coming up (Originally Posted: 01/26/2010)

I have an Equity Research Internview coming up for internship position.
How/What should I prepare for this interview?
Does anyone know firm called "Primary Insight"?
please give some comments!

Thanks,

Nov 7, 2011 - 3:58pm

Equity Research Interview Feedback (Originally Posted: 11/08/2011)

Hey All,

I just wanted to see if anyone from industry is able to provide me with their thoughts on some of the feedback i got from a previous interview. The ER analyst i interviewed with encouraged me to keep in touch with him and to contact him down the road to see if he was aware of any potential postings. (I'm graduating in december and they are looking for an immediate hire which was the reason why i didn't advance in the process.) One thing he recommended i do was to cold call other analysts to inquire about potential postings as often they go unlisted for some time in O&G.

Thoughts?

Nov 7, 2011 - 4:01pm

Most Important things to know going into an ER interview (Originally Posted: 06/19/2018)

Hi guys, I have been dead set on going into IB which means that as a hardo I understand valuation techniques and have a good understanding of IB as a student (thanks to WSO, WSJ, and Mr. Rosenbaum and Pearl) but would like to know how different the interview questions for ER are. I have recently seen the light and now want to go into ER and just want some help to prepare for interviews. Furthermore, I was wondering if maybe some of you more experienced hardos could give me some insight as to common questions and technicals an interviewer could ask, and some resources I can use to better prepare myself for an ER role. Thank you!

My Brother. My Captain. My King.
  • 2
Nov 7, 2011 - 4:02pm

Hey ProfessionalPatagucciHardo, I'm the WSO Monkey Bot and I'm here since nobody responded to your thread! Bummer...could just be time of day or unlucky (or the question/topci is too vague or too specific). Maybe one of these topics will help:

If we're lucky, maybe these professional users will respond: IBanker99 ApolloEast alexandradheller

Fingers crossed that one of those helps you.

Nov 7, 2011 - 4:03pm

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My Brother. My Captain. My King.
Nov 7, 2011 - 4:04pm

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