The seven questions that will convert your banking interview into a job offer

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Are you going for a banking interview? Do you intend to achieve a job offer as a result? If so, you'll need to ask some questions of your own when the interview comes to an end. Interviewers frown upon unprepared candidates who don't display inquisitiveness about the role.

However, asking questions at the end of an interview isn't that easy. Too probing and they can seem aggressive; too banal and they can make you seem bland.

Here's what banking interview experts suggest.

1. Ask questions about a recent piece of work undertaken by your interviewer or the business you're joining

People in banking love talking about themselves, says Guillaume Tardy Joubert of Coaching Assembly, a company that specializes in coaching young people into banking roles.

For your first question, it's therefore a good idea to get your interviewer on your side by giving them a chance to discuss their job. If you're interviewing for an M&A role, for example, Tardy Joubert advocates asking questions like, "I have seen that your firm/team has advised on n deal XYZ, could you tell me a bit more about that deal and its dynamics?"

This applies equally if you're interviewing for a role in risk, finance, or regulation. Find out about the issues the firm's facing and ask your interviewer about the work that he or she specifically has been doing in relation to them.

In all cases, you need to keep your questions positive: avoid framing queries in a negative way.  The trick is to ask positive questions that can't be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no.' (Eg. Don't say, "I know you've had some problems with regulators - is that going to be an issue if I join this team?, do say, "How has the intervention of the regulator changed the way the team works. Can you run me though the ways it's made your role more interesting?").

"Questions occur at the end of an interview. If you frame them negatively, you will leave people with a bad impression," says Tardy Joubert. If you can't think of anything informed to ask about the role you're interviewing for, you can always ask something open-ended about what it involves. Credit Suisse, for example, suggests that graduates interviewing for jobs in its investment bank might simply ask, "What's a typical day like for an analyst."

2. Ask about the strategy of the business (in a positive way)

You should also ask positively-framed questions about the strategy and future of the business. You need to show that you've done your homework in some detail - don't ask obvious questions that can be resolved after two minutes on the company website.

"You need to ask questions that show off your knowledge about the business you want to join," says Jack Shardlow at Interview Bull.

For example, for a comparatively junior role (in Barclays Wealth), Shardlow suggests asking a question along the lines of: "I saw in the news that Barclays Wealth has recently gained market share in the private wealth management division, what is your company's strategy to build upon that growth and how can you gain further advantage above such big firms in the industry as UBS and Credit Suisse?"

The more senior the position you're going for, the more detailed the strategy-related questions you will need to ask. Again, ensure you frame any questions positively. Negative questions about strategy will do more harm than good. Goldman Sachs, for example, specifically advises against asking over-elaborate, administrative questions which may put the interview on the defensive' and suggests that you ask instead about, 'key changes in the industry.'

If you're going into a senior role, you need to show that you understand the issues and can help resolve them in a positive way, says Shardlow. By asking positively framed questions about a particular firm and a particular business, he says that you can help demonstrate why you want to work for that firm instead of others.

3. Ask about the long-term future of the role. 

The days of financial services job-hoppers are done. Candidates who skipped jobs every two years were never that popular anyway and these days the expectation is that everyone will stick around to collect deferred bonuses.

In your post-interview questions, you need to show that you're a stayer. Shardlow advocates demonstrating your long term commitment by asking questions like, "If I move into this role, what would success look like in 12 months' time? How might I expect my position in the company to evolve?" Credit Suisse suggests that you ask, 'What do you see as the biggest challenge in the first few months,' - you could always extend this by swapping months for years.

4. Ask who they want to hire.

Mark Hatz, a former Goldman and Perella Weinberg banker who's produced an 'interview preparation pack', says it helps to gently clarify what kind of person an interviewer is looking for. Ask what sort of qualities they're looking for in a recruit, Hatz says. Credit Suisse suggests that its interviewees ask, "What's the key strength you like to see a candidate bring to the role." If you're going for an internship, ask what it will take to convert that internship into a full time job, says Hatz.

5. Ask (careful) empathic questions about your interviewer's experience of the firm

If you have a rapport with your interviewer, Hatz says it's good to ask questions about their personal experience of the culture of the firm. However, if you don't have a rapport and your interview has been challenging and technical, this could backfire and seem inappropriate. "If you're interviewing at a boutique firm, you might want to ask your interviewer what it's like there compared to his experience of working at Morgan Stanley," says Hatz. "But you'll need to use your judgement - this won't work if you have someone very smart and very cold sitting in front of you."

Ferdinand Petra, executive director of the Masters in International Finance course at HEC and a former banker at J.P. Morgan agrees. He says you should frame questions that express your interest in the individual or individuals interviewing you. - Ask about things that are personal to them in a professional capacity. For example: "What have you learned since you started doing this job which you wish you knew at the start?", "What makes you successful at this firm?", "What do you like most about working here?"

6. Ask what they don't know 

Linda Jackson, an experienced careers consultant in the City of London, says you should also use your questions to help your interviewers fill in any gaps. Ask them if there's anything else they'd like to know about you, whether there are any areas you haven't, "covered sufficiently", whether there's more they need to know.

Whether or not you think you want the job, Jackson says you should use your questions to keep your options open and to express keenness. "You're inviting them to come back to you on any areas where they think you're weak."

7. Ask where you stand

Finally, while you shouldn't ask explicitly whether you actually have the job (your interviewer(s) probably won't know anyway as decisions are made collegiately after the interview, says Petra), you can ask questions that probe where you stand in the hiring process. Jackson suggests queries like, "Is there any feedback you can give me at this stage?" (said with a smile), or, "Are you interviewing many other candidates for this job?", and, "Can you let me know where are you the hiring process...?"

Don't ask...

If these are the questions that you should ask, what shouldn't you ask?

To reiterate, don't ask anything negative. Don't ask anything obvious that a moment on the internet could answer. Don't ask about pay. Don't ask about working hours. Don't ask blah time fillers which neither you nor your interviewer have the slightest interest in.

Photo credit: Steven Pisano 


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