How to Prepare before That Dream Investment Banking Interview?

Imagine if you could make one simple tweak to your resume, and see an instant result in interview calls. Last week I wrote an article on crafting financial analyst’s resume.

I hope that all of you are enjoying the series of articles I am writing which I hope will help all readers enter or make their careers in the amazing field of finance.

Recently I was surfing the Internet to see what kind of information is available for fresh graduates, where they can learn about how to approach interviews with investment banking companies.

Most of the articles I found on the Internet were about what you can do in or during the interview.

Mind you they were good articles.

They talked about how you should sit, how you should introduce yourself, how you should talk, what mannerisms you should use, tips on eye contact, how much you should talk, what kind of answers to give and other such stuff which will help you during the interview process.

But I couldn’t find a single good article which explained clearly what you should do to prepare yourself before going for the interview with your dream investment banking firm.

Basically what I want to say is – what do you do one or two days before you are going to go for your dream interview! No one really tells you that.

So I thought I’ll use my experience to write an article which will help readers who are going for interviews with investment banking firms, prepare themselves nicely for the interview.

Remember These Small Tips before You Go for Your Investment Banking Interview:

#1. Be absolutely sure why you desire this specific job

I know so many young students who come and tell me that they want to be successful investment banking professionals without really knowing why they wanted to be an investment banker in the first place.

They get enamored by the high remuneration, fat bonuses and the high fly lifestyle. This is very dangerous according to me.

Remember that you have to be able to explain to your interviewer not only why you want to be an investment banking professional but you also need to be able to explain to them which precise responsibilities would interest you the most, what you can exactly identify about the work, and also in which specific work area you are interested in.

The more precise you can explain these things to your interviewer, the more resolute and motivated you will come across to them.

So be absolutely sure why you want this specific job and be very clear about it.

#2. Your fundamentals need to be extremely clear

Remember that the technical part of your interview will focus solely on your expert knowledge of key financial and accounting concepts.

Most MBAs and post graduates feel that they know everything.

But remember my words – even though you have a post graduate degree, you must make sure that you properly revise the most important techniques and concepts before your dream interview.

Some of the most important financial topics that I think you need to brush up include the most important financial statements such as the profit and loss statement, the balance sheet and the cash flow statement.

You also need to brush up on concepts such as financial ratio analysis, remember how to calculate those ratios and also remember their meaning and utility.

You might be given some financial statements and asked to calculate some ratios in your interview.

Also you might be asked to solve some interesting case studies.

It might be a good idea to solve some good case studies on your own before going into your interview.

This will help you improve your confidence and tighten your financial knowledge.

#3. Know as much as possible about the recruiting company 

Believe me everyone is very proud of their company.

If you go for an interview at a company knowing nothing about it, believe me the interviewer is not going to be pleased about it.

It is one of the major turnoffs for any interviewer.

So make sure you go through the website of the company thoroughly and take down notes.

Check which all deals the company has been active in.

Read about those deals.

If possible talk about these deals in your interview and feel free to give your opinion on the deals.

#4. Brush up on the latest economic news and happenings

It is extremely important according to me to know exactly what is going around you – especially in the business and economic environment.

Read the newspapers thoroughly, especially the business segment.

Note down key happenings and try to think over them.

You might be asked questions over it.

You should be in a position to talk sensibly about it.

This will give a clear indication to the interviewer that you are engaged in the world of business and economics.

You should read good financial newspapers like The New York Times, The Economic Times, The Wall Street Journal, The financial Express, The Financial Times, etc.daily for a few days before your interview.

#5. You don’t need to know everything under the sun

Well I’ve been saying throughout this article that you need to read a lot and prepare a lot.

But remember one thing very carefully – You don’t need to know everything in the world!

You have every right to say – I do not know!

Remember – do not make up stuff.

You will be easily caught.

It’s better to clearly say that you do not know.

But be sure that you are clear about the things you know about.

You should be able to talk about those things clearly and should be able to provide your own opinion on it.

