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An insider’s look into interviewing at Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley…

Job interview.  Group of businesspeople having a meeting.

Some investment banking interviews are highly technical, digging mostly into a candidate’s financial skill set and aptitude. Others concentrate more on behavioral questions pertaining to interest and fit. It often depends on the bank in question.

In reporting on Vault.com’s latest “Best Banks to Work For” survey, we were given access to some insider reviews that help paint a clearer picture about what it’s like to interview at large bulge-bracket investment banks. We’ve included a snippet of the content below, along with a handful of actual questions asked of candidates.

Goldman Sachs  

Goldman looks for well-rounded candidates with impeccable academic records and activities and internships that demonstrate commitment. The key differentiators are extracurriculars, community involvement and, perhaps most importantly, strong people skills, Sandra Hurse, global co-head of campus recruiting at Goldman Sachs, told eFC last month.

The interview process is notoriously long, often consisting of a first round interview and a “Super Day,” according to one insider. Expect a mix of technical, fit and behavioral questions.

Questions asked of Vault insiders include:

“Tell me about a time when you were on a team and the team experienced an unforeseen challenge. How did the team work through the challenge and what role did you play on the team?”

“Assume you are an investor and you come across a family-owned business that is for sale; what would be the first one or two things you would do or want to know in order to determine what you would pay for the business? How would you think about valuing the business?”

“Tell me about something you read recently in the news that you think would have positive/negative implications for the U.S. or global equity markets?”

“I want to sell you a hot dog stand; how much are you willing to pay for it?”

J.P. Morgan

Academic excellence is an important factor at J.P. Morgan as well, but the firm doesn’t focus solely on grades, especially since many business schools have grade nondisclosure policy, Joanna Lee, an investment banking MBA recruiter at J.P. Morgan, told us earlier this year. GMAT scores and Dean’s List recognition help in their stead.

J.P. Morgan mixes up their interview process, according to Vault insiders. Desk visits and informal presentations aren’t abnormal. Expect more creative fit questions than straight technical inquiries, with most of the latter concentrating on financial statements and valuations.

Interview questions include:

“Walk me through a DCF. How do you calculate aspects involved in the DCF (e.g., WACC)?”

“What are some multiples that firms trade on? Why would one multiple be better than the other?”

“Pitch me a stock.”

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Morgan Stanley

Candidates interviewing at Morgan Stanley can expect a heavy dose of technical finance questions. One Vault insider even complained that the bank concentrates too much on finding candidates with traditional financial backgrounds who may not be as strong in the long run, passing on others with more impressive alternatives backgrounds.

Interview questions include:

“What is the most recent book you have read on the financial services industry/economy/global markets?”

“Give an example of when you worked in a team and the project went successfully, and an example of when you worked in a team and there were issues and how you handled that.”

“Explain to me what ‘quantitative easing’ means and what does the Federal Reserve hope to achieve with this?”

“Once you receive offers from a number of places, what will be the most important factors to you as you think through which one to accept?”

Citi

Insiders paint an interesting picture of Citi. The firm gives “extra points” to those who don’t get nervous doing interviews and look for candidates who want to make Citi their career rather than a stepping stone to something else. The firm is open to non-target schools; culture fit is a big differentiator.  Expect market-focused inquiries.

Interview questions include:

“What are some differences between debt and equity and why would a company choose to raise one over the other?”

“Can you walk me through how the financial statements flow into each other? If depreciation increases, what is the effect on the financial statements?”

“What are some of the steps in a sell-side process? What would be the strategic rationale behind a merger of two public companies in the same industry?”

Click here for Vault’s complete rankings.

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