Mod Note (Andy) - as the year comes to an end we're reposting the top discussions from 2015, this one ranks #38 and was originally posted 11/29/2015.
4 Summer Analyst Interview Prep Tactics
I recently completed SA recruiting and wanted to share a few of the techniques that I utilized to become a much more effective interviewee. My background is a junior at top 5 or so target in terms of IBD interns per year with a high GPA and strong extracurricular activities.
Going into the process, I thought my qualifications would propel me to an offer but I was sorely mistaken. My first interviews with an average MM and strong BB went horribly and I did not advance to super days. It hit me then that while qualifications are great to getting a foot in the door, interview skills are crucial to securing the offer. Below are the most useful tactics I found to succeed at interviewing and ultimately end up at an EB.
1) Network, network, network
Networking is a two way street, and I sorely underestimated the receiving end. I primarily utilized networking as a way to get my name and resume out to people, but failed to utilize all the extremely valuable information given to me throughout the process. Each bank has a very unique culture and practice, and being able to understand the differences and incorporate that bank's advantages into the "Why banking?" or "Why firm x?" transforms your answer from average and redundant to superior. For example, an answer for Goldman where coverage groups handle M&A in-house is completely different than MS where the M&A team handles the majority of the modeling. Know the differences and incorporate these into your answers. Also, know companies where fit is more important and hit home on this again and again (more relevant to MM's and EB's, but also some BB).
2) Cheat Sheet
After my first two bad interviews, I examined my preparation process and realized my answers varied wildly. Just like I make a one or two page cheat sheet to study for exams, I replicated this process for interviews. I had a two sentence focus at the top that explicitly spelled out what I wanted to convey about myself throughout interviews. Each answer in some way or another hit on this overall focus about myself. I then laid out the top 10/15 most frequently asked questions such as walk me through your resume, why banking, why our firm, greatest strengths/weaknesses, a time you failed, a time you worked in a team, what skills do you have that make you suited for banking, etc. For each question, I had 2 bullet points for my answer and 2 anecdotes to demonstrate my answer in practice. My answers became fluid and relevant to my overall focus, but also tangible in that I essentially had a story bank of 10-12 anecdotes I could incorporate throughout. In a 30-45 minute interview, this is plenty. Don't worry about repeating stories in a super day, as similar questions will receive similar answers.
3) Be unique
It's already difficult to differentiate the hundreds of qualified applicants applying for the position. Your answers need to be both relevant and unique. As a finance major, it can be hard to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other finance majors learning the same coursework. This differs from person to person, but find something unique about yourself relevant to banking and make sure you can back it up with an anecdote.
This is easily the best, yet underutilized, method for improving your interview skills. Once you are comfortable with all the info on your cheat sheet and have a working understanding, mock interview by yourself and with others. I can't tell you how many times I set the timer on my phone and repeated my story in response to walk me through your resume. The key in the real interview is not to sound like a machine in simply sputtering out a pre-rehearsed answer. Practice really does make perfect though.
These things helped me tremendously in becoming an effective interviewee. I had done all the prep, read the guides and networked at both events and over phone calls, but was not advancing through the process. After incorporating these methods I went from 0/3 to 4/4 in first round to super day conversion. Hopefully, other people can utilize some of these methods as well to improve your interview skills.