SA interviews – an interviewer’s perspective

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SSits - Certified Professional
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For my earlier thread about my views on cover letters and resumes for SA roles, see here: "Resume and Cover Letter - A Revewer's Perspective"

This thread is my observations from a day of SA interns for a target university.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You're potentially doing yourself a disservice if you only read the original post (OP). Please read the comments below for some clarification and nuance, as well as some additional comments. Otherwise, the OP may read like interviewers (or at least me) are impatient people who are frustrated at what the candidates do, rather than being interviewers who wish they had more time and are frustrated at the constraints of the interview format and time limit.

Preface: The interviewers

What you should bear in mind about the people interviewing you at the first round for SA intakes is your interviewers are not the big swinging dicks. We interviewers are at least one of the following:

  • Those who came up with the weakest excuses to avoid interview duty
  • Those who don't have more important work to do
  • Those at the relative bottom of the hierarchy and couldn't say no
  • (what I like to think was the case for me) Those not currently on a heavy workload and think that doing SA interviews would be an interesting psychological experiment

Also bear in mind your interviewers are likely bored and trying to make their way through 10 - 20 half hour interviews in the course of a day. Some implications:

  • In the first few interviews, we're finding our feet
  • By around interview #4 or 5, we've found a formula that works and largely cookie cutter that for the rest of the interviews
  • It takes around the same number of interviews to set up a benchmark for who/what is impressive
  • We end up making the same points in each interview, which can mean we sometimes end up forgetting whether we've already told that piece of information to this candidate, or was that the last candidate?
  • By mid-afternoon, we just want to get this done and go
  • We're on a tight timetable. You've got a set amount of time - 30 minutes. It doesn't do you justice, I know, but tough luck.
  • We're not going to get through your entire resume in 30 minutes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This post is based on my experience as the first round interviewer. Our aim was to be the second screen of candidates (HR reviewing letters, perhaps doing phone interviews being the first), producing a shortlist of candidates who would then go on to our bank's superday to interview with more important people, who likely would give them more time, more interaction etc. My approach, the interview format etc is not representative of a superday, although I expect some points will be consistent (eg your interviewers bias to cookie cutting the interview format; their desire to find out what you individually did in situations).

Here are my observations from my day as an interviewer. Most points focus on what not to do - far easier to write these up than prescriptive points. We only have 30 minutes to judge you. We'll seize on any perceived issues to whittle down this list. Don't give us negatives.

Entry/introduction

  • Don't take your deep breath to relax next to me when I'm walking you into the interview room. I can hear your fear and it taints my perception of you.
  • Don't grip my hand too firmly when you shake it. I can feel your fear and it taints my perception of you. This was only really a problem for male candidates. Don't squeeze my hand any harder than you'd squeeze yourself intimately in the privacy of your own bedroom.
  • Don't over-think the under/over-hand handshake thing. It shows you're over-thinking it. I can see your fear and it taints my perception of you.
  • You can take notes, but I suggest you don't. Once you start taking notes, you'll feel compelled to keep taking notes to look like you're listening intently. It's just a distraction to you, a useless benchmark you've set yourself to be evaluated by.
  • By around midday, we've been through enough interviews to work out when candidates don't seem to get what we're after. So, at the beginning of the interview, we'll give you an outline of what we're looking for in the interview. LISTEN TO THIS SHIT CAREFULLY, as we are effectively telling you "don't be like our earlier people, please focus on X, Y and Z in your answers"

