Banks need technologists. The need them so much that Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, declared this week that the bank particularly wants to hire STEM students and that Morgan Stanley is promoting technology to analysts to associate after six months instead of two or more years.
This doesn't mean banks' tech teams are easy to get into. Despite some suggestions that banks pose easier coding challenges than top tech firms, banks still want impressive programmers and banks' technology interviews are as - if not more - challenging than interviews for jobs in the front office.
If you're applying for an entry-level engineering/technology job in an investment bank, you can expect a three phase application process: a coding test, a digital interview (usually via Hirevue), and an interview onsite. The coding test will test your ability to code in your given language, the Hirevue interview will usually ask you "soft" questions about your working style ("How do you deal with conflict?" And "Tell me a time you've demonstrated leadership." etc.) And the onsite interview will probe both those things over again.
"You're going to be asked about programming languages, databases, data structures and algorithms, as well as software engineering, operating systems and networks," says a first year an analyst at a major bank. He says typical questions are along the lines of, "You are given a lot of data about a particular organization. Design a database to organize and efficiently store the information,” or, “You need to develop a game using an Object Oriented language (like Java). What are the different classes you would design and how would you apply different principles of object oriented programming while developing the game?”
You can also expect more hypothetical questions, like: “In a big financial institution what are the advantages and risks associated with technologies like Big Data?." Or ,“In a big financial institution what are the advantages and risks associated with technologies like Big Data?”. Or, “Give an example of a piece of software that you think has a poor interface. Why do you think so and what can be done to improve it?”
Banks also like to ask their technologists mathematical brain teasers. While these questions have been dropped from sales and trading interviews they're alive and well when banks are hiring engineers. Remember that in most cases, these mind-wringing questions aren't about the answer, but your thought processes: interviewers want to see how you process the problem, so you make sure you articulate your approach.
If the worst comes to the worst, you'll face questions similar to those below. These have all been asked in banks' technology interviews over the past 18 months.