What should I have said?

I recently interviewed with a BB for an ER Associate position and I was asked a question that kind of caught me off guard. I was interviewing for a specific team within Healthcare and my interviewer asked me this:

"Are you only interested in this sector of Healthcare or would you be interested in some of our other coverage teams? I ask because we are actively hiring associates for many of our other teams outside of Healthcare."

I tried to play the fence as much as possible and stress that I am very much interested in the specific role within Healthcare but would be open to other sectors should the role be a better fit for me.

Was this the right response? Was he testing my focus and desire for the specific role or could he have been sincere? I forgot to mention that this was a third round interview and not just some first round interview with HR.

Comments (8)

Mar 11, 2009

yeah, it's ok-- as long as you gave good reasons for why health care is your main interest (and take the opportunity to show a bit of your knowledge about the sector). You should have tried to convince them that healthcare is the BEST fit for you.. However, as it seems you did, you should also let them know that ER is what you really want to do, and you'd be willing to work on another coverage team if that's what would be best for the team.

It could be one of 2 things--- the first is as you said, testing your focus/desire/push for the role.. The other could be that he thought you were a good candidate but wasn't sure that you'd be right for the healthcare team, and may be seeing if you'd be willing to work elsewhere within the ER department at the firm

Mar 11, 2009
Travis_The_Chimp:

I tried to play the fence as much as possible and stress that I am very much interested in the specific role within Healthcare but would be open to other sectors should the role be a better fit for me.

You did everything right except for "playing the fence." Equity research is about having conviction in your calls, and not about taking the middle of the road. Consensus is the average of what everyone believes; you don't get paid for being average.

While the general implication of what you said is fine, next time make sure you say what you're saying with more confidence. Here's what I would have said (and have said):

"I'm most excited about covering the healthcare sector because of reasons X and Y, and hopefully I've conveyed that in our conversation today. That being said, I recognize that a career in equity research covering any sector can provide me with a broad and transferable financial skill set, so if you feel that I might be a good fit for other groups as well, I'd be open to having those conversations."

Notice how it basically implies what you said, but frames it in a different tone. If you're serious about a career in equity research (or investment banking), you'll eventually see that it's not always about what you say; it's about how you say it. I think that's the nature of the sell-side.

Best of luck -- don't stress about it, the question you got isn't a deal breaker and you handled it fine. It's just a matter of making a good response into an even better one.

Mar 11, 2009
numi:
Travis_The_Chimp:

I tried to play the fence as much as possible and stress that I am very much interested in the specific role within Healthcare but would be open to other sectors should the role be a better fit for me.

You did everything right except for "playing the fence." Equity research is about having conviction in your calls, and not about taking the middle of the road. Consensus is the average of what everyone believes; you don't get paid for being average.

While the general implication of what you said is fine, next time make sure you say what you're saying with more confidence. Here's what I would have said (and have said):

"I'm most excited about covering the healthcare sector because of reasons X and Y, and hopefully I've conveyed that in our conversation today. That being said, I recognize that a career in equity research covering any sector can provide me with a broad and transferable financial skill set, so if you feel that I might be a good fit for other groups as well, I'd be open to having those conversations."

Notice how it basically implies what you said, but frames it in a different tone. If you're serious about a career in equity research (or investment banking), you'll eventually see that it's not always about what you say; it's about how you say it. I think that's the nature of the sell-side.

Best of luck -- don't stress about it, the question you got isn't a deal breaker and you handled it fine. It's just a matter of making a good response into an even better one.

Completely agree here. I also don't think you gave a bad answer, but there's always room for improvement right?

Caveat this with the fact I'm in banking, not ER. Good luck though, let us know how it goes.

Mar 11, 2009

The best way to answer this question is to first make it clear to them that you're hear to learn what you can as an analyst in IBD: modeling, selling, markets, etc.etc. All that good stuff. They want to know if you'd lose interest if you didn't get the group you wanted. I think it's ok to say you have a few fields you know well (ie I worked at a tech-focused group so I know and enjoyed the industry), but make sure you stress that it's the banking first you like, coverage second.

In fact, in this economy the more prudent answer might even not include the interests.

Mar 11, 2009
Alphaholic:

The best way to answer this question is to first make it clear to them that you're hear to learn what you can as an analyst in IBD: modeling, selling, markets, etc.etc. All that good stuff. They want to know if you'd lose interest if you didn't get the group you wanted. I think it's ok to say you have a few fields you know well (ie I worked at a tech-focused group so I know and enjoyed the industry), but make sure you stress that it's the banking first you like, coverage second.

In fact, in this economy the more prudent answer might even not include the interests.

but i believe he is focusing on ER.

The world has changed. And we must change with it.

I'm making it up as I go along.

Mar 11, 2009

Were you interviewing for SA, FT, or experienced associate position? This could have a major influence on how you would answer this question.

And by associate, do you mean analyst (entry level) or actual associate (such as post-mba)? Some people use these terms interchangebly.

Mar 11, 2009

I was interviewing for a FT associate role (not post-MBA), ER associates assist the senior analyst for the team, it is not equivocal to an associate in IBD. Additionally, I have no background in ER or prior experience in the Healthcare sector.

Upon reviewing the above posts I guess I really didn't spin it correctly. As Numi said, I could have framed it so that my response came off stronger, hindsight is always 20/20. At least now I know what to do in the future.

However, I did include in my response that apart from the diversity that is offered by the Healthcare sector, I am also very eager to learn as much as possible from the role such as gaining industry knowledge and valuation skills. Hopefully it wasn't a deal breaker. But in this environment, who knows.

Mar 11, 2009
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