James Valentine, the Principal and Founder of Analyst Solutions says 80% of equity research lacks insight, a conclusion derived after closely interviewing about 40 portfolio managers from Tokyo, Singapore, London and New York City. Wrong recruitment and misaligned work portfolio is often the reasons. It is as much the responsibility of the recruiter as it is yours to get hired for the right research position.
If you are applying or if you are already called for equity research interviews, preparation and presence of mind will land the job in your wallet.
FinanceWalk will ‘walk you’ through each step of the equity research interview process. Do note that it is not necessary for equity research companies to replicate the same process. Minor differences will happen but we have got the basics covered. While you are at it, check the equity research salary guide.
The Equity Research Interview Processes
Ideally, any equity research interview consists of four-steps. These are:
- Initial Screening
- Interview with Analyst / HR
- Financial Modeling Tests
- Interview with Equity Research Head
Let’s review each step in detail and see the nature of questions asked in every round.
1. Initial Screening
The first round is the screening process. This is either conducted by a recruiting agency or HR personnel from the company. The idea is to develop a candidate profile and there are some fixed parameters of selection.
You should be ready to answer questions inquiring the reasons of choosing equity research career and how capable you think you are to contribute to the company. Questions are asked to understand the behavioral profile of the candidate, your mental setup, attitude, whether you can handle stress, job responsibilities and criterias.
For a fresh graduate, this stage ends with behavior-based questions but if you have experience, expect questions on past work profile, skills and knowledge. Fresh graduates can also look into equity research internship opportunities.
Some examples of questions asked in this stage are given below:
- Background and an introduction.
- Reasons to join equity research field.
- Scope of equity research in the next few years.
- Your 5-year career plan.
- Previous job experience details (optional).
- Equity Research Basics.
The answer to these questions give recruiter an idea if you are good fit for the organisation.
2. Interview with Analyst / HR
Any interview is less about future relationship with the organisation but more about whether thinking and attitude aligns with future boss or not!
If you have reached this stage, it means you have triumphed over hundreds of other applicants and shortlisted to interact with the Analyst Head or a specialized HR personnel.
You are expected to display insights on equity research, future career plans, skills and experience in research and the reasons for choosing a specific industry / sector. The questions might seem similar to stage one but the intent is to probe deeper to understand your inclination, passion and devotion to work in equity research.
Questions on equity research industry happenings and your knowledge-testing as a potential analyst or researcher will be asked.
Some examples of questions asked in this stage are given below:
- Reasons for joining equity research sector.
- Current equity trends.
- Explaining your personal portfolio.
- Your portfolio performance in the last couple of months.
- Pitching a stock. (Must Read: Learn to pitch stocks like a pro)
- Your levels of devotion and dedication.
- Your career hopes and expectations.
- Reasons for joining this particular equity research firm.
- Explaining any failure and how you overcame it.
- Process of evaluating company stock.
Look at the nature of questions. First, you are tested about your motives for joining equity research and second, you are checked whether you are a “perfect fit” to work in that equity research firm and the analyst interviewing you.
Never try to fake knowledge and skills. The interviewer is experienced and will be quick to catch a gaffe. Say only what you are sure and confident about. If you do not know something, be honest about it rather than try to cover it up.
3. Financial Modeling Tests
Whether you are asked to undertake financial modeling tests depends on experience. A fresh graduate is often hired based on theoretical knowledge of equity research and Excel, and rest is on-the-job training. For experienced researchers, financial modeling tests are mandatory.
The purpose is to evaluate knowledge and problem-solving skills. Nature of test depends entirely on the analyst. They are usually one to three hours long and the time is notified in advance. Sometimes, the equity research firm may offer “take home” tests where the test is emailed with a 3-hour submission time.
Some questions or situations you encounter in this stage will resemble the following:
- A lot of incomplete and inaccurate financial statements are given and you are asked to present a solution.
- A hypothetical company and its financial details are given and you are asked to prepare financial statements based on the same.
- A hypothetical or real company details are given and you are asked to do valuation using various methods.
- A huge set of data is given and you are asked to analyse and present the data in charts and graphs.
- A press release is given and you are asked to summarize it in 3-4 points for the analyst.
- Details about an M & A deal are given and you are asked to evaluate whether the merger is dilutive or accretive for the company.
This stage ascertains your technical and practical knowledge of equity research. It tests whether you are able to handle financial statements and valuations smoothly. You are expected to know about financial statements, valuation concepts, accounting principles and have working knowledge of Excel. Take a look at our detailed guide on becoming a world class equity research analyst.
4. Interview with Equity Research Head
There is a 90% chance of getting the job if you are called for the last interview round. Some experts say this stage is mere formality because you have already been tested and cleared but other says it is equally important.
You should take it seriously. The duration is no more than 20-30 minutes generally and you have to work hard to impress the Equity Research head. The focus is not on answering behavioral questions but on your perception and knowledge about the company you are about to be offered employment.
It is similar to the first interview stage where you are again asked about your background, skills, knowledge, career vision, reasons for joining that company and also, your enthusiasm and self-motivation should reflect upon the research head.
An equity research interview is tough. Each stage is different, necessitating different kinds of preparation, and you have to clear each step with élan. You can also check out preparing for analyst job.