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Investment Banking Job Interview

Street Of Walls Investment Banking Interview Training


Understanding whether you are Core or Non-Core
There is two separate interview processes that the investment banks run: one for internships, and one
for fully time recruiting. This is true for both analyst and associate hiring. Figuring out where you fit into
this interview process is extremely important many banking candidates are not aware of the
nuances.
Generally, the largest investment banks are the ones with the most structured interview processes
they have a thorough and rigid recruiting game plan each year. This differs from smaller Boutiques,
which will usually hire more on an as-needed basis because they dont have the predictable deal flow
or the financial and human resources to implement a structured recruiting program each year. The
investment banking recruiting process at larger banks is typically divided up between core and noncore college recruiting (sometimes called target and non-target). Banks have a certain number of
core (target) schools at which they interview on-campus each year; they typically allocate a certain
number of job slots from each school for their incoming analyst and associate classes.
Whatever is leftover after core interviewing constitutes the non-core recruiting; this process typically
trails core interviewing by a few months. Thus, for example, if you got Penn State you will have a much
different interview process than a job candidate from Wharton, because you will be recruiting for one of
the non-core slots in the incoming analyst class (or associate class for incoming MBA students).
The makeup of recruiting from core schools always differs by bank, but it will typically include
recruiting from the top 10-15 business and liberal arts schools in the country. Thus Harvard and the
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) will always be core schools while Indiana University and UCLA
will always be non-core.
Non-core recruiting is conducted differently. Most candidates are introduced to the process via internal
referrals and, to a lesser extent, online applications. It is a good rule of thumb that if you are a noncore candidate without an internal referral, it will be very tough to ever get noticed. Investment banks
will receive tens of thousands of resumes every year with hundreds of internal referrals. Because their
time and resources are finite, most of these candidates will not even get a first glance, let alone a
second one.
Now, compare this to the number of job slots: a typical Bulge Bracket investment bank generally hires
about 60-80 first-year analysts every year, with a majority being internship hires and students from
core/target schools. It is estimated that roughly 900 first-year analysts are hired every year in the U.S.,
with a majority of these coming from the Bulge Bracket banks. As you can se, the odds are stacked
against all of the candidates but especially against the non-core ones. While the process to get
noticed and do well is very challenging, it can be done. This Chapter can teach you how.
Breaking Down Core Recruiting
Again, core recruiting (also called target recruiting) refers to investment banking recruiting where the
banks will visit your school for on-campus recruitment. These schools are the backbone of the hiring
process and generally makeup roughly 70% of total hiring for analyst and associate programs for
Bulge Bracket banks.
Core recruiting is a very structured process and it is really important for you to understand how this
process works, if you are a candidate from a core/target school. Later in this training program we will
discuss dates and deadlines, but for now lets focus on how the overall process works. Generally, the
core recruiting process is done in 3 steps. (Steps 4 and 5 are strictly on the candidate side and dont
directly affect the banks themselves.)
Step 1: Submitting Resume/Information Sessions

