What Not to Say in an Investment Banking Job Interview

Congratulations, you nailed an interview at one of the top investment banks in the world.

You‘ve studied for the interview by learning everything you can about the bank, the job, the culture and the marketplace.

So you know what to say. Now, do you know what not to say?

From interviews with recruiters, coaches and former bankers, eFinancialCareers compiled what it described as a “list of things that must never be spoken.” Some like badmouthing a former employer or boss or admitting you failed to do some part of your homework on the company are universal no-nos.

In the banking industry, though, you should never talk about work-life balance, and never say you want to be an entrepreneur.

Both of those may be positives in other industries, or at least won’t get you dinged. But in banking, even hinting you want a life outside your job is enough to kill your chances of getting the job. “I don’t want to hear from anyone who’s going to talk about work-life balance,” one senior M&A banker told eFinancialCareers. “I want people who are hungry, who are all-in. I’m not looking for someone who wants a hobby job.”

Saying you are entrepreneurial or want to be one is a red-flag to hiring managers. “If you say this during a banking interview, you’re just going to imply that you’re another restless Millennial or Generation-Xer who won’t stay long,” a former banking industry recruiter said. Besides that, eFinancialCareers says bankers may associate entrepreneurialism with too much risk-taking.

Some risk is part of banking, but no hiring manager wants to hear a candidate say they like to double-down on losses. Steven Goldstein, a trading coach and former FX trader at Credit Suisse, tells eFinancialCareers, “Some people do double down successfully, but if you say you’ve done this you’ll be perceived to be irresponsible.”

In that same sense, never say you “smack things around a bit.” So important is this that it’s listed in bigger type in the article than every other point.

Goldstein says he’s heard traders say they “like to smack things around a bit” in reference to the market during interviews, and that this does not reflect well upon them. Avoid any hint of that, the article says, quoting a senior banker who advises, “If you’re not sure whether you should confess something, don’t.”

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

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