Investment Banking Video Interviews – Cracking the HireVue Algorithm

HireVue interviews are pre-recorded and completed after submitting your initial application including your CV, potentially a cover letter and psychometric tests. They usually consist of 3-5 questions where you’re given 30 seconds to prepare and usually 90 seconds to answer (ranges from 60-180 seconds).

In this post, I’ll go through:
1. The most common questions that come up

2. How to win the HireVue algorithm (works for other pre-recorded platforms too)

3.  Hacks and tips on performing well

Before I delve into the most common questions that come up, it is important to approach these automated interviews with the right mindset. Many people are cynical about HireVues but I believe they’re another great opportunity in this application game to decode the winning strategy and build a competitive advantage for yourself. I think others are right when they complain that banks only use this method due to cost-saving opportunities and that an algorithm normally reviews the videos before any human takes a look, but for us, they’re just another component to dominate using all the techniques mentioned below.

HireVue Questions Cheat Sheet

As with all interview components, the first stage is to familiarise yourself with what is coming. As you do more and more HireVues, your bank of prepared questions should expand, however, it is important to first start with the basics since you don’t want to overwhelm yourself or waste time on the 80% of prep that leads to only 20% of results (80/20 rule). I would start with foundational questions, competencies and commercial awareness, then once these are nailed, the technicals and curve balls should be tackled.

Foundational Questions


Covering two examples for each major competency is one of the best ways of preparing for these types of questions as I discuss in this post, but be prepared to adapt your responses e.g. you might be asked:

[Instead of just “innovation”] Tell us about a time when you found a new way to do something. Describe:

  • What, if any, technology you used
  • What the impact was on you and others
  • And what you learnt from the experience

[Instead of just “analytical”] Tell us about a time when you gathered information and insight to make a decision. Describe:

  • How you gathered the information
  • What factors you thought about
  • How you came to that decision

[Instead of just “integrity”] Tell us about a time when you built credibility and trust with someone.

  • How did you understand what they wanted or needed?
  • How did you show integrity and credibility?
  • How did you know you had built credibility?

[Instead of just “problem-solving“] Tell me about a time you were able to keep a friendly demeanour with someone who was upset or angry.

  • Describe the situation, actions, and the outcome

Commercial awareness

Regardless of which division you’re applying to, you need to have a portfolio of stories that you’ve gleaned from weekly newsletters you’re subscribed to (e.g. Pitchbook) and that you have developed using consulting reports. For the Investment Banking Division specifically, prepare a recent deal using the cookie-cutter method.

Be sure to check out my post on building your commercial awareness skills if you’re worried about this component – I found this the most challenging part of preparation before uncovering the hacks uncovered in that post to make it the most rewarding and enjoyable part of the overall process.  

Here are examples of how commercial awareness may appear in a HireVue:

  • Recent news story and how it impacts your division (geopolitical event, ESG, asset class you follow and how it has recently performed)
  • What are the greatest challenges that the financial sector will face in the next five years?
  • Where is the economy going in the next six months?

You may find preparing these questions challenging, so that is why I strongly recommend researching for consulting reports or other condensed pdf reports which summarise key points that you can talk about. Industry professionals do not answer these on the side of their job, they use consulting reports freely available online as well.  

Curveball questions

Curveball questions are what I classify as ‘questions to catch you out’, here are a few that I have come across in the past:

  • What are the areas where you need to improve?
  • What makes the programme stand out to you
  • Explain a time where you developed a skillset or subject outside the classroom that was not a requirement. What was the skillset or subject? Why did you choose this skillset or subject? What resources did you leverage to develop it further? How has this developed skillset impacted you today?
  • Your manager has tasked you with completing a critical and time-sensitive project for a stakeholder. You complete the report 30 minutes before the deadline, but realise upon reviewing the data that some of the initial numbers you based your calculations on may be inaccurate. What would you do? Walk us through what factors you would consider as you made your decision. Why do you think the action you would take is the best in this situation?
  • Which is better: meeting a deadline or doing a perfect job? Side note: I think meeting the deadline is more significant because by getting the piece of work in on time, you’ll be able to harness comments from seniors that may decide to change the structure of your deck/model altogether – efficiency is key, although the two factors should both be of paramount importance.
  • Why did you choose your major/degree subject, and do you think you made the right decision?

Technical questions

You may also get some technical interview questions for investment banking internship video interviews, but these are likely to cover basic ground compared to what you would be used to preparing for 2nd round and assessment centres, such as:

  • How are the three financial statements linked?
  • What are the benefits of raising equity and what are the benefits of raising debt?

I recommend writing these questions on cue cards before shuffling them around – once you complete a question, place the cue card in a jar, or pile it up until you’ve gone through them several times. James Clear talks about making a habit satisfying to incentivise the brain to repeat it, so the more visual and tangible the satisfaction of completing that cue card, the better. There’s a story in Atomic Habits of a stockbroker throwing paper clips into a jar for every call he made in a day and this led to an extraordinary amount of success for him. The cue cards are therefore an opportunity to gamify your preparation and become more process-oriented.

Win over the Algorithm

How can an algorithm choose the right person? The impersonal nature of this selection process is part of the controversy with HireVues, but many believe it works by elimination i.e. if you don’t tick certain boxes like the ones I mention here, you’re likely to be rejected.