When I ask you questions

  • Pre-rehearsed answers usually smell pre-rehearsed. At least pretend to stop and think about it before answering. Worst is when the pre-rehearsed answer doesn't really answer my question.
  • Really listen to the question, even if you feel it means you're only averaging 60 words per minute rather than 90 words per minute. I'm looking for quality of answers, not quantity of verbiage.
  • When I ask you questions about conflicts or other complex situations, I'm trying to work out how you personally deal with situations. I don't really mind whether it's a work example, finance club example, frat charity committee example, whatever. If I ask if you had a conflict/underperforming colleagues etc at Experience A and you have an example from Experience B that works better, do not hesitate to say that you had an experience at Experience B that is a better example. I'm just panning randomly through your resume looking for behavioural examples, rather than being fixated on Experience A (unless keep asking you about A).
  • Another point on conflict/complex situations in your past - I am looking for YOUR experience. If your answer is about how "we" as a presentation group or "our" team in the company dealt with something - fffucckk, I have to ask more questions about how YOU, PERSONALLY, AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND NOT PART OF A COLLECTIVE, YES YOU THE CANDIDATE, handled the situation. Some candidates just didn't get this, not matter how pointed our questions. I want to extrapolate how you'll act under stress in our work environment.
  • When I ask about who you reported to, whether you depended on other people to provide you with deliverables you needed to do your work - I'm trying to work out whether you've been in situations where you're relying on others to deliver and how you deal with them not delivering, as that happens all the time in the workplace. So have examples ready (whether work or school or something else) and make sure they are not simple "I spoke to him and he corrected the error of his ways" examples. I want to see conflict stories that aren't fairy stories and deal with someone getting shitty with you.
  • Work experience - again, I'm just sifting randomly through your resume looking for interesting stuff. The 30 minutes format means there is not enough time to cover your entire resume. If you have stuff that you think is GOLD but we haven't touched on it, feel free to try to guide me there ie "The X experience was great, but I really think I learned the most about work ethic from my time at Y". But listen to me as well - I may think that I know better than you and want to focus on some other stuff. But don't be afraid to push me around a bit on what you want to talk about, as I respect that. It's a delicate balance, tough for me to be prescriptive.
  • Don't apologise for yourself - eg if you don't have many finance academics, don't draw attention to that by apologising for it. For example, don't pitch yourself saying "I know I don't have a strong background in finance courses, but...". I may not have noticed before, but now I certainly do. Exception - maybe have the "I don't have X, but..." if the interviewer has brought it up. But don't be too apologetic.
  • Take care in saying you think a role in my team is a stepping stone to somewhere else. That indicates you may be a flight risk.
  • We usually ask a random math/logic testing question in the interview (eg how many pairs of men's socks are sold in Bloomingdales on any given business day) and get the candidate to think out loud about the solution. This is to see how he/she logically dissects a complex problem. Don't burn up too much time thinking this over. We make this question up on the spot (following some templates). We don't know the answer. It's not pass/fail.
  • If your talking style comes across immature, work on it. This was only an issue for one of the candidates, who was female. I point out she was female because she had a speaking style that I've only seen in women (slight up talking, some turns of phrase). I like to think I am a reconstructed male who has appreciation of why our patriarchal society incentivizes young, intelligent and competent women to speak like this. However, I see these candidates as having one additional career development hurdle to overcome that more competent, professional speakers do not.
  • Saying anything suggesting that you think you're through to the next round or some sort of wink-wink nudge-nudge implication of the same - too cocky. Counts as a negative. Don't do it. Your interviewer should aim to make you walk out not sure whether the interview was successful or not. Don't tell me that you think I failed to do that. Also, you could be wrong. Or you could push my line call from pass to fail.

When you ask me questions

  • Don't ask me what guidance I'd give to someone like you trying to find what career to move into. That indicates that you haven't really fixed onto banking. I appreciate that none of you have enough experience to have a real fix on banking, but asking me this sort of thing indicates you haven't thought about how you'll be perceived by the interviewer.
  • Don't ask me questions about why I chose to be an investment banker or similar. This implies that you're looking for career guidance. I know you need career guidance, but asking this question indicates you haven't thought about how that question will be perceived.
  • On the maths/logic question - don't waste a question asking me how I'd address the same problem - I'm not the candidate and asking me to demonstrate my knowledge does absolutely nothing to advance your own candidature. You've got limited time, use it wisely.
  • Asking questions about the work hours, reporting hierarchies, culture at the firm, what I feel differentiates my firm from others, ability to move around different offices - all fine to ask.
  • Asking questions about moving between different groups within the bank - careful, this can indicate that you haven't fixed on my team and may not be a stayer.
  • Asking questions about pay - I don't know. HR deals with this.
  • Asking questions about next steps/the candiate process after this interview - that's a nice wrap up question and you should ask if I don't volunteer this. However, I will use it as a wrap up point so I can clear you out and get the next candidate in, so leave this to your last question.

After the interview

  • Sending me a thank you e-mail - thanks for the thought, but all I do it skim read the e-mail looking for question marks. If no questions, delete. If questions - ffffucckkk, I spent a whole day interviewing people rather than doing work. Do I have to spend more time on this?
  • Sending me a thank you e-mail that also sets out how you've thought more about the logic problem and have thoughts on how to do it - I can't remember the logic problem we asked you, as we'd make it up on the spot. The interview is over! Let it go!
  • Inviting me to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook - eeuurgh, stalky.

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Comments (67)

Feb 9, 2014

PS I've received quite a few requests for resume reviews after my earlier thread. I've over-filled my quota of good deeds and answering only some people wracks me with terrible, terrible guilt.

