by Brian DeChesare Comments (101)

Why You Can’t Conquer Your Investment Banking Interviews – And What to Do About It

conquer_interviews“Help! I’ve been through 50 interviews and I haven’t yet landed an offer. What am I doing wrong? What’s my problem? Why can’t I get in no matter what I do?”

“I get interviews but I always get stuck and can never get past the first round. What’s my problem? Why can’t I conquer my investment banking interviews?

I still can’t tell you exactly why you want to do investment banking in the first place.

But I can tell you exactly what’s going wrong with your interviews – and how to fix it.

The 5 Most Common Problems

You might think that passing or failing an interview is related to how well you answer individual questions.

That one stupid answer just ruined your chances or made the interviewer instantly reject you, right?


Your success has less to do with individual answers and more to do with how you present yourself and the first impression you make.

And whether or not you make any of the top interview mistakes below:

1. You Don’t Want to Conquer Your Interviews

This one is very common if you’re at a top school where a lot of banks recruit.

From having interviewed dozens of students at these places, I can tell you that at least 50% of interviews go something like this:

Interviewer: So, why are you here?
Interviewee: Um, I saw the job posting online and sent in my resume.”

If you think this sounds crazy, just remember: don’t overestimate the competition.

A lack of enthusiasm will sink your chances faster than anything else.

You know how when you meet someone new, you form an impression within 30 seconds based on what they say and how they act?

It’s the same with interviews. If someone can’t look me in the eye or doesn’t seem animated when explaining why they’re interviewing, I automatically think “Pass.”

Diagnosis: Ask someone to sit down with you for a few minutes and see whether or not you sound excited talking about your background.

If the answer is “No” figure out whether the problem is:

  1. You actually are enthusiastic but you’re just too nervous; or
  2. You’re not enthusiastic and you’re interviewing because your parents told you to or because you are not capable of thinking independently.

If the problem is your nerves, practice your pitch in front of as many new people as possible, and go through interviews you care about less at first so that you get more comfortable.

If the problem is that you’re not enthusiastic to begin with, then please stop interviewing, close your browser, and stop reading this site right now – and then go off on a retreat somewhere and re-consider your life.

If you can’t even go into interviews seeming excited then you will last about 1 week in the industry.

2. Your Story Sucks

This is the single most common and easily fix-able interview mistake. Out of hundreds of interviews, I can count on a single hand the number of times I’ve heard a good “story” on the first try.

You can read all about the common problems here and here, but here’s the 15-second version of what you’re doing wrong:

  1. You’re not going in chronological order.
  2. You’re not explaining why and how each experience moved you closer to investment banking.
  3. You’re going on for too long (over 2-3 minutes) or for too short a time (30 seconds).
  4. You’re not concluding by stating why you’re here interviewing for investment banking in this group.
  5. You’re giving too much exposition and saying, “I have had many impressive experiences” or something equally stilted.

Diagnosis: Record yourself answering the “Walk me through your resume” or “Tell me about yourself” question and then play it back and listen for each of these 5 mistakes.

If you’re too embarrassed to listen to yourself speak, then have a friend listen for each of these problems. Make sure you tell him/her not to be “nice.”

Then, fix your story by doing the opposite of whatever you did wrong the first time.

Hint: If you think you need 20 minutes to explain “what you do,” you have an ego problem. No one’s that interesting, sorry.

Cut out stuff that’s not relevant and narrow your focus.

Think about these 5 points: The Beginning (where you start your story), Your Finance “Spark” (what made you interested in the first place), Your Growing Interest (sequence of jobs / internships / activities that made you more interested), and finally Why You’re Here and how it relates to your Future.

Structure your story around those 5 points and make sure you read the next article in this series for a complete tutorial on how to do this.

3. You’re Boring

A lot of interviewees walk in and say something like this:

“I want to do investment banking to learn… nothing else would give me the learning opportunity… and I really want to learn… and finance / business / economics are cool, and large deals… models… bottles…”

Ok, maybe not the last two.

But after a long day of interviews, everyone starts to sound the same to the interviewer.

Which means that if you have absolutely nothing interesting that sets you apart from everyone else, then your chances are very, very low – especially if you’re making some of the other mistakes on this list.

Diagnosis: What is the single most unusual thing you’re saying in your story? If it’s related to a finance or investment club at school, or to reading the news and getting interested in investment banking, you need to think a lot harder.

