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10 Investment Banking Interview Tips You Must Must Know

Interview ideas

There is one thing that I despise above all else: looking for advice online, only to find countless articles that keep on giving the same BS, generic advice. 

If you’re looking for some practical tips to nail investment banking interviews, I think we’ll agree that pieces of advice like… 

“Be on time”… 

“Familiarize yourself with the firm values”…

Or the famous “Be yourself”…

… are not exactly game-changing tips that will help you win the offer.

Yet, the internet is filled with useless advice of this kind (even on websites that are supposed to be the “reference” on career advice) – leading applicants to feel even more confused and clueless. 

On this page, you will find the exact opposite: a concentration of radically honest, actional tips that you can implement right now to significantly improve your interview performance. 

Every single tip that you’ll read in this article is about pure efficiency. 

I’ve personally used these tips to land multiple offers at top-tier investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, Lazard, Credit Suisse, and many more. 

So if you’re reading only one article this year to prepare you for interviews, read this one, and thank me later.

Tip #1: Give priority to fit questions

A classic mistake made by candidates is to think that technical questions are more important than fit/behavioral interview questions, when in fact, it’s the exact opposite.

For entry-level roles (internships and graduate schemes for students), over 70% of all investment banking interview questions will be fit questions, not technical ones.

Top investment banks are not looking to recruit financial geniuses, they just want to hire highly driven, intelligent people who would be a great fit in their teams. 

For that reason, your answers to fit questions have a much greater weight in their decision to hire you or not than your answers to technical questions. 

Having interviewed numerous candidates for my former employers, I can tell you first hand that it’s possible to land an offer after a Superday even by making some minor mistakes on the technical side, as long as your answers to fit questions are solid as concrete.

On the other hand, it’s possible to never land an offer while being extremely well prepared on technical/financial questions, if you don’t know how to present yourself and share your story convincingly. 

For those reasons, I’d recommend starting your preparation with fit questions, and when you feel ready on those questions, move on to technical questions. 

If you want to get the offer, good answers to fit questions won’t be enough. You need answers of exceptional quality, and this takes time.

Tip #2: Demonstrate every claim you make with concrete examples

Whenever you’re saying things like “I developed strong analytical skills”, “I can work effectively in a team”, or “I can work on multiple projects at the same time”, there will be an automatic voice screaming in the head of the recruiter saying:

“I don’t believe you”.

Lots of candidates make big claims about their skills and qualities, but very few know how to prove it. 

And unless you can prove every quality you claim to possess, no one will believe you. Saying “I want to work in M&A because I think I can work diligently and effectively on demanding projects with tight deadlines” has zero convincing power.

If you want recruiters to believe you (and hence increase your chances of getting hired), you need to prove every single claim you make with a precise, vivid example. 

For instance, let’s say you claim to have “strong analytical skills”.

Claim: “I believe my strong analytical skills could be of value to your team”.

Proof: “Last year, by working as a research analyst for my university student investment club, I had the chance to produce 9 in-depth investment reports on European mid-cap healthcare companies. In order to write these reports, I spent many hours trying to understand the industry supply & demand dynamics, contacted several healthcare industry experts to check if my modeling assumptions were sound and realistic, and built multiple valuation models and sensitivity tables to obtain a range of valuation under different scenarios. Working on these research-intensive tasks has enabled me to sharpen my analytical skills, which I would now like to leverage to add value to your team.”

The more aggressive the claim, the stronger your proof needs to be.

Tip #3: Never learn answers by heart. Only have quick bullets of answers in your mind.


Unless you want to sound like an uncharismatic robot, never ever learn your answers by heart.

This is a cardinal rule that you must enforce if you want to be successful in investment banking interviews.

The content of your answer matters, but what matters even more is your delivery, the fluidity of your language, and the spontaneity in your voice.

If you want to sound convincing and spontaneous in your interviews, I recommend writing down quick bullets of answers for each question you’re preparing, instead of word-for-word answers.

For instance, let’s say you’re preparing the question: “Why are you interested in investment banking?”

