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Authentic killer questions used in financial services interviews

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a competition.

If you tell us the most punitive question you have ever come across/conceived, either as an interviewee or interviewer, plus the answer you gave/wanted, we will enter you for a draw to win an iPad.

Below, in no particular order, are the questions we’ve been sent so far. Click on the links below to read the answers, and the context they were asked in.

What do you struggle with most at work?

The interviewer didn’t ask me any questions at all! – Surely the most difficult question ever?

“I propose a game, you throw a dice just once, if you get a 1 I give you 1, if you get a 2 I gave you 2, … if you get a 6 I give you 6. What’s the fair value of this game?”

Define a moral dilemma ? Give an example of a time you have faced a moral dilemma? How did you know it was a moral dilemma and what was the outcome?

How many tennis balls are there in China?

A stock is trading at $100 and in a year’s time it will either double to $200 or halve to $50…

If a colleague had to give one of your worst features, what would it be?.

How would you react if I told you that your interview, so far, was badly at this point? And how would you rate me as an interviewer?.

Tell me why I shouldn’t outsource your job to India

How do you calculate VaR, and what are its parameters?

Have you ever had a disagreement with your boss over an issue at work? What was the outcome?

If you were an animal other than a human, what animal would you want to be?

Of the clients you said you might be able to bring with you, how many of them would you, using your mobile, be able to phone now and speak to directly?

You have a junior team and need to manage a project that is forecast to be unprofitable and that is not meeting the client’s expectations

Identify up to 3 of your worst business decisions and discuss what you learned from them.

If your friends, not your colleagues, were sitting round the table of this room, what would they be saying about you?

If your boss was asked to provide three criticisms of you, what would he say?

Where do you see yourself in three years’ time in our organisation?

Explain gamma to me as you would explain it to your grandmother.

What’s the difference between a UK/European Option and a US Option?

Comments (20)

  1. Most of these questions if asked would no doubt leave the interviewee regarding the interviewer as a pompous fool. An interview is not an arena in which to attempt to trip up a prospective member of staff( by the interview stage one should have checked out the candidates background anyway. It is highly likely that an uncle or godfather is sitting somewhere and should have been asked to support the interviewee)
    Interviews should focus on schooling ,status of university, degree type(never below a 2:2), possibly what regiment (infantry regiments are now deemed as very acceptable)
    Too much thinking about interviews and “techniques” is dangerous

  2. thanks Sarah, i hvae already bookmarked this page… I have interview lined up with asset management firm,, very soon.. this is like guidance for me

  3. i dont want to sound as someone who knows everything cause i don’t , but for god sake, if someone being interviewed for a role that consist derivatives , at least don’t waste your interviewer time by not knowing the different between American and European options !!!!!!!!!

    i got someone who asked me what would I done differently if i was Lehman Brothers CEO !!!!!

  4. I really hate those questions designed to get you talk about your own failings and weaknesses. The honest and self-critical people will eliminate themselves, and the ones who can talk themselves up, regardless of actually abilities, will be in the running.

  5. The problem I have with those questions is very simple. We have just seen that the game is not a fair game. In the opposite. And what do we have? The same guys with the same question of pre-credit crunch. Conclusion: nothing changed.

  6. I believe that many, if not all of these questions are trick ones, in one of several possible senses, one being that there is no right answer, another that it is foolish to attempt it, and in at least one more way, that the premise of the question not only could be but should be attacked. For instance, VaR is one of the bogus idiotic methods or theories that gave illusory cover to buying faulty CDO’s and MBS’s. Some of the questions also disqualify the interviewer. They should be trying to find out the interviewee’s tastes, inclinations, and way of thought to see how they will interact productively and with integrity in the company.

  7. I was given a telephone interview and the interviwers 1st question was “Tell me about you career so far. We will tell you when we want you to stop.” They then put their telephone on silent for between 20 and 25 minute with no interaction whatsoever until they put their speaker live and said “Thank you that is enough”.

  8. Any interviewer who fells very clever to ask such questions should be fired. It is not a way to give confidence to a candidate and to give him the opportunity to show the best of himself which is precisely what a company is searching from a candidate.
    All these tricky questions are definetely silly and are preciley showing the poverty and limits of such interviewers.
    As CEO of a company I do not need such process of recruitment.

