The Dos and Don'ts of I-Banking Interviews

Posted by The Editors on June 17, 2011

There are a few interview best practices that transcend boundaries of interview question category, context, and scope. Keep the following guidelines in mind regardless of the particular questions that interviewers lob your way.

Don't Ramble
If you do, you're considerably more likely to lose your way-and to exhaust your interviewer in the process! One insider recalled his very first Super Saturday interview with two senior vice presidents of Goldman Sachs' M&A group. After the 30-minute interview was over, one of the bankers followed the candidate out of the interview room, closed the door behind her, and said, "Listen, you're going to do great here. But in your next few interviews, you have got to be more concise!" This candidate only needed to hear this well-intentioned advice once: He took a less-is-more approach in subsequent interviews, secured an offer, and spent his next three years as a Goldman analyst. It's easier for a recruiter to ask follow-up questions than it is for her to rein you back in after you've gone off on a tangent.

Learn How to Read Your Interviewer
Along similar lines, some interviews find long-winded answers particularly repugnant, while others may as well have a therapist's couch in their office for you to lie on during the interview (the former group is far more prevalent than the latter, however). Some are more intense, while others treat the interview as a relaxed, get-to-know-you session. The more promptly you can pick up on your interviewer's particular style, the better off you'll be.

Don't Ever Bad-Mouth a Previous Employer or Colleague
In fact, be wary of sounding even the slightest bit sour on your previous work experiences. Not only would doing so suggest that you're generally negative and cynical, but it would not go over well at all with notoriously image-conscious investment bankers. If you use the interview as an opportunity to vent about a previous employer, your interviewer will wonder how you'll talk about this company when you're given the opportunity at an interview, a cocktail party, or in the dentist's office for that matter. Recruiters know that it's a small world, and the last thing they need is a former employee griping about their beloved firm.

Keep an Interview Journal
It doesn't have to have a glossy leather cover embossed with your initials, and you don't even have to keep it on your bedside table. Our point is this: If a question comes up once, it's quite likely it will come up again.
Particularly if you feel you haven't answered a question effectively, take a minute or two after the interview to jot down the question and outline what you would say if given a second chance. You'll be glad you did when you hear the same question again in subsequent rounds.

Don't Fail to Answer the Question Asked
We know it sounds obvious, but it's easier said than done (particularly if you're a rambler). If you're really set on a banking career, chances are you'll have more interviews than you'd care to remember. Some candidates get so accustomed to fielding questions, they become robotic: They hear a few key words, and they're off on their unintentionally well-rehearsed spiel. Interviews will indeed begin to sound the same, but don't forget to listen to the question!

Think in Bullet Points and Key Takeaways

Not only will this type of thinking in your interview preparation stages keep you focused and concise, but framing your responses this way in the actual interview will endear you to your investment banker-turned-recruiter. Bankers love bullet points and key takeaways: If you can speak their language, they'll see you as one of their own!

Don't Lie, Embellish, or Exaggerate

Remember what your mama said: When you tell one lie, you have to tell five more lies to cover up the first one. For each of those lies, you have to tell five more, and so on. Mom was right about this one; it's hard enough to keep your stories straight through countless rounds of two-on-one interviews when you're actually telling the truth, so don't make it harder on yourself. Plus, Wall Street is a small town. Analysts at one bank are often roommates with analysts at another. Word gets around, and the truth almost always prevails in the end. Don't tempt fate.

Act Happy and Excited to Be There

We know that interviews are inherently stressful, but interviewers simply won't rally behind a candidate who seems uncontrollably nervous or just plain miserable. Keep reminding yourself that interviews are fun-when else do you have the opportunity do talk about yourself for 30 minutes straight?

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