Here are some examples of quick bullets you can prepare “in your head” for this question:

  • During an alumni networking event, you’ve met an MD working in the M&A team at Jefferies
  • He told you the story of a major deal in the TMT space that happened between Company X and Company Y
  • He ran you through the entire M&A process: from fine-tuning the equity story… to interacting with lawyers and PR agencies
  • You were amazed by the phenomenal complexity of this M&A deal
  • This experience really inspired you, and now you’d like to work on similar deals by working for a top investment banking team.

In this example, I don’t show you all the exact words that I would say during the interview. This experience can be expressed in many different ways.

But by having a quick glance at these bullets, you have enough content to formulate an answer that is convincing, engaging, and relevant.

As long as you know the essence of what you want to say, words will flow effortlessly during the interview and you’ll sound much more spontaneous than someone who’s learning everything by heart.

Unlike word-for-word answers, quick bullets are easy to memorize, and they give you the freedom to articulate your ideas choosing words that come spontaneously – without feeling any pressure to read a script.

As Bruce Lee said, don’t be rigid: be fluid, like water.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

Tip #4: Do your research to anticipate as many questions as you can

One of the most important factors driving interview success is your ability to anticipate interview questions in advance.

If you can anticipate 90%+ of interview questions you’ll get on the interview day, you’re not guaranteed to succeed, but you dramatically decrease your chances of failure. 

A mediocre candidate that knows 90% of interview questions in advance (and who had time to prepare these questions) will almost always outperform an exceptional candidate who has no clue of what to expect.

Anticipating most interview questions will give you clarity of mind, reduce your anxiety, and minimize the odds of getting a question which you cannot answer. 

So do your research. Contact people who’ve been through the interview process of the banks you’re applying to. Ask them about the most common interview questions. And build your own “question database”. 

This database will be your personal competitive advantage. If you want to get access to a comprehensive database of the 125+ most commonly asked questions in investment banking interviews, check out this page (includes fit and technical questions). 

Tip #5: Have a “bank” of stories about you to answer almost any fit questions

Interview questions search

A very effective way to answer almost any question thrown at you is to have a “bank” of personal stories or experiences about you that you can use in various contexts. 

These stories are not rigid responses that can only work for one question: there are “things about yourself” that you can express in multiple manners to answer multiple questions. 

Let me give you an example. 

One example of “things about yourself” could be:

  • You are a member of an investment club of 10 people, and you write equity research reports on a weekly basis.

As you can tell, this is a very general statement. It’s just a factual statement about your involvement in an investment club. 

Yet, it’s precisely because this “key fact” is so general that you can use it to answer many different fit questions…

For example, let’s say we ask you:

  • “Why are you interested in equity research?” 

You can then use this key fact to answer the question, by emphasizing the research efforts you made for your club. Here is how you can answer thie question, by drawing upon the key fact above: 

  • You’ve started reading books about investing in your second year at uni
  • You became really interested to learn more about how to pick stocks, and you decided to learn through experimentation
  • That’s why you launched an investment club, in which you wrote equity research notes on a weekly basis to explore that interest
  • You thoroughly enjoyed it, and today you would like to do research professionally because you’re passionate about it.

You can see that this example of answer here is just a more refined version of the simple fact that you belong to an investment club and that you write research.

The only “new element” is the fact of reading some investment books at uni. But most of the answer to this question is derived from a simple fact that you can easily retain.

Now let’s suppose that during the same interview, we ask you the following question:

  • “Tell me about a time where you had to work in a team?”

To answer this question, instead of having a ready-made answer specifically crafted for this question, you can re- use the “key fact about you” mentioned above, but emphasize the team-work aspect instead of the research one.

Here is an example of answer:

  • You’re an active member of an investment club of 10 people
  • Every week, you cooperate and work with each member of the team to write a 50-pages equity research report on a given stock, which has been selected by the team during a voting session
  • Splitting work can be challenging, because not all people have the same skill set 
  • Your role was to make sure that the team worked effectively by suggesting to each people in which part they could add the most value
  • Notes were always delivered on time 

Your answer is based on the exact same basic fact about yourself that you used to answer the first question, but as you can see, it is expressed in a different way to emphasize your involvement with the team.

