“Help! How are full-time interviews different from summer internship interviews? How much do I need to study? Should I read 5 books or 10 books in the next 3 days?”
“If I didn’t do an investment banking internship, how can I prepare for full-time interviews? What’s the difference, anyway?“
The short answer: not much.
There are some differences – but they’re not the ones you immediately think of.
The difficulty level of technical questions depends on your background and the bank/group you’re interviewing with – not on the type of interview.
A finance major who interned at Goldman Sachs TMT and who’s now interviewing with Blackstone now will get difficult technical questions – whether it’s a full-time or summer internship interview.
And if you had no finance experience before, did an investment banking internship, and are now interviewing for full-time jobs, then your interviews will be more technical – but that’s because you did the internship.
This is even less likely. It might happen if you interview with more MDs rather than junior-level bankers, but otherwise the technical questions will be either the same or more difficult.
But it’s still quite structured, and you finish your Superday in… a day.
Having multiple interviews over an extended period is more common for lateral hires or for anyone who’s recruiting “off-cycle.”
Models? Case Studies?
These are rare at large banks for summer or full-time interviews. They’re more common if:
- You’re interviewing at a boutique or middle-market firm.
- You’re more experienced – either an MBA-level candidate or you’re working full-time in another field.
- You’re in Europe, Asia, or another region that has assessment centers and where everyone does case studies.
If you’re in one of these categories, click here for case study and model guidance. It’s focused on PE interviews, but the same concepts apply to any type of case study / modeling exercise.
The difficulty of the interviews themselves may not be dramatically different, but fewer offers are given out – banks can always just hire their summer interns.
They get even more competitive in a down market, when many banks do just stick to their summer interns.
So What’s the Real Difference?
It’s similar to the difference between 1st Round and Superday interviews:
“This takes us to a surprising conclusion: in terms of length, interviewers, and question types, there is not an obvious or consistent difference between 1st round and Superday interviews.”
It’s the same here: there are some differences, but you can’t say, “Aha! Full-time interviews have 20% more difficult technical questions!”
The real difference is that full-time interviews are more dependent on your background and work experience – and there’s a big divide between “former bankers” and “non-bankers.”
If you can’t explain what you did in your internship and are clueless on basic accounting and valuation concepts, there’s no way you’ll get into a “long-term relationship” with the bank you’re interviewing with.
You’ll still get technical questions – but they won’t focus on your “deal experience” because you don’t have any.
And they will spend a lot of time trying to figure out if you’ve done your homework and you “get it” – i.e. you’re not expecting to earn $100 million as a 1st Year Analyst.
Associate vs. Analyst
Associate and Analyst interviews are similar – but Associates are expected to know more about finance and have a much better “story” for why they want to do banking.
Also, anyone at the MBA-level is 10x better at spinning, schmoozing, and exaggerating, and bankers are aware of this – so they spend a lot of time discerning who’s bad at lying, who’s good at lying, and who’s being close to truthful.
Your Homework: How to Prepare
If you’ve done banking before, you need to know your internship(s) and deals really, really well. Spend a few hours outlining which 2-3 major projects you can talk about and what you did for each of them.
Technical questions should not be that difficult if you’ve actually done real work – and if you haven’t, spend a few days reading up on finance and go through practice interviews with friends.
If you’re a “non-banker” then you need to come up with a really good response to “So why haven’t you had an internship before?” and spend more time thinking about your “story.”
80/20, Zen, and Avoiding Over-Preparation
This is something I’ve mentioned before many times. But I’m bringing it up again because you might feel tempted to “prepare twice as much” for full-time interviews – but outside of the recommendations above, it’s not necessary.
They’re just not that much different from summer interviews.
So your preparation shouldn’t be much different, either.