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How to Pass Your Investment Banking Interviews: Proven Strategies for High- Paying Wall Street Jobs

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It’s no secret that investment banking interviews are hard, especially if you’re targeting the top investment banks.

A lot of the advice online revolves around technical interview preparation, without really explaining to you how to stand out as a candidate. 

Put another way: it’s impossible to stand out if you’re doing exactly what thousands of applicants are doing.

In this article, I will share with you 7 unconventional tips and proven strategies to help you succeed in investment banking interviews

Some of these tips may seem strange, because you probably never heard them before. But they work. I’ve used these strategies to secure multiple premiers offers at bulge-bracket banks.

And if you make good use of them, I’m confident you’ll get an offer that matches your ambitions too.

So let’s get to it!

Tip #1: Network with bankers before the interview. If you haven’t spoke to at least one of the persons interviewing you, you start with a major disadvantage
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Too many candidates naively think that their performance during the interview is all that matters to getting the job.

In reality, it is more complicated than that…

In an ideal meritocracy, candidates would be strictly selected based on the quality and intelligence of their answers.

But in real life, others factors are at play, the most important one being: how people perceive you, and the extent to which they like you.

If people don’t like you, you can be the brightest financial genius on Earth and still get rejected every time.

Top investment banks are not only looking for bright minds. They’re looking for bright minds who are also interesting, agreeable people to be around.

That’s why you cannot count on your interview performance alone to get an offer. You also need to work on your social skills to build a genuine connection with your interviewers.

Now, what is the best, most effective way to build strong connections with bankers?

I’m going to give you my personal hack. The one that gave me a de facto tactical advantage over my competitors.

Here it is:

Before your interview, do your research to identify which persons you are the most likely to meet during the interview

For instance, if you have an interview in investment banking for an elite boutique in TMT, find the names of all the people working in the TMT IB team at the right location (e.g. London if the job is based in London). 

You can do that relatively easily using LinkedIn. Then, reach out to these people, get a call with them, and ask them thoughtful questions

If you have enough calls, there is a good chance that at least one of your interviewers will be someone you’ve already spoken to. In that case, it’s almost impossible to make a bad first impression during the interview. 

If you kindly remind the person that the two of you have already spoken on the phone, it will create an instant complicity, and the person will usually be happy to interview you in a more casual manner. 

Do that, and it will greatly facilitate human connections with bankers, which, again, can make a critical difference in the outcomes of your interviews. 

Of course, you can’t rely on this alone. You also need to be extremely well prepared. 

But it will definitely help. If you want to get access to the exact cold emails I sent to bankers to secure informational calls, check out this page.

Tip #2: Demonstrate every claim you make


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 them. 

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: Anticipate as many questions as you can

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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 #4: Read a lot

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 #5: Get interview feedback from a pro, ideally an active or former investment banker

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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, check out this page.

Tip #6: Don’t be a robot. Better to be imperfect but spontaneous than perfect but inauthentic.


There is one thing that recruiters hate above all else: candidates who are reciting their learnt-by-heart answer mechanically, like a robot, with zero sense of spontaneity

Believe me: when you’re reciting your prepared answer word for word, the interviewer can tell that what you’re saying has been rehearsed dozens of times. And this is a bad thing. 

No one wants to speak to a robot. The goal of an interview is to get to know you better, and to have a genuine conversation with you to see how you behave in real life. 

If you are not spontaneous, some recruiters won’t even listen to you. Those that do won’t really take you seriously. 

Put yourself in their shoes: if you were a recruiter, would you prefer to talk to someone who is authentic and spontaneous, or someone who is not really there, just bluntly reciting answers as if he was speaking to a wall?

That’s right, you would prefer the former. Yet, the vast majority of candidates behave like robots in interviews, and then wonder why they don’t get the offer

So if you retain only one thing from this tip, retain this: it’s better to say imperfect answers (answers that are not perfectly phrased) but to be fully present and spontaneous rather than having perfectly phrased answers delivered in a robotic way.

If you don’t at least give the illusion of spontaneity, recruiters won’t like you, and you probably won’t make it.

Now, of course, you have to prepare your answers thoroughly. But as I mentioned in previous articles, you should only memorize short “bullets of answer” instead of fully articulated answers. 

In other words, for each interview question, have a broad idea of what you’re going to say, but let your mind find the right words on the spot when we ask you these questions. 

Yes, it’s not as comfortable. But it will make an enormous difference in the way you are perceived. 

Just by sounding spontaneous, you will already beat a lot of otherwise good candidates who sound like robots in interviews. So take this piece of advice very seriously.

Tip #7: Capitalize on small talk to make a strong, friendly first impression

As explained before, first impressions matter a lot. In fact, a great first impression can change the nature of interview questions you will receive.

If you’re having a laugh with your interviewer within the first seconds, I can tell you from experience that he is less likely to be harsh with you during the interview. 

He may still ask you hard questions, but since you’ve shared a good moment at the beginning, he’ll be less likely to be a complete a******* cornering you at every question. 

Some recruiters like – or should I say LOVE – to play bad cops. If you manage to have a pleasant, friendly talk in the first seconds of the meeting, it will make it harder for them to put themselves into the “bad cop” character (which happens quite often). 

So my advice to you: see small talk as an opportunity to put the interviewer on your side. 

You can speak about anything – their office, the weather, the cafeteria, whatever pops into your mind. 

Your only goal should be to have a nice, friendly, and, if possible, funny first interaction with your interviewer. You will see that the rest of the interview will flow naturally better.


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.