The first step is applying online via the colleges Career Resources Center (CRC) and/or the
individuals banks websites. Make sure you are checking the dates/deadlines on the schools CRC
Website, because the online application process will often close weeks before interviews actually
begin! The investment banks will then bundle up the collected resumes into a book and send them
around for current investment banking employees at the bank to peruse (usually 1 st and 2nd year
analysts). Also, banks will often host information sessions on college campuses a month or two before
interviewing starts. The information sessions typically only last for a few hours but it gives candidates
an opportunity to learn more about the firm. These information sessions provide candidates a great
opportunity to stand out. Come prepared to these sessions with thoughtful questions and make sure to
follow-up with thank you emails.
Step 2: On-campus Interview
Interviewees are then selected for an on-campus interviews based on feedback from the information
sessions and their resumes. The investment banks will work with the schools CRC to schedule a time
to interview accepted candidates on-campus. These generally consist of 30-45 minute interview slots,
where candidates will meet with 1-2 investment bankers (usually Associates and VPs). There will be
both behavioral and technical questions asked so make sure to prepare for classic investment
banking interview questions beforehand.
Step 3: Superday
The third step in the core recruiting process is called a Superday (or something similar). A Superday
will typically be your final round of interviews, and it can be grueling. It will occur on-site at the bank,
and it usually lasts from about 8am to 6pm with as many as 8-12 interviews. At the bare minimum, you
will meet with at least one analyst, one associate, one VP and one MD. Plus, there will be interviews
with 4-8 others of various groups/ranks within the firm. Each of these interviews will generally last for
30-45 minutes. There is no standard interview format: some candidates might get all behavioral
questions and some might get all technical questions, so be prepared for either!
Step 4: Thank-you notes
It is essential to send a thank-you note to everyone you meet with on your Superday. This will not
make or break your offer decisions are made very quickly and a thank-you note most likely will
have little impact but it helps to develop that relationship and demonstrate respect for the bankers
time. If you get the offer and work with them, it can enhance the working relationship and even if you
do not, it can help foster an ongoing networking relationship with an individual that could be helpful
down the line.
Step 5: Hearing Back
This is the easy part. If you are getting a job offer, you will generally hear back almost immediately
(either on Superday or on the following day). If you dont hear back immediately it doesnt necessarily
mean you didnt get the offer sometimes it can take a few days but as each day passes the odds of
an offer coming decrease quite a bit. If you havent heard back within 4-5 days feel free to send the
bankers that you met a follow-up thank-you email reaffirming your interest in the position but at that
point, recognize that its become a long-shot at best.
How to prepare for Investment Banking Interviews
What is listed above is only a fraction of what you need to know for investment banking interviews.
Having been through the process and understanding how this process works, Street of Walls has
developed comprehensive guides to help with the more detailed, technical aspects of what you should
know for your investment banking interviews. In particular, be sure to see the Investment Banking
Technical Guide for further information on what can be covered in a banking interview.
Breaking down non-core recruiting

As weve established, there are over 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States alone, and
only a select few of these schools fall into what investment banks call the Core Recruiting Process.
These are typically the top Ivy League universities and business schools that are Target Schools for
the top investment banks. If you do not fall into this category, your odds do become harder, but do not
get discouraged: investment banks have established a process designed for top-talent candidates
coming from other schools. This is called the Non-Core Process.
As you might expect, this process is extremely difficult as candidates are interviewing for only a few
available positions and are competing against candidates from every other non-core college or
university in the country (not to mention the fact that students who go through core recruiting can also
participate in the non-core process).
Team members at Street of Walls have personally gone through this non-core recruiting process and
have succeeded. The purpose of this section is to detail how we did it and how you can as well.
Landing the non-core interview
Landing the first-round interview is the first major goal in the Non-Core Recruiting Process and, given
the volume of applicants, quite possibly the hardest goal to accomplish. Every year, Street of Walls
sees non-core undergrads who possess the necessary talent but who will never get the chance to
demonstrate it at an investment bank. It is possible to put in months of intense preparation for the
interviewing process in banking, only to discover that you never even got the opportunity to show off
your skills. This is why it is essential to be not only as prepared as possible, but also as connected as
possible. Candidates who have connections in the field are far more likely to get a chance to interview
with investment banks.
The first step in the process is to apply online for investment banking positions. This is a prerequisite
for every potential candidate. After you apply online, you will have your own personal login, so that you
can post your current resume and update information as it changes. Typically, investment bankers are
very focused on resumesthey will check your resume for proper formatting and content. Investment
bankers format Pitch Books on a daily basis, so even the slightest formatting error could raise a red
flag to your attention to detail. Therefore, the need is clear: make sure your resume is excellent. If you
havent already done so, please visit the Street of Walls article on building the perfect investmentbanking resume.
These days, with top job opportunities becoming intensely competitive, applying online with a great
resume, stellar GPA, and good work experience is not enough to ensure an interview. You will often
need some internal help. Generally, the best way for a non-core candidate to land a first round
interview is by having an employee at the bank refer your resume to the Human Resources
department. The higher up the employee, the better your chances of actually landing an interview.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself: But I dont know anybody in investment banking. If this is the
case, the following concept is extremely important.
Networking is a key to success for non-core applicants. Typically, university alumni are great
people to get in touch with for this. Work with your schools alumni network to find contacts that
currently work in investment banking. Dont stop there though; get in touch with every family friend,
relative, or friend-of-friend you know and see whether they know anybody that works in investment
banking that you might speak with. As soon as you feel that you have a good base of contacts, send
out emails to everyone asking if they wouldnt mind speaking over the phone about their job,
experience in investment banking, and how the recruiting process at their bank works. Most people are
more than happy to speak over the phone with someone looking for assistance in the process,
especially if they believe that person is serious about the industry and could be a good candidate for it.
Here is a good example/template for an email to help get you in a door with an associate at a bank:
Dear John,
My name is Jack and I am currently a Finance major at Penn State University. I am eager to learn
about the investment banking industry. I received your information from our alumni directory and would

