How do I ace this interview?
October 28, 2009 12:09 PM   Subscribe

How do I ace this finance interview?

I have been lucky enough to win an interview with a Very Prestigious Bank's equity research division. I will be interviewing as an experienced hire for a junior analyst position. So far I have had two phone interviews and collectively I have spoken to the three team members with whom I would be working. I have not spoken to HR once; I have no HR contacts. I was selected by a headhunter who forwarded my resume to the team leader, who liked my background.

I now will be flying out to the bank's office to meet with more people. I would like to prepare for what questions to expect. I've done a lot of research but nearly everything I find seems directed to people looking for internships and entry-level jobs from undergrad/grad school. My intution tells me things are different for experienced hires. No more questions like "Tell me about a time where..." or "How do you react when..." Thus far I've been asked no "behavioral" questions. My questions have been more directed to assessing the strength of my modeling skills and my industry knowledge. Should I anticipate more ambiguous "HR-type" questions going forward, or should I generally expect things at this point to assess how well I will fit in with the team/company's culture? How do I best prepare to ace my interview? What is the process in general like for experienced but lower-level hires in the finance industry? Also, for anyone who is particularly famillar with research culture--does the ultimate decision reside with the head analyst or does a consensus generally need to be reached or what?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would peruse the blog Mergers and Inquisitions. Though it deals with investment banking specifically, I think a lot of the interviewing tips there are relevant to equity research as well.

I would assume at least some of the questions you will be asked will have to do with technical questions ("Discuss the relative merits of the discounted cash flow valuation model." "Define the weighted average cost of capital." Etc.)

I would also assume that at least some of the questions you will be asked will be along the lines of why you think they should hire you, what you can do for them that the next guy can't, how your experience and background align with the demands of the job, etc.

Finally, I would also expect the interviewers to just ask "getting to know you"-type questions: where did you go to school, what was your major, what's your favorite TV show, etc.
posted by dfriedman at 12:23 PM on October 28, 2009

I suppose this is obvious, but if you haven't yet asked this question to the headhunter that introduced you, that would be a good place to start. This person should have keen insight into what they are looking for and the process going forward. They should even be able to find out about the people/personalities that you'll be meeting with and their specific interviewing styles.

Next, try networking into the bank (i.e. via Linked-in, etc.) to contact people who work there and pump them for everything they're worth to find out details on the hiring process, company culture, etc.

Also, while I don't have fin/research experience, I've interviewed and been interviewed at many levels and behavioral interviewing seems appropriate at nearly every level.
posted by c, as in "kitchen" at 12:36 PM on October 28, 2009

When we interview analysts here, we generally spend a lot of time assessing their ability to model and value ideas. I would have maybe 3 strong trade related ideas, maybe an undervalued stock you like, or an overvalued. It's a bit different for me as I work on the quant/trading side of thing, so I might not be describing this well as it relates to you. These ideas should be written up into something concise and to the point. Your ideas don't have to match what they think, they (or we, when we do this) are looking at your thesis, how it's formed, etc.

We'll also throw curve balls: give them a hypothetical position and ask how they would manage it. Again, doesn't necessarily apply to you, but I would expect something similar in your specific area of expertise. Maybe, how would you handle X Y Z news in MSFT.

It sounds like you're already an equity analyst for a specific sector. I would know that sector inside and out, which you probably do. I would know where your companies are trading, what multiples they're roughly trading on, etc. This is all so you can sound like you know what you're talking about when they ask you; because chances are they will only have a vague idea.

I would always expect generic HR-like questions. You can never escape them.

Good luck!
posted by teabag at 1:29 PM on October 28, 2009

Generally, I've found it depends on the interviewer. I've had very generic interviews where essentially I'm just walking the person through my resume, explaining some of the interesting things I've worked on, etc. These conversations tend to be rather organic and evolve to a point where the interviewer can actually learn a whole lot about the candidate. On the other end of the spectrum, I've had interviews that were almost exclusively "quant" and brain-teaser based--"what's 7 cubed?," "how many washing machines are there in new york city?," etc. With these questions, they're trying to get an idea of how you think under for the 7 cubed question, there are many ways to get to the correct answer of 343, but the way that best shows your critical thinking would be to say, "7 x 7 is 49, 50 x 7 is 350, 350 less 7 is 343." Showing how you get to your answer is almost more important than what your actual answer is. I think as long as you're confident and know your resume well, you should be well-equipped to have a good interview. As an aside, I've always found the Vault guides to interviews to be very helpful as a refresher.
posted by arm426 at 2:19 PM on October 28, 2009

I don't think the interview is going to about a lot of critical thinking given )it sounds like an experienced associate gig )you've already had a series of phone interviews

Basically expect questions on Fit, Why you want that job/be in SS equity research and for anyone you have not met yet to ask you the basic finance/modeling questions again.

But given you've already had the phone interviews with the people you will be working with I bet it is a lot about fit - i.e. they've already decided you are probably capable of doing the job they want to make sure you aren't some mutant.

I mean it isn't a decision making job. You might get a junior guy who wants to show you how smart he is - but the guys who actually matter will probably be pretty low key about it all. Also most importantly this is a chance for you to figure out if you want to be part of that team. I mean it sucks to work 12 hours a day with people you don't like.
posted by JPD at 2:32 PM on October 28, 2009

Yeah, really ask the headhunter, if they are any good at all they should know the process cold and be able to prep you for it. It might be no big deal, HR generic questions with a few people to figure out fit. I doubt it, personally, but it is possible. Or it might be a grueling 8+ hour marathon of intense specific questions about your area of expertise asked by almost every single member of the team. If it is the latter, you should know that they are looking for how you deal with pressure and you should be prepared for that.
Also, depending on the firm, be prepared to fawn over it and bone up on the company in general. They very well might want to know why you want to work there, and the more compelling case you can give them the better. And of course you should absolutely prepare good questions to ask your interviewers, because it is so offputting when an interviewee has absolutely nothing to ask me. I don't care if you've asked the 5 people before me the same thing, you should really be able to fake interest in my opinion on something.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:42 PM on October 28, 2009

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