Hardest interview questions?

Wanted to get an updated thread on hardest interview/technical questions so i can gauge where my own technical knowledge is at and practice more (will recruit for 2022 SA). Some threads on this are quite old (like the most extensive thread is 2008?). Help us monkeys out with some tough q's!

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Comments (68)

Jul 22, 2020 - 10:51pm

I just interviewed someone from Harvard with 4.0 GPA, previous internships at a top bank and a top MF. He was a varsity captain as well. Why should I hire you over him?

  • 21
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  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Jul 23, 2020 - 4:27am

not sure why this got MS (I am not OP). I'm from a lower ivy and I got a similar "there's a Harvard kid waiting outside....why you?" question as well. It was definitely a difficult and memorable question to close the interview that forces you to really advocate for yourself coherently.

Jul 23, 2020 - 10:00am

I just interviewed someone from Harvard with 4.0 GPA, previous internships at a top bank and a top MF. He was a varsity captain as well. Why should I hire you over him?

How do you even answer this?
  • Prospect in Other
Jul 23, 2020 - 11:42am

Yeah - you can't really in terms of of Grades/Extracurriculars...

Maybe spin it, sure he's great on paper, but doesn't mean he will fit into the specific team - or talk about the things you've overcame to get where you are/talk about the things you have that he doesn't.
Being honest (i.e. saying that you should hire the Harvard kid) is conceding defeat - might look bad depending on your interviewer.

But if you can indirectly answer the question by showing your strengths, you manager to sell yourself while not answering the " Why should I hire you over him?"

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Jul 23, 2020 - 4:42pm

I hope you God you see yourself as more than the product of your academic and work achievements.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Jul 23, 2020 - 12:37pm

Speaking as a non target who didn't have a perfect GPA and worked in BO out of UG:

Because top Ivy->BB->MF is the perfect linear of a progression. Not to say that candidate didn't work hard for where he is, however I'd argue that it's the most risk adverse career path. That's what they're expected to do and never had to make a real choice on it. What happens when they get asked to manage risk or have to face the music on important decisions?

Idk it's a gamble of a response but on the fly I'd spin it to show that a scrappy kid could be a better fit. Obviously backfired If the interviewer did any of the above

Jul 24, 2020 - 8:11pm


"Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes." -U.S. Navy General Farragut
  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 23, 2020 - 1:07pm

Because I have the same stats but it's much harder to get a 4.0 at Princeton than at Harvard. I wish I could give this answer lol

  • Analyst 1 in S&T - Other
Oct 14, 2020 - 9:11pm

How about this? Ignore the label, I am an An2 in FIG M&A.

"Actually, I think he/she may be able to do the job just as well as I, in fact, as far as going through the motions and executing tasks/instructions is concerned IB is not cognitively taxing, so you could just as well hire someone who hasn't been to college and possibly pay them less. If anything, the Harvard alumnus outside the door is likely to be brilliant and smart, and more likely to get bored in this job, and given the options available to them, not likely to stay.

I on the other hand offer the perfect middle-ground between the college dropout and a top tier academic. Unless, you want to be spending your time re-recruiting in a few months, go with me".

Aug 29, 2021 - 3:42pm

Because that kid has probably had everything handed to him in his life, once he faces a controversial life event, or any form of adversity, he'll crumble and melt down because he's been living a spoon-fed perfect life, compared to others who have been through the struggles and are 10x are going to be able to handle that adversity, and can take criticism

Jul 23, 2020 - 1:07pm

Answers to the Harvard question:
- 4.0 GPA and captain of the team means he has no social life or he never sleeps. I may have a 3.6, but I got to know my peers, sleep, and read XYZ novel about finance/banking.

-Harvard has a lot of students, I got to know my professors at my smaller school, I put three down as my references.

  • Harvard is expensive, I went to No Name University because being debt-free after undergraduate/graduate was way more important to me than getting a Name-Brand Degree. I think for the long term.

  • I worked my ass off all throughout high school to get the SAT and ACT, Harvard is notorious for buying your way in. I have the brains and social skills to come from nothing to Harvard. A lot better than daddy's money.

Of course, be more polished, but you get the idea.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 23, 2020 - 1:10pm

Yeah the only problem is - what if the interviewer also went to Harvard

Most Helpful
Jul 23, 2020 - 4:46pm

Guys, guys, guys... your answer should not focus at all on that candidate or Harvard. You should be answering like a politician, don't you dare try to directly answer the question or literally compare yourself to this hypothetical candidate.