#6. Prepare a good answer for the ‘tell me about you’ question

Well, I really don’t think there has been any interview in this world, where the interviewer hasn’t asked the most common question in the world – ‘tell me about yourself’!

This one looks like a simple question to answer.

But believe me this question can make or break your interview.

It’s always a good idea to prepare a good answer for this question.

Do not take this question lightly.

This question gives you an opportunity to sell yourself optimally to your interviewer.

It’s an open field for you. The ball is in your court.

Prepare a great answer where you talk about your personal background, your educational background, your work experience, your hobbies, your strengths and your goals in life.

You can also talk about how you can add value to their organization by joining it.

You need to be careful not to go overboard with the answer.

Make it crisp but at the same time make it encompass everything that you want to showcase.

Most important thing is to be yourself and don’t be scared to let your personality sparkle through.

Also you need to take an interest in the individual who is taking your interview.

Feel free to ask questions about the interviewer’s experience and what they love about their work.

This will help you to establish a positive connection with the interviewer.

#7. Leverage experience of your friends and alumni

According to me it’s always a good idea to make sure that you use the experience of your friends or alumni in understanding the various facets of investment banking.

Ask them about their experiences while giving interviews with various investment banking firms.

Ask them what mistakes they made, what were the results of those mistakes, how they improved themselves, what were the questions they were asked, how long the interviews typically lasted, etc.

The whole idea is to absorb as much as possible about the work, company, as well as the industry so that you can be properly ready for your interview and influence the interviewer with your understanding and enthusiasm.

The best way to get in touch with your friends and alumni is by sending them emails or calling them on their phones.

In today’s world you can also contact them using various social media websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

You can also take help of your college professors to get in touch with some alumni that you may not know personally.

#8. Keep an extra set of formal clothes ready the day before

I know you have heard this before but remember a simple thing – Dress professionally and avoid bright and flashy clothes.

If you can, ideally keep a formal business suit ready for the interview.

A suit will make you look professional and serious at the same time.

Remember as an investment banker, you will be required to wear a suit most of the times.

Also keep an extra set of formal clothes ready the day before.

You never know when a button might suddenly fall off!

It always helps to have a contingency plan.

Further, always preferably have a nice clean shave if you are a guy and wear a good deodorant.

Hairstyle should not be too jazzy and avoid body piercings at funny places!

If you are a woman, wear business clothes such as a smart skirt or formal pants.

Avoid shiny glaring colors.

Believe me, a lot depends on how your appearance is in your interview.

Every corporation wants to hire smart attractive intelligent people.

#9. Keep calm – don’t get nervous

Another tip is to be calm and actually meditate for some time everyday before the interview.

This will help you stay camp and help you reduce nervousness.

#10. Keep multiple copies of your resume ready

A good idea is to have multiple copies of your resume ready.

You might get more than one interviewer in your interview.

Also you might unintentionally stain or tear your resume.

So it definitely helps to have more than one resume with you.

I hope you read this article carefully and follow the above mentioned points.

I promise you that this will definitely help you prepare well for that dream investment banking interview.

1x1.trans How to Prepare before That Dream Investment Banking Interview?

Special Offer from FinanceWalk on
BIWS’ Investment Banking Interview Guide

Here’s a bonus for FinanceWalk readers!

FinanceWalk has partnered with Breaking Into Wall Street (BIWS) ; and you, as a FinanceWalk reader, will get a Free $97 bonus course from FinanceWalk when you buy Investment Banking Interview Guide.

To get the bonus, sign up from this link.


What’s even better than the Interview Guide? The Networking Toolkit + Interview Guide Bundle!

With The Networking Toolkit + Interview Guide Bundle, you get these two components:

  • Investment Banking Networking Toolkit
  • Investment Banking Interview Guide

(Including all bonuses, expert support, immediate access and a 60-day Money-Back Guarantee on everything…) all for just $144 (savings of $50) Plus $97-bonus for FinanceWalk readers. These two products work great together, and I promise you – they will never be offered at a lower price than this.

