The Investment Banking Interview Selection Process
“Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them.”
-Bud Fox, Wall Street
Heading into an investment banking interview? Make sure you read this carefully, since your life will depend on it.
One of my most frequently asked questions is how exactly investment bankers decide who gets an offer following a round of Superday interviews.
Sure, maybe you did everything right to prepare for investment banking interview questions, but ultimately it’s up to those who interviewed you.
Although it may be tempting, you don’t want to be like Bud Fox and use inside information to get an investment banking job.
Who Calls The Shots
Unlike the investment banking resume review process, Managing Directors are actually involved in handing out offers. HR, by contrast, does essentially nothing aside from the logistics. They don’t review resumes or make any calls themselves, aside from possibly how many Analysts to give offers to. But usually the MDs tell them how many they need.
Typically everyone from Analyst level to the Managing Director will interview candidates. It’s ultimately the MD’s decision who gets hired and who does not, but everyone does have a say in the process.
The Selection Process
After the first round of interviews, the interviewers decide among themselves who they want to invite back for final round interviews. We don’t “rank” people but generally have in mind the best few people we saw that day.
Sometimes there are too many people and not enough slots, in which case we will give slots to the best few and then decide who among the rest should get an interview. This part of the process can be unfair because not everyone has interviewed all the candidates and different people have different standards.
During Superday, each interviewer will evaluate different qualities (leadership, drive, technical skills, etc.) for each candidate. There is no “ranking” most of the time unless there are a ton of great people and not enough slots. I’ve never seen that happen as there are generally very few outstanding people.
Afterward, HR will gather everyone up for a debrief and see what people thought. Usually consensus emerges pretty quickly on who we give offers to, who we say no to and who we put “on hold.” The MDs have final say, but very rarely do people disagree. And needless to say, if an Analyst is pushing for someone but no one else liked him/her, the investment banking analyst is overruled.
How Many Get Selected
The absolute number depends on the office, group, and specific bank so it’s meaningless to list that here. In general, we will receive 500-1000 investment banking resumes for 30-50 spots, then give Superday interviews to 10 of those 30-50. Then we will pick 2-3 of those to actually receive offers, or maybe even fewer depending on how interviews go.
On a strict percentage basis, your odds aren’t great here. However, most people we interview do not stand out much and you can greatly improve your chances just by following a few simple interview tips.
Investment banks repeat this process at different schools until enough Analysts are hired. If there’s attrition mid-year or people back out of offers, we might look for lateral hires.
What We Look For In Candidates
School/GPA is almost irrelevant after the interview. It’s only relevant for getting your foot in the door.
Generally I look for people who really, really want an investment banking job and will do anything to get it.
Some interviewees are doing it just to test the waters and don’t really know what they’re getting into. Bankers can spot people like this from a mile away.
You don’t want to be one of them. Prove that you can work hard on very little sleep, learn quickly, play well in teams and are hungry to get experience and you will get offers.
Does The Interview Selection Process Change From Year To Year?
Not really, no. This is one area where banks could improve their interview processes – see who does well in the job vs. how they came across in interviews, and look for more of the qualities that result in good Analysts.
It’s very easy to discern a good interviewee from a bad one, but it’s much harder to tell good bankers from bad bankers before they actually do the job. I know of people who interview very well but are actually bad employees and I know of great investment banking analysts who are terrible at interviewing.
It’s never a perfect process but reviewing past interviews and hires may definitely be a good way to re-calibrate things.
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