5 Epic Investment Banking Job Interview Fails

Yes, Scoring an Interview at Goldman Sachs is a Great Feeling

Congratulations, you’ve made it through the crazy investment banking resume screening process and now you have a couple of interviews lined-up. As a recruiter, I often hear candidates bragging about where they are interviewing. Wake up. Just because you snag an interview slot does not mean that you are a shoe-in for the job. I don’t care if you have 2 interviews or 10 interviews. Now is not the time to kick-back and relax.

Most folks who secure an interview understand the power of networking and the importance of company specific research. They have probably reached out to school classmates and former work colleagues to better understand the firm’s culture and the nuanced recruiting process. Yet, even with these networking connections, the investment banking interview process can be a complete beast.

5 Epic Investment Banking Interview Fails

Sometimes you absolutely nail a job interview and you pretty much know that you’ll be called back in for another round. Unfortunately more often than not, you crash and burn, often due to saying or doing something you shouldn’t have. The more you prepare the less likely you will experience the uncomfortable “why the hell did I say that” moment. Below please find a couple of suggestions of what not to do during the interview process.

Lying to the Interviewer

One of my all time favorite lies is what I call the “laid-off cover-up”. It is when a banker has effectively been told that they have been terminated YET because they are collecting severance from the former bank they still claim that they are employed. Guess what. NOPE. If you have been terminated or have been affected by a reduction in force be honest about it. It’s banking, everybody get’s laid off at some point. It’s a right of passage. OWN IT.

Showing up Late

Know where you are going to interview, and don’t just show up on time, show up a few minutes early. Being late is a deal breaker. No excuses. There may be a long line at a security desk that you didn’t anticipate or a slow elevator. I once had a candidate show up for a super-day 20 minutes late. Guess what, he didn’t get the offer.


Banks don’t like to be surprised. Shocking right? If you are on an H1B and you either lie (see my first point) or simply omit the truth, it’s not going to go well. If you have a wedding planned 2 weeks after the start date and you didn’t mention it, it’s not going to go well. If you need accommodations for any reason and don’t mention it, NOT going to go well.

Asking the Interviewer about Work/Life Balance

If you’re applying to an investment banking position, then you should know the deal. You will work long hours. The work/life balance will not be good. Don’t ask the interviewer about it. Despite the fact that quality of life is a major factor for most individuals as it pertains to career path, having the candidate initiate this as a topic of discussion during any stage of an investment banking interview can be construed by the interviewing group as a lack of commitment.

Being Argumentative or a Know-it-All

We all know that you are clever. DO NOT correct the interviewer. DO NOT argue with the interviewer. He/she will not appreciate your candor. They will not find you MORE clever. They will not be impressed with your intellect. Don’t do it.

Investment Banking Interviews are All About Data Points

The objective of the interview is for you to answer these (and related) questions. Investment Bankers are all about data points, and will try to get as many pieces of information as possible.

  • Can this person do the job? (Ability)
  • Will this person make good decisions? (Judgment)
  • Does this person know what he or she is getting into? (Commitment)
  • Would I want to work with this person? (Fit)

Your job is to show interest and enthusiasm in telling your story. Remember to work your story into all of your answers. Try to be as concise and to the point with your answers as you can without leaving anything important out.

Typical Investment Banking Interview Outline

  1. GMAT
  2. SAT (know your breakdowns)
  3. College GPA
  4. GPA in Classes (may be asked for specific classes — accounting, finance, statistics)
  5. Walk me through your resume
  6. Why investment banking?
  7. Commitment (The interviewer wants to know that you will be excited about doing this job)
  8. Knowledge of the industry
  9. How does investment banking fit into your goals?
  10. Why us?

Additional Common Interview Add-Ons


  1. Strengths
  2. Weaknesses
  3. Examples of leadership and teamwork
  4. Personality questions (the little things you put on the bottom of the resume)


  1. Accounting questions
  2. Finance questions
  3. Three ways to value a company

Any questions for me?

  1. Anything that shows interest
  2. Close with a wrap-up of your credentials
  3. Make sure that your interviewer is comfortable with your story
  4. Next step in the process

How Can Getting the Offer Help?

We understand the financial recruiting landscape and have extensive experience working with hiring managers at Bulge bracket banks, Elite Boutiques and Private Equity firms. We can help you pinpoint what went wrong and help you course correct so that it doesn’t happen again.

Getting the Offer Services

  • Clean-up, reformat and retarget your resume so that you can secure more interviews
  • Linkedin profile analysis
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  • How to Break into Banking Networking Tips and Tricks
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  • Mock-interviews
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We know the banks and know what they are looking for. With our guidance and support we will help you navigate this ultra-competitive job market and land your dream role.

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