Click Here To Gain Immediate Access To The Interview Guide + Networking Toolkit Bundle

Your Guide to Crack Investment Banking Interview

As a financial institution, an investment bank plays the role of assisting corporations, governments and individuals with securities (IPO / FPO) or raising capital, ancillary services, mergers, acquisitions, derivatives trading, foreign exchange, equity securities and fixed income instruments. An investment bank works in multiple functionalities.

As such, a career in investment banking is lucrative and it begins by successfully cracking the investment banking interview.

This guide is designed to help candidates with informative knowledge for clearing the investment banking interview. It assumes that the candidate possesses the necessary financial background required for the position.

However, even if the candidate does not have finance background, it is still possible to land a job in investment banking. I recommend you this article that beautifully outlines the steps and hurdles along the way.

The Pre-Interview Stage

1x1.trans Your Guide to Crack Investment Banking Interview

Preparation is the key to clear any investment banking interview. Once the elation of landing the interview subsides, it is time for some serious preparation.

1. Research the Financial Institution

A lot of candidates fail to clear the investment banking interview because they avoid researching the financial institution.

It is essential to have working knowledge about the financial institution, its activities, and what they are looking forward to in a potential candidate.

Knowledge and information about the financial institution can be gleaned from their website.

2. Research the Opening

Once the first step is accomplished, move on towards researching the role and responsibilities of the applied position.

Again, a detailed list of role and responsibilities is made available by the financial institution and it is the job of the candidate to dig deeper into the roles and prepare for the interview day. This is necessary to achieve higher success rate.

It is worthwhile to remember that the interviewer has other candidates lined up for the same position and there are time constraints too.

It is not rocket science to realize that the investment banking interview questions are going to crop up from the detailed roles and responsibilities the selected candidate needs to fulfill.

A candidate who is clear about the job’s roles and responsibilities in detail enjoys a higher chance of acing the interview.

To improve chances of selection, practice mock interviews.

3. Invest in Personal Grooming

Presentation matters.

While first impression is definitely not the last impression these days, it still matters.

Inappropriate clothing reeks of unprofessionalism. The interviewer or the panel looks into each aspect before drawing the final list of recruits and presentation features high on their list of attributes. The candidate needs to be dressed for the job.

Both male and female candidates should opt for power dressing. Power dressing imbues a sense of authority, competence and serious outlook. Never wear casual clothes and never be sloppy. Be confident and take ample rest before the D-day.

The Interview Stage

Potential candidates have lost jobs not because they lacked knowledge but due to subtle mistakes they make during interviews. It could be wrong body language, faulty manner of speaking, over confidence or lack of it and many other factors.

In the 1970’s the Journal of Applied Psychology published a seminal paper on Non-Verbal Cues in the Employment Interview where the findings revealed that social skills, the hiring potential of the candidate and motivation levels were seen by the interviewers to be closely correlated.

Let us look into the interview stage in some detail.

1. Professional Knowledge

This, as the term suggests, is all about questions related to investment banking. Candidates should expect both qualitative and quantitative questions.

Expect detailed question-answer sessions on topics like intrinsic valuation, relative valuation, cash flow analysis, case studies, financial instruments and other quantitative or technical questions. Find good resource books and papers online and do rigorous preparation.

As mentioned before, every dimension on the intended roles and responsibilities should be clear before going to the investment banking interview.

Furthermore, the candidate should focus on the resume.  If the resume mentions experience in certain segment of investment banking, get ready for detailed questioning.

Interviewers are most likely to ask foremost from the experience shown on resume and only if the candidate clears the step, it goes on further.

While the technical questions are quantitative in nature, the qualitative questions focus on understanding whether the candidate is a ‘good fit’ for the financial institution or not. Adjudging the ‘good fit’ quotient is extremely important because investment banking entails a lot of group effort.

The candidate should expect questions on leadership, experience stated in resume, the intention behind working in investment banking, expected career growth down the line and analytical competency.

