The “How To Prepare For An Interview” series is supported by Gillette.
It’s been your dream to be an investment banker since you picked up your first calculator. You follow the markets so closely your friends call you for information. You have a closet full of pin-striped business suits waiting to be put to use. You’ve done your homework, decided which firm you want to work for, and finally landed the big interview.Now what?
Interviews with investment banks are not known for being easy. As well as discussing your background and skills, you will have to answer financial questions and work out case studies on the spot. And you have to prove to the recruiter that you will not only be a dedicated, smart employee, but an upbeat colleague to have around for those 3 am nights in the office.
The good news is that there are concrete things you can do to prepare for your interview so you can tackle it with ease. With the advice of Barbara Hewitt, Senior Associate Director of Career Services at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, we compiled this list of what you should do to get the job.
Above all us, Barbara Hewitt tells her students that they need to go into an interview knowing why they want the job, 'You need to be able to understand the position and why you are interested in it,' she says. 'A lot of people come in and say I want to do investment banking without thinking through why they want to do it.'
To stand out among hundreds of capable applicants with similar resumes and skills, you must be able to tell the bank not only why you want to be an investment banker in general but which specific tasks are interesting to you, what you know about the job, and in what product area you are interested. The more specific you can be, the more determined and focused you will come across.
The technical part of the interview will test your knowledge of accounting and financial terms. Even if you are in an MBA program, you need to review before the interview.
Topics that might come up include financial statements and their analysis, profit and loss statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and company valuation methods. familiarise yourself with terms such as cost of capital, cash flow discounting, multiples, accretion and dilution, LBO, CAPM, WACC and Beta.
There is a good chance you will be asked to solve a case study. Pick up the Vault Career Guide to Investment Banking for practice problems.
Hewitt recommends studying current events before an interview. 'Know what is going on in the market,' she tells her students. 'Have an idea about what is happening in the economy to show you are engaged in the world.' Not only will you come across as well-rounded and aware, you will also show that you are a potential leader who knows the wider scope in which you will be working.
You will be asked about financial news and trends as well as articles related to investment banking and economic trends. Read newspapers like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times during the week before the interview.
You should also search the news for information on the company with whom you are interviewing. Know about any recent deals, mergers, leadership changes, etc.
Before interviews Hewitt recommends her students talk to alumni or someone working in the field. The goal is to learn as much as you can about the job, company, and industry so that you can be better prepared for your interview and impress the recruiter with your research. Do not underestimate how people talk within a company; if you impress one person you meet, the word can easily get back to the person who is considering hiring you.
In addition to reaching out to alumni and friends who work in banking through email and phone calls, you can also use social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. You should search for professional networking events in your area and ask people in the industry to take you along to after-work drinks or parties.
Hewitt has very strict guidelines for how to dress for an interview in investment banking: 'Very professional.'
Dress in business formal which means tailored suits with a neutral coloured shirt and no ornate jewelry or accessories (watch those belt buckles). Women can wear pants or skirt suits but if you choose the latter, stockings or pantyhose are a must.
In addition to clothing, take great care with your appearance. Your hair should be groomed and tidy and unruly beards should go. Also, take out any nontraditional piercings.
The person interviewing you will ask you questions about your resume so know everything on it. Be prepared to discuss work experiences from your past as well as any extra-curricular or leadership opportunities you have held.
Look out for potential problem areas and prepare a response. Hewitt tells a story about a girl who was asked about her relatively low G.P.A. during an interview. She got the job because she calmly explained how she was working while studying and dedicating her efforts to constructive purposes, rather than simply making straight As.
Also, if you list any hobbies (wine tasting, skiing, travelling, etc) on your resume be prepared to discuss them. You never know - you're interviewer might share the same interests.
In addition to working out sample technical problems and knowing why you want the job, you should also practice answering questions that are likely to arise in the interview.
While sounding rehearsed and memorized is bad, having an idea of what you want to say ahead of time is a very good thing. Click here for a comprehensive list of questions you should practice answering.
Staging a mock interview is very helpful in preparing for your interview. If your career service does not offer this, ask friends or family to play the role of interviewer. Go through the process as if it is the real thing, and ask for feedback afterward. Review any questions you fumbled over and practice again!
Hewitt says there are there are two situations where people get flustered in interviews: The first is in a situation where they do not know an answer. The other is when an interviewer seems abrasive.
If you don't know an answer to a question Hewitt recommends admitting that you are at a loss but then responding, 'I am happy to get back to you.' You can then email the interviewer later with your comments.
If an interviewer seems aggressive or flat-out mean, Hewitt says, 'Do not let them get under your skin.' She's had recruiters tell her they wind up students just to see how to act under pressure. There are also situations where the interviewer is just having a bad day and it isn't about you at all.
At the end of the day, Hewitt says that every interviewer is looking for 'someone who will be a good colleague.' After all, you will be working very long hours side by side with this person for years to come.
Therefore be yourself and don't be afraid to let your personality shine through. Also, show an interest in the person who is interviewing you. Ask questions about their background, what they like about the job, what they do on a day to day basis. He or she will appreciate the attention, and you are more likely to establish a positive connection.
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