by Brian DeChesare Comments (12)

Why IB Interview Prep in 2017 is Broken – and What to Do About It

2017 Investment Banking Interview Prep

What’s the biggest challenge in preparing for finance recruiting and interviews today?

I thought about this question a few months ago when I was speaking with a client in a mock interview/coaching session.

He had a very “challenging” background – low grades, non-target school, and not-so-great previous internships – but he was still committed to winning an IB role.

I explained how to network, how to spin his academic record, and how he should spend his time most efficiently.

Toward the end, he said:

“This has been very helpful. There’s so much crap out there and so much ‘advice’ floating around that it’s hard to know where to start. You cut through all the junk and told me exactly what I need to do.”


In two sentences, he nailed today’s biggest challenge: Too much information.

The Biggest Problem of 2017: Too MUCH Information

When I started this site back in 2007, we had the opposite problem: There was very little information about investment banking.

Over time, people started copying me – poorly – and releasing their own guides and repetitive, article-filled websites.

All that chatter and activity created a lot of junk for you to sort through.

What do you really need to know for interviews?

What should you do if you have 4 hours to prepare?

What if you have 3 days or 1 week?

KangarooMonkey430 says you should do A and B to prepare, but JoffreysHead12 says you should do X and Y. Who’s right?

You could attempt to sort through all the junk yourself, but there’s a much simpler solution: Leverage the work we’ve already done and skip the junkyard dive.

Our Solution: “Comprehensive Yet Concise” Courses

I’ve spent the past year sifting through every guide (including our own!), textbook, and comment thread related to investment banking interviews to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I’ve also reviewed hundreds of mock interviews to find the gems that will give you the highest ROI.

That’s harder than it sounds because each interview is different.

For example, if you’ve had significant work experience or you’re at the MBA level, you need to know more about the technical side, especially if you interview at elite boutiques.

But if you’re moving in from a career in IT or marketing, the challenges are different: You need the technical knowledge, but you also need to convince them you’re serious about the change.

And if you’re in EMEA, you need to be prepared for case studies and assessment centers.

To find a solution, I looked at how much time you might have available for interview prep.

We’re all busy, we all procrastinate, and no one can complete 400 hours of preparation in addition to school, work, and other responsibilities.

In most cases, you have 3 options:

  • Truly Last-Minute Prep: Your interview is tomorrow, or later today, and you have 1-4 hours to prepare.
  • Kind-of-Last-Minute Prep: Your interview is 3-7 days away, and you can devote a few hours each day to preparation.
  • Overachiever Prep: You’re starting weeks or months in advance, and you want to know everything before interviews begin. You can devote 1-2 hours per day to the process.

Examples, Please

The best example of this approach is in the new edition of our IB Interview Guide – version 4.0.

There is a lot of content in the guide, but there’s also a Quick Start Guide that spells out what to do with different amounts of time: 4 hours, 2 days, and 1 week.

For example, if you have only 4 hours for interview prep, here’s what we recommend:

  • Hour 1: Draft a 150-word outline of your “story” based on the templates and examples. Creating a solid story is easily the best use of your time at the last minute.
  • Hour 2: Prepare for “fit” questions by going through your resume and picking 2-3 experiences you can use over and over again and selecting your strengths and weaknesses from our recommended set.
  • Hour 3: Read the first 10-15 pages of the most important technical guides (Core Concepts, Accounting, Equity Value and Enterprise Value, and Valuation/DCF analysis).
  • Hour 4: Spend 20 minutes walking through your story out-loud a few times, 20 minutes explaining your work experience and answering “fit” questions, and 20 minutes skimming a few technical questions the sections above.

You cannot “learn” the technical concepts and questions in 1-4 hours.

However, you can often review or retain just enough to get through an initial interview.

And if you have weeks or months to prepare, great – you can read all 578+ pages of the guides in-depth, go through all the Excel files, and complete the 17 case studies in the course.

You will probably know more about the technical topics than most full-time bankers if you spend weeks or months preparing.