Accordingly, please don't PM me for advice, guidance etc. In the first place, I'm probably wrong about 50% of what I say. Secondly, I'm not going to answer. Post any questions here and I'll respond if I can.

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Feb 9, 2014

PPS If you have the opportunity to go to a meet & greet function where you can meet your interviewers before the interview day, seize upon it. I met a few candidates ahead of the interview day and the familiarity from social context really seemed to help.

The interview is candidate talking about himself, whereas a meet & greet can often be the interviewer talking about his/herself (often their favorite topic). You can learn a lot from that and, at the very least, generate positive points with the interviewer as you are a person who likes to listen as he/she talks about him/herself.

Feb 3, 2014

As someone who has a BB superday later this month, thank you!

Feb 9, 2014

Additional point - when I ask you about your work experience, what I'm looking for is stories of challenging situations, underperforming colleagues, having to change plans mid-stream etc. I'm also looking for stories about how you tried something, didn't succeed in a shining, glittering shower of gold and learned something from the process about how to do things better.

If you have a story of success which doesn't give me any of the colour I'm after, keep it short. A 2 minute story about how you succeeded without significant challenge etc etc is a waste of time because it gives me nothing valuable. At best, it tells me that life hasn't smacked you around the head yet and you're at risk of crumbling the first time your SA stint gets tough.

Feb 9, 2014

Superdays may feature actual BSDs, so bear in mind that the idlers are usually first round interviews only.

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Feb 3, 2014

SSits you have done an excellent job in sharing your perspective on the interview process with us. I really do appreciate the time and effort you've put into helping the community as it really does go a lot further than you might even believe. That said I have 2 questions if you don't mind providing further assistance.

1. In regards to the math/logic question, what are some of the specifics you are looking for in a candidate response here? Take the socks sold in bloomingdales example, my first instinct would be to respond that socks are likely one of the most commonly sold items in terms of number of units, and that buyers are likely to acquire some on nearly 50% of trips in which they make a purchase. Thus a final answer could be for every individual item X where X is a pair of pants, a shirt, a jacket, etc. would have 3 pairs of socks purchased. Assuming 2,000 purchases per day in a high traffic NYC store, an estimate of 3,000 pairs of socks would be sold.

Additionally from that what if a more specific question is asked such as probability, how poorly will this reflect if the candidate is not able to come up with an answer?

2. You had said that asking about culture was okay and I'm curious as to why you are accepting of that? I feel that I agree completely that time is limited and a question like that seems too generic and likely common and thus should be avoided.

Feb 3, 2014

Nice essay.

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Best Response
Feb 9, 2014

1. I'm looking for the candidate to demonstrate he/she can take logical, rationale steps to work it out. For example, candidate could start with an assumption that there are X number of people in NY, some % of that would got to Bloomingdales for socks (may suggest thinking about demographics of households that would shop at Bloomingdale's for socks), maybe speculate that if you're going to Bloomingdale's for socks, you're likely a premium sock buyer etc. Or they could have some other chain of logic eg candidate was in the store yesterday, sock section is only three aisles, based on floor space to sales ratio needed to justify the store, candidate assumes a certain gross sales required pa to justify the space, then breaks that back down to daily sales revenue and volume. I'm interested in the numbers candidate comes up with at each stage (eg if candidate assumes 50% of people in NY go to Bloomingdale's for socks, candidate lives in a different world to me), but I don't care about candidate doing the math of multiplying each stage by the previous stage. This sort of logic is most obviously applicable to modelling, but demonstrates the more general ability to slice up a problem into logical steps, even if there is no one answer.

2. Culture - candidate is demonstrating he/she is interested in how he/she will fit, is doing his/her due diligence. Reading the bank's online propaganda doesn't tell you much (also, repeating that propaganda in the interview - waste of time IMO). Also, the interview is an opportunity for interviewers to market the bank, which normally they should want to do (whether or not they like the candidate) to build up pro-bank buzz among SA candidates. Make the interviewers sell their bank to you to increase their sense that they are competing for you (you might have other offers) as much as you are interviewing for them. Some people may be skeptical about my view on this, which is probably right.

However, one telling thing about the interviewers marketing pitch is whether they like you or not. The harder they try to market the firm - and the more specifically they market it to the elements of you that you sold them on - the more you can be confident you've made it through to the next round. However, you may rightfully wonder how burning up a few minutes on this to confirm/deny your suspicions actually gets you anywhere. I'm not really sure. I'm arguing against myself in this post... I'm uncertain...

    • 3
Feb 3, 2014

SB+2. Very helpful. like that Liar's Poker reference.