  9. I was interviewed by 12 separate managers over a three day period in the banks offices both in London and overseas. The questions were all pretty standard and I got the feeling they were going to compare notes on my responses. I gather this was a normal interview process for this bank and any one manager turning you down terminated the process. I was uniformly accepted by the interview process but still terminated 2 years later. What a waste of time and effort!

  10. Majority of these questions are trick questions designed to test the interviewee’s thought process when thrown into a crap scenario. Have the courage to say to the interviewer that this is a silly question and you are not wasting your time with this and move on.

  11. This wasn’t exactly a question but it is a true story. A colleague of mine at London Business School was being interviewed for an Investment Banking position at Goldman Sachs …… and the interviewer fell asleep. A reflection on the state of the interviewer and not how interesting the candidate was.

  12. Thanks for helping candidates prep for interviews. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and as a non-traditional type wanting exceptional people to work with or work for, I welcome provocative questions. I want people not to regurgitate formulas or expect me to do so, but to understand how & when to use them and to interpret correctly their findings. I want a company, colleagues, & staff who THINK.

    Unfortunately, in the UK far too many accountants populate financial services roles & are looking for questions to respond to by rote. Living in the world of black & white, they seem limited to thinking inside the box &, because people tend to hire like themselves, perpetuate this in the Industry. Certainly, I’m more comfortable with MBA types, with a broader sense of the world and more likely to ask questions that evoke a thought process, the “how” and the “why”..

    In any event, thanks for your column & stimulating this discussion!

  13. What is so diffiult about these?

    I like the tennis balls in China – Answer:as many as they think they want.

    UK/European or US option – could be a really nice tricky one – fun!

    I once got asked what the square root of 10.

  14. Some of those questions aren’t trick questions, and they’re not actually bad for working out how the person thinks.
    i.e. the dice, the double or halve, american/european and explain gamma(depending on the role).

    Some of the others – like worst decision or your bad points will literally make the bull crappers rise to the surface.

  15. Very useful post, thank you.

  16. All these questions are classics in graduate jobs interview….and are probably tricky if someone didnt bother doing a bit of research before actually attendign the interview…

    fThese are not questions for senior or more experienced roles where you are expected to lead rather than being asked…

    i moved job at associate level had few interviews with Banks and it was more about them selling to me than viceversa

  17. What’s tricky about any of these- they’re all par for the course typical questions, one should have thought through answers to several dozen questions like these before starting any interviewing process.

  18. Lors d’un entretien chez un asset manager, mon interlocuteur observa que je pratiquais le football depuis de nombreuses années et je précisais que j’étais plutot un bon footballeur. Ce dernier appella ses collègues gérants et me demande de jongler avec une petite balle anti-stress. Surréaliste.

  19. Chez HSBC, dans le cadre d’un recrutement mon interlocuteur me pose un certain nombre de questions sur les processus GARCH. Il me demande ensuite de prononcer une blague sur les processus GARCH. Je lui réponds ne pas comprendre. Il insiste et je lui réponds: garch toi bien (gare toi bien) lui me réponds GARCH la gonesse.

    Ensuite il se mouche le nez et dépose son kleenew sur la table en face de moi.


  20. I find that “formula” based questions where you get to say what your colleagues say about you and what you dislike about working etc are (a) bloody irritating and (b) almost offensive.

    I mean, “what do my colleagues say about me”? whatever they like, I’m not there, I don’t even know what my Mother says about me. If you are asking me to be introspective so that you can judge if I have the ability to self-appreciate and be developed as a leader then how you get that from my answer “they respect me and believe my work is changing the organisation for the better” then I have no idea. I’ve tried answering that way and the interviewer says “mmmmm” and moves onto the next question. What the hell was he expecting?

    When I occasionally hear these stupid questions I generally refuse to answer now as the rote pre-paired answer is as offensive for me to say as it is for them to hear. An earlier poster suggested attacking, I did that recently (Ops Dir role) and got bollocked in the interview for being facetious. Needless to say, when I got to my questions for him I asked him a few twat questions myself (“can you tell me how the CEO’s vision is being implemented by your division?”)

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