Go through your resume and think about everything you’ve done over the past 10-15 years (consult with family if necessary).

Think about the following kinds of experiences:

  • Study Abroad
  • Unusual Hometown / Background (e.g. You were born in Mongolia and were part of a nomadic tribe)
  • Hobbies / Interests
  • Massive Effort You Had to Put Forth to Get This Interview
  • Interesting / Important Person Who Introduced You to Investment Banking

If you’re at a loss and you can’t think of anything, think about what most of your friends talk about with you or what people know you by – and assuming that it’s appropriate – i.e. not related to drugs, porn, or illegal activities – use that.

And remember, you can spin even tiny experiences into sounding like more than they really were.

You don’t want to focus on this “interesting” fact in your story, but you do want to mention it somewhere – otherwise you’ll just be another face in the crowd.

4. You’re Too Prepared

“Hi, I’ve scripted out my “story” word-for-word and memorized it. I’ve also written down specific answers to 50 other common interview questions and memorized everything 100% perfectly. Could we go over these questions right now?”

Welcome to “Why I Stopped Doing Mock Interviews on M&I.”

It is very, very easy for me to tell whether you’ve memorized something or whether you’re speaking naturally.

And I don’t care how good an actor you are, because anyone interviewing you has done this hundreds of times and they know what to look for.

Please, stop the insanity and do not script out your answers. A great interview should be like a conversation – not an interview.

Diagnosis: Have you written down or memorized specific answers to possible interview questions?

If so, tear up your scripts and delete all your documents where you wrote down everything word-for-word.

If you need to have some kind of plan, just make an outline with 5-10 key points for your story (see above), and then come up with maybe 2-3 other stories you can use to answer “fit” questions.

Rather than wasting time memorizing this, write it down once and then go through interviews you don’t care about as much at first – that’s your “practice.”

5. You’re Not Prepared Enough

While memorizing your answers to “fit” questions is a bad idea, you also want to have some idea of what stories you’re going to use and how you’re going to present yourself.

So pretend it’s an improv – with some direction – rather than a 100% scripted show. Think Curb Your Enthusiasm, not Seinfeld.

Oh yeah, and you need to be prepared for the technical questions because you will get them even if you have no finance background.

And if you’ve actually had finance internships you’ll get even more difficult technical questions.

You should be prepared enough to be slightly nervous, but not anymore than that.

Diagnosis: Have a friend in the industry or someone who broke in recently quiz you on the basic questions – walking through your resume, the teamwork/leadership/strength/weakness ones, and the technical ones that everyone should know.

Can you answer everything? Or do you stumble through parts of it?

And if you’re stumbling, re-read this article and everything else on this site and in the interview guide.

And to improve your chances of conquering every interview even further, read the rest of the articles in this series (coming next week) and be on the lookout for the revamped interview guide – which is now much more than just a simple PDF – and is being released very soon.

And yes, if you sign up now you get the new one for free – and if you’ve already signed up in the past year you will get access instructions very soon.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. I started a post-grad internship at a boutique bank, and 4 weeks into the internship I was let go. The MD said it was because the firm lost some potential clients and doesn’t want interns sitting around with nothing to do. There are no FT analysts/associates at this office, only 4 other interns.
    Is this worth putting on my resume still? I worked there from June – July

    1. Note: I graduated last December, and did a post-grad internship at a valuation firm from Feb – April

  2. Hey great post! Regarding the ‘spark’ — my spark happened during one of the last things I did in college before I graduated, so if I went chronologically, I won’t be able to follow my spark with growing interest, because after my spark I haven’t done any other pertinent work. Note: I am a recent graduate applying to PwC for an IT assurance position.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Then try to structure your story based on that. You don’t always need a growing interest if you don’t have it.

  3. Hey M&I,

    I have a family friend who is an analyst at a BB. What are the chances he can land me a first round interview given that I’ve had a previous investment banking internship?


    1. M&I - Nicole

      50/50 because he doesn’t make the final decision; his team and his seniors do

  4. Hi Brian,

    If you’ve had a couple first round interviews, but only get one second round interview – what should you say to the interviewers when they ask you who else you’re interviewing with? … You want to seem competitive, but also don’t want to have to lie. Any suggestions? Especially if you are competing against other candidates who do have several other second round interviews at other firms, or who have had previous banking experience.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Just say that you’re not too comfortable disclosing this information at this point. Just say that your first choice is that firm, and you want to take the time to get to know each other better: this is the most important point you want to get across.

