by Brian DeChesare Comments (125)

Summer Internship vs. Full-Time Investment Banking Interviews

full_time_interviews“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.

More Technical?

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.

Less Technical?

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.

More Interviews?

Sometimes.

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:

  1. You’re interviewing at a boutique or middle-market firm.
  2. You’re more experienced – either an MBA-level candidate or you’re working full-time in another field.
  3. 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.

More Competitive?

Definitely.

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.”

Former Bankers

Sometimes they’ll just skip the normal “fit” questions and focus strictly on technicals and what you did in your previous experience – so you better know your deals or quasi-deals really well.

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.

Non-Bankers

You’ll still get technical questions – but they won’t focus on your “deal experience” because you don’t have any.

If you have no finance experience and are now going for full-time positions, the key question will be “Why haven’t you done banking before? Why investment banking now?”

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.

More on how to discuss deals.

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

Oh, and you still need to avoid over-preparation and spending time on minutiae. Outlining is fine, but practicing a few times trumps outlining any day of the week – and never script your answers.

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.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

Loading the player...
We respect your email privacy

Comments

Read below or Add a comment

  1. Michael Soricillo

    I wanted to know do investment banks have you do pyscho metric tests I know they do in the UK .do they also do them in the US in the interview process or any type of testing besides the interview

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think the tests are as common in US vs. UK, though some UK banks in US do conduct such tests. Banks in US do conduct case studies. They are not tests per se, but such studies are quite common: http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-case-studies/

  2. Hi,

    I wanted to know if the off-cycle internship process is the same as for summer internships: the sooner you apply, the better? I graduate in June 2017 and would like to apply for an off-cycle internship starting from that date. Should I start applying from this summer, or should I wait until 2017 as the positions vary across the year?

    Thank you.

    1. Generally it is better to apply earlier if you can, but probably not a year in advance. Maybe wait until a few months before graduation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *