3 common, tough questions asked in finance interviews – and how to answer them

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3 common, tough questions asked in finance interviews – and how to answer them


Starting a career in finance can be difficult. And with graduation season upon us, many students and recent graduates may be stressed about getting their foot in the door.

Right now is the perfect time for finance and economics students to enter the workforce. Wall Street interns are earning 30% more this year, with some making nearly $10,000 a month. There are some standard requirements to get these opportunities such as appropriate courses, a high GPA and relevant experience. But knowing the right things to say during an interview plays a huge role in landing a job.

According to Patrick Curtis, founder and CEO of Wall Street Oasis (WSO), a financial modeling and interview coaching business for fields like investment banking and finance, networking is the key to achieving your big success.

“It’s all about relationships. You know somebody inside out and that’s it. That’s how you get the interview,” Curtis tells CNBC Make It. “And then if you get the interview, you’re prepared and you’ve gone deep into your technical questions, why you want to be there and what the job is like, because you’ve talked to and learned from people who are already in the industry.”

Curtis says the interview process can be stressful, but careful preparation can help you answer some of the tough questions.

The Wall Street Oasis team compiles lists of potential interview questions that candidates should be prepared for. Here are three of their best interview questions and how to answer them:

Tell me about a time when…

According to the WSO, this question is common during interviews for investment banking positions. While there are many variations on this question, they suggest having “a well-rehearsed answer for each and a general guideline to follow.”

“Ideally, you can come up with 6-8 stories that cover 30-40 core questions, with only slight modifications. Don’t give up.”

WSO suggests using the SOAR method to map out your story:

S: Situation, set up the story in about 10-15 seconds

O: Obstacle, describe what the problem is in 10-15 seconds

A: Action, tell them how you planned to solve the problem in 60-75 seconds

R: Result, describe what happened after you took an action in 15-30 seconds

What would your friend/roommate/previous manager say about you?

The WSO says this question is common in private equity interviews, and interviewers look for answers that show “confidence mixed with some humility.”

Unless specifically asked, the WSO says applicants should not feel compelled to mention their weaknesses in addition to their strengths. Instead, use this question to show your strengths to the interviewer and use stories or examples if applicable.

“When faced with this question, some candidates find it difficult to boast and fail to emphasize their best qualities. Other candidates go overboard and describe themselves in absurdly glowing terms. The sweet spot for this question is to describe yourself in a few reasonable positive words, terms that you hope are present in you or that others see in you.”

If you had $1 million to start any business right now, what would you do?

If you’re interviewing for a job at a hedge fund, chances are you’ll be asked this question. There are several ways to answer the question, but they should all “play to the focus of the fund.” The WSO says your answer could be valuation, return on capital, growth, opportunistic or even special situation oriented.

“For a growth approach, talk about a business that you will be able to quickly grow sales, users and eventually market share and not worry about profits. The ultimate goal may be to raise additional external capital from angels or venture firms, or to exit the company through an acquisition.”

In an opportunistic or special situation fund, you could consider setting up a holding company to buy profitable assets at lower prices that would offer a reasonable return on investment, including “cheap real estate, mobile homes or other distressed assets “.

For a value, profitability and return on capital approach, WSO suggests focusing on a “high margin, low competition” business idea that can show consistent growth in revenue and profitability.


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