UG Recruiting Part II: The first round interview

Mod Note (Andy): #TBT Throwback Thursday - this post went up in 2011 and it follows from Part I here.

Since many people have already have or are soon having first round interviews, I figured I'd accelerate this series. So rather than posting after we finish conducting first rounds at X Target School. Obviously it will be a slightly different perspective, but hopefully it will be more useful for the prospective monkeys with time sensitivity.

So lets kick it off. Of the candidates we selected for interviews, you could probably categorize them into 3 buckets based on how it was decided that they got an interview.

1. The Definite

Strong resume, finance/economics major; if they live up to their resume and come off as sociable, a superday is theirs for the taking

2. The redemption

This candidate made alot of sense on paper, but there was just something off about them... maybe they are a bioengineering major with a 3.8 GPA thats been interning in finance since sophomore year, but there's one other aspect of their resume that makes us question their commitment to finance vs. say med-school. They need to address that one concern. They could redeem themselves by answering a pointed question about their major and the other factor by saying "well i've always heard you dont need a finance degree to work in banking, so I really wanted to learn more about biomedical-engineering since I've always found it fascinating. I've always been passionate about finance, so I've worked on those skills as well through my internships, following the markets and figured Im really passionate about finance, so I figured college is the perfect opportunity to learn more about BME, plus the coursework is really quantitatively rigorous which I think has made me very comfortable working with numbers."

That answer, IMO would be perfect. Because #1- the candidate accurately zero'ed in on what the interviewers concern is; #2- they communicated that their decision was very well thought out; and #3- they affirmed their strong interest in banking and supported it by citing the finance internships and EC involvement which has helped cultivate and strengthen that interest.

If i got this answer I would #1- be impressed and satisfied, #2- think they are very mature and in tune with what they want to do and #3-admire their interest in something non-banking, and perhaps think they would probably be a good fit for a healthcare group. If you're interviewing at a boutique that doesn't have a healthcare coverage group, the last point is obviously not as valid.

3. The up-hill battle

This guy essentially squeaked by despite the fact that several people on the committee were underwhelmed because someone else was championing for them for whatever reason. They would really have to wow me to make it to the superday.

Considering the response I got from Part I of the series... lets keep in mind your goal from reading this thread IS NOT to pepper me with your stats and the extra-ordinary circumstances that made you less than stellar on paper. Its to realistically say "this is the bucket I would most likely be perceived to be in, this is how I need to approach my interviews".

Onto the interview itself

My first question is generally "what is an investment bank?" Someone who can't answer this question is an auto-ding. A lot of candidates try to "wow" the interviewer and over complicate things... this is pretty simple answer and the best way to wow an interviewer is with a short, pithy and simple answer. So what is an investment bank? "Its a financial institution that essentially creates markets by connecting buyers and sellers, and risk and capital. At a very high level, there is a sales and trading business and an investment banking business. And from what I understand, the investment banking division is structured into products (e.g. M&A, Leveraged Finance, ECM, DCM) and industries (e.g natural resources, consumer products, financial institutions)." Thats an A answer, IMO.

Next you've established you know what banking is, why do you want to do it? Why do you want to do it at JPMorgan, GS, CS, Jefferies? The answer is not "because JPM is one of the best banks on the street." It should be well thought out and as much as possible unique to the bank. What I always did was network within that bank before my interview and re-gurgate the same answers I got when I asked my contacts why they joined that bank. Most banks have a few one liners on why they are special... be smart and know how to use those to your advantage. DO NOT read off Goldman Sachs top 10 principles as the reasons you want to work at GS. Do use one of the less cheasy one of those to put in your own words a theme you can say you've observed that sets them apart and makes you want to work there over other banks.

I don't really have the time or willingness to hold your hand through each and every interview question, but the above few questions are the most critical at this stage for all candidates.