love to speak with you regarding the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Summer Analyst Program. It would
also be great if I could hear your perspective on the investment banking industry and your experience
at the firm. Would you be available to either have coffee or speak over the phone for 15-20 minutes?
As a fellow Nittany Lion, I would really appreciate your help. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing
back from you.
Regards,
Jack
Penn State University
Phone: (XXX) XXX-XXX
Email: jack@email.com
This next and final step is the most crucial to receiving an appropriate referral in the non-core recruiting
process. During your calls with bankers, if you feel like the call is going well, you should politely ask
whether they would mind referring your resume to Human Resources. This question is greatly
dependent on how well the phone call is going. Most people will not refer just anybody for these
positionsthey have to feel that you are a strong candidate, and that you would fit well within the
position and the firm as a whole. When an employee refers a potential candidate, it makes them look
bad if the candidate gets an interview and ends up doing poorly. That being said, if your conversation
is going well and you feel that the banker you are talking to truly wants to help you out, you should
politely ask for a referral as demonstrated above.
I personally received 5 employee referrals at different investment banks during my recruiting process,
and I ended up receiving first round interviews at 4 out of the 5 banks. Experience has confirmed that
employee referrals are easily the best way to receive a first round interview, and if you can follow these
steps I have no doubt that you will successfully land a first round interview, just as I did.
If all goes well, carefully executing these steps will lead to a First Round Phone Interview. Much of this
process can be learned, and I will guide you through each component.
First Round: Phone Interview
The Investment Banking Phone Interview is the second phase of the Non-Core Recruiting Process.
Congratulations if you have landed a first round interview as it is the most difficult part of the non-core
interview process. You should now feel more confident, because your resume was selected from
among thousands of other hopefuls.
The next step is being successful in your first-round phone interview. Phone interviews are done for
both internship recruiting and full-time recruitingall candidates will have to go through them, with the
exception of core recruiting candidates who typically meet with the bankers on-campus for first rounds.
So how does one do well in them? Its quite simple: preparation, preparation, and more preparation. If
you are entirely ready for the questions that will be asked, you should do very well. We at Street of
Walls know these questions well, and they will help you stand out in the process; they will be
discussed in a moment.
Associates and Vice Presidents generally conduct phone interviews within the bank. What usually
happens is that the Human Resources department will give the banker 5 to 7 resumes and will tell
him/her to rank the people he/she speaks with from best to worst. Typically, only the top 1-2 people on
the list will go on to Final Round interviews (Superdays). Their primary goal is to reject candidates who
are unlikely to fit the needs of the job, because they are unprepared, do not have the right personality,
or arent serious about investment banking.
The First Round is generally less technical than the Final Round (Superdays), and is primarily used to
gauge the personality and cultural fit of potential candidates. If the candidate can hold a casual
conversation with the interviewer while simultaneously showing that he or she wants the job more than
other candidates, he or she will do very well.
Here is a sample of questions that interviewers are very likely to ask in First Round (phone) interviews.
A more detailed review of investment banking behavioral questions is described in Chapter 7.

Typical Phone Interview Questions

Tell me about yourself.


