Now that internal promotions are all the rage, investment banks are slower to invite people to interviews. Why hire externally when you can promote a junior with far less hassle? When you’re invited to a finance interview, it’s therefore become all the more important that you don’t mess up.
Below, we have a selection of real life interview disasters provided to us anonymously by finance recruiters who work inside and outside investment banks. Read and learn. On no account commit the same mistakes yourself.
1. When asked about modelling capabilities during your banking interview, do not refer to the catwalk
“The most stupid thing I’ve ever come across was a graduate who started talking about catwalks when I asked them about their modelling capability,” says one graduate recruiter.
2. Do not bring an iron into your banking interview
The same graduate recruiter says she once interviewed someone who brought an iron into an interview. “He told me it was ‘for protection’ and then said he was only joking – he’d had to borrow it to iron his shirt on the way and he couldn’t put it down anywhere because it was still warm.”
3. Do not hedge your bets during your banking interview
“There are some people who will interview for M&A roles and say that they’re also interviewing for private equity,” says the head of one recruitment firm. “That’s an immediate turn off.”
“We organized a dinner for some of our students with some senior bankers,” says the head of finance careers at one leading business school. “One of the bankers asked a student what his career plans were. The student said consulting – and banking. But the pause was just too long. It was clear that consulting was his first choice. His informal banking interview didn’t go much further.”
4. Do not push the parameters of acceptable dress in your banking interview
“I interviewed a guy who was a Rod Stewart tribute act,” says one banking recruiter. “He was terrible. He was also wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
“I’ve also interviewed someone in a brown suit and turquoise shirt,” she adds. “It doesn’t get much worse than that.”
5. Do not bring your parents to your banking interview
“I’ve had people bring their parents to the interviews,” says one graduate recruiter. “I have to ask them to sit outside.”
“Parents will sometimes call to make inquiries about the progression of an application,” says another banking recruiter. “I have to tell them that data protection legislation prevents me from talking to them.”
6. Do not attempt to tacitly signal your educational pedigree during your banking interview
If you’ve been to a fancy school, you might want to signal your education during the interview. A school tie is acceptable. School socks aren’t. “All the kids from Eton and Harrow insist on wearing their sports socks under their suits,” says one recruiter. “- They look very smart, until you get to the ankles.”
7. Do not be too aromatic during your banking interview
“I’ve interviewed people with such bad body odour that it’s made my eyes water,” says one recruiter. “I’ve also interviewed people with an excess of aftershave.”
8. Do not try to kiss your banking interviewer
“You get some continental European candidates who want to kiss you,” says a recruiter, “I’ve had people giving me kisses on both cheeks. I’ve also had people trying to kiss my hand. That’s just weird.”
9. Do not use words and jargon you are unfamiliar with during your banking interview
“I’ve had people defining WACC as ‘hitting the balance sheet where it hurts'”, says another recruiter, “I’ve also had people saying ‘reach around’, when they meant ‘reaching out.”
10. Do not say the name of the wrong company during your banking interview
“I’ve interviewed people who mentioned the wrong company name,” says one MBA recruiter, “I suppose they were interviewing at quite a few different places.”
11. Do not shake hands limply during your banking interview
“I had a candidate with a very limp handshake,” says one fixed income headhunter. “It was so bad that the bankers who’d interviewed him called me and said he needed to firm-up his handshake before meeting their boss who would judge him on it. I had to have some quite stern words with him – but it didn’t work, he stayed limp.”
12. Do not attempt to disguise discontinuities in your career during your banking interview
“A lot of more senior people in banking have had a bad experience in the past four years,” says the head of one recruitment firm. “There’s nothing wrong with being let go – that’s acceptable, but I still come across people who say they chose to leave instead of admitting that they were actually made redundant.”