Feb 9, 2014

Further to my last post - we had a small number of stand out candidates. What that did was make us market more to those candidates - we really tried to sell aspects of our bank to them, where possible feeding into some of the interests they'd discussed (interests in a general sense, not the interests listed on their resume). Our thinking process was "This guy/girl is good. He/she will definitely get other offers. We have to sell ourselves to him/her."

So, if you get an interview where you feel like the interviewers are trying hard to market the firm specifically to you (ie not just a generic pitch), that could be a positive sign.

On the other hand, what do you - as a candidate in an interview - get out of that realisation? In some cases, perhaps a false sense of confidence which could harm your chances if you're wrong. In others, perhaps you can relax a little - you know you've made it through, so you can relax a little and not be over eager to prove your suitability (over eagerness can also backfire). You can even engage in friendly banter (as a few of our candidates did) which worked well for them even more, as these were usually comfortably charismatic* people.

Don't freak out if you don't get this sense, though. Some interviewers may not do this.

* Note: Comfortable charismatic in the sense that they were comfortable with who they were. We had one guy whose resume and demeanour screamed HUGE GIGANTIC NERD, but he was incredibly comfortable in that and we interviewers (both with somewhat nerdy pasts in our closet) enjoyed the banter with him.

    • 1
Feb 3, 2014

Do you have to come up with a number figure for the logic tests?

My answer would've been to first calculate Bloomingdale's inventory in a quarter by the % that is made up of men's clothing, and then multiply it by the % of socks that make up the men's clothing sales mix. Take that number and divide by three, and then again by an average of 30 days/month and you should get an estimate of the number of socks sold in a day.

Edit: Saw your comment on it above.

Feb 9, 2014

It's easier to come up with a methodology when you're behind a keyboard then when you're sweating in an interview room under the gaze of two bankers. We don't do stress interviews, but the logic test is likely pretty stressful for people. It helps us understand how much the person can shift into an analytical frame of mind when under a little pressure (like being able to handle unexpected questions from your bank's CEO when you're trying to get a deal approved).

Feb 3, 2014

Hm? I had the page open in a tab for a while before I read it. But thanks for the answer, I'm pretty quick on the logic I'm just not quick with mental math, especially in a stressed setting, and it make me nervous.

Feb 9, 2014

I wanted the logic, not the math. However, I wouldn't be surprised if there were some people who wanted you to do the mental math as you went through to demonstrate numeracy. Different people value skills differently blah blah. In my case, I think getting caught up in the numeracy element distracts from what I really want to see, which is the logic.

Feb 3, 2014

Just out of curiosity, were you interviewing for S&T or IB?

Feb 9, 2014

Here's the cookie cutter format my fellow interviewer and I ended up settling on:

1. Greet candidate, briefly introduce ourselves. Introductions got shorter as the day went on.

2. Outline the format for the interview, give candidate tips (take your time, don't worry if we interrupt, we'll give you time to ask questions at the end).

3. Start the formal inquisition. Normally we'd start with academics, as that's at the top of the page. Just a simple question about how much finance in their degree, which aspects they like most.

4. Usually move pretty quickly to work experience. We'd get an outline of their most interesting sounding role (often not the most recent), but the main thing we were after was examples of handling conflict/deadlines/non-performing team members/tricky situations.

5. If we haven't got a tricky situation example yet, we'd start mining school classes or extra-curricular activities for one. Underperforming member of groupwork at school was just as good as example in the workplace.

(somewhere between the end of 3 and 5, we'd often ask why investment banking, why our firm. This was a floating line of question that we'd ask whenever felt most natural).

6. We're about half way through by now and we'd throw in the logic problem after a quick introduction. It became tempting to make the logic problem more ridiculous each time as an in-joke between fellow co-interviewers, but we resisted that urge because we are professionals.

7. Post-logic problem, we'd either go back to work experience or into interests.

8. Normally we'd be about 20 - 25 minutes in at this stage and we'd turn it around to candidate asking questions. Usually this would mix a little with us marketing the firm.

9. Usually around 25 - 28 minutes, we'd finish the interview and then compare notes. We'd usually use "here's the process after the interview" to wrap up the interview.

This was a broad template and there was plenty of scope to head off into whatever discussion we found interesting with particular candidates.

Our HR people had given us something like 10 criteria we were supposed to grade people against, but fortunately also told us "get a feel for the person, do your best on the criteria". We focused on about 4 of them. Ultimately, the key deliverable to HR was a shortlist of candidates to move to the next round.