To do well during superday you need to

1. prove you're a smart and driven overachiever
2. demonstrate you understand what banking is and why you want to do it
3. intelligently explain why you want to do it at my bank
4. cite examples of how you are a leader
5. you are a fast learner and are OCD with details/not making mistakes
6. you are a dedicated, reliable and mature hardworker

One of the key things here is intelligence and maturity. And that is communicated by someone who can accurately zero in on weaknesses in their candidacy and address them. I've always tried to preemptively address them , but if you got an interview, most likely the interviewer is going to poke and prod and try to understand if there is an explanation behind any weakness/questions in your candidacy, so they don't even have to be preemptively addressed.

As an interviewer, in addition to the above, I'd like to feel strongly that the candidate would accept an offer if given one, would be a good intern, would be likely to accept a full-time offer if given one, would be enjoyable to work with.

You don't know even a 10th of what a first year analyst 3 months on the job knows, so don't try to wow anyone with specific technical info. If you don't have a VERY firm grasp of everything on your resume, thats a pretty big black eye on your candidacy. Even if I ask you about your Model UN participation and your answer seems flaky. Everything you have done should come off as VERY WELL THOUGHT OUT. That doesn't mean you can't admit to not having made any mistakes, but when you made the decision it was well thought out. Then after the fact you realized X mistake and learned from it.

Another aspect that I did not address... is grooming. in the past 3 weeks I've heard about candidates being dinged for sloppy hair (needed a haircut), sweaty palms, lack of enthusiasm, lack of interest in anything other than finance/banking. You don't need to buy expensive clothes but you do need to be cleanshaven with a fresh haircut, wearing appropriate, properly fitting clothes. If you need an explanation on what appropriate clothes are for a banking interview at this point in the game, then consider yourself already dinged.

Next part to follow after first rounds. I may break it up into 2 parts... one to give examples of what went well/didn't go well during first rounds, for benefit of those who have not yet hand them. And second the superday.

Comments (30)

Jan 31, 2011

one quick question--now i know a lot of this is aimed at OCR, but for those who are at non-targets and had referrals to get first round interviews, are they generally automatically pushed into group 3, or is it completely dependent on the resume in terms of what group (i.e. say someone from Boston College had the same resume as someone from Yale, are they automatically in group 3 because it says BC not Yale, or would they then be put in the same group as the Yale kid because the resume is impressive+the referral)

Jan 31, 2011
Fahmie25:

one quick question--now i know a lot of this is aimed at OCR, but for those who are at non-targets and had referrals to get first round interviews, are they generally automatically pushed into group 3, or is it completely dependent on the resume in terms of what group (i.e. say someone from Boston College had the same resume as someone from Yale, are they automatically in group 3 because it says BC not Yale, or would they then be put in the same group as the Yale kid because the resume is impressive+the referral)

In my opinion, once you get an interview, its more or less a level playing field.

But there is still a difference between a 3.7 at Adelphi and a 3.7 at Princeton. Aside from that there is a psychological aspect (pedigree disadvantage). But if you make an interview, and you really wow them, doesn't matter what school you're from.

And AGAIN, each person involved in the recruiting process does not get a handbook that perscribes these 3 bucketing stratifications, or a 3.7 GPA cut-off etc... This is meant to give you an idea of how the system very generally work by giving you an insider's perspective. The methodology and thinking vary greatly from person to person. You're completely missing the point by getting caught up in all these details and not grasping the high-level themes. I guess if you're not ready/not up to snuff, it doesn't matter if you get to sit in on all your competing candidates interviews, you'll likely still not quite get it. (not directed at you specifically, but at most of the prospective monkeys that are completely missing the point of all this)

Jan 31, 2011

Thanks, Marcus. Could you shed some light on how interview conversations should typically flow? I'm always afraid of the Q&A sounding too rehearsed, but on the other hand IB interviewers probably expect good candidates to have prepared their responses to at least the most common questions. Or, does interview style vary too much to predict?

Jan 31, 2011
swagon:

Thanks, Marcus. Could you shed some light on how interview conversations should typically flow? I'm always afraid of the Q&A sounding too rehearsed, but on the other hand IB interviewers probably expect good candidates to have prepared their responses to at least the most common questions. Or, does interview style vary too much to predict?