Just go back into your wheelhouse, "What you are getting when you hire me is A, B, and C. I had great conversations with people on this team while doing informational interviews and can see myself succeeding here over the long term. I'm humble, persistent and hardworking..." If you've already gone through strengths and weaknesses, you can throw in "I acknowledge that I have some room to grow and develop in some of the areas we have discussed but I am making great progress there and I am confident that I would make a positive addition to the team."

This is the same shit that banks have to do on bakeoffs when the client says "We just heard from Goldman. Why should we hire you [BAML]?" You don't really think the higher prestige option always wins out? Why? Because of specific fit to this situation, personal connections, social fit, or other reasons... same as in recruiting as in pitches. Talking directly about Harvard or Goldman would be giving them headspace and you want to completely gloss over it as if the interviewer didn't even mention it. If they really care about it, they will ask you again and more directly.

This question is purely to make you uncomfortable and see how confident you are in yourself.

If they really press you, and sometimes senior bankers get really cheeky ("No, really, the guy is in the waiting room. Why not the Harvard varsity captain?"). This is situational but if you have nothing to lose... throw a Hail Mary right back, "Brad? He's a great guy, we've gotten on well together at the Starbucks before we came in today. Hire us both, we each bring a very different and complementary life experience to the team, and I would look forward to working together with him"

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
  • 39
Jul 24, 2020 - 8:12pm


"Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes." -U.S. Navy General Farragut
  • 1
  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jul 23, 2020 - 1:34pm

Not a particular question but a strange interview.

I had a weird experience interviewing at a PE firm. I was with 2 associates. One of the associates was on his phone half the interview writing emails. I was asked the typical strengths and weaknesses question and I listed them off and the associate picks up his head after having his eyes glued on the phone for the past 10 minutes and goes "bullshit". And I was like what. And he said that's a "bullshit answer, tell me your weaknesses". I was like ok and tried again and he was like "bullshit man".... again! I then asked him his weaknesses and he goes "whatever man" and proceeds to go back on phone. ???

  • Intern in AM - Equities
Jul 23, 2020 - 2:04pm

What did you say as a weakness lol? If it wasn't incredibly retarded, that's extremely unprofessional of that associate and I would consider just walking out

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jul 24, 2020 - 6:28pm

That associate has the absolute nerve to flex. Extremely unprofessional as I would have shook the other associates hand and walked out the door. Can't tolerate that behavior as they don't care enough about their rep. Just cuz their in PE don't think they runnin shit. Not hatin just keep that little dick machismo behavior in the analyst stint hey day..

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 23, 2020 - 10:22pm

If an interviewer asked you to pick a topic in finance and explain it to me, what kind of topic would you pick? Like LBO, M&A, interest rates?

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 24, 2020 - 11:25pm

See if you're smart enough not to say 300, and make a reasonable guess. E.g. 100^2=10,000 and 90^2=8,100 so it must be around 95...

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jul 24, 2020 - 8:28pm
  • What does it mean to be successful?
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  • Intern in S&T - FI
Jul 26, 2020 - 8:14pm

For S&T - asked me to define forward rates but luckily I had read that somewhere in a textbook. Then asked me how to calculate the forward rate and I didn't have anything to say after that lol.

Jul 28, 2020 - 3:39pm

If you can make a couple of assumptions, then this is doable.

  1. Assume that light from Saturn has not began traveling to Earth yet, and you can start/stop it whenever
  2. Assume that you know where Saturn is so you can point your telescope in that direction.

First point the telescope towards the center of Saturn, and record the amount of time it takes, A.
Then point it towards any observable edge of Saturn, and record the time it takes, B.
Given speed of light is constant S.
Let R be the radius you're solving for.
Imagine a triangle with sides of length BS, AS + R, R.
You know that your vision line to the edge of Saturn is perpendicular to the center of Saturn's core, so you have a right triangle.
BS and R are the legs, AS + R is the hypotenuse. Solve for R.
(BS)^2 + R^2 = (AS)^2 + 2ASR + R^2
R = [(BS)^2 - (AS)^2] / (2AS)

Jun 5, 2021 - 3:59am

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