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Feb 5, 2014
SSits:

Our HR people had given us something like 10 criteria we were supposed to grade people against, but fortunately also told us "get a feel for the person, do your best on the criteria". We focused on about 4 of them.

Curious which four you focused on? Also I could be wrong but it sounds like you're focusing more on behavior than character.

Feb 9, 2014

Not IB, but much closer to IB than S&T.

Feb 5, 2014

great stuff, thank you. if you want to contribute more for WSO in the future shoot me a pm :)

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Feb 9, 2014

Logic/problem solving, project management, flexibility and tenacity are the specific characteristics out of our set list I'm largely focused on. Character permeates throughout the candidate's responses.

I'd give you the full list, but if one of my HR people is reading this, it may give away who I am and that would create some headaches.

Feb 5, 2014

@SSits, I have been dinged for a couple phone interviews recently and a lot of the time, I feel as though the interview doesn't go or play to my strengths. They usually start with asking me about myself and then we go from there. I'm a D1 athlete who walked on to the team and earned a contract and scholarship after one year and now I'm a leader of a team of 6-7 guys and we're all from different countries. I feel as though that has taught me a lot about teamwork, leadership, hustle and hard work but almost no one asks me anything about it. Instead they focus on other things.

If they ask me for my work experience in the future, should I redirect the conversation as you mentioned? "Experience A was great but I really feel like Experience B is a greater experience" ?

Thanks for doing this btw

Feb 5, 2014

You have a valuable perspective, but you got pretty close to ruining my idea of a firm handshake. Haha. Good stuff regardless.

Feb 9, 2014

Yes, definitely redirect them.

Feb 5, 2014

Thanks man. I'll do that from here on out

Feb 5, 2014

Challenge re: the reasons people conduct superday interviews -- and yes, I'm glad I don't work for your firm. I run a >$100mm business with a team of 5, work 6+ days a week and rarely am home before 8, yet I volunteered for 3 superdays this season, have been on campus recruiting multiple time this fall, and have met/had conversations with more than half the candidates we are bringing up for that target's super day.

At my firm, all superday interviews are conducted by MDs and SVPs, no exceptions. We invest time, b/c no matter how green you are now, you are the future of our business. And while you'll barely make a contribution before 2018, I/we recognize that we need the gray matter between years down the road to help grow the firm (whether it's solely b/c I want my deferred comp paid out whole or b/c I actually give a rat's ass about how the firm performs/treats its clients is debatable, but frankly most of the time it's the latter).

While I get it that the jr rainmaker's in waiting on the board are fighting for just one internship (more if they're golden), at the end of the day, the interviews are two-way, and you would be wise to remember that throughout the process. And while you think you need X and Y brand, desk, opportunity, etc the fact of the matter is that you will learn, develop, more greatly value a role at firm/on a team where you are around people who sync with from a values and culture basis -- much of which is on show from the firm throughout the on-campus recruiting process and interviews.

Feb 5, 2014

Another great post! Can you tell us more about the conversations you have with your fellow interviewers when discussing which candidates to bring back for the next round? What are some qualities/things mentioned when comparing candidates and how one quality may triumph another candidate's quality?

Feb 5, 2014

this is great, thanks a lot!

Feb 9, 2014

@Shoeless - We have similar ranked interviewers at our superday. My summary was from a first round SA process, where we were whittling down the candidates screened by HR. Aim of round #1 is to produce a shortlist who can be interviewed at the following superday.

I noted that we were round #1 in the intro to my post, but I'll go back and make that clearer, as there it's a long post and that doesn't stand out much, and is an important point.

Also, I do appreciate that many of my comments may make me sound callous, but that's not how I behaved in the interview. We were very aware that we were marketing our bank and, even if we were convinced in the first minute that a candidate wasn't right for the job, (a) the session was still an opportunity to do him/her justice and perhaps be proven wrong and (b) the session was still an opportunity to market our bank, create pro-bank sentiment that would convice his/her friends who may receive offers from us to choose us.

In an ideal world for me, I would follow up with some of the candidates who we didn't send through to the next round to give them tips on how to do interviews better. I would do that, but for HR policies/legal liability meaning I can't. The best I can do is a somewhat callous post on WSO for a broader audience.

(PS as defensive as this post may sound, I appreciated your comment, rethought how I'd presented my original post and think it's a very useful counterview for readers who may read my OP and think that all interviewers are time-poor BSD-wannabees)

Feb 5, 2014

@SSits also for a phone interview, how do you want to come across? I know it's a fine line between being cocky and confident and I want to be enthusiastic but not overly so. It's just tough to gauge what the interviewer is feeling or thinking over the phone and a lot of people advise finding a common thread between your interviewer and yourself but that's kinda hard to do with a complete stranger isn't it?