My most successful interviews have been where they went more like conversations. This is usually a function of the interviewer, how prepared you are, and how confident you are.

Personally, there is a difference between memorizing interview answers and studying for interviews, mock interviewing and knowing your shit so you can effectively zero in on what an interview question is trying to figure out.

    • 1
Jan 31, 2011

Marcus, you are in my mind the stereotypical investment banker. I'm really glad you wrote this. I am definitely not banking material and I don't think I would want to be.

Thank you very much for this series.

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Jan 31, 2011
surferdude867:

Marcus, you are in my mind the stereotypical investment banker. I'm really glad you wrote this. I am definitely not banking material and I don't think I would want to be.

Thank you very much for this series.

There is no "banker material." I, myself don't fit the bill of what qualfies one for an interview and beyond. The process is to a large degree arbirary. But with such a large pool of candidates, the process is initially blind and the proxies generally used are a good way to narrow down a pool of candidates.

The reason I put all this up is because I'm trying to illuminate the process for the people out there like me don't fit the bill. The kids who do check all the boxes are likely already in the know and the benefit my posts offer them is minimal. They've already learned all this stuff from OCR, information sessions, networking with the sea of alumni out there, etc...

The whole point of all this is not defining a "banker material", its establishing that there really is no such thing. If you're of above average achievement and are hell bent on getting into banking, you can. If you read such things and immediately start feeling sorry for yourself and sing the "I didn't want to be on your team anyway" song, its pretty clear why you're having such a hard time getting into banking.

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Jan 31, 2011

does the interviewer have any weight on the offer decision after you make it to your super day? If he/she really likes you can she pound his/her fist for you after your superday? or are his/her opinions irrelevant after you make it to the superday?

Jan 31, 2011

Great post, Marcus, look forward to the follow-ups!

Jan 31, 2011

if the first round is all technical and you get a single question wrong, how boned are you?

Jan 31, 2011
fuzzmonk894:

if the first round is all technical and you get a single question wrong, how boned are you?

I would like to know this as well.

Jan 31, 2011

can someone link me to part 1 of this series?

Jan 31, 2011
equity_player:

can someone link me to part 1 of this series?

Dude, do 2 minutes of work and find it.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

    • 1
Jan 31, 2011
equity_player:

can someone link me to part 1 of this series?

you are an idiot

Feb 1, 2011
equity_player:

can someone link me to part 1 of this series?

And you want to work in banking? Do you want me to turn on your computer, log in and open excel for you, also?

The answer to your question is 1) network 2) get involved 3) beef up your resume 4) repeat -happypantsmcgee

WSO is not your personal search function.

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Jan 31, 2011

I am truly thankful for all of this insight.

I have heard putting technical skills on a resume could be a disadvantage because the interviewer could ask some very tricky questions and try to stump the interviewee. Have you noticed it to be true from your experience?

If it is true, how should one present relevant skills without coming off as a know-it-all or, on the flip side, how should one present basic understandings of technical skills without coming off as a try-hard?

Thanks.

Jan 31, 2011
Ske7ch:

I am truly thankful for all of this insight.

I have heard putting technical skills on a resume could be a disadvantage because the interviewer could ask some very tricky questions and try to stump the interviewee. Have you noticed it to be true from your experience?

If it is true, how should one present relevant skills without coming off as a know-it-all or, on the flip side, how should one present basic understandings of technical skills without coming off as a try-hard?

Thanks.

interested in this answer as well. what is the best way to prove interest/some knowledge and confidence without coming off as cocky and then getting blitzed by technicals?

Feb 1, 2011
Fahmie25:
Ske7ch:

I am truly thankful for all of this insight.

I have heard putting technical skills on a resume could be a disadvantage because the interviewer could ask some very tricky questions and try to stump the interviewee. Have you noticed it to be true from your experience?