  5. Hello Brain.

    Thanks for your amazing site.

    I am a second year EE engineering undergraduate from Imperial College London. Im currently holding a 2:1 degree and have done two internships before which are unrelated with IBanking. One is Compliance of HSBC and the other is a BO SA of UBS.
    But at the moment Im seriously considering landing a IBD SA even if I got the return offer from UBS.

    DO you think I have a shot?
    Apart from following all the info on this site(cos I am doing that),do you have any specific suggestion based on my background?

    1. Yes, you have a shot given that experience. It’s not uncommon to move from that in your 2nd year to SA role in your penultimate year. The key is telling your story really well and having a very specific reason why you want to do IB (person you met, event, work experience, outside hobby, etc.) that sets you apart, and then proving you can hit the ground running and that you’ve prepared even more than other people.

  6. Good article Brian. However I think you missed something here that’s really important and something that has tripped me up in the past: effectively speaking to the things you put on your resume. This (at my bank at least) is an auto-ding if you can’t establish you actually did what you said. For instance, you say that built a financial model at an internship and performed the subsequent DCF valuation and in the interview I ask you how you arrive at free cash flow and the candidate comes back with including interest expense in the FCF calc for a company that had no debt, that’s a good indicator they made up that experience.

    1. Yup that is very true. Too many people write points they can’t back up. See:

  7. I finished my commerce bachelor’s degree 8 years ago. Settled in family business(Reality sector) after my bachelor’s course. Now I joined for a “financial modelling & Valuation course” which is a weekend course for 8 weekends(January 2012). I am 28years old. No previous IB / financial research experiences including internship. just I am changing my career from family business to IB. Please advice me. will I get a job?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Not having relevant financial internship experience can be challenging. I’d suggest you to see if your family has any connections in finance. I think building such connections will help you out quite a bit in your job search endeavors.

      1. Thank you my dear Nicole for your reply to my post. My family do not have any connections with finance. I am planning for an Internship after my “financial modeling & Valuation” course. Is is possible to get placed by Head Hunters / Recruiters. Can you suggest me that “Which country – City is best now to get placed early”. You are most welcome to share your views and valuable suggestions. Thank you again.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          I don’t think recruiters would be that useful in your situation.

          City? NY (assuming you have the work permit) / HK

  8. Hey Brian,
    I just had my summer internship interviews with BMO today. It went ok, I think, they mostly asked me general questions.(They were VP level) The interview started late and ended early, they cracked jokes and all that…but I think they basically ran out of stuff to ask and were really tired too. Anyhow do you think that is a bad sign?
    Secondly, they asked me, are you interviewing at other industries or just banks? I said, just banks (truthful answer) And then he asked me, what other banks are you interviewing for? I told them Jefferies, Evercore, and Morgan Stanley..
    Is this a trick question? the thing is, Jefferies is interviewing at the same building so I don’t want to lie to them, otherwise they will see me again this afternoon. But does interview at other investment banks show I’m not interested enough? Would that hurt my chances?

    1. No, not a bad sign – sometimes they just don’t want to continue it past a certain point. Saying where else you’re interviewing is fine, as long as you said places that have the same or better reputation you should be OK.

  9. One small thing i will like to say is add a bit of humour , especially in london if your interviewer is british.British humour is widely know for its play of words and intelligence

    1. That is true. Though it can be risky if you and the interviewer don’t share the same sense of humor.

  10. Hi Brian-
    Your site is awesome, thank you.

    I’m interning at a major bank and attempting to switch businesses for my full time position. This is a non traditional situation (I’ll spare you the details) and I’m looking to start full time as soon as my internship is up.

    I’ve networked to get an interview for an IB position that requires a “quant exam on excel”. Any tips on how to prepare for this exam or ideas about what I might be asked? The position is in public finance.

    My internship is in treasury services so there won’t be any overlap between my experience here and the work I’ll be doing there.

    Let me know what you think.


    1. Don’t know much about public finance but I would just expect normal Excel topics, formulas, formatting, maybe seeing if you can build a simple 3-statement model, etc.