Feb 5, 2014

First of all, these are great posts, thanks for taking the time to write them.

I was wondering, what do you recommend as a way to follow up after the interview that would make more of a *good* lasting impression than an e-mail but is not quite 'stalky' like connecting on LinkedIn is? I've heard that mailing a handwritten note is good, but I think this might come across as too personal? If it could even be read given my awful handwriting, that is...

Feb 9, 2014

@danin650 - My view is that lasting impressions are made at the interview. If you don't succeed there, any form of follow up will just remind the interviewer how much they don't remember you in person. If you don't want to rely on the interview alone, go for pre-impression rather than post-impression by turning up to pre-interview social events, if the firm you're going for runs them.

@NishNash14 - I've never done phone interviews as candidate or interviewer, so I'm been venturing into completely ignorant speculation to make suggestions. Sorry.

Feb 5, 2014

Nah. I completely understand. Thanks though

Feb 6, 2014

I didn't know what it was like from the other side. Thank you for that. I'll make sure to re-read these to further absorb the key points.

Feb 6, 2014

Thanks. But posts like this actually scare the shit out of me. I think all interviews are highly subjective experiences (technicals aside) based on your interviewer - some bankers are really cool and others...not so much

Feb 9, 2014

@pinkclouds - I agree on the subjectivity.

Thinking about the process - interviewers are looking at 10 - 15 resumes which all look much the same due to format conventions and constraints. So, no matter how skillful the interviewer, the productivity of the interview will largely be a function of how the candidate offers are distinguishable information which gives the interviewer the opportunity to get the information he/she wants/needs, plus how many of those opportunities the candidate can offer in the constraints of the interview time.

This was one of the frustrations I had with trying to extract examples of individual behaviour in tricky situations. When a candidate spends 1 - 2 minutes telling me a bland story about how someone wasn't pulling their weight in a team, but it was all resolved politely when the entire group confronted the slacker about the situation and everyone got an A for the assignment - that's wasted time and has an opportunity cost.

The candidate who understands what the interviewer is after (or by shere luck provides the right information) will look better as a result, other things being equal, because (i) he/she was able to go through an example which delivered the value the interviewer needed and (ii) he/she has demonstrated ability to listen and discern what someone else is actually seeking, even if the interviewer communicated that poorly.

Feb 6, 2014

@SSits, in that behavioral situation that you listed about how a team member was slacking, would it be okay to say that the slacker was a personal friend of mine, and that I had to personally speak with them to try to correct their behavior? And then when that failed, I decided to talk to the professor myself about my friend to help the team succeed as a whole?

Feb 6, 2014

awesome.

Feb 9, 2014

@newyorkstateofmind - that would be fine. I'm most interested in conflict, so I'd usually ask how your friend reacted at each stage, how you dealt with the reaction. An anecdote where you conclude that, if you had to do it again, you'd do something a little/lot different - just as viable and sounds less rehearsed.

There's no strict right answer to these questions, so I can't give a prescriptive "this is what we're looking for" in terms of the tactics you used or the results produced, other than the prescriptions that your answer should be about what you did personally to handle the situations and it shouldn't be a simple alls well that ends well story. The answers go into our general read on your personality, which is not a formulaic assessment (even though the interview may be cookie cutter in format).

Feb 6, 2014

@"Ssits" - I see. Great, thank you. Also, another big thank you for creating this thread and answering everyone's questions. I'm sure everyone really appreciates it. I hope things aren't too stressful at work.

Feb 6, 2014

Thanks so much for posting this -- very insightful. I was wondering what your opinion is on kids who are so excited that it takes a while for them to "get into the groove" (i.e., talking too fast in responses, stuttering a little bit, etc.). Is it an automatic ding, in your mind at least, going forward? I have found that I struggle a bit in the beginning in the interview, but get going after the first question or so.

Thanks!

Feb 9, 2014

@RUdyGAY - I'm sure this varies from interviewer to interviewer. For me, it's not an automatic ding at all and what I expect most candidates to be like. In your excitement, though, try to still listen to the questions, even if your answer is rushed. Someone who is excitedly rushing to answer the question, but is delivering a pre-rehearsed answer to a question I didn't really ask, is wasting too much time. I'd rather you visibly pause to think about the question and/or repeat the question or a rephrased version of it (re-verbalising it can often help cognitive processes), think about your answer, then speak rather than commence with a pre-rehearsed blurt that leaves me thinking "I have to waste a few minutes getting this candidate focused and on track".