Another example of this approach is in our new Bank & Financial Institution Modeling course.

As with the IB Interview Guide, there’s a ton of material – around 40 hours of training along with written notes, guides, presentations, and Excel files.

But if you have only 1 hour, 1 day, or 1 weekend to prepare, you can also get a lot out of the course:

  • Truly Last-Minute Prep: Watch the 45-minute crash-course lesson in Module 1, which covers the most important points about bank accounting and valuation. Or skip the video and just look at the written version!
  • Kind-of-Last-Minute Prep: Complete Module 1, which gives you overviews of the key topics and simplified Excel models. You can finish it in 1-2 days, and it’s enough to get you through interviews.
  • Overachiever Prep: Finish everything, including the detailed Shawbrook model and stock pitch, the merger model lessons on KeyBank / First Niagara, and more. By the end, you’ll know more than many full-time FIG bankers.

We’ve also added written guides and notes throughout the other courses to make the entire process more efficient for you.

Video is great for some things, but it’s always faster to read the written summary.

Series – Interview Prep:

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing tips, samples, and excerpts from the IB Interview Guide 4.0, as well as examples from the other revamped courses.

Here’s what you can expect:

By the end, you’ll learn how to fix the broken interview prep process and maximize your chances.

Stay tuned.

NOTE: This promotion is now over, and the prices of these courses have now changed. However, you can still access all the free content we made available and use it for your own interview prep.

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. Hi Brian,

    I’m an international student doing my MBA at a non-target. It seems like the BIWS guide could boost my chances of getting a job in IB, but I would like to know how successful was the guide for internationals.

    1. I’m not sure I can answer a question that specific. We have testimonials and customer comments on the guide if you look on the site, but they’re not necessarily split up by international vs. non-international student. You can take a look at the samples and see if they’re helpful. If you don’t find them helpful or you already know the points covered in those samples, then you will probably not find the entire guide helpful.

  2. Brian,

    I am very ambitious and really enjoying financial modeling, working on pitchbooks, finding investors, analysing companies and all that stuff related to PE and M&A (got some experience). On the other hand, I don’t want to work more than 50 hours a day. Where would you advise me to work?

    1. *50 hours a week

    2. Nothing in investment banking, private equity, or hedge funds. Maybe wealth management or investor relations.

  3. Brian,

    I tweeted at you about being a junior in a non target school with analyst internship experience in oil and gas. Looking to get into energy or tech space for Investment Banking. I have a 3.67 GPA (although after watching a few of your videos I don’t know how important that really is).

    Your replied with focus on Houston. Is there any particular resource I can use to find small boutiques or mid bracket shop in Houston?

    Side note- The CEO of the small company I intern for currently was an investment banker a few years ago. How do I ask him to refer me to others? Or ask to talk to his network without getting fired?


    1. I would start with the Networking Toolkit and Interview Guide. We have lists of firms by location in the Networking Toolkit, but Google also works well:

      Why would you get fired for asking the CEO of a company you *previously* interned at for referrals? Just reach out to him using one of our email templates and ask for a referral. You could even use some of the free templates here:

      If you want to move into IB at this late stage (most students already have multiple internships by now), you’re going to have to be very, very, very aggressive and proactive. You’ll probably need some type of school-year internship that you can then leverage or convert into a full-time offer.

      1. Thank you for your response. I believe there was a misunderstanding regarding my CEO. It is my current CEO not a previous internship.

        Again, thank you for all of the advice. I’ll will take what you said to heart.

  4. In your opinion, have you seen the quality of candidates go down for IB? I also noticed that there was a ton of information online and it seems like so many people are trying to get into IB with networking and learning everything on their own (including myself haha).

    1. Yes, the average quality has fallen. Most senior people would agree with that as well. One reason is that finance doesn’t necessarily have a huge advantage over other options anymore. There has been more of a drop-off at the MBA level, but it’s still there even for undergraduates.

      1. Do you think that i-banking is still a good field to go into straight out of college?

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