  11. Hi Brian,

    Im currently interning at a boutique investment bank. Ive been there a month and havent really learned any modeling. I want to put myself in the best position for full time recruiting so i was wondering if buying your basic excel and modeling course would be helpful for this situation? Will interviewers during full time recruiting expect applicants to know modeling? And if i do buy your course how much time do you think i would need to dedicate to it? Im asking this because maybe i can wait another month and see if the other analyst teaches me any modeling. Im sorry if this isnt the right place to post this question but i didnt know anywhere else to put it


    1. Yes it may be helpful, really depends on how much you already know though. It will probably take 20-30 hours to complete. Feel free to ask via the BIWS contact form for more information. Interviews will expect you to know at least something about the technical side.

  12. Hey Brian,

    Thank for this great site! I am coming from a non-finance background and managed to get a few SA interviews from following all the information on this site. I have received responses from all the firms I interviewed at except one. It has been about a week since my OCR interview and was wondering if I should email or call to figure out where I stand. What do you suggest I do? Should I just wait it out?

    1. Yes definitely call ASAP.

  13. where should i put “interesting part” into “tell me about your story” and make it sound interesting?

    what my concern is that it will make the story longer than 2mins?

  14. Is is possibe for an Associate Degree holder with 2 years of analyst experience in the financial sector to break into the Investment Banking industry?

    1. It’s tough because they usually want people with 4-year degrees…

  15. Can someone please tell me how to land an interview, first? what should I write to compose an interview-winning-coverletter? All advises are welcome and appreciated.

    1. See all the existing articles on the site and all the networking videos / case studies / articles.

  16. Sometimes , I would like to dedicate in one goal given only 30% odds to take me there. The process really makes me excited and the gratification of making my plan real is what I am looking for.
    When people told me your plan or your dream doesn’t work, you won’t get into IB and forget about that.
    All their words are nothing but powers for me indeed. I am only interested in ambitious goals. I am a risk-taker. Entering IB is kind of a remote dream for me according to somebody’s theory. Ok, I will do it.
    I knew that I am away from the door. However ,all I need just a plan to take me there theoretically. currently, I find my plan doesn’t add up together because the part time rules and internship interview rules stand on my way to my destination. I need a idea to amend my plan.
    If I mess it up ,I won’t regret, The guy in movie 2012 who stay with the last min of Yellowstone I respect most?, at least he saw the unparallel view beyond your imagination.

    1. See my comment above – your best bet is to visit the US and do some networking in-person if you’re really serious about working there.

    2. I wonder how did your story end. I am also trying to break into IB in Asia with an architectural background.

  17. Yes, I am part time winter 2010 MBA student right now.
    A guy from our school career service told me that you will get nowhere if you intern at Asia and then look for a job in US, which really frustrate me a lot. (Cause My wife in US,I don’t want to back alone).He told me the IB only pick up candidates from their last year US summer interns or other US interns from other banks.
    I had some friends work for the Carlyle group in shanghai real estate . I am trying to contacting them when 2010 recruit season comes . They encourage me to contact with their Chinese MDs because most of them from the current B-School I am involved in.
    However, there is no internship in the Carlyle group at all. I don’t think they gonna give me an exception.
    I need a plan which can convince myself and to have me move forward, but it seems I swamped in the current situation….no intern…no future

    1. I would suggest taking a trip to the US and meeting people in-person there – in-person weekend / week-long trips are very effective for getting real internships / jobs lined up.

  18. Thank you M&I , the only thing I think about is how to get an internship if I am allowed to participate the on-campus internship interview.

    Is there anyway I can do it? upload my resume to the IB’s internship website? or send my resume directly to some MDs if I managed to get their emails?

    1. At this point you’d have to contact banks and MDs directly to have a good shot – think about very small, local, RE-focused boutiques to maximize your chances. With 8 years of experience you may just have to go to business school as well.

  19. Thank your insightful comments.

    Give the condition that I have been played an architectural and urban planning advisory role about 8 years. Therefore I doubt I could switch totally to another Industry. The voice always comes to my mind:I have to skip other industries opportunities and focus on IB or PE real estate firm.I think the strategy potential to boost my opportunities if I stay in Real estate side.

    But some friend told me, I should try to another industry, because of the turbulence of real estate world.But I think it could be a disaster to my career if I totally cut off my previous industry experiencs off and jump to a new world.

    How do you think I should position myself?

    If I am looking for an internship in Asia. For real estate sector, which side should I focus on? PE or IB, or it really doesn’t matter.

    Thank you very much in advance.
    Really confused these days…..

    1. If most of your experience has been in RE then I would stick with it… your chances improve if you do so. I would position yourself as an “industry expert” who now wants to combine your expertise with finance… probably easier to target IB first rather than PE.

  20. Does a guy have engineer background with IB internship experiences can match a person who has 4 years corporate finances without IB internship?

  21. would an IB intern offer from asia be help job hunting in US?

  22. I was told Summer intern is a pre-rep to land an IB offer. Is that true?

    Does the rule works for everybody? or only the one without financial work expreiences?

    1. It’s not “required” but it is very very helpful and boosts your chances by 500x.

  23. I’m majoring in finance right now and what are the best finance courses to take?

    International Finance Markets & Institutions
    Risk Management & Financial Engineering
    Financial Management
    Quantitative Analysis of Financial Decisions
    Fixed Income Markets and Management
    Investment Policy
    International Financial Management

    I have to choose at least two from the above. Which ones should I pick?

    1. It doesn’t matter that much, I would probably pick the investment one and then something else… class choice has a 0.000000000001% impact on anything.

  24. Hey, I’m a finance student about to graduate May of next year. I was desperate for some experience, so I decided to take an unpaid internship at a financial planning/asset management firm. Started off looking for a job in investment banking, but landed here… long story. I like asset management (less hours, still descent money), but I’m wondering how much this unpaid internship is actually going to help me get a job at a place like JP Morgan or Blackrock in the future. What else can do in the meantime to boost my chances? Thanks.

    1. It will definitely help, but less so than if you had a better-known name on your resume. In the meantime, continue networking and try to get an internship at a larger company.

  25. I was thinking of starting my story off after I quit my metal band my sophomore year in college to work for a small VC firm (which is true). Is that a bad idea? Should I just start at the VC internship?

    1. That’s fine, just keep it short but I think it sounds like an “interesting” way to introduce yourself.

  26. Thank you M&I

    What I found is that some classmates come from banks only just are junior analysts. I just don’t know what I can get from them? we were spend too much time taliking about sports or personal life.

    I am sorry to ask a stupid question that what is the real value of the social networking things these B-school advacate? To get some inside information or interview questions?find a referee ?

    I thought I get MORE in your website rather than talk to bank analysts during the past three months..

    1. It’s not really about “learning” from these people – it’s about leveraging them to get interviews. You can talk about anything from sports to cars – the point is to make yourself likable and then to ask them to help you get an interview.

  27. Thank you advices.
    I am still employed by an architectural firm while studying as a part time MBA student.
    You know , it is hard to land on even a part time finance job under this economic situation let alone a newbee like me. I still need my job to feed me paychecks, but sometime I barely to convince to myself to quit this job and really move on. I don’t know why, maybe I consider it my fallback or I should not have a fallback when I decide to move forward.

    Some time I am trying to reinforce my resume by long hours work up to 100 hours in architecture firm and clients and multi sides coordination ,presentation ,sometimes, to mayors. And my half year military service background, is that the good way to go? I brought your 200 bank interview questions PDF version which is helpful, but the resolution is little bit low. Thank you anyway~

    So you mean even I passed the level 1 exam, I might won’t tell the interviewer .and I have to justify my finance interest from real experience as opposed to exam?

    1. What I meant was that you get more leverage by spending all that time networking as opposed to taking the CFA exam. If you’re already taking it and you’ve already studied, that’s fine – but if you’re just starting I would not recommend it. I think your military background will be very helpful as well, but I would still think about trying to get some kind of informal experience in the interim.

  28. I am an new MBA without any financial background.
    Actually, I am an archtiectural designer.

    I knew the RE market is pretty bad, so I don’t want to be labeled as a real estate oriented MBA, which make me trap in RE field.I passed CFA
    level exam (I knew it is useless based on your theory). But Do you think if i want to stand me out, should I take the level two exam to compensate my weak finance background. or should I reinforce my presentation experiences I did to clients or fit questions?

    Do you have any suggestion?

    1. Honestly I would focus on your client experience and try to get some type of informal or part-time internship to prove your finance knowledge.

  29. I heard real estate is a bad group to go into right now, and PE is hard to get into from there (REIT more likely). Am I about correct on this so far?

