This is almost always asked at the end of any finance interview (actually, any interview – accounting, consulting, chef at nice restaurant). If it is not asked, it is generally a bad sign. Even if the interview was extensive and covered lots of ground, candidates should still ask questions. We know several internal candidates who otherwise performed very well who were passed up because their lack of questions suggested low interest or entitlement.
Always have a list of questions prepared that are thoughtful and show that you are an informed interviewee.
There are good questions and there are bad questions. Good questions can give you an edge over other qualified candidates as you prolong a decent discourse and build rapport, giving the interviewer or interviewers a better picture of who you are. Bad questions show immaturity and a lack of preparation. You will need to have several questions handy in case some of the answers were addressed during the main interview.
Bad questions are questions that could have been easily answered from a Google search or from soliciting the opinion of other investment bankers in your friend group. Questions that are irrelevant to the job are generally not kosher, although if the conversation has deviated from a professional setting repeatedly at the guidance of the interviewer, this can be a good time to make general small talk. Questions that put the interviewer on the spot and make them feel uncomfortable will not compel them to vouch for you.
Questions Not To Ask in an Investment Banking Interview
These are not good questions:
- What’s the culture like here?
- What are the hours like?
- What do you do for fun?
- What do you like about your job?
- Why should I choose you instead of JP Morgan?
Although other HR influenced blogs may suggest the following questions, we do not recommend them:
- Why is this position open?
- What do you expect from an analyst/associate?
- What are common analyst mistakes?
- What is the firm’s view towards rotations/international rotations?
HR professionals suggest asking why the position is open so that you can find out whether it is available because someone was terminated, quit or is on maternity leave – accordingly, you can extrapolate about the culture and whether or not it is a good fit for you. Unfortunately, that does not apply in this case – if you do not have a good job, it is a good fit for you. This is also something you should be able to find out from your extended network – sometimes this information will be volunteered to you. The reality is that the industry has high rates of attrition, so this is a wasted question.
Asking about rotations, especially international ones, before you begin the job means that you are 1) not focused on the task at hand which is performing; 2) not committed to the city. For #2, this is especially bad if you are applying to a satellite office such as Minneapolis or Calgary where finding out if you want to stay long term is a major consideration in the hiring decision.
For the other questions, answers can be ascertained from asking around pre-interview or reading this blog. Common sense is paramount.
Questions To Ask In An Investment Banking Interview
Other than questions that may build on a topic already discussed during the main interview, good questions suggest you have gone above and beyond the call of duty in terms of research and can demonstrate genuine interest and precocious talent.
Educating yourself is always a good investment – even when you do not get the job, you leave with insight and perspective.
A while back, one of our friends met up with a FIG investment banker for a coffee outside of recruiting section and read extensively about banks, insurers, Basel III, the float, and JC Flowers. The banker was impressed by his motivation and brought him to meet the team – he was hired shortly after when another junior team member left.
That said, it is important to remember to frame it as a deferential question. Anyone who namedrops 13 news items about a subject before asking the question is a smartass and leaves themselves exposed should they be asked a counter question about it – a few Bloomberg articles will not put you at the same level as a subject matter expert who has spent 16 sleepless nights reading about Risk Weighted Assets.
Sample Questions to Ask the Interviewer
- What are some new trends in M&A and how have new takeover rules affected how you advise your clients?
- What sectors are hot right now in M&A and what has been guiding that?
- Where do you see M&A activity in the near future and what are some of the drivers for that?
- What was an interesting transaction with an innovative structure that you worked on?
- How do you provide an integrated service with other product partners?
- How does a lower oil price affect investment banking revenue? Is there more consolidation? Do capital markets dry up?
- Is gas becoming more relevant because of electric vehicles and cleaner emissions?
- Understanding that you are oil price agnostic, when does your team see balance in the market?
- What problems does your team face with the egress issues due to resistance to energy infrastructure/pipelines?
- Where are you seeing the most activity right now? Regional banks? Asset managers? P&C Insurers?
- What will happen to the industry if regulatory changes come through in Congress pertaining to healthcare?
- Have you seen a proliferation of Fintech deals coming to market? How is coverage split between your team and technology?
- I often read that higher rates are positive for FIs – are there other things to look out for in a rising rate environment and tightening Fed?