Why do you want to be an Investment Banker?
Why do you want to work at this Investment Bank?
Tell me about the classes you are taking. What are your favorite and least favorite classes?
What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
Walk me through a Discounted Cash Flow analysis (DCF)
What are the different valuation techniques?
Walk me through the major selections or line items of an Income Statement, a Balance Sheet,
and/or a Statement of Cash Flows.

One very successful technique for preparing for the First Round interview is to make use of mock
interviews. Ask a friend or, if possible, an employee at your schools Career Resource Center to help
you answer the questions listed above. Your answers can sound very different in your head than when
you actually verbalize them in front of someone else. Again, the process of improvement involves
preparation, preparation, and more preparation. Go through these mock interview multiple times;
identify where you are performing strongly and where you need to work on your responses; and do
them again and again. Once you feel confident in your ability to verbalize these answers, you are close
to being fully ready for your First Round phone interview.
The general rule of thumb in a first round investment banking phone interview is that you cannot
stumble on any of the technical interview questions that arise. The technical questions in a first-round
interview usually arent the most difficult, but you still should be prepared to answer anything. Bankers
generally like to ask these questions to gauge that you have done your homework if you stumble on
these questions, the banker is very likely to assume that you havent prepared properly, and is likely to
terminate your process with the bank right there. I went through dozens of phone interviews and kept
finding myself making small cheat sheets for questions that might be asked. I have compiled my work
into the Phone Interview Cheat Sheet found in this manual. Ive handed this down to close friends and
family who have landed full-time investment banking jobs, and all of them have said it helped
tremendously in their interviews especially the phone interview.
Assuming that you succeed in the phone interview round and make it on to the next round, you will go
on to the on-site Superday round of interviews, at the investment bank itself. These interviews will
contain a much broader set of questions and topics; all of these will be covered later in this guide.
Also, after your phone interview be sure to follow-up with a thank-you letter to the recruiter. You will
generally hear back regarding your phone interview within 2 weeks, and even sometimes within days.
In this case it does pay to send the thank you letter as soon as possible, as they are likely to receive it
before you hear back on the results of the phone interview round.
Phone Interview Cheat Sheet
First-round phone interviews are generally very predictable, and because they are conducted over the
telephone, the interviewer will not be able to tell that youre referring to reference materials while
responding. Thus it makes sense to have this sheet available during the call:

Dates and deadlines for Investment Banking Interviews


The investment banking recruiting cycle differs by bank, but interviews generally occur at roughly the
same time every year. If you miss the deadlines even by a few hours, this will ruin your chances of
interviewing at the bank for that year.
Full-time Interviews
First, lets understand when everyone comes on-board. Full-time analysts start their career in the
months of June and July and go through a two-month training program learning the basics of financial
modeling, financial statements, PowerPoint and Excel features.
Full time interviews for the next year will generally kick off ground August until October for both
undergraduate and graduate students. Full time interviewing differs by school, so figuring out whether
youre a Core or non-core candidate will beneficial here.

Internship Interviews
Interns (also called summer analysts) will come on-board during June for a 10-12 week program.
Internship training programs will generally last one week prior to start. During the last week of the
summer internship program, the banks will hand out full-time offers for next year to the candidates who
they feel will make a good contribution to the team. Generally this is a majority of the interns (80-90%)
although there will always be some who do not make the cut.
Internship interviews will generally start in January and continue into February for both undergraduate
and graduate students. Depending on where you fit within the interview cycle, you will either be
interviewing on-campus or through a first-round phone interview.
Off-Cycle Recruiting
The smaller boutiques and middle market investment banks usually have a less structured interview
process in terms of guidelines and dates. Boutiques in particular will usually hire on a need-only basis,
so interviewing at these firms can happen throughout the year. If you find yourself behind the calendar
in terms of preparedness, I suggest targeting the boutique and middle market investment banks rather
than trying to break into the Bulge Bracket bank interview process, which will likely be completely
unsuccessful.