    1. Mostly yes. RE is not great right now (2009) due to the market implosion, and you’d be more limited to real estate-focused PE or REITs in most cases.

  30. The only IB offer have gotten is for Real Estate. Can you give me some pros/cons for RE in terms of exit ops, hours, bonus, etc compared to other groups?

    1. The main difference is that you will be more limited to RE-related exit opportunities – otherwise the other metrics are very similar to other groups.

  31. I am thinking about graduating and then going into a 1 year finance masters program to improve my academics and wait for the economy to improve. I’ll probably take the GRE since I don’t want to have a GMAT score on my record as I’m not prepared for that.

    What decent schools offer this program?

    1. Most of the top schools (Ivy + other top 20 in the US) offer it – I am not too familiar with the specifics but you may want to ask on WSO because I think there was a thread about this awhile ago.

  32. What do you have to say in regards to random questions such as “Tell me a joke” or “What was the last book you read” or “Tell me something interesting about you” (I once ended up having a long conversation about cars since we were both car fanatics).

    I bombed an interview once when I was asked to tell them a joke. Basically cracked under pressure, since I was not expecting it at all, and the only things running in my mind were dirty jokes. Interviewer could sense I was getting nervous and said he was just messing with me. But I feel that kinda told him I’m not a social or funny guy, and as a result didn’t get a call back. Now I’ve been told I am a fairly fun guy to be around, I crack some of the dirtiest jokes, but what would you suggest if someone were in a position like I was? I don’t wanna say a lame joke, but then again I don’t wanna say a dirty one (even though he/she might find it funny) since it is an interview, after all.

    1. “What was the best part of the Playboy IPO?

      The pitch book.”

      1. That’s hilarious – I’m sure that analyst didn’t mind the late nights!

        1. A female banking intern enters the office of the senior associate,hands out a paper and says “here are the numbers”

          The associate looks at her and replies “im sure they are perfectly rounded”

      2. Hahahaha that’s brilliant!

        1. AHA and Michael… that joke is from an old thread on WSO. There are a bunch of other funny ones. My personal favorite went something like this…

          What’s the difference between a Goodyear tire and a 30% annual return?

          …. …. one’s a real good year, and the other’s a really good year!

        2. Or try something about lawyers for that matter. :))
          After having worked in a place where I have to interact with them at least several times per week I am getting increasingly cynical about them. I presume it is the same for the majority of bankers out there…

  33. ^^

    Just an extension to HL’s question… I’ve emailed investment bankers, and asked some specific questions about what sector of IB they’re in and what they like about it…

    I get an 80% respond rate. They respond to the questions well, but I don’t feel any more connection to them.

    For example, they would just guess some fairly generic advice like get as involved as possible, read the WSJ and things that I already know.

    But how do I sustain a relationship? I don’t think asking lame questions is the way to go.

    1. Ask about them personally. See everything on this site on networking and what’s in The Networking Ninja Toolkit… you have to ask about their background and find out what makes them tick as opposed to just asking the generic questions. Fun Talk > Work Talk.

  34. Positive Carry

    Great post – Is ‘operations’ at IBD the same thing as BO, or is it something else?

  35. Do follow-up emails to bankers after attending information sessions actually help one for the recruiting process? Does it help them remember your name? It seems like most bankers I email never respond.

    1. Yes but you have to ask for something specific rather than just saying “hi.” Schedule a call or ask to meet in-person or ask for help w recruiting

  36. Brian,

    When are you going to release the 2nd version of your interview guide?

      1. Will the 2nd version include everything from the 1st version?

        1. Yes. There will be a separate document showing everything that has been added.

  37. Don’t tell me that private equity isn’t glamorous………

    1. wow. just wow.

  38. No offer this year

    no offer this year, but I went through final round two times…

    I think that in at least one occasion I could blame one single interviewer who gave really a bad feedback on me… I know from the recruiter that this interviewer (an ED) gave a really bad feedback on me and that was the reason why I did not get an offer. From the very beginning, I felt I did not like her (the interviewer): she was one of those smart women, youngish, mediterranean, who narrow their eyes when you talk, looking as if they are thinking “Even if you talk fast, I want to listen to every single word you say and at the first occasion, I will put you in the corner”… the typical smart spanish woman, you see… She hated me, and now I don’t have the offer that *I deserved*. What can I do about it?