Feb 9, 2014

PS when I talk about wasting time in my commments, I'm saying this from the perspective of a man with a limited amount of time for the interview. I don't mean it like the candidate him/herself is a waste of time or that I feel negatively to the candidate for wasting time.

I want to do you justice. I know the format does not allow for that. Frustration I have with wasted interview time is entirely directed at the constraints of the 30 minute format, not the candidate. Problem for the candidate is that, in wasting time, candidate has less time to do justice to him/herself.

Feb 6, 2014

Great post! By far the best no bullshit interview related post I have seen.

Feb 7, 2014
SSits:

Don't squeeze my hand any harder than you'd squeeze yourself intimately in the privacy of your own bedroom.

Just laughed out loud in class, thanks man...

Feb 7, 2014

How would you react to this kind of answer for that math/logic interview question:

"Honestly, I'd figure out who works in their analytics department and try to get on the phone or shoot them an email. If we have a complex problem that we know someone else has the answer to, and just might give it to us, wouldn't it be better off to take the time and try to get the correct answer from them first, rather than take the time and resources to try to develop a model that more likely than not will be wrong?"

Feb 9, 2014

@bhousten - Good answer for a flow-based desk like DCM or ECM that specialises in cut and pasting. I'd throw that in at the beginning or end as an aside to show smarts, but still give a logic display as well. If you only gave that answer, you're risking being seen as a smart arse. If you gave logic display plus that answer, I'd give you bonus points.

Feb 7, 2014

""Superdays may feature actual BSDs, so bear in mind that the idlers are usually first round interviews only.""

What's a BSD and what is an idler? Thanks

Feb 9, 2014

BSD - big swinging dick, a term popularised by Liar's Poker but which had pretty widespread use beforehand. It's the guys who have a lot of swagger within an investment bank because they bring in a lot of money and have the ego to go with it.

I think their should be a corresponding Little Swinging Dicks (LSD) description for young analysts and associates who talk big but bring home relatively small pay - the guys who are all 'bitches & bottles' type of talk and invest their entire bonus in wannabee stylish threads and PUA guides. In some of the IB forum's threads where the inflated egos get too much, we could then post "Too much LSD in this thread".

Idler - someone who is idle. Just a word I used to summarise the types of people I identified as being pulled into first round screening interviews ie those without too much work to do at the time, hence are a little idle.

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Feb 20, 2014

interesting, I feel like everything can be pretty subjective but even so I appreciate it.

"Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly"

Feb 7, 2014

SSits thank you for the info, it will help me a lot in the upcoming interviews.

I'll try my best to sell myself without wasting the interviewer's time.

Feb 7, 2014

I know OP is trying to help, but I wanted to offer the observation that he comes off as a manager or teammate whom I'm not sure I'd want to work for/with. Perhaps this is one of those situations where I'd never work for OP and he'd never hire me and he'd never work for me, but I bring it up to reassure candidates that not all first bosses on wall street will be like this guy.

If OP is finding he's having more trouble than he'd expect wooing candidates who have multiple offers or even picking up experienced hires from other firms, it's possible that he could benefit from a mellower approach to interviewing.

You can run a really mellow interview but still ask tough technical questions and get a good sense of a candidate's competence without scaring the hell out of him. In a sellside trading interview, we do need to apply some stress to see how a candidate will handle difficult situations, but one definition of bravery is having a bit of fear and overcoming it. In an interview, I am not smelling for fear and do not hold that against candidates so long as they clearly overcome that and deliver on the technicals. (Other folks in S&T might be, but this strategist is just looking for exceptional technical skills and merely the ability to keep delivering under stress- not the ability to deliver with flawless poise under stress.)

If it's any comfort to folks out there who maybe read OP's post the wrong way, there are a lot of really nice people and groups on the street. Hopefully, you'll discover that in your interviewing process. There's simply too much money to make working for NICE groups to need a group where there isn't a good fit.

I will say that people remember thank you notes. And sometimes I respond to them saying that it was nice meeting with them. Genuine quantitative talent is not always easy to find, and I at least try to treat it with the respect I give the average person I meet on the street. We work in a small industry and college kids still have feelings (Wall Street hasn't hardened them yet) and sometimes take stuff personally. So I try to be as nice as the interview process allows, and I think a lot of people follow that rule, too.

Good post and SB'd, but not all front office interviews are like this. (You do have to be able to deliver under at least moderate stress for a front office interview, but there are a lot of ways we can test that, a lot of different thresholds people set, and a lot of different traits interviewers will respect.)