Both questions have been addressed very convincingly, and you only used ONE key fact about yourself, which is impossible to forget.

If you manage to prepare not one but a collection of several key facts about you (what I call an “internal bank”), and if you know how to talk about these facts in different manners to adjust your speech depending on the question asked, you can handle ANY questions proficiently without ever having to worry about not having any convincing answer.

It will give you a much higher degree of flexibility vs. memorizing individual answers for each question, and it will boost your confidence because you know that you always have something in reserve that you can use to handle the situation.

Obviously, don’t use the same key fact to address 10 questions in a row, even if one of your essential facts is rich enough to enable you to do that…

It will sound like you have nothing in your life other than this. But it is perfectly OK to use one same fact to address several questions, especially if those questions are not asked consecutively OR if they are asked by different people.

With an internal bank of key facts/stoeries about you, you will always have something interesting to say to recruiters, and you will have much greater peace of mind when you walk through the door for your interviews. 

Tip #6: Use the S.T.A.R. model to answer questions

Perhaps you’ve heard this piece of advice already, but in case you didn’t, it’s a great practice to follow a S.T.A.R. structure when you are answering questions. S.T.A.R stands for:

  • Situation: what was the context
  • Task: what did you have to do/what were you trying to achieve
  • Action: what actions did you take
  • Result: what were the consequences/results

This very simple and logical structure is easy to implement and can be very effective in telling a story in a structured and compelling way. As you probably know already, recruiters will judge you on your ability to structure your thoughts, communicate efficiently, and think logically. Using this simple structure will enable you to project all of that. Here is how you can apply this STAR framework to answer the question: “Tell me about a time where you had to overcome a problem”:

  • You were a hiking leader for a group of children, in charge of their safety. (Situation)
  • One of the children under your responsibility has seriously injured his leg and was bleeding. (Task)
  • Immediately, you put the victim in a horizontal position and blocked the wound with a piece of tissue. You then called for medical emergency assistance. (Action)
  • Your initiative has mitigated the loss of blood, the rescue has arrived in time, the child was safe and secure. (Result)

This illustrative answer is inspired by a real answer that I received from a candidate last year, and I thought it was great. Obviously, you don’t need to save lives to be able to answer this question effectively! I’ve just shown you this example to give you an idea of the structure employed. Take the habit of using this structure for every type of question where there is some degree of storytelling involved. It will greatly contribute to the clarity of your communication, which is vital to succeeding in an interview.

Tip #7: Read like a monk

Interview Preparation

One of the most critical skills that you will need to master if you want to stand out from the “crowd” of candidates, is to show that you are capable of articulating your ideas effectively, and if possible, elegantly.

Focusing only on preparing questions is a mistake, you need to allocate some to train your reasoning and verbal abilities actively.

It does not matter if you are a financial wizard with an IQ of 175…If you cannot communicate your ideas effectively, you will be out.

That’s why English fluency is so essential, and that is why you need to practice it (especially if English is not your primary language).

To increase your verbal fluency, I recommend reading A LOT. All kinds of books, not just finance. The more you read, the easier you will come up with words during the interview, and powerful sentences will flow effortlessly.

Your brain is a highly sophisticated muscle. And if you train it effectively, it will perform at its best. Reading is a cognitive workout.

There is plenty of scientific evidence available out there that reading improves both verbal intelligence and critical reasoning skills.

When I was preparing for interviews, I used to read at least 100 pages a day, split between the morning and the evening.

If you read intensely on a daily basis for at least 1 week, you will immediately see some benefits in terms of reasoning abilities and verbal fluency. You’ll notice that words are flowing effortlessly, and your speed of thoughts will be faster than usual.

I suggest two different types of reading:

1)   Books that are easy to read but with very rich vocabulary, to increase the variety of the words you use and improve your eloquence

2)   Books that are intricate to read and understand, to increase both your fluency and critical thinking skills

If you have an interview coming up, start reading complex books/articles at least a week before the interview, for at least one hour a day (for best results).

