The questions prospective bankers should – and shouldn’t – ask during interviews

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Preparing a list of questions to ask hiring managers is advisable when interviewing for any role. It shows you're prepared and invested. But when it comes to investment banking, your questions need to be particularly targeted and industry-focused. The key is to ask questions that simultaneously act as statements about your base industry and cultural knowledge. Plus, you can find out who's really sitting on the other side of the table when it comes to actual work.

Ask about recent deals the bank has been involved in

And not generically; mention a specific deal to show you’re following the company and team in question, said a former investment banking VP at Deutsche Bank. Inquire about whether they were personally involved, she said.

"Asking about a group’s recent deal in the interview process reinforces an individual’s eagerness and enthusiasm," said Joanna Lee, VP of human resources at J.P. Morgan in New York.

Ask questions that show your knowledge of the overall market

Talk about a specific industry trend, then ask how it is affecting the firm’s investment banking unit. One example provided by the Deutsche Bank source: "The debt markets continue to be on fire, do you think they will slow down anytime soon and if so what implications do you think that will have for your business?"

You can also inquire about where they see the market heading,” said Chris Mitra-Hall, director at London-based Burlington Wellesley Search. “In ECM [equity capital markets], for example, do they think it will be more about IPOs; rights-issues; accelerated book builds this year and next.”

Ask them why they joined the firm

It’s a subtle way to coerce them into selling you on the job and opening up more about the bank, Mitra-Hall said. You can ask them about why they chose investment banking over private equity firms, hedge funds and venture capitalists, he said. This will give you an opportunity to state that you are interested in a career in banking and do not see it as a path to the buy-side – a common fear among hiring managers in banking.

Ask everything and anything about the person across the table

When not talking about yourself, make the interview about them. “Bankers love to hear themselves speak,” said Adam Zoia, founder of Wall Street recruiter Glocap. Inquire about their career progression, what it was like working for a particular CEO and their opinion on topical industry news.

Investment bankers "are egotistical, so focusing questions on them is always a good idea,” added the DB banker.

What you shouldn't by asking

Don't ask banal or clichéd questions. Hiring managers at investment banks hate wasting their time. "What is the typical work day of an analyst?" is about the worst question you can ask, said Mitra-Hall.

At the junior level, there's also no need to ask about the potential for career growth. Everyone knows the hierarchy. And above all else, never ask about work/life balance. “There isn’t one," said the former Deutsche VP matter-of-factly. Moreover, it will leave questions in the mind of the hiring manager whether you’re willing to put in the grueling hours or if you’re likely to burn out early.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: btuttle@efinancialcareers.com

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