Saturday, June 23, 2007

Example of Commitment Questions in an Interview

Whereas capacity questions are designed to determine whether you can do the
work, commitment questions are intended to figure out whether you genuinely
want to do the work. As one insider says, “At the end of the day, the people
who distinguish themselves in banking are the people who really want to be
bankers.” Interviewers will undoubtedly ask you to outline your specific reasons
for pursuing an analyst or associate position. Our insiders report that your
ability to provide credible, thoughtful answers—substantiated by a good deal of
legwork and realistic job expectations—will definitely advance your candidacy.
“Every year, I’m surprised by the number of people who come into this
process without really knowing why they’re there, or what distinguishes one
department or one firm from the next.”
To prove that your interest is more than just a fleeting fancy, use these questions
to showcase your meticulous firm-specific research, your fervent interest in the
financial markets, and your unwavering loyalty to not just the investment banking
vocation, but the specific firm to which you’re applying.
By far, the most commonly asked commitment question is, “Why do you want
to be an investment banker?” followed closely by, “Why do you want to be a
banker at this firm?” Carefully crafted and well-rehearsed responses to each of
these questions will serve you well. Here are a few of our other favorites in this
• What other industries are you considering?
• Are you interviewing with consulting firms? Why/why not?
Popular Destinations
• If you’re offered positions with multiple firms, how will you choose among
• Why should we hire you? Why do you think you’d be good at this?
• What do you think you would like most/least about this job?
• With which other firms are you interviewing? Have any of them extended
offers yet?
• Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
• Walk me through what you think a typical day is at the office for an
• In which group (product, industry, function) do you see yourself. Why?
What They Tell Your Interviewer
Let’s face it: No one expects you to have known since the age of 6 that you
wanted to be an investment banker, or that you would have made every
significant decision over the subsequent two decades with Wall Street in your
sights. Still, you will be expected to describe your professional and personal
endeavors as a rational sequence in which this particular banking position at
this particular firm is the next logical step. You should be able to articulate
exactly what you hope to gain—both personally and professionally—from the
experience and to demonstrate your preparedness for the unique intellectual,
physical, and personal challenges of the job. As you respond to these questions,
your interviewer will be asking himself whether
• You’ve done your homework on the industry, the firm, and the specific
position for which you’re applying.
• You present thoughtful, credible reasons for wanting to pursue the
analyst/associate track.
• You have considered whether the program advances your own
personal/professional goals.
• You have realistic expectations about the roles and responsibilities of an
Popular Destinations
• You understand the extent to which the profession requires personal
• You’re likely to accept an offer at this particular bank if one is extended.
Why They Matter
Investment bankers are typically a pretty risk-averse bunch, at least when it
comes to recruiting. As such, recruiters interviewing analyst and associate
hopefuls (especially those with little or no experience in banking) may devote
much of the interview to assessing whether candidates genuinely grasp the
nature of the job and the personal sacrifices it requires. “People always act as
though they understand the long hours,” one recruiter says, “but sometimes,
you just know that the person doesn’t get it. I mean, they’ve heard all the stories
about the all-nighters, the working weekends, and the canceled vacations, but
they just don’t grasp how intense it is, and you sense that they’d absolutely hate
it.” Despite the reputation that sometimes precedes them, bankers aren’t
sadistic in this regard: They don’t want you to hate your job any more than you
do. If you don’t really understand the nature of the job going in, and you don’t
have well-articulated reasons for pursuing the job, recruiters (rightly) believe
that they should spare you the trouble of learning the hard way that banking
isn’t for you.
Not only are investment banking recruiters risk-averse (and significantly nicer
people than their interviewing personas might suggest), they’re also intensely
goal-oriented. They know exactly how many analyst and associate spots are
available, and they will take the necessary steps to ensure that those spots are
promptly filled. As such, they aren’t eager to extend offers to candidates who
will ultimately decline them. If a particular firm extends ten offers at a
particular school, only to have eight candidates take offers elsewhere, the
recruiting team at that bank (not to mention the business units that the team
Popular Destinations
serves) will find itself in a real pickle. To avoid this
administrative nightmare, recruiters will work hard
to assess the likelihood that a candidate will accept
an offer if one is extended, giving preferential
treatment to candidates who have expressed a clear
preference for their firm. This is true even in a job
seeker’s market, but when hiring activity declines,
sincere interest in a given firm will make or often
break your chances.
Rules of the Road
Rule 1: Know exactly why you want to be an investment banker.
We cannot emphasize this enough—this is the single-most frequent question
you will face. There are a number of good reasons that you may include in your
response, but don’t even think about suggesting that you consider it a steppingstone
to something else, that you stumbled across it, that you generally think
finance and Wall Street are pretty cool, or that you really want to work with
CEOs. Remember, your answers to these questions should reflect both a commitment
to investment banking and your realistic expectations for the job. Once
you’ve written it down, rehearse it until you can deliver your spiel in your sleep!
Rule 2: Examine your resume and transcript for anything that your
interviewer may perceive as a gap or inconsistency.
Don’t be caught off guard by interviewers who ask you to explain your degree
in Renaissance Language & Literature or your summer internship with Greenpeace.
These are noble pursuits, but be sure you’re prepared to convince your
interviewer that they’re not inconsistent with your interest in investment banking.
Remember, it’s not that recruiters view off-the-beaten-path experiences as less
Popular Destinations
People always act as
though they understand
the long hours,
but sometimes, you
just know that the
person doesn’t get it
. . . and you sense
that they’d absolutely
hate it.
“ ”
valuable than achievements of the buttoned-up, pinstripe variety, but they
want to ensure you’re really interested in the work and not just dabbling.
Investment banks have had far too many new hires jump ship exactly 6
months and 1 day from their start dates (1 day sooner, and the employee
would be contractually required to repay his signing bonus and relocation
expenses). Don’t expect that recruiters will make too great a leap on your
behalf; you’ve got to make it for them.
Rule 3: Remember that investment banks love to be loved,
just like the rest of us.
We can’t emphasize this point enough. If there’s one thing we hear over and
over again from recruiters, it’s that commitment to a specific bank—not just the
industry generally—always influences the choice between two (or more) otherwise
comparable candidates. If you’re interviewing for corporate finance and
M&A jobs while simultaneously exploring opportunities in equity research and
fixed-income sales, don’t volunteer this information. And we’ve said it before,
but mentioning that you’re also interested in management consulting won’t win
you many points either.
As one recruiter put it, “When people are interviewing all over the place, it
makes me think that they don’t really want this particular job that badly. If
someone tells me that he still doesn’t know whether he wants banking or
consulting, I have to remind myself not to tell him that I interviewed ten
people that morning that had already made up their minds.”

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