by Brian DeChesare Comments (2)

The HireVue Interview: Full Preparation Guide

HireVue Interview

The HireVue interview, also known as the “video interview,” is one of the dumbest developments in the finance industry over the past decade.

And that’s saying something in an industry known for destructive ideas (see: subprime mortgages).

I wasn’t planning to write an article about HireVue interviews because preparation is mostly common sense.

But then I realized that I’d get to point out how silly they are, and I quickly embraced the idea:

What is a HireVue Interview? Where Does It Fit into the Process?

Right after you submit your application to a large bank for an internship or entry-level full-time role, you’ll receive an invitation to complete a “video interview.”

You’ll have to click the link and complete the interview within a few days.

The “interview” consists of 3-5 questions that you receive on-screen.

For each question, you get 30 seconds of preparation time, and then you get 90 seconds to recite your answer… into your webcam.

The questions are mostly behavioral/fit, along with an occasional market/deal or “light technical” one.

Some firms let you re-record your answer a few times if you weren’t happy with your first effort.

The entire recording session might last 10-15 minutes altogether.

Then, an employee of the bank will review your answers (allegedly), but an “AI” might also score your responses.

Banks claim that this “AI” can detect body language, facial expressions, and thousands of other subtle signals that indicate whether or not you’d perform well in the role, based on “data from top performers.”

It’s not clear if the human score or the AI score takes precedence, and different banks may do it differently.

So, the usual investment banking recruiting process for Analyst roles in the U.S. now goes like this:

  1. Win 1-2 finance-related internships in Year 1 and 2 of undergrad and network with humans at large banks.
  2. Submit your resume and application online.
  3. If you pass, complete the HireVue interview… with a robot.
  4. If you pass, do a phone interview with a human.
  5. If you pass that, go to the Superday and interview with other humans.
  6. If you pass that, win an offer and work with other humans.

In the EMEA and Asia-Pacific regions, you’ll go to assessment centers instead of Superdays, and you’ll also have to complete competency questions and numerical/verbal/logical tests with your online applications.

However, those additional tests don’t necessarily “replace” the pre-recorded video interview.

Large banks in London and Hong Kong now use HireVue as well, so you might be required to complete everything.

That said, there are a few important caveats about this new step in the process:

  • HireVue interviews are primarily for internship and entry-level positions. Even in the lateral hiring process for IB Analysts, firms rely more on human interviewers and case studies/modeling tests rather than generic recorded answers.
  • They’re less common at smaller banks, even at the elite boutiques, though some do use them. True regional boutique banks may or may not adopt them since recruiting is far less standardized.
  • Pre-recorded video interviews also seem to be less common at the MBA level, probably because banks recruit many fewer students for Associate positions.
  • And beyond that level, banks don’t use pre-recorded video interviews because they cannot possibly use them to evaluate a senior banker’s ability to win deals.

Why Banks Are Lying About the Real Reason They Use HireVue

Banks started to implement HireVue in the 2015 – 2020 period, and the bulge brackets (and many other finance firms) now use it not only for front-office roles, but also for the middle and back office and everything else in the “entry-level” category.

They claim to do it so they can interview more candidates, gain more diversity, eliminate human bias, standardize the process, and find people they might otherwise miss.

Of course, that’s all nonsense: banks have adopted pre-recorded video interviews to reduce their recruiting costs.

In the old days, banks used to send teams of full-time bankers to university campuses to interview prospective interns and Analysts.

But that was expensive in terms of time and money – imagine a VP or MD being away from potential clients and deals all day – and banks deemed it an unnecessary expense.

It’s much cheaper to ask junior-level employees to review videos while multi-tasking on 3-4 other assignments.

You can refute the notions that HireVues result in a “more diverse” candidate pool and “eliminate bias” with approximately 5 seconds of thinking:

  • You still have to network and submit your resume and online application first, and you still need the right combination of work experience and education.
  • Banks have moved up recruiting to start so ridiculously early that mostly wealthy/well-connected students will have the right sequence of internships by Year 2 of undergrad.
  • Every evaluation method, whether by humans or machines, has some form of bias – the only way to evaluate someone for real is to assign them a work task and see how they complete it.
  • The claim that you could discern a “top performer” from a few pre-recorded answers is laughable. Given that HireVues are relatively new, where does this data come from? Who defines a “top performer”? Does more eye contact make you better at Excel?

Assessment centers and modeling/presentation case studies do a far better job of evaluating candidates than HireVues.

But those are more expensive to administer and require some human thought, so banks don’t like to use them in the first round.

HireVue Interview Questions: What to Expect

You can divide investment banking interview questions into three main categories:

Generic Fit/Behavioral Questions

  • Why our bank?
  • Why are your skills appropriate for this role?
  • How are your previous background and work experience relevant to this role?
  • Why are you looking for a new role?
  • Describe a time when something went wrong with a team, project, or activity you were involved in, and explain what you did to fix it.
  • Describe your previous internship experience.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Tell us about a unique leadership experience you had.
  • What role do you typically play when you’re on a team?

If you’ve read our guide to “fit” questions, there’s nothing new here.

You can even use the same strategy: prepare 3 short stories about your work/leadership experience, brainstorm 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses, and come up with your top 3 “real” weaknesses.

You are not likely to get a full “walk me through your resume” question here, but you should still outline your response because it will be useful for answering other questions.

