Saturday, June 23, 2007

What Are Interviewers Seeking?

Similar to their counterparts in virtually every other industry, investment banking
interviewers can take an interview in a number of directions depending on the
candidate’s unique background, his or her own style, personality, and (often
times) mood on the particular day. Nonetheless, seasoned interviewers (often
senior bankers or recruiters who have watched generations of junior bankers
come and go) mention the same “critical success factors” over and over again.
Not surprisingly, demonstrated excellence in one area can often compensate for
apparent gaps or deficiencies in others. For example, if your resume, transcript,
and work experience suggest that you’ve never met a number you didn’t like,
you can expect your interviewer to place less emphasis on your quantitative
ability in the interview. Also keep in mind that certain firms, groups, and
individual interviewers assign greater relative importance to some attributes
than others.
However your interviewers choose to slice and dice them, these are the qualities
they’re looking for:
• Interest in (and commitment to) investment banking
• Intelligence
• Energy
• Exceptional stamina and drive
• Quantitative/analytical ability
• Interest in financial markets
• Enthusiasm
• Poise
• Attention to detail
• Humility
Interview Roadmap
• Self-awareness
• Judgment
• Maturity
• Multitasking ability
• Can-do attitude
• Resilience
• Confidence
• Teamworking ability
• Interpersonal skills
• Cultural fit with firm/group
The Shortest Distance?
If the list of attributes above seems like a lot to remember as you try to navigate
your way through EBITDA and DCFs (all the while minding your Ps and
Qs), take heart. We’re not suggesting that you try to convince your interviewer
that you possess all of these qualities in the course of a 30-minute interview.
Your task is much more straightforward: Regardless of the way these characteristics
add up in each candidate, all recruiters are looking for three basic things
when they interview you:
• Whether you’re capable of doing the work
• Whether you really want to do the work
• Whether they think your prospective colleagues would enjoy working with you
As a general rule, the early rounds of interviews will focus on the first two
questions, while later rounds will devote proportionally more time to answering
the third. Through our conversations with recruiters and recently hired insiders
Interview Roadmap
alike, we’ve identified five primary categories of question on which interviewers
rely to make these assessments:
1. Self-awareness questions
2. Capacity questions
3. Interpersonal aptitude questions
4. Commitment questions
5. Technical questions
Our insiders report that interviewers typically have a top-ten list (or, perhaps
more realistically, a top-three or -four list) of all-time favorites in each of the
categories listed above. We’ve compiled those favorites into a master list for
each of the five categories. But we haven’t stopped there. In each of the five
sections, we’ll also tell you what these types of questions really tell your
interviewer about you, and (in case you were wondering) how on earth they
relate to your ability to succeed on the job.
In addition to the specific attributes that these questions are intended to assess,
recruiters will be on the lookout for evidence of other qualities—otherwise
known as intangibles—throughout the entire interview. For example, do your
eyes light up with enthusiasm when you talk about discounted cash flow? Do
your answers sound heartfelt and impassioned, or is it blatantly obvious that
you’ve answered these questions hundreds of times and could probably recite
them in your sleep? Are you comfortable and self-assured talking about your
background and accomplishments, or does self-confidence quickly disintegrate
into self-consciousness as soon as you step into the interview room? Interviewers
don’t measure these intangibles through specific questions, but rather
through their well-honed intuition. Whether they admit it or not (or whether
Interview Roadmap
they’re conscious of it or not), recruiters subject you to two “tests” as you
navigate the interview:
The CEO Test
As we’ll discuss later, recruiters quickly dismiss candidates who assume that
they’ll be advising CEOs on their first day of the job or who cite CEO
interaction as the primary reason for pursuing a banking career. Nonetheless,
associate candidates will ultimately be expected to build strong relationships
with their clients, and even junior bankers are highly likely to interact closely
with the CEO or CFO of one or more clients over the course of their 2- or 3-
year analyst tenure. As such, your interviewer will want to ensure that you
wouldn’t embarrass the team or tarnish the firm’s good name if you had the
opportunity to interact with a client’s senior executives. As you answer each of
his questions, the recruiter will be looking for evidence of maturity, credibility,
judgment, tact, and diplomacy. Of course, he’ll also be assessing whether your
presentation style is polished, the extent to which you are both articulate and
thoughtful, and whether you mind your manners and observe the rules
governing interview etiquette.
The Cubicle Test
If you’ve done a fair bit of research before picking up this guide, we probably
don’t need to elaborate on this one. As we described in Beat the Street, every firm
has its own version of the Could I Get Along With This Person? test. Our
counterparts in the world of management consulting, for example, refer to this
as the “airplane test.” It goes something like this: If your interviewer were
seated next to you on an airplane for hours on end, what would happen by the
time you reached your destination? Would your interviewer want to adopt you,
or enroll in a witness protection program to avoid you? In the investment
banking ranks, the confined space in which you’re more likely (in fact, certain)
to find yourself is the cubicle, but the underlying principle remains the same.
Interview Roadmap
Even if you convince the interviewer that you possess every other attribute
critical to success at his firm, you probably won’t secure an offer if prospective
colleagues can’t imagine that they’d enjoy working with you. Investment bankers
know all too well that their colleagues—to a greater extent than deal flow,
exposure to senior management, or their firm’s “brand name”—will drive their
experience at the firm. Because of this, your interviewer will be on the lookout
for humility, generosity, approachability, friendliness, and a well-developed sense
of humor. Would you be an entertaining and sympathetic office-mate for 100-
plus hours per week? If the analyst in an adjacent cubicle broke down at 3 a.m.,
just as you were packing up to go home, what would you do? Would you stay
the extra 2 hours to help him out, even if it means sacrificing precious sleep? A
strong team orientation (and a generally positive attitude) is of critical importance
in banking, and recruiters have a sixth sense for detecting it during

1 comment:

Career Salah said...

very good!
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