If you have read through my series on lateral transfers to date you may have noticed one recurring theme in a lot of my posts…lateral transfers into Investment Banking are nothing like the intern and graduate recruitment process. If you are going online and reading up online about getting into investment banking most of the advice you are going to get is how to get in through one of their structured processes. Lateral transfers are a different beast altogether and you should definitely keep that in mind when you read advice on the internet.
If you are going for a lateral transfer into investment banking it means you are in a job already. The job you are in may not even be your first job and you’re probably not as intimidated by interviews as you were when you fresh out of college or university. That’s great! It means we don’t have to cover a lot of the ground that we initially need to cover for new recruits on how to behave and what to say and what not to say in interviews.
In this post I’m going to focus on how interviews for investment banks are different when compared with the behavioural and technical interviews for interns and analysts. Also it is incredibly rare to make lateral transfers do a case study so I’m not going to cover that here.
How are the behavioural interviews different for lateral transfers into Investment Banking?
To some extent the bank you are recruiting into is going to cover the same ground as it would for someone who is in college or university. They want to make sure that you’re motivated, that you are a good fit for the organisation, that they can work with you and all the ‘normal’ behavioural questions that you will get in most job interviews.
There is one MASSIVE difference between analyst / intern interviews and the one you are likely to go through: there will be an incredible focus on your interest in finance and why this wasn’t your first career choice
Obviously if you’re doing a lateral transfer you have done something else previously and you are going to need to explain why you chose not to do investment banking straight away. Basically your answer needs to fall into one of three categories:
- You always wanted to be a banker but you couldn’t get a job straight out of university and you went and did something related (like worked in a corporate finance division of a large accounting firm etc). As strange as it sounds this is actually the best answer. Investment Banks know how many people apply to jobs and there is an appreciation that not everyone will get a job but by explaining it like this you show your interest in finance…and even better…you’ve worked in a related field.
- You had multiple choices of career path…went for something else and your interest in Investment Banking was piqued through something you experienced. Honestly this is a harder needle to thread and it’s normally one that lawyers have to twist their way around. If you have worked in the M&A or Banking and Finance teams in a law firm (basically anything commercial) you can make the argument but you’re basically going to have to revert to tactics that new graduates use to prove your interest (i.e. reading the financial news etc and talking through deals you’ve worked on).
- Finance was never something you thought you would be interested in but you skilled up and re qualified later in life. Basically this is what you need to argue if you don’t work in a commercial field at all (e.g. if you’re an engineer). It is incredibly hard to prove your interest in finance and if I were you I would be reading up on a lot of ‘how to prove your interest in finance‘ type of posts on this site and others
That is the main difference. There will also be some other differences around the style of the interview. Much more of it will be about how you get along in your current workplace, how others would describe you and your work ethic to date. The reason for this is that you have already been shaped by your work experiences and banks are trying to work out whether the sum of your experiences will fit within their teams and cultures.
How are technical interviews different for lateral transfers into Investment Banking?
This is where the biggest differences will exist between intern / graduate interviews and lateral interviews. You do have experiences and often in a finance related field so you are expected to know much more and be able to talk through far more complex questions. The more closely you have been working to a finance / investment banking industry the more pointy your questions will be.
Also be aware that if you are working in a particular field or industry they will often send someone with knowledge of that field or industry to grill you on it so make sure you know your own industry inside out and if you worked on a deal that you have put on your resume (e.g. as a lawyer) you’re going to get asked questions about it so make sure you know that deal inside out too.
Once again the further away you are from the finance field the more your technical interview will become like an analyst / intern interview so read those posts for what questions to expect.
Technical questions for lateral transfers tend to fall into 3 buckets:
- Deal specific questions (if you have worked in an industry where you have done deals before)
- Accounting and finance questions
- Strategic questions
Questions will basically come from two different directions…
Firstly they will test things you are meant to know well. If you are being interviewed because they like your financial skills then they are going to be asking you some pretty hairy accounting and valuation type questions. If you come from a field where you had experience on deals but maybe not much finance (e.g. if you’re a lawyer) then expect some pretty complex questions about strategy and deal mechanics type of questions.
Secondly they will try and take you out of your comfort zone. If you are a valuations boffin they are going to see how well you can think through strategy and deal type questions and if you’re a lawyer they are going to ask you a TON of financial questions. They are not going to be as hard as the questions that someone specialised in it may get asked but it’s not going to be as easy as those that an analyst or intern may get. After all you’re going to be coming in above analysts that have been working there for several years so you better know your stuff!
But don’t stress out…there is one big thing going for you
This may sound incredibly stressful but I actually don’t want you to stress. I want you to remember that there is one big thing going for you in lateral processes…
And that is…you are not exactly the same (or even remotely similar) to the other people that the bank is comparing you to. When you are coming straight out of college you are exactly the same. There is very very little to differentiate you so screwing up an answer to a question in an interview can be lethal. However with lateral transfers the bankers are considering a huge variety of factors so slip ups are no where near as big a deal!
Good luck and if you have any questions shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to help out!