You may think some of these pieces of advice below are either obvious or petty, and I used to think the same, but this is a perfect case of the 1% principle that helped Sir Dave Brailsford create a world-leading British cycling team. Brailsford says that if you were to break down everything you could think of that goes into a task or pursuit, then improve it by 1%, you will reap a massive increase when you combine them all together.

[1] Fine-tune your speaking speed (easier said than done!)

Conduct a test to find your speaking speed – I just did one and I got 200 words per minute. That’s not good and it’s one of my weaknesses. When you watch YouTube and listen to podcasts at 2x speed, you are prone to this tendency, but the machine doesn’t like it. Watch CEO’s or Senior bankers speak, and you’ll see they speak very slowly. As frustrating as it may seem, you need to slow down otherwise you’ll harm your chances massively.

Time yourself reading the paragraph above which is 82 words. You should slow down to ensure that the paragraph takes about 40-50 seconds to say – for 125-100 words per minute respectively. If you’re taking less time than that, slow down.

[2] Don’t overuse body language

Body language can be a great strength in-person, but on camera, when at one fixed angle, overusing hands can confuse the algorithm and may look strange. Body language is still important though, since most experts believe that 70-93% of all communication is nonverbal.

Examples of nonverbal communication include vocal tone, fidgeting, facial expressions, head movements, hand gestures, body posture and physical distance. Having a varied tone of voice, smiling and keeping good body posture can all act towards harnessing nonverbal communication cues in a video interview.

[3] Eye contact with your camera

This is one of the simplest and yet most challenging adjustments to make. You need to look into the camera because the algorithm is good at checking this. Ticking the option to blur out your video will help do make this seem more natural and I’ve heard some people even sticking googly eyes in line with their webcam to force them to maintain eye contact with the camera. Do whatever it takes to ensure your eyes are on the camera, not focused on your video on the screen.

[4] Iron out mannerisms and get rid of filler words

Cut out the typical ‘ums’, ‘uhs’, basically, like etc. By practising with others or recording yourself and watching it back, you’ll be able to spot and then eliminate habits the interviewer or algorithm may not like.

[5] Improve the fluency of your words and sound more articulate by preparing bullet points beforehand

Preparing bullet point responses and going through the question cue cards is one of the most powerful ways of preparing to sound naturalistic in the interview.

[6] Block out noises

Minimise the risk of contingencies. I recommend writing something on your door saying “doing video interview”. This sign should prevent accidental disturbances if others forget you told them you’ll be doing an interview.

Ensure you’re not having work done in the house e.g. just before one of my interviews, a shower was being fitted in the room next to me that I didn’t know about – doing the interviews early in the morning or late at night is one way of mitigating these risks. Another time, the fire alarm in the humanities building went off at 10 am during a video interview in my first year but as I’ll mention further below, disturbances can be an asset so do not dwell on such things.

[7] Dress smartly and ensure you’re in a well lit, clean room

Dress as if this was the final round and I recommend wearing trousers too since you don’t know who will knock at the door and force you to stand up.


[1] Don’t fear distractions, worst case scenario they can still be an asset

If there is a fire alarm or a massive distraction, that does not mark the end of the video interview. I’ve even heard stories of people deliberately getting knocked out of equilibrium to prove they can get back on their game and remain composed.

[2] Stick notes on the wall

Sticking sheets behind your laptop to refer to bullet points that may help in the 30 seconds prep time is a useful tactic. But do not read from a script! Many people may convince you it is possible to read from full sentences, but the risk of crumbling when you lose track of the sentence you’re on is too costly – not to mention how tiring and mundane that method must become.

[3] Find an accountability partner and practice with them

I cannot emphasise how potentially powerful it is to find someone going through the same process as you who you can practice with.

Where can you find people? On-campus and in your finance and careers-related societies, are just two examples. Yes, looking for organised matching schemes are fine, but just like networking, the most powerful form comes organically through your own efforts. Look for people that you think are ‘better’ at interviews than you and if they’re in the same application process (so it’s a mutually beneficial partnership), reach out to them. Most will say no, but it only takes one other person. Imitate the video interview environment, share questions and grill each other until you can handle any interview and curveball question.

Keeping to a consistent 30-60 minute slot each week where you practice with someone else or a small group of people will force you to get your act together and improve ahead of video interviews.

[4] Practice in front of a camera

How many hours have you practised in front of a camera? It is really tough to motivate yourself to practice in front of a camera and watch your recording, which is why I recommend the accountability partner approach, but if you do not have access to that and alongside it, if you do, practice at least several hours in front of your own camera, ironing out your mannerisms and preparing for the questions they’re going to throw at you.

[5] Bonus tip: Use Open Broadcast Software (OBS) to record your screen and reflect on your responses

OBS will help you continuously improve and document your progress alongside the application process – documentation is an indispensable resource for your future applications and when helping out others once you secure a role.

Most people ignore this piece of advice which is completely fine, but I fear that it is because they don’t know how simple OBS is, compared to alternatives. OBS is much quicker and convenient than recording and downloading your screen using Skype or Zoom plus it is very easily customisable.

As shown in the image below, once downloaded and set up, all you need to do is click record and then adjust the display capture as you wish. Then once finished, you click record again and the video will automatically be saved in your videos folder. You can change the video format from .mkv to .mp4 and there are many tutorials on YouTube showing you how to adjust the number of screens, mic and speakers among many other features.  

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