How to Pick Your Group & What That Means


Determining which group to join within the investment bank can be very important. For those who have
the luxury to worry about this issue, it is critical that you put some thought into your decision. Picking
the wrong group can really pigeonhole you into specific exit opportunities. Thus if you do not consider
where youd like to be when you finish the analyst program, you may end up on a path that cannot
lead to your destination. Be prepared to think this issue through completely.
Banks all choose their teams differently. At some banks, team assignments are given out directly after
training, while others allow you to rank your group preferences while others allow you to rank your
group preferences so that a matching system can be performed. Nowadays, most bank hiring is done
through some type of internal referral from an employee; this referral can often have a lot of weight in
your decision. For example, if you were a candidate referral from a VP in Healthcare, then it will be
much easier to request that group and wind up in that group. If you are a returning summer analyst,
you are very likely to already pinned to that group when you return (unless you have worked out

specific alternatives arrangements). Some investment banks allow summer analysts that have
received full-time offers to interview with different groups if there are spots available.
Investment banking groups are divided among product and industry groups. Most industry groups will
source (initiate) deal flow, and the corresponding product group will team up with the industry group
mid-process to help execute those deals/transactions. This figure gives a quick snapshot of the
different investment banking groups typical in a bulge bracket bank:

Picking the right group is a function of which bank you will be working for, and your long-term goals.
Banks will always have groups that have a better reputation than others, and those groups are usually
the most sought-after by incoming analysts and associates. These groups usually have the best
reputation for placing candidates on the buy-side, because of their high deal-flow and well-known
Managing Director relationships.
For example, the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) group at Goldman Sachs is one
of the most popular groups at Goldman Sachs. But what makes this group so special? The answer is
simply the groups deal flow, which results from the groups reputation in Corporate America.
Goldmans TMT group generally is involved with almost all of the largest technology deals that go
through the market. Among corporate executives in the sector, the group is considered the go-to place
for technology-related M&A and equity underwriting. If you are a technology-focused Private Equity
firm or Hedge Fund, this group is probably at the top of your list for candidate recruiting: these analysts
will have the most in-depth technology investment banking experience on Wall Street.
That said, you shouldnt let the prestige of the specific banking group be your sole reason for applying
to that group. Investment banking is often used as an analyst stepping stone into buy-side
opportunities in Hedge Funds, Venture Capital firms, and Private Equity firms. Usually these buy-side
firms like to hire analysts with experience in the same industry in which they invest. If you have a target
industry you would like to work in after investment banking, you should strongly consider working in
that group while in bankingeven if its not among the banks highest-reputation groups.
To make this more concrete, lets assume an Industrials-focused Private Equity firm wants to hire
analysts or associates. This firm will usually want to first look at Global Industrials Group (GIG)
investment banking analysts. By contrast, some HF/VC/PE investors (often referred to collectively as
buy-side firms or the buy-side) are fairly broad-based, but others, like those investing in Energy or
Financial companies, are very specific. They will almost certainly want analysts from these groups in
Investment Banking. Conversely, if you are in one of these industry groups, you will tend to learn a
different type of financial modeling than if you were in other groups, and will therefore be much less
attractive as a candidate to HF/VC/PE funds that do not invest in these industries. In these specific
industry areas, the financial modeling techniques used will be industry-specific models. For instance,
banks dont report revenue or sales in their income statement but have a line item called Net
Interest Income which represents the yield made on loan underwriting. Extensive financial modeling
experience involving companies with this Income Statement arrangement will be highly attractive to a
Financials-focused hedge fund, but could really cause problems in your buy-side interviewing efforts
for non Financials-based buy-side firms. This is because your skill set will be very deep but also very
specific to one industry, and therefore not easily transferable to generalist investment funds.

Therefore there is no simple formula to determine which group(s) you should apply to, but its
important to be aware of the factors weve discussed:

Group Prestige: Is the group well known at the bank? Does the group receive substantial
deal flow?
Culture & Senior Bankers: Will the group be a good work environment? Have you met the
bankers in the group and think you would enjoy working with them?
Exit Opportunities: Is the experience you will be gaining within the group broad or industry
(or product) specific? If so, is this a field you are highly interested in?