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Feb 7, 2014

Thanks so much again for this amazing insight! Though I see this is a sell side specific SD interview thread, do you have any advice for those interviewing with the guy side? Especially when after performing significant due diligence about the fund, investment strategies, or who the principals of the fund leads to little to no new knowledge..?

Feb 9, 2014

@Illiniprogrammer - +1 SB for helping balancing out perceptions which the tone I've taken in my tone may trigger.

I suspect if we met in person or you observed my interview technique, I'd seem a lot less harsh than I've come across in my posting. I've made a lot of recommendations in very straightforward language on the (likely mistaken) belief that I need to penetrate through layers of indoctrination and lack of empathy based on my stereotypes of WSO readers, whereas in person I'm a much gentler, more considerate guy (or so I like to believe).

At the very least, I apologise for myself in person about as much as I've done in this thread.

Feb 9, 2014

@jai2112 - I'm coming at this from a buy-side perspective for an investment bank, where we're taking positions and putting our balance sheet P&L at risk.

BUT but but... as I've mentioned in some follow up posts, I've delivered some messages very directly here, while the interview process itself is more sympathetic and understanding than the tone of my OP.

My advice for buy side candidates is much the same as my OP. Really listen to what they are asking, avoid pre-prepared answers that are answering the questions you expected rather than the questions they asked, focus on examples of behaviour you engaged in personally which gives them evidence to extrapolate from.

For more general questions I'd suggest you look at if you're looking at buy-side PE - I'll post some next week. I've already prepared the text, but I've sent it to some candidates interviewing at a PE shop I'm fairly familiar with. Once their interviews are done, I'll post a slightly redacted version.

Feb 7, 2014

Thanks so much @SSits. I think the question about firm culture would be particularly important to bring up (as I don't know anything about the staff and structure other than that there are 2 principals), no? I'm interviewing with a FoHF that has 8B AUM and they invest in long/short equity and absolute return managers that are driven by bottom-up fundamental research and analysis. They do mention that team members come fromTiger, Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette, Cambridge Associates (one if the principals), Ramsay Asset Management, and Indus. Do you have recommendations or can you direct me towards a good forum about FoHF? Many thanks for your post again, and wish you the best of luck with your interviews !

Feb 9, 2014

i just want to know that you are an interesting person, someone i can talk to outside of bull shit "financial engineering"

so be yourself. standing out, even in the wrong way is better than blending in with the masses

Feb 7, 2014
Whiskey5:

i just want to know that you are an interesting person, someone i can talk to outside of bull shit "financial engineering"

Sorry, could you elaborate on this? I agree with you on the need for quantitative folks to have personalities, be relatable, and be fun to work with. I just am confused about this claim that financial engineering is bullshit. Financial Engineering is a set of statistical and stochastic tools to apply to a problem and a set of assumptions. (Normally these tools work great. When these tools operate off of bullshit assumptions, that's when the shit hits the fan.)

Feb 9, 2014
IlliniProgrammer:
Whiskey5:

i just want to know that you are an interesting person, someone i can talk to outside of bull shit "financial engineering"

Sorry, could you elaborate on this? I agree with you on the need for quantitative folks to have personalities, be relatable, and be fun to work with. I just am confused about this claim that financial engineering is bullshit. Financial Engineering is a set of statistical and stochastic tools to apply to a problem and a set of assumptions. (Normally these tools work great. When these tools operate off of bullshit assumptions, that's when the shit hits the fan.)

most of investment banking is bs, that is all

Feb 7, 2014
Whiskey5:

most of investment banking is bs, that is all

Maybe, but investment banking isn't financial engineering.

Feb 9, 2014

So interesting...

Feb 9, 2014

@jai2112 - FoHF is an area I have very little knowledge of. The best I can suggest is:

- Ask whether the FoHF is invited by its investee funds to coinvest directly into end-investments and, if so, what work the FoHF does to validate the investment thesis

- Ask about how broad the FoHF's LP base is, who are the major LPs, what relations with the major LPs and investment committee are like

Feb 13, 2014

If you can, I have a specific request. How do you win the key interview with the MDs?

Feb 15, 2014

I would recommend interviewees not to send thank you emails - it adds little and is a source of embarrassment unless exceptionally well written. We experience countless typos in our names, grammar and spelling errors, uselessly long paragraphs, etc.

[Author of the Investment Banking Eye Opener blog]

[Author of The Investment Banking Eyeopener Blog on ibeyeopener#blogspot#co#uk]

Feb 7, 2014
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