If it is true, how should one present relevant skills without coming off as a know-it-all or, on the flip side, how should one present basic understandings of technical skills without coming off as a try-hard?

Thanks.

interested in this answer as well. what is the best way to prove interest/some knowledge and confidence without coming off as cocky and then getting blitzed by technicals?

Is it an advantage to list experience with such analysis or is it implied?

"You Want details? Fine. I drive a Ferrari, 355 Cabriolet, What's up? I have a ridiculous house in the South Fork. I have every toy you could possibly imagine. And best of all kids, I am liquid."

Jan 31, 2011

First round is never all-technical, its all fit. You MAY get a technical if you're a finance major or your resume implies you should know. The reason for the technical is not because if you can't answer it you're not capable of doing the internship.

Its USUALLY because the interviewer is thinking "ok, he put this on his resume (e.g. "DCF analysis on X company"), so he better be prepared for me to poke around a bit. So given the above circumstance, if you put something like "ran a DCF on X company" or something simliar and you're asked "What is EBITDA?" or "how do you get to FCF" and you get it wrong, thats most likely something thats pretty hard to recover from.

Feb 1, 2011
Marcus_Halberstram:

First round is never all-technical, its all fit. You MAY get a technical if you're a finance major or your resume implies you should know. The reason for the technical is not because if you can't answer it you're not capable of doing the internship.

Its USUALLY because the interviewer is thinking "ok, he put this on his resume (e.g. "DCF analysis on X company"), so he better be prepared for me to poke around a bit. So given the above circumstance, if you put something like "ran a DCF on X company" or something simliar and you're asked "What is EBITDA?" or "how do you get to FCF" and you get it wrong, thats most likely something thats pretty hard to recover from.

I had a Citigroup first rounder where it was all technical. They asked me to walk through a DCF, what an LBO is, etc. and I got the very last question (super easy) wrong. 'what part of the cash flow statement is interest expense in?' AND they called me at 8 pm on a monday after a tough day of work so i was pretty hammered and im pretty sure they could tell i was intoxicated... what does this mean for me?

Jan 31, 2011

Marcus how prepared are you in general for each candidate?

I've gone into superdays where they have literally told me they just got the stack of resumes that hour or quite recently. It seemed like they just read company names of my internships or activities.

I assume for 1st rounds you had some hand in choosing the candidates, so know what you want to ask, yes?

Jan 31, 2011
GOB:

Marcus how prepared are you in general for each candidate?

I've gone into superdays where they have literally told me they just got the stack of resumes that hour or quite recently. It seemed like they just read company names of my internships or activities.

I assume for 1st rounds you had some hand in choosing the candidates, so know what you want to ask, yes?

If you are from a target, the person most likely had a hand in picking your resume for first round (although I don't think a person would remember specifics about a lot of the resumes unless something really stands out). If you go to a non target and are getting interviewed by someone besides an alum, they most likely read your resume 5 minutes before. Generally, HR sends them an email with your resume and they will make sure the resume is there and only really look at it before they call you.

Jan 31, 2011

great post. thanks for this... need to revise my formulas again :\
lol at "wheres part 1"

May 3, 2011

.

Feb 1, 2011

please make part 3 before thursday/friday! =]

Feb 1, 2011
ambition56:

please make part 3 before thursday/friday! =]

preferably tomorrow, ive got a superday coming up

Feb 1, 2011

Your post was really helpful. Thank you.

Feb 1, 2011

Your hands-on experience is very seldom a proxy for if you can hit the ground running. Its assumed and is almost always the case that nothing you've learned in the past is particularly useful or accurate (since very little of it is from practical/quality work experience).

This is just 99% a proxy for interest in finance. I wouldn't go into anything into too much detail which you don't have mastered. As I sit here now, I thought I had DCF/valuation and accounting mastered when I was in college, and I would have gotten demolished if I tried to imply that on my resume through specific technical buzz-words.

IMO, so long as your resume is strong enough to get you interviews, I'd personally downplay it, that way in your interview you can outshine your resume.

Feb 27, 2018

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