How to ask a "smart question"?

One of the most common peices of advice I recive while networking with Investment Bankers is to ask "smart questions". But what actually makes a smart question?

Is it ok or actually recommended to introduce yourself and your university before asking a question? Or does that just look cringy.

It is often suggested to not ask anything you can find out on your own in five minutes, but let's be serious, most technical questions can be answered by a quick google search. In general, my impression is that questions that are very technical or very niche like "How do you see the development of IB in South Eastern Europe given the macroecenomic changes in...." tend to put of speakers. But is that realy the case? Does it demonstarte technical knowledge if an undergraduate student asks these kind of questions? How far away from the original topic can you drift?

How many questions is enough? If there are 30 people in the room, how many questions should you yourself ask? One? Three? More than that? Is better to ask to little or to many questions? Is there some rule of thumb?

Also, how do you determine whether a question is relevant to an Analyst or MD and anything in between?

If you decide to go with a more personal approach like "What do you do if a client on an IPO is about to jump ship?" there is the danger of either getting a very basic answer or going too personal, considering questions are often asked in front of 50 people during a company presentation.

In general, how precise should a smart question be? How do you keep it open enough to allow the speaker to give the answer she is comfortable with while not appearing to basic or shallow by asking something like "Why did you decide to go into IB?"

Should you try to make yourself look good by asking a question?

And what about follow up questions? Annoying or a good thing?

Maybe it is actually easier to determine what a stupid question is and avoid those than actually try to ask a smart question.

Comments (9)

Mar 5, 2019

Don't try to ask "smart questions." Ask sincere questions about things that you'd actually want to know and aren't answered by a simple google search.

Mar 5, 2019
jec:

Don't try to ask "smart questions." Ask sincere questions about things that you'd actually want to know and aren't answered by a simple google search.

I understand your point but it honestly sounds like the standard answer I get on networking. It's far easier said than done.

Huey Lewis and the News. Great stuff! I just bought it on my way here. You heard it?

Mar 5, 2019

Put differently, don't ask questions for the sake of face time or to stand out. Ask real and specific ones; even if you don't "prepare" any beforehand, chances are some will pop up in your mind in the interactions.

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Mar 5, 2019

yeah good advice here. Also don't ask really broad questions, make them specific and pointed

Timing Is Everything.

Mar 5, 2019

The best advice I could give would be to only ask questions that you truly care about knowing the answer to.

Array

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Mar 5, 2019

good point

Timing Is Everything.

Mar 6, 2019

Don't ask open-ended pontificating questions such as:
"Can you elaborate on your career path?"

"Do you think the emergence of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will change the way credit underwriting is performed in this climate of globalization?"

Believe it or not, people at networking events truly do want to have a real conversation, but these canned questions are just a real turnoff.

I scored my job out of school, in part, by asking directed questions that would be relevant to the day-to-day operations. This was a national bank's CRE platform.

"How big is the current book of business?" [Answer: $500MM] follow-up: "Is that committed or outstanding?" and "across how many relationships?"

"What would you say are currently the most relevant threshold underwriting issues?"

Don't ask super high level questions like: "On the earnings call, the CEO referenced a desire to increase the products per customer. What is the product cross-sell rate at this office and how does it compare to the organization as a whole?"

Try to do your best to put yourself in their shoes and be sincere.

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Mar 6, 2019

Think about how you have a normal conversation. When someone says something you ask them something in the moment, that's how "smart" questions happen.

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Mar 7, 2019
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