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Ten things to say during an investment banking interview

It's interview season. If you haven't had an interview for a while, you may be feeling a little apprehensive. To ease the tremors, we have some conversational suggestions below.

Please note these suggestions are thematic and not literal. The key to all good interviews is being natural. Naturalness won't happen if you simply read through our list, but if you slip these sorts of things into the interview somewhere, you will be on the right track.

1) "Great artwork"

Interview success is all about establishing a rapport with your interviewer. Try hard to connect on a human level.

"Every interview has a, 'How did you get here, nice day' section says Adrian Furnham, a professor of organisational behaviour at UCL. "Often interviewees are rather passive about this. You could take a more active approach and say, 'That's a nice painting," he suggests.

"The journey from reception to the interview room is really key," says financial services-focused career coach Sital Ruperalia. "During that time, you're not selling yourself, but you're building rapport. It's about having something small to say."

2) "I can make/save you lots of money"

"Every interview is going to have the, 'tell me about yourself' section," says Peter Evans, a veteran investment banking headhunter and executive coach.

"You need to have thought hard about this in advance. What they are really looking for is for you explain why you're there. You don't need to talk about your past, but to produce a forward looking statement explaining why they should pay good money for you," Evans adds.

3) "In my spare time I'm involved in improvisational comedy/I am retracing the path of the Tour de France"

"The key test is whether, when you leave the room, someone will remember you the next day," says Evans. "You need to tell strong, distinctive non-clichéd stories, which prove your suitability for the role."

"Distinctiveness is incredibly important," says Sital. "In my spare time, I do some comedy improvisation as a hobby and that's what people always want to talk about.

"I've been headhunted on the back of it," he adds.

4) "What's your biggest challenge right now?"

Do not save all your questions until the end of the interview; ask them as you go along.

"The best way to think about an interview is to avoid seeing it as an inquisition and to start seeing it as a discussion, says Ceri Roderick, author of 'You're Hired!' and a partner at occupational psychologists Pearn Kandola. "Two people are trying to find out about each other."

"Senior interviews often won't be structured," says Ruparelia. "It's more like a peer-level conversation. Try phrasing the kinds of questions you'd ask if you were a consultant going in to help improve the business. That way, you can understand their challenges and position yourself as a problem solver."

5) "What was the background of the person who filled this role before me?"

This could be followed with:

On a scale of 1-10 how good a fit was that person in the team?

This will help you work out what they're looking for an enable to shape your answers accordingly, suggests Sital.

6) "I genuinely like you (to be said internally)"

"If you honestly like being with someone, they will often respond to that and you will find that you automatically ask questions which express a genuine interest," says Nick Smallman, managing director of communications consultancy Working Voices.

7) "This is an exciting, rather than an intimidating, experience (to be said internally)

"You need to think positive outcomes, and you need to be relaxed," says Smallman. "Channel the adrenaline appropriately. Remind yourself that this is an exciting rather than a scary thing."

8) "I completely understand what you're saying..."

Sometimes, an interviewer will give you negative feedback. Do not be defensive or awkward.

"Employers want people who are balanced, easy going and amenable," says Sital. "They don't want people who've got an attitude."

If someone gives you negative feedback, you should therefore go with it but point out politely why you still think you're appropriate for the role.

9) "Based upon the interview so far, do you have any reservations about my suitability for the role?"

Only to be asked when things don't look too good and you want to get issues out in the open.

10) "Thank you very, very much for your time."

Bankers are busy. Acknowledging this may help your cause.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Mi
    Michelle H
    11 May 2011

    I would NEVER ask, "do you have any reservations about my suitability?" Surely that just encourages the interviewer to think negatively!

  • Al
    11 May 2011

    There is no one way road to a successful interview! What if the interviewer is in bad mood or has got attitude themselves?..all you have to do is be honest and present yourself in a like manner. Also note that every other person is equally situable for the job that's why they are attending interviews. You have to read the interview situation and decide the best approach, interviews are like a gamble.. Even when you are the right candidate with the right attitude, the job can still go to some silly person!

  • Ha
    11 May 2011

    Instead of getting these stale comments from head hunters it would have been good to get feedback from hiring managers themselves on what grabs their attention or puts them off.

  • Cl
    11 May 2011

    Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.

  • Pa
    Patrick B
    11 May 2011

    Now, you've to wear clothes in proportion to your physique. There are definite dos and don'ts, good buddy of wearing a bold striped shirt. A bold stripe shirt calls for solid colored or discreetly patterned suits and ties.

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