How to Tell Your “Story” in Investment Banking Interviews in 5 Simple Steps
So we’ve talked a lot about your “story” in interviews, how important it is, and the mistakes you could make that will cost you an offer.
But now I’m going to go beyond that and actually give you a blueprint that will let you tell your “story” effectively and win offers no matter what level you’re at.
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And if you want to read rather than watch, here’s the text version:
Why Does This Matter So Much?
- Your story sets the tone for the entire interview, and a poor first impression is impossible to overcome.
- Interviewers often make offer / no offer decisions subconsciously within the first 2-3 minutes, based 100% on your story.
- It’s easier to fix your “story” than to “fix” your lack of finance/accounting knowledge. We’re talking hours vs. weeks.
What Is This “Story” Business?
It’s your answer to the “Walk me through your resume / CV” or the “Tell me about yourself” question that you get at the beginning of every interview.
Sometimes it’s phrased differently and sometimes it’s not always the first thing they ask, but the idea is always the same:
Who are you and why are you here?
So How Do You Tell Your “Story”?
You structure it around these 5 points:
- The “Beginning”
- Your Finance “Spark”
- Your Growing Interest
- Why You’re Here Today
- Your Future
You want to start your story… at the beginning! Sorry, this is not a Quentin Tarantino film and even if Pulp Fiction is your favorite movie you still can’t jump around chronologically.
There are 3 good places to start your story:
- Where You’re From / Where You Grew Up
- Where You Went to University
- Where You Went to Business School
#1 is good if you’re still an undergraduate, #2 is better for the MBA level or beyond, and #3 is better if you’re way beyond that (which should be almost no one reading this, but hey, just to be complete…).
Don’t dwell on this part if it’s not particularly interesting or relevant – but you do need to mention it because every story needs a beginning.
Your Finance “Spark”
Depending on when you got interested in finance, this one might be combined with your “Beginning” – e.g. if you started day trading when you were 12, then you would combine them.
Otherwise, make this a separate point and be as specific as possible.
Ideas for finance “sparks”:
- Information Sessions / Case Competitions / Activities / Clubs
- Specific People You Met Through Networking / Classes / Activities
- Any Investing / Trading of Your Own You’ve Done
- Family Businesses / Learning About It From Other Family Members
- Summer / Other Special Programs
Specificity is key.
“I was in an investing competition and had fun.”
“I was in this investing competition, did some in-depth research on the pharmaceutical industry and recommended investing in Pfizer – their stock later rose by 50% and our team won 1st place.”
Ok, I like the sound of this.
If you don’t have a specific event, person, or activity it’s not the end of the world – but look through your resume and figure out what you can spin into sounding like the real reason you got interested.
Your Growing Interest
Here’s where you explain how each of your internships, full-time jobs, or activities led you in the direction of investment banking.
You need to logically connect each one and go in chronological order to avoid “story fail.”
Two important points here:
- With each experience, you want to mention something that you liked and something that could use improvement.
- If you have a complicated history of career changes, resist the urge to go into detail on everything – keep it to 2-3 “hops” at the most.
So let’s say you’re a university student who’s looking for an investment banking summer internship right now.
You started out working on-campus, then you worked in marketing at a local company, and this past summer you did private wealth management at a bulge bracket bank.
You might say something like this:
- “I started out with just the usual on-campus work, which I did well at, but I wanted to do something more relevant to my major and get some experience in the real world…”
- “So I went to [Name of Local Company] and did marketing there for the summer. I did well, liked the business aspect, and helped improve their online marketing campaigns by 20% over 2 months but I also wanted to do something that was more quantitative and closer to finance…”
- “So the next summer I did private wealth management at [Bank Name] and analyzed clients’ portfolios and made investment recommendations. I enjoyed the investing aspect and the analysis a lot more – but I wanted to work with clients on a larger scale…”
And then you would lead directly into why you’re here today (see the next point).
This is just a sketch of what you might say – since your story should be 2-3 minutes long, you will have to go into more detail on each point or you’ll run out of stuff to say.
Why You’re Here Today
Luckily you don’t have to be a philosopher to tell this part of your story – you just need to be very explicit with what you say.
Yes – you should actually say, “I’m here interviewing today because…” and spell it out in clear terms.
An interview is not the time for subtlety or subterfuge. It’s time to sell yourself with everything you’ve got.
You need to answer 2 questions with this one:
If you’re a student, #2 is easy: you need an internship / full-time job. If you’re already working full-time, talk about how you’ve achieved a lot but feel you’ve reached your limits and that your talents would be better put to use in banking.
#1 is easy to answer if you have a background that matches the group you’re interviewing with (e.g. tech/healthcare background going to those respective groups): you want to combine your expertise with finance.
If you’re coming in with more of a finance background, talk about the advantages that this bank / group presents over other places you’ve worked at – whether that’s the type of companies you work with, the culture, the people, the added responsibility, or anything else.
This one is closely linked to the previous point about Why You’re Here Today, but you need to add something at the end that shows:
Your Background + Investment Banking = Future Success
Popular “future plans” include being an investor or advisor to companies in a particular industry or region, or working with a certain team at a bank.
- If you’re interviewing for Analyst-level positions, you don’t need to have concrete plans – just some idea of what you want to do.
- At the Associate level you need to show more commitment and say you’re here for the long-term because they don’t want people to jump ship to PE after a year.
So What Do You Do Now That You Know How to Tell Your “Story”?
Go through your resume and all your previous experience and figure out what you’re going to say for each of these 5 points:
- The “Beginning” – Where You’re From? University? Business School?
- Your Finance “Spark” – Person? Event? Club? Program?
- Your Growing Interest – Which 2-3 Jobs/Internships/Activities Will You Mention?
- Why You’re Here Today – Why This Bank, and Why Now?
- Your Future – What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
Make a quick 5 bullet point outline, then practice your story with a friend or anyone you know in the industry.
Aim for 2-3 minutes – 2 minutes if you speak quickly (like I do in all my videos) or 3 minutes if you speak more slowly.
Whatever you do, do not memorize it word-for-word or try to script out everything.
And then go forth, conquer your interviews, and land investment banking offers.
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