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!

Comments (61)

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?

  • 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.


  • 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?"

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
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

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Jul 22, 2020 - 11:44pm

are you an ass guy or a tits guy

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 23, 2020 - 12:59pm


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.

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.
  • 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 - 7:48pm

I got this question from PWP, "what have you learned from your interactions with bankers"?

  • 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?

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jul 24, 2020 - 8:28pm
  • What does it mean to be successful?
  • 10 min long accretion / dilution analysis
  • Square root of 6574
  • Why didn’t you go to a business school?
  • 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
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