2. Body Language

The overall personality of the candidate plays an important role in hireability. Par excellence performance in displaying professional knowledge will not show any results if the body language or social skills is poor.

A better body language comes with practice; therefore, the candidate needs to constantly work on his or her body language and people skills.

There are many mistakes a candidate makes unknowingly. Here is an interesting find. The US-based body language guru, Patti Wood, says: “Most hiring decisions are made within the first ten seconds of an interview”. If this is true, an interviewee has ten seconds to make a profound impression.

While ten seconds are not enough to judge the professional competence of a person, it is perhaps enough to judge the person on social skills.

If the candidate assumes powerless poses like slouching, stuttering, displaying nervousness or appearing jittery, forget cracking the investment banking interview ever.

Here, the recommendation is to assume a ‘high power pose’ few minutes before the interview begins.

A study by Harvard Business School finds that those candidates who spent few minutes assuming high power pose fared better in the interview and it increased their chances of getting hired. Another significant study of 66 students at the Columbia University produced similar results.

What is a ‘high power pose’? In short, it is an attitude. It is a positive attitude, displayed through posture, which increases the level of confidence, gives an impression of power, makes the person calm and collected – all of these features are necessary while attending the interview.

The high power poses could be standing straight and standing with feet apart and hands on the hips. Avoid sitting with crossed hands, sitting with crossed feet, crossing hands at the hips or standing with crossed feet. These are low power positions that create a negative response in the mind of the interviewer.

Furthermore, it is essential to maintain eye contact and get the handshake right.

Avoiding eye contact is always discouraged. Patti Wood says, “It is about being present and connected to the interviewer. There is research showing that the amount of eye contact an interviewee made with the interviewer while questions were being asked is a key determinant of success”.

This does not mean that the candidate should stare at the interviewee. It means that the candidate should create an environment of connection and alertness while communication and answering questions.

Similarly, there are theories on handshakes. Some studies say a higher number of handshakes improve the chances of success while other studies recommend cultural awareness before shaking hands with the interviewee.

Note what Wood says: “Physical touch is a very important piece to the interview. A handshake has been shown to be equivalent to three hours of face to face verbal interaction in establishing rapport. If you shake your interviewer’s hand, it will immediately make you feel more comfortable and more likable. This is very beneficial in an interview situation”. Shake hands with the interviewer confidently before the interview commences and after it ends.

Lastly, do not keep a ‘plastic’ face devoid of emotions. Occasional smiles are important too.

3. Ending the Interview

End the interview on a positive note.

An investment banking interview is time consuming. As the interview is about to end, take the moment as an opportunity to share doubts and questions to the interviewer. It is common to have questions about the job profile and the financial institution. This is, again, an important practice as it shows that the candidate was present and engaged throughout the interview session. The candidate should not be a passive participant. Once all the doubts and questions are clear, end the interview on a positive note. Pick up the files, shake hands with the interviewer and exit the room confidently.

As is evident, the investment banking interview is not merely about displaying the ability to crunch number and boasting analytical skills.

There are multiple other factors which collaborate cumulatively to get the candidate the desired job profile. Always remember that it is not much about the technical knowledge but factors like body language and communication skills which has a slightly higher importance.

The Post-Interview Stage

Once outside the office or building, exhale a long breath and relax. Get ready for the next round of interviews in the same manner, as explained above. If there is no conclusive response from the interviewer, follow-up after three days with a phone call rather than an email.

Any questions?

How Does an Investment Bank Work?


    Ever wondered what these investment banks actually do? Here is an article that explains in a simplified manner all that you need to know about the operations of investment banks and roles and working schedules of investment bankers. What Is an Investment Bank? “ An investment bank is a financial institution that offers […] Read more »

How to Find Investment Banking Internships

Equity Research Career

  Looking for investment banking summer internship strategies? Read on… In the last couple of years, due to global economic slowdown, there aren’t as many jobs available in the corporate world as a few years back. And investment banks are no different. These banks are holding their recruitment drives, laying off the bottom rung of […] Read more »