Deal/Markets-Based Questions

These are less common, but still possible:

  • Describe a current event that has interested you.
  • What’s a recent deal that you’ve followed?
  • Which major asset classes do you follow, and how have they performed lately?
  • Can you describe a recent headline that you read in the news?
  • What’s a major geopolitical event that could affect the markets this year?
  • How would you invest $1 million?
  • What’s a recent deal that [Our Bank] has done that interested you?

Again, there’s not much to say about these if you’ve read the coverage of deal discussions and how to discuss the news and markets on this site.

Simple / “Light” Technical Questions

Automated systems are not capable of scoring your answers to in-depth technical questions, let alone having a true back-and-forth discussion as a human interviewer could.

So, if you do get a technical question, it will be simple and generic:

  • What are the three main financial statements?
  • Walk me through a DCF.
  • What does WACC mean, and how do you calculate it?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of equity and debt?
  • How would you evaluate a merger between two companies?
  • What’s the Treasury Stock Method?

You should be able to answer these with your eyes closed if you’ve done a moderate amount of preparation.

For sales & trading, you can expect more market-oriented and “pitch”-type questions (e.g., pitch me a stock or other asset).

How to Prepare for HireVue Interviews

To prepare your answers, you need to spend a few hours outlining your story and coming up with your short stories, strengths and weaknesses, and deal discussions.

In terms of execution, the key point is that banks use HireVue interviews mostly to weed out candidates.

This is because:

  1. If a human reviews your answers, he/she is probably not paying close attention since he/she is probably working on other tasks at the same time.
  2. Automated systems are not sophisticated enough to tell what makes a “good answer,” but they can pick up on mistakes such as lack of eye contact, speaking too quickly, etc.

You’re never going to “impress” a human or a robot with your amazing answers – but if you do something stupid, you could get dinged.

Here are the types of stupid mistakes you should avoid:

  • Not speaking directly into your webcam – you need to look *above* your normal viewing angle! Also, disable any features that show video of yourself on screen, or you’ll get distracted.
  • Attempting to record the interview with a broken or disabled webcam or microphone.
  • Reading from a script – you might get away with this in a phone interview, but video makes it very obvious that you’re not “natural.”
  • Speaking too quickly. Again, this might be OK on the phone, but video makes it much worse. Aim for 100-125 words per minute.
  • Not dressing in business professional attire (suit and tie for men; equivalent for women).
  • Not doing the interview in a clean, well-lit room, without background noise or distractions (pets, roommates, etc.).
  • Not maintaining eye contact with your webcam the whole time.
  • Using too many “filler words” (um, ah, uh, like, etc.) or stuttering when you speak.
  • Using too many hand gestures or too much body language – they could work in an in-person interview, but they look strange on a camera with a fixed angle.

If you can avoid these mistakes, and you give reasonable answers to the questions, you should do well enough to make it to the next round.

To practice beforehand, I recommend:

  1. Find a locked, quiet room with power outlets and a good internet connection. If you can’t find one on-campus, rent a small room from a co-working space for a month. Yes, it’s that important.
  2. Write the sample questions above on note cards, shuffle the cards, and then give yourself 5 of these questions, with 30 seconds of prep time and 90 seconds to answer. Use a stopwatch.
  3. Record your answers with Skype, Zoom, or other software.
  4. After you’ve finished answering these 5 questions, play them back and evaluate your responses.

For example:

  • Are you speaking directly into the webcam and maintaining eye contact the whole time?
  • Does your video show up clearly? What about the sound? Is the volume appropriate?
  • How many words are in your responses? In a 90-second response, the max should be 180-190 words (ideally closer to 150).
  • Did you remember to dress in business professional rather than a bathrobe?
  • How many filler words did you use? Aim to reduce or eliminate these.
  • Was there background noise, or were there other distractions? If so, you need to find a new room.

Once you’ve done a few practice sessions and answered 10-20 of these questions, you should be in good shape for the real thing.

It is highly awkward to speak into a webcam, record yourself, and watch afterward, but it’s now a required part of the process at the large banks.

Will the HireVue Interview Die an Early Death or Live Forever?

Unfortunately, I predict that HireVue interviews will continue to spread as more companies look to cut costs.

Whether or not they “work” is irrelevant – if banks can save money and remove human interaction from a process, they’ll do it.

The good news is that pre-recorded video interviews will never determine job offers by themselves; as long as you work with other humans, human judgment will be required.

The bad news is that these pre-recorded interviews require some extra preparation, and they’re now standard in internship and entry-level interviews.

But you can always hope that, just like with subprime mortgages, banks reverse themselves once the problems become apparent…

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. As you have said before, “Networking” is key to succeed in the recruiting process. What advise would you give to someone who is applying to a role in a different location? How to network with the team if you are thousands of miles away?

    1. Networking is networking regardless of location. Still use LinkedIn/the alumni network to find people, guess their email addresses, and email them to set up informational interviews.

      The only difference is that it’s harder to conduct weekend trips if you’re that far away, but they’re not completely necessary if you’re beyond the undergraduate level.

      Otherwise, all the networking tutorials on this site (https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking/recruitment/networking/) still apply.

      It helps to point to a specific connection to the place you’re moving to, as sometimes people will not take you seriously unless you can point to family/friends/interests/previous history/some other reason why you want to be there.

      This comes up all the time in places like Houston, where bankers are often skeptical about your interest unless you have connections there already.

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