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How To Mentally Prepare Yourself For An Investment Banking Interview: Pro Tips From An Ex-Goldman Sachs Banker


Imagine you have an interview for Goldman Sachs tomorrow. How would you feel? Stressed, anxious, but highly determined to crush it, probably. Feeling nervous before a high-stakes interview is perfectly normal.

Even the most relaxed candidates have this heavy ball in their stomach when they can feel the big day approaching. That includes myself. I was very nervous before my interviews at GS and other banks. 

The question is: how do you handle that pressure? Your mental state before the interview (a few days before to a few hours) and during the interview can make an enormous difference in your performance. 

I know some brilliant candidates who would have killed it in IB but who failed BB interviews because they weren’t able to show their “best selves” during interviews, mainly due to stress. 

In this article, I will share a few tips and practices that will help you canalyze your emotions better, prepare yourself mentally, and show your highest potential during interviews

Read as much as you possibly can

Several studies have shown that reading improves your verbal intelligence, expands your range of vocabulary, and forms new neuronal connections within your brain. The more you read, the clearer you will think and speak during the interview. 

Trust me blindly on this one. My best interviews came during times when I was reading for at least 2 hours a day with monk-like focus. 

Try to read at least one hour per day for 2 weeks straight, and you will already notice an improvement in your word flow and thinking skills. 

It’s a simple but near-immediately effective life hack. I recommend reading complicated books in philosophy or psychology to give your brain a good workout. 

Simultaneously, you may also want to read books about finance and investment banking to expand your financial culture. 

A good routine, in my view, is to read analytical philosophy in the morning, shortly after waking up, for cognitive gymnastics. 

In the evening, read some less cognitively demanding books to fall asleep, such as financial novels for instance. Even if you’re tired, you will be able to understand these books, and your financial culture will expand.

Visualize your success

Imagine yourself delivering flawless answers during the interview. Picture yourself walking out of the interview with a smile on your face, knowing that you smashed it. 

Visualization may seem like a cliche, but it works. Imagining future success puts you in a positive mindset that will inevitably benefit you. 

No need to spend your whole days visualizing success during the interview, but doing it a few times may help you.

Do high-intensity workouts

Performing high-intensity workouts can have a significant beneficial effect on your ability to think straight. Doing interval sprints or heavy lifting can help you reduce mental fog, boost your vitality, and make you feel good in your body. 

Multiple clinical studies indicate that high-intensity workouts can improve your cognitive abilities.

A study published in 2014 showed that acute high-intensity interval exercise could enhance selective attention and short-term memory tasks.

Another study from 2007 found that high-impact running improved vocabulary learning by 20% compared to a no-exercise condition. 

My personal recommendation is to do interval sprints twice a week. Squash is also an excellent cardio exercise if you’re fit enough.

Surround yourself with positive people

The thoughts and emotions of people around you are contagious. If you surround yourself with negative people, your mind will likely be polluted with negative thoughts. If you surround yourself with positive, driven, and supportive people, you will feel more optimistic. 

It might sound like generic positive thinking spiritual stuff but it remains true nonetheless. Just don’t interact with any negative people prior to your interview and talk with people radiating positive energy, it will make a real difference in your mindset and energy levels. 

I used to be sceptical about this kind of spiritual advice, but every time I’ve applied it, it has led to great outcomes down the line.

Practice Wim Hof Breathing

The Wim Hof Breathing technique is a powerful relaxation method that uses deep breathing to calm your nerves, reduce anxiety, and improve your focus. 

I’m going to be honest: I’m not a fan of meditation, it bores me out, and I never had the patience to sit in a lotus position for 20 minutes. 

But this breathing exercise is very practical and easy to execute, and the benefits are immediately perceptible. 

The process is relatively simple:

Do 30 deep breaths (deep inhalations and exhalations)

  • Hold your breath for 1.5 to 2 minutes
  • Take a deep breath
  • Hold your breath for 15 seconds
  • Repeat the whole process 2-3 times 

You can find a guided breathing tutorial here. I highly recommend you try it for yourself. When I tried for the first time, it was a complete game changer for me. 

After 10 minutes of Wim Hof breathing, you’re likely to feel a pleasant, quiet euphoria—something that makes you feel at peace and comfortable in your body. 

If you practice this ritual right before your interviews, I guarantee that you will feel much less stressed, more relaxed, and more focused.

Accumulate small wins the days preceding the interview

There is a concept in psychology called “psychological momentum”, according to which previous successes augment the probability of achieving future successes by boosting your confidence

When you see an NBA superstar scoring point after point during a basketball match, you see the power of psychological momentum at play. The more the player scores, the more confident he gets, the better he becomes, and the more points he scores. 

The beauty of psychological momentum is that it can work with pretty much anything that is emotionally interpreted as a success for you. For example, if you’re really good at playing basketball, bowling, or tennis, practice these activities a few days before the interview to put your mind on a “winning streak”. 

The condition for choosing these activities is that you should have a very high probability of winning. If you win several times in a short amount of time, you will get a confidence boost that will positively contribute to your interview performance.

Pray or believe that a higher power is on your side

I’m not a religious person. But several times in my life, especially ahead of important moments (including my final interview at GS), I did some form of internal prayer. 

Whether you’re religious or not, praying and believing that the universe is on your side can make your life significantly better. It’s the kind of thing that we can’t explain with science, yet it works. 

When you genuinely believe that something greater than you is on your side, you get a form of unlimited confidence that can help you achieve anything you want. Praying rituals are very personal, so you’ll have to find yours. But I highly encourage this practice, not just for interviews, but for feeling at peace in life in general.


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.