Tip #8: Network with people in the division and firm you’re applying to

Many candidates naively think that as long as they excel during the interview, they have a good chance of getting the offer.

But in reality, it doesn’t work that way. There is no such thing as a “perfect meritocracy”. Many talented candidates who performed very well during the interviews will get wiped out, for reasons that have little to do with their actual interview performance.

Another critical factor that will determine your interview success is how well you connected with people in the team. If you want to get the offer, not only you must excel on the fit and technical side, but you also need to get along well with your interviewers. You need to produce a memorable impression, and make them want to work with you.

The best way to achieve that is to create a connection with them BEFORE the interview. Instead of going to your interview and discovering every single person for the first time, make sure to organize networking calls with as many people as possible who work at the firm and team of your interest.

If you do that, it is likely that you’ll meet a person to which you’ve already talked on the phone, and it’ll be much easier to create a genuine connection with them due to the pre-established sense of familiarity between both of you.

For instance, if you managed to talk to 5 associates and 4 VPs working at Goldman in the M&A team in London, you may speak to one of those in person during the interview. And your first initial call went well, they will be very happy to see you in the flesh – which will play in your favour during the selecting process.

Bottom line: don’t just network to get interviews (we show you how here), also network to increase your chances of succeeding in interviews.

Tip #9: Use reverse psychology to reduce stress and feel more relaxed during interviews

Technique to relax during interviews

If you look for advice online on how to feel more relaxed during interviews, you will always find the same BS:

“Drink some water”

“Focus on your breathing”

“Embrace how you feel”

“Think positively”

All these mindless pieces of advice are absolute garbage given by people who never had a real, high-stake interview in their lives (or who had an interview such a long time ago that they forgot how it really feels). 

Focusing on your breathing may help you relax when you’re slightly tense, but when your heart is beating at 190bpm as you’re waiting anxiously in the lobby for the Superday at GS, it won’t help you, trust me.

The tip that I’m going to give you is controversial, and you probably won’t find it anywhere else because most people are too busy trying to look good instead of getting things done.

But it works. Here it is:

Instead of trying to relax, do the exact opposite: exaggerate the stakes of the situation to absurd degrees, to make yourself as nervous as you possibly can. 

While I was waiting in the lobby of big banks before my interviews, I would think of absurdly dangerous things that could happen to me during the interview, like getting shot by the interviewer for no reason, fighting with an adult bear to pass the interview, or trying to survive against 3-4 associates armed with 40cm butcher knives.

Obviously, nothing of that can happen, but by letting myself imagine these things, not only was I able to make myself laugh, but I could also dedramatize the stakes.

When you exaggerate the dangerousness of an event, your brain recognizes the absurdity of your thoughts, and also acknowledges that the interview that is ahead of you is actually not a big deal (in the sense that you won’t be harmed).

So if you feel paralyzed with stress, try to exaggerate the “dangers” of the interview, and you will be more relaxed paradoxically because you know that the worst, most violent things that you imagine on purpose have zero chance of happening to you.

Tip #10: Do multiple mock interview sessions with people who are able to give you honest and adequate feedback

This one is probably one of the best tips I could give you to nail your interviews: find people who are in a position to give you honest and adequate feedback, and do multiple mock interview sessions with them.

Unless they’ve done plenty of interviews themselves, try to avoid asking friends. Only ask your parents if they have at least some knowledge of what is expected from candidates to work in IBD.

For these mock interview sessions to be truly effective (i.e., to help you become the most high-performing version of yourself you can be), it’s critical that the feedback your receive is accurate (it pushes you in the right direction) and unsentimental (based on logic and facts instead of emotions).

If you want objective and accurate feedback to progress, I’d suggest finding a mentor or a coach working in Investment Banking, who has at least several hours to test you and train you. In case you’re interested in receiving personalized feedback from an experienced IBD mentor, checkout this page


A word about the author

Aurelian Tran is the founder of Alpha Lane and an ex-Goldman Sachs analyst who has spent 4+ years working in the investment banking industry.

He founded Alpha Lane to help students and young professionals achieve their highest professional ambitions, by securing offers at top-tier financial institutions.