One final thought on group selection: it should be noted that smaller boutique and middle-market
banks will not always have this many groups; small boutiques, for example, might only have one group
or a small handful of groups in place. In that case, all bankers will be generalists to some degree,
covering many or all industries and sectors.
How Your Group Impacts Exit Opportunities
Analysts are hired for a two-year program with a select few (generally those considered to be at the
top of their class) receiving third year analyst offers. From there, there will occasionally be Associate
offers (this track is appropriate for individuals who want to become career investment bankers),
although this is somewhat uncommon. The typical route for an associate is a candidate placed post
their MBA program and not an Analyst that was directly promoted. Note, Goldman is one exception, as
they are now encouraging analysts to stay on post their second year by offering direct promotions to
Associate at the beginning of their third year. However, Goldman is the only major bank that does this
at the moment.
Therefore, by and large, the post-analyst position opportunities will entail leaving the investment bank.
There are two very popular external exit routes for an investment banker: Private Equity firms and
Hedge Funds. Both types of entities perform similar functions: they take investor money and try to earn
above-average risk-adjusted returns through alternative investment strategies (by alternative, broadly
we mean different from what typical public equities investors do).
Private equity investing is a much more transaction-based discipline, and in many ways the work is
similar to that which an investment banking M&A group performs. Private equity funds aim to earn a
superior return by acquiring controlling interests in companies and holding them privately (as opposed
to publicly, as in, publicly listed or traded). By contrast, most Hedge Funds invest in publicly traded
securities, so the analyst or associates due diligence process in making an investment is much
shorter. This is particularly true for funds that do fundamental-style investing or event-driven
investing. While a Hedge Fund work is not transaction-based like Investment Banking or Private
Equity, it does require a great deal of fundamental analysis and valuation work, and it requires a high
level of investment acumen and intellectual rigor.
Other popular exit opportunities after investment banking include Venture Capital, Equity Research,
and Business Development at a company. Also, many investment bankers immediately go to business
school upon completing the two-year analyst program. Some even might start their own companies.

Calendar of U.S. Investment Banking Recruiting


Full-Time: Generally August or September is when Full-time interviewing for core undergraduate and
graduate students. October is a typical starting month for non-core student recruiting.
Internships: Generally January kicks off summer internship interviews for undergraduate and
graduate students.
The figure below illustrates a typical calendar of key dates in the beginning of the investment banking
recruiting cycle.

Off-Cycle: Middle-Market & Boutique


The smaller the bank, usually the less structured the interview process will typically be (in terms of set
guidelines and dates). Boutiques in particular will usually hire on a need basis, so interviewing can

happen all year around. Most of the boutiques will interview full-time in the spring (there as much as 35 months after the big banks).
Cant Get A Job?
If you are caught outside of the typical recruitment cycle without a job, visit Street of Walls and get a
hold of the middle-market and boutique investment-banking list. These firms will be more likely to
recruit off-cycle as opposed to within a structured interview process, so your chances will be much
better.
What to Wear to an Interview
Always wear a full suit to an interview. Street of Walls suggests going out and getting at least two good
suits youll need them. Looking good for your interview really does make a difference. In other
environments it isnt as important, but for investment banking, appearances do matter, so look sharp.
Ultimately, the goal is to look professional (i.e. presentable to a client) but not flashy or over-the-top.
Men: Style & Colors

Suit: Wear a solid colored suit, either dark grey, dark blue or black. Classy but conservative is
the name of the game.

Shirts: Wear solid shirts as well, white or light blue. No French cuffs.

Tie: Wear something conservative (i.e. not a red power tie).

Shoes: Black cap-toes are the classic banker look.

Men: Suggestions on Brands

Suit: Zegna (expensive but good), Hickey Freeman, Hugo Boss, Brooks Brothers

Shirts: Brooks Brothers, Charles Tyrwhitt, Bloomingdales, Macys

Tie: Brooks Brothers, Charles Tyrwhitt, Vineyard Vines, Zegna, Hickey Freeman, Ferragamo

Belts: Brooks Brothers or similar

Shoes: Allen Edmonds, Cole Haan, and Salvatore Ferragamo


Very important: No French cuffs. No pocket squares. No cutback collars. These looks are not
conservative, and may clash with the interviewers sensibilities.