GUEST COMMENT: Three questions M&A interviewers often ask graduates to try confusing them

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Solve this in your head

We’ve already looked at the three questions which will determine your success in an M&A interview, but what about the questions interviewers will ask to try throwing you off balance?


Be aware, that these often come in the second half of an interview: after you’ve answered the first three questions and are feeling confident about things. At this point, your interviewer may try testing your responses under pressure.


So, expect some questions along the lines of:


  • Where did the FTSE100 close yesterday?


You have told the interviewer that you read the FT every day, never miss the Economist and love the Wall Street Journal website, but if that’s really true there are a few key statistics you must surely have at your fingertips, including:


-   The FTSE 100 closing level


-   The price of a barrel of oil or an ounce of Gold


-   The UK interest rate (it hasn’t changed in three years!)


Make sure that you have these and a few others to hand, but be warned that when you confidently tell them the price of Gold they’ll ask for the trend over the last few years.


  • How many car tyres are sold in the UK every year?


The tortuous market sizing brain teaser. You know the key here is not to panic and that the interviewer probably doesn’t even know the real answer but all too often candidates fall apart here with crazy assumptions (such as that there are 10 million people in the UK, or that we change tyres every year) and/or dodgy maths. The beauty of the question for an interviewer is that you can’t learn the answer, but you can prepare, so get your friends to fire examples at you and you’ll minimise the chance of a disaster.


  • Did bankers cause the financial crisis?


If you’ve got to the stage where the interview has developed into a wide ranging conversation with questions such as this you are probably doing well. Stay on your guard though and always make sure you provide a balanced answer. In this example probably best to apportion the blame across a range of people, with M&A bankers strategically low down the list – it would be a shame to spoil all your good work this late on.


Now just make sure you have a small number of sensible and relevant questions for the interviewer, and hope he asks you for them...

Guy Ballantine is a former director of recruitment firm Cornell Partnership and former director at DC Advisory Partners.

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