    In the other bank, I just think I did not manage to impress the MD. He was so different from me: he used to be a marine, I was just a football player… he is arrogant, I am easygoing… I think that also what counted is that I did not have any major internship/work experience in my CV at Lehman, GS, Merrill, whereas my competitors probably did. What can I do about this?

    1. Sometimes you just have bad luck and run into unfriendly interviewers. I probably should have added “Bad Luck” as another reason, actually…

      When that happens there’s honestly not much you can do besides hope for a better interviewer.

      For internship / work experience try to go for unpaid / informal internships at local boutiques or spin clubs / case competitions etc. into sounding relevant.

  39. I’m a non-target student and I recently sent an email to a recruiter about a recruiting event at a target school to inquire about internships. The recruiter responded and told me that since the bank doesn’t recruit at my school, she would set up a time for me to speak to an analyst in one of their offices as an “information session”. What do you make of this? I suspect they are interested in me, but I don’t know if I should expect a phone interview later on as well.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hard to say until you speak on the phone. I’d go through with it, do the best you can, and not worry about the hidden meaning behind anything they’re saying or not saying.

  40. I’m meeting someone to discuss investment banking and what it is. She’s sort of like a mentor, I know her through our finance club.

    Should I wear formal?

    She says I should suggest a place in downtown… what sort of places should I suggest?

    Is Starbucks too noisy?


    1. I would try to go for a more upscale cafe rather than Starbucks.

      You could wear formal if you want – that’s the safest option, though if you know her already and you’re meeting outside the office I think business casual is fine.

  41. Good points. I honestly think the most important thing, put in the most basic terms, is “how cool does the interviewer think you are?”

    There are limits to this of course. It’s important to have good answers to why banking and why this company, but if the interviewer likes you (especially in the first round) your chances of moving on are very, very solid.

    In one of my interviews, I completely bombed a technical question and made a stupid math error during a brainteaser. I had really clicked with the person who was interviewing me though, and received an email that night that I had moved on, as well as one from the interviewer who said they gave me a high recommendation and to let them know if I had any questions.

    1. Yup, pretty much agree with you there.

      Kevin has a great story about how he screwed up his final case interview at McKinsey but knew the Partner, he liked him, and so he got the offer anyway.

      1. Thanks for sharing. I’ve passed 5 out of 6 assessments for a financial consulting firm (part of one of the tier 1 consulting firms). With BIWS (Financial Modeling, Excellence w/ Excel…the Networking, and the Interviewing) and Management Consulted’s materials (The Consulting Bible), I’ve been able to do this (with a completely unrelated background). The Excel course has been surprisingly helpful in interviews, many technical (excel) portions of the assessments are timed, and points are given for speed. (who knows, perhaps they also handicapped mouse touching from another room :P)

        The early rounds were great, cases, technical questions, industry knowledge, and got positive feedback/invitation back within an hour. The last interview was a surprise powerpoint presentation case…got the answer, but performance was rocky. I hope I was solid enough in the early rounds to get the benefit of the doubt and become one of the success stories :) This article makes me slightly more hopeful

        1. Thanks, glad to hear about your success!

          Let me know how everything goes!

          1. I accepted a role in the investment division of an insurance company, which is pretty interesting.

            I unfortunately didn’t make it to the offer for the financial consulting firm, but I still want the role. I emailed an update on the recent role, and my case prep, and got this in response :

            “We’ve now finalised this round of recruits… However, some opportunities could open up on a shorter term basis.

            happy to discuss if it would be of interest.” How should I proceed here? As a candidate, I was on the border, and the main issue was that my last case interview lacked sufficient structure. Do ‘trial runs’ like this exist (in banking or consulting), or am I going to be an indentured servant?

          2. M&I - Nicole

            Yes trial runs exist. I’d suggest you to continue the discussions!

  42. Great post.

    Thanks Brian.

    1. Sure thing. BTW just emailed you about an alternative signup method.

  43. hello brian,

    Last year I had interviews at some banks where I didn’t get an offer. This year I want to apply again for an internship at these banks.
    My question is: should I completely change my cover letter or should I stick with my old one and just update it?
    After all I got some interviews with my 2008 cover letter and cv version.


    1. Cover letters are almost irrelevant, but I think you’re fine using the old one and tweaking it

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