Investment Banking Behavioural Questions (Competencies)

Competency interview questions are where you delve into past examples of how you’ve demonstrated the skills the interviewer is looking for.

You should use a structure like the STAR technique to answer these questions, or for certain consulting interviews, the PARADE technique works well as it delves into greater detail; although I would stick to the STAR technique until you have covered at least each competency with 2 examples from your past experience.

STAR: Situation, task, action and result.

PARADE: Problem, anticipated consequence, role, action, decision-making rationale and end-result.

I recommend making a list of all your experiences potentially worthy of talking about in an interview and then adding STAR technique breakdowns of certain things you did in that experience.

Competencies to Cover

Next, list all the main competency areas and I’ll expand on the ones that are less clear:

  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Resilience (dealing with adversity)

Tell me about a time you showed persistence / dealt with rejection Tell me about a time you failed and the lesson you learned from it.

What is your greatest weakness/strength If you had a lot of things to do and not enough time to do them, what would you do?

  • Decisiveness

Tell me about a time that you had to make a very fast decision/split-second decision.

Tell me about a time that you had to make a quick decision without full information.

Tell me about a time that you used technology to make a decision.

  • Innovation/entrepreneurship
  • Leadership
  • Flexibility
  • Problem-solving
  • Going the extra mile for a customer
  • Integrity

Tell me about a time that you acted with integrity

What does integrity mean to you?

How would other people describe your work ethic?

What would you do if you saw someone cheating on a test?

A student group president posts exam answers for all students in the group. How would you respond?

Then in your master document, when including the 2 examples from your own experience beneath each competency, summarise each example into one or two-line summaries for that particular experience.

2 Examples Ensure You Are Prepared For Variations of the Question E.g.:

  • Tell me about a time you worked on a team.
  • Are you a team player and in what way?
  • What role do you play on a team?
  • Talk about a time in a group setting in which you took a leadership role.
  • How would you handle a disagreement with somebody else on your team?
  • Describe a time you worked in a team and where members of your team differed on the details and direction of a project. What did you do?
  • What would you do in a situation where your teammate wasn’t pulling their weight?

Create an A4 summary sheet condensing your list of competencies and their respective examples. This A4 summary sheet is then something you need to read before the interview transferring knowledge from long term to short term memory.

Also remember that when preparing your example, the most important part of the STAR method is the action component. Do not spend 1 minute getting to the action part – summarise the situation and task/challenge you were faced concisely e.g. within 20 before quickly moving onto the action and being extremely specific about what you did to resolve the situation so that you can convince the interviewer about your abilities.

Extra curve-ball questions

  • What do you like to do when you’re bored?
  • What would you do if you did not have to work for money?
  • Let’s imagine you died and are giving a speech at your funeral. What would you say?
  • Are you more risk-averse or risk-seeking? Give me examples.
  • What is one quality that you would choose if asked to rank out of 30 against your peers?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What motivates you?
  • What are 4-5 skills that you think are essential for banking?
  • Who has been your greatest influence in life?
  • Favourite film?
  • What one word describes you best?

10 of my own attempts for each of the above questions:

What do you like to do when you’re bored?

I would probably go for max 3 of the examples below:

Closing open loops: instead of having one massive to-do list, I process my to-do list each week and try and start as few loops as possible and close as many as I can to boost focus on each task.

Seeking & sustaining mentorship: Reaching out to Warwick alumni who have reached success in a way unique to them that I hope to emulate and asking for a call so I can harness their advice.

Investing in small-cap stocks: Deep-diving into industry trends and news stories to invest in the small-cap stock. I believe this is where a small-scale investor can thrive against the large institutional players that struggle to invest in small caps due to their size. Also, I thoroughly enjoy finding needles in the haystack in the form of small acquisitive companies poised for compounded future growth and a high ROE.

Learning to code: Enjoy creating websites but want to open the possibility of creating websites for other societies at a very affordable monthly cost and I am constantly looking to upskill and expand the product and offering capability.

What you’d do if not working for money?

Volunteer as a teacher in a developing country since I enjoy mentoring and helping others unleash their own potential.

Let’s imagine you died and are giving a speech at your funeral. What would you say?

Essentially asking what values I want to embody now and in the future:

[Help others] Someone that doesn’t hesitate to give a helping hand when you need it.

[Hard worker] Someone that always needed to be working on something big, always busy and not letting an ounce of energy get wasted.

[Interesting to talk with] Someone that could always have fruitful conversations, digging deep into topics of discussion.

Are you more risk-averse or risk-seeking? Give me examples.

More risk-averse but ambitious to step beyond my comfort zone and here’s an example:

[Amazon Watches Arbitrage Opportunity] I bought 3 Garmin watches for Amazon arbitrage i.e. bought at a massive discount from another site to be resold on Amazon. But instead of continuing with the risk after ordering, I sought more advice/counsel and decided to send them back after hearing that watches have a 2-year guarantee on Amazon which could wipe profits regardless of the arbitrage margin yielded. I sought advice through networking with other more experienced Amazon sellers based in the US.

One quality that you would choose if asked to rank out of 30 against your peers.

Harnessing feedback loops – taking on advice, reflecting on it, deep-diving into how I can improve and tenaciously implementing feedback until I find what works effectively. Would then offer to give an example from my past experience.

What do you do for fun?

[Option 1] Mountain biking in a nearby forest with friends.

[Option 2] Learning from mentors:

  • E.g. delving into Lean Start-up and learning about Eric Ries’s approach to innovation
  • E.g. reaching out to an employee of a conglomerate I was analysing as part of a remote internship in 2020 and gauging not just company insights, but life advice and uncovering companies he admired. In this way, I wasn’t just able to learn from this person, but also the companies they recommended and moreover the leaders that founded them, how they grew and how they disrupted their industry.

What motivates you?

The prospect of growth. That in the face of challenge & adversity, in the face of feeling overwhelmed, the most growth happens.

E.g. debating and the initial hurdles I faced to eventually chairing as a judge at Manchester University.

What are 4-5 skills that you think are essential for banking?

  • Fast learner – take on feedback quickly
  • Diligent – attention to detail
  • Humble but ambitious – taking on tasks that push you beyond your comfort zone
  • Relationship navigator – building strong client relationships

Favourite film?

The boy who harnessed the wind:

  • About a boy based in Africa (true story) that creates a wind turbine to power a pump that would revolutionise a small, subsistence agricultural community in the face of political turmoil, of famine and drought.
  • When younger, I built my own wind turbine and the idea of being able to create power sustainably has always interested me. Then seeing how something we take for granted so much (energy) led this boy to transform the lives of his family, of his neighbours and his community was very inspiring.
  • The movie strongly demonstrates the concept that every adversity carries with it a seed of equal or greater benefit.

What one word describes you best?

Driven – to grow, to harness feedback loops, to never let a trial or tribulation hold me down (and then give/offer 2 examples to prove this).

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