Saturday, June 23, 2007

Graduating with your undergraduate or MBA program

Does this sound familiar?
You’re heading into the final stretch of your undergraduate or MBA program at a
top school, and you’re excited about the vast stretch of open road that lies ahead.
You’ve heard strange but wonderful stories about the world of investment
banking, and you’re intrigued by the prospect of checking out this extraordinary
universe for yourself. You’ve never been one to look before you leap, so you do a
little bit of research before you set off. You’ve read WetFeet’s Insider Guide to
Careers in Investment Banking, followed by Beat the Street: Investment Banking Interviews.
Armed with the sage advice in each of these guides, you’ve attended company
information sessions, trawled through banks’ websites, and spoken to friends who
currently hold the highly coveted banking roles that you’ve heard so much about.
You feel as though you genuinely understand what you’ll be doing on a daily basis,
the sacrifices the job demands, and the opportunities it affords.
You feel certain that you’re well on way to securing your spot. All of the recruiting
media that you’ve seen so far suggest that every investment bank is literally steps
away from world domination (e.g., “We are a global, multi-trillion dollar corporation
whose rapid growth and international presence are unmatched by any of our
competitors.”) and suggests that you, the candidate, are crucial to its very survival
(e.g., “We depend on people for our success—people like you—smart people with
ideas—ideas that can change the world.”). On-campus information sessions that
you’ve attended seem to confirm this belief; the recruiters representing each
company insist that they are simply looking for bright, motivated people. Buoyed
by recruiters’ encouraging words, you’re ecstatic when you’re invited to interview.
You arrive at the career center—well prepared to discuss how your experience in
Interview Roadmap
pizza delivery relates to investment banking—and bang: You’re deluged with
questions about how you’d value a Manhattan skyscraper and what exactly you
think you’d be doing as an investment banker anyway. As you leave the meeting
with the image of the interviewer’s derisive sneer etched in your memory, you can
only wonder what happened to their insistence that they were only looking for
“bright, motivated people”?
Now, take a deep breath and relax! Chances are, none of this has even happened
to you yet, and even if you’re terrified that it might, WetFeet is here to help! The
good news is that although investment banking interviews have been known to
catch the unprepared candidate off guard, they’re perfectly manageable for people
like you (smart people—people who do their homework, people who want to do
fascinating work). For all the tall tales they’ve engendered, investment banking
interviews tend to be fairly predictable and relatively consistent from one interview
to the next. As one insider put it, “Two hundred thousand people have had this
job over the past 10 years. There’s no secret to what it takes to be successful or the
issues that interviews are likely to focus on.”
Beat the Street II is a companion volume to Beat the Street. It provides more detailed
explanations of the types of questions you’re likely to encounter, along with a list
of recruiters’ all-time favorite questions in each category. At WetFeet, we believe
that you’ll respond to tough questions more effectively if you know what your
interviewer is really getting at with each one. For each category of question, we’ve
compiled a list of specific skills and attributes that the interviewer will be seeking
in your response, as well as a brief review of why those characteristics are so
important for a successful investment banking career. Finally, we’ve prepared some
sample questions that will almost certainly arise in your interviews, along with
guidance on how you can answer them as effectively as our hypothetical
Interview Roadmap
For those of you who haven’t seen this volume’s predecessor guide, Beat the Street
provides an overview of the different areas within a securities firm that typically
hire external candidates each year: investment banking (corporate finance and
M&A), sales and trading, and equity research. It outlines the most effective ways to
conduct company-specific research, prepare your answers for the questions most
likely to arise, and anticipate differences among the first-round, second-round, and
final interviews. The guide includes a broad overview of the basic accounting and
finance principles most likely to creep up in your interviews. Finally, Beat the Street
offers examples of the most frequently posed interview questions, along with
worksheets designed to help you design effective, personalized responses.
A word about how to use this guide: As we discuss later, investment banking
interviews vary significantly depending on the background of the candidate and the
often capricious whims of the particular interviewer. Although we’ll give you the
tools you’ll need to anticipate the questions most likely to arise and we’ll advise you
on how best to formulate an effective answer, only you can craft a response that
truly highlights the particular strengths and experiences that you bring to the table.
As such, don’t get too distracted by the specific work or extracurricular experience
described by the candidates we’ve profiled (and under no circumstances should you
panic if you don’t offer the same range of experiences that they do). More important
than these candidates’ qualifications is their ability to navigate potentially tricky
questions by framing their experiences effectively. And finally, keep in mind that no
written guide can capture the intangibles like enthusiasm, conviction, confidence,
poise, and presence—all of the factors that often distinguish an extraordinary
response from a mediocre one.
With that in mind, get behind the wheel, fasten your seatbelt, and start your engine:
You’re ready to hit the road.

No comments: