How to Secure an Investment Banking Role (10 snippet summary)

This blog started with weekly LinkedIn posts, which I then began posting onto the site. Having produced larger posts digging into each category, here is a page compiling all of the previous snippets.

Contents Summary (10 snippets + bonus)

[1] How to write your CV part 1 (structure, formatting, contents)

[2] How to network for investment banking (reaching out and asking the right questions)

[3] Investment banking interview questions overview

[4] How to introduce yourself – tackling the elevator pitch

[5] How to answer “why you” interview questions

[6] How to answer why this firm

[7] How to answer competency questions

[8] How to answer technical questions

[9] How to answer commercial awareness questions and how to prepare “tell me about a recent deal” question

[10] How to answer market sizing based questions

Bonus Snippets

  • Balancing exams and interviews
  • Not getting disheartened amid the internship application struggle
  • How to master the art of conversations… during interviews
  • Interview study groups: the most overlooked application season hack?
  • What is your favourite film? Answering personal interview questions

How to write your CV (structure, formatting and contents)

After helping lead term 1 CV Clinics for the Warwick Finance Societies, I can assure you that these 2 points cover at least 50% of the advice we give.

Use a Template

CV Template

The templates provided by Mergers & Inquisitions and SEO-London are brilliant. There are many more out there and they all follow a similar framework.

Alongside using templates, be sure to keep your CV to 1 page (unless for consulting) and I recommend using sans-serif fonts e.g. Arial (easier on the eye).

Master your Formatting

Use the ruler and tab stopper tools in Word that allow you to write from the right of the page and avoid using tables which are a nightmare to format.

Also, use the paragraph spacing option to change the distance between lines when adding white space to your CV.

Writing About Past Experiences (Toughest Part)

Be as clear and concise as possible, while highlighting the value you added.

Here’s a framework I like to use:

  • What you did
  • How you did it
  • Quantify

Framework Example

  • Concisely mention what you did. E.g. Slashed inefficiencies.
  • Add how you achieved this. E.g. ‘Through using pivot tables’.
  • Quantify. E.g. ‘Slashed inefficiencies [by 50%]’ or ‘led a team [of 6]’. Ensure to place numbers near the start of each sentence so they appear on the left-hand side of the page (more likely to catch the eye of a recruiter quickly scanning through).

Overall example: “Slashed meeting inefficiencies by 50% through outlining pre-meeting agendas”.

Talking About Interests

Be specific and authentic when talking about your interests at the bottom of your CV.

Rather than simply writing ‘hiking’, name the mountain you’ve hiked, or if you like public speaking, name the event you spoke at.

When selecting new action verbs, such as ‘oversaw’ or ‘facilitated’, use page 4 of the Harvard Extension School guide to CVs and cover letters.

How to network for investment banking (reaching out)

“Your network is your net worth”

Agree with this statement or not, networking is a fundamental component of internship applications and that is the focus of today’s post.

Firstly, I don’t deserve any credit for this advice, as it is rooted in the generosity of those working tirelessly in the field.

Here are the concerns I initially faced:

  1. Where do I start?
  2. How do I reach out?

Where to Start

So, where do you start?

Start by trying to connect with people in the industry via LinkedIn and after you reach the LinkedIn search limits and begin to gain momentum, I recommend upgrading to Premium.

Use the filtered search tool to find people from the firm you’re thinking of applying to. Some of the most helpful people have been from other universities, as well as alumni, so don’t narrow your search.

How to Reach Out

Send a connection request with a message to at least 5 people from that firm (you get 300 characters for this).

Here’s a template you can use to construct your message:

Dear/Hello [Name],
I am a first/second-year at [University] studying [Course] and would really like to hear about your experience at [Company]. Would it be possible to arrange a quick call? I know you’re really busy, but even a 1 or 2-line reply would really make my day.
Many thanks,

Prepare to be ignored but remember that one lucky connection could be the difference between you and that internship.

Asking the right questions when networking

Wondering how to ask the best questions when ‘networking’?

Once you’ve arranged a call with someone in your desired field (check out this post for tips on this), it can be useful to prepare questions you want to ask.

Although networking calls should be unscripted, I find the following framework helpful:

A. Introduce Yourself Briefly

Keep the introduction short and sweet; they should be speaking about 80% of the time.

For example: Starting with “I’m a 2nd year Warwick Economics student eager to explore…”

B. Ask How They Got to Where They are Today (Sector and Firm-Wise)

Then, dig further into their reply to this question.

For example: Ask how the firms they’ve worked at compare to one another, what made them stay after their internship, or what has been their favourite experience.

C. Ask What They Like Most About Firm X

Aim to dig deep into the specifics about what differentiates this firm to others.

The more specific, the better.

D. Ask Advice

Close off by asking for their advice on how to get into the firm, as well as someone else they think you should reach out to.

Three Networking Hacks for Investment Banking

Here are 3 hacks to make your networking conversations more meaningful. If you’re wondering how to reach out to people, then check out this post.

Use Open-Ended Questions

Start your questions with:‌‌

  • Who‌
  • What‌
  • Why
  • When‌‌
  • Where‌‌
  • How

Drilling in these simple go-to questions will help tap into deeper insights of the person you are speaking with and lead to a more fruitful conversation.

Go with the Flow‌

Thoughts will come and go in your mind so avoid the anxiety over what to say next as it is much better to be authentic and show your personality.

Dismantling rigid conversation structures will foster stronger relationship building.

Don’t Equate your Experience with Theirs

Avoid getting trapped into thinking that you must follow their exact path to success and keep an open mind.

The most pivotal insights usually come from where you least expect them – not just from alumni at the biggest firm, or the most senior employee.

Investment banking interview questions overview

How do you prepare for interviews?

Break down preparation into different components.

This prevents the process from becoming overwhelming. I find the following breakdown useful:

  • Background
  • Motivational
  • Competency
  • Technical
  • Commercial Awareness
  • Curveballs (i.e. difficult questions you were not expecting)

This preparation applies to automated video interviews, phone interviews and face-to-face interviews (including video calls).

In other posts, we will delve deeper into each of the components.

The following are general practices that helped me save the most time ahead of an interview:

  • Keep a Word document that is well-formatted by using headings for each component to store each potential question.
  • Break down your answers into concise bullet points within your document (the more concise the better, as you do not want to rehearse word-for-word answers).
  • Prepare a summary or grid sheet that you can quickly run through just before the interview, especially for the competencies, background questions and any curveball questions you’ve had in the past. A pre-interview run-through can help transfer things from your long to short-term memory thereby preventing those dreadful mind-blank moments.

How to Introduce Yourself – Tackling the Elevator Pitch

How to answer the most asked interview question: ‘Introduce yourself’?

I would keep this response within 60-90 seconds and stick to a narrative.

I used the following structure:

Brief Outline

I’m currently in my [x] year studying [x] at [x].

I would also briefly note reasons for choosing that subject.

E.g. For Economics: “Interested in the intersection of maths and analysing problems relevant to the commercial world”.

Introduce Hooks

Next, I would include the first potential hook that “my interest in the commercial world stemmed from a personal story” although I only delved into that personal story when asked.

Introduce Experience

Link this interest to an experience during sixth form (such as an insight week at a big 4 accounting firm) alongside mentioning learning a preference.

E.g. “I discovered and felt more suited to Capital Markets over Audit.”

Pinpointing changes in career interests can act as another hook as to why you think your skillset is better suited to their division.

Finish the narrative of past experiences from a more recent spring week to a remote internship that led me to apply to a particular opportunity.

Introduce Interests

I would finally touch on interests outside of finance before concluding.

Finish by saying that “I believe this would be one of the best places to begin my career through an internship.”

How to Answer “Why You” Interview Questions

How not to get caught off-guard on the ‘why you’ interview questions.

Knowing 3 of your main strengths and 3 examples to go with that should be enough for ‘why you’, right?

But what about when you get asked all the following:

  • What are 3 of your main strengths
  • What are 3 strengths your friends would describe you have
  • What are 3 ways people misperceive you?

I was not ready for this level of introspection in one of my interviews and realised I had not looked deeply enough into my own personality traits during preparation.

Taking a deeper dive into what may initially seem like curve-ball questions should encourage more original responses.

Also, cliched examples can create a barrier when trying to build a connection with your interviewer.

To help with expanding preparation on ‘why you’, here are 3 examples that might resonate with you:

  • Being able to quickly respond to feedback loops (coachability)
  • Being structured in your thinking, e.g., being able to break down complex information into simple mental frameworks
  • Being able to stay calm in stressful situations

Although has its many critics and flaws, I have found taking the 12-minute survey helpful in shedding light on my own personality traits.

How to answer why this firm

How to answer the 2nd most asked interview question: ‘Why this firm?’

This post extends from the post on writing a cover letter:

I recommend coming up with 3 case-specific reasons on why you’re applying to the firm.

Remember to strike the balance between avoiding a response that is too scripted and having a good structure.

Create a Firm Profile

Particularly for larger firms (e.g. ‘Bulge bracket’ banks), go through the firm’s website and create a firm profile documenting key details, as well as information lodged 10-clicks into the site. E.g. An initiative that the firm recently launched which resonates with you.

Include firm background, how the firm has been performing in the last 3 years (skim through the letter to shareholders & investor presentation), areas of expansion and what language HR uses.


Reach out to people at the firm and hear from their perspectives.

There is nothing stopping you from sending a message and asking for a quick call (see one this post for a template on this).

Networking becomes immeasurably more important with smaller firms or startups where not so much information is released on the firm’s website.

These conversations can oftentimes lead you to your most genuine reasons on why that firm.

How to answer competency questions

How to smash the competency section of your interview.

This post covers the fundamental breakdown of competency interview questions where you delve into past examples of how you’ve demonstrated skills the interviewer is looking for.

For each competency listed below, I recommend adding two bullet point examples of where you demonstrated that ability.

Once complete, put together a 1 or 2-page summary sheet of these examples.

This summary sheet is what you can use to refresh your mind and transfer those examples from your long-term to short-term memory just before the interview and massively reduce the risk of mind-blank moments.

Competency Categories

Here are the categories I recommend covering:

  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Resilience
  • Decisiveness
  • Leadership
  • Flexibility
  • Problem-solving

For each of the 2 examples, I would use a framework like the ‘Situational, Task, Action & Result’ (STAR) technique.

For your most powerful examples, or consulting interviews, the PARADE method will help you flesh these out in greater detail (see here).

Remember to be extremely concise for the situational and task aspect of ‘STAR’ to prioritise the action you took that demonstrates you have the quality they’re looking for.

How to answer technical questions

How do you prepare for technical interview questions in the most efficient way possible?

Search online for the ‘Breaking Into Wall Street 400Qs’ guide, which contains hundreds of example interview questions and answers.

Spaced Repetition and Active Recall

When mastering the guide, keep in mind spaced repetition and active recall.

I recommend reading ‘Make It Stick’ for this part.

In summary, prioritise putting yourself on the spot and recalling the answers to these questions.

E.g. In mock interviews with friends, rather than spending hours digesting hour-long YouTube videos about them.

Avoid Cramming

Approach the guide in manageable chunks rather than a 400Qs-cram.

Only worry about the basic sections for anything up to internship applications and aim to master each section one by one:

  • Accounting
  • Enterprise Value / Equity Value
  • DCF
  • Merger Model
  • LBO (just in case your interviewer works in LevFin. I once had an interview that was 90% LBO technical questions from the guide)

Also, I found the ‘understanding banking’ section useful, as included in more extensive versions of the guide.

Older versions of the guide can be found online, or you can buy the most recent version from the Breaking Into Wall Street website.

How to answer commercial awareness questions and “tell me about a recent deal” question

How to master ‘commercial awareness’ interview questions with 4 hacks.

Develop a Habit

E.g. Consistently reading a commercial awareness newsletter or listening to a podcast.

My favourite newsletters are the Pitchbook and TechCrunch weekend editions and as for podcasts, a morning dose of the FT News Briefing and Finimize do the trick for me.

Go deep on a few key trends rather than going shallow on everything. Your list might start with 3 and then grow towards covering more.

For example:

  • Regulation of tech-giants
  • Consolidation of the food delivery market
  • M&A trends overview
  • Automotive sector trends
  • ESG revolution

This should prepare you for interview questions like “tell me about a recent M&A trend”, “tell me about a news item you’ve been following” or “tell me about ESG investing”.

A4 Summary Sheets

Alongside a summary of key developments of the trend, write up how this will impact your chosen division and include statistics to prove you are detail-oriented.

Consulting Reports

Finally, search for free consulting reports on your trend of interest – this is commonly what analysts in the industry would go for.

Most importantly, enjoy the process as commercial awareness is something that goes well beyond the interview.

Tell me about a recent M&A deal

How to answer “tell me about a recent merger & acquisition deal” with a simple hack:

Firstly, credits go to Patrick Gorton for telling me about this technique called the deal cookie-cutter method – finding others in a similar position to yourself when applying is something I cannot recommend enough.

Here is what the deal cookie-cutter method consists of:

Brief Overview of the Deal

Keep this line concise.

If you are struggling to find a recent deal, you could go straight to the source and type in “[Bank Name] Press Release”, which should yield some useful search results.

3 Key Rationale Behind the Deal

For these points, you could stick to the press release, or use sites like MergerSight and the Financial Times for extra commentary on the deal.

Remember to include case-specific points and at least 1 statistic.

Why it Interests You

This section is where you can tie in your commercial awareness preparation.

For example, if looking at the Groupe PSA/FCA merger and you want to involve trends from the automotive sector, you could include details from McKinsey’s article titled “Mobility’s second great inflection point”.

Finally, I recommend preparing extra details that you could talk about if asked further and sticking to bullet points to avoid sounding scripted.

How to answer market sizing based questions

What is the UK market size for oat milk in revenue per year?

Being asked to identify the size of a particular market is not just limited to consulting interview questions.

I recommend running through a couple of examples. Here is how I would tackle the question above:

Create a Holistic Equation

Firstly, take up to 1 minute to outline a holistic equation before diving into the variable components.

Oat milk revenue per year = #People in UK × Quantity per person per year × Cost per unit

Remember to round numbers to make them convenient to work with.

Disaggregate the Population

Next, start with #People in UK.

Disaggregate the ~60m people in the UK into 3 estimated segments:

  1. People that never use oat milk; 40m
  2. People that occasionally use oat milk; 15m
  3. Oat milk lovers; 5m

Calculating Population Consumption

Then calculate litres consumed by each segment in a year.

Start with consumption per day (easier to visualise) then consumption per year and multiply by segment size:

  1. 0ml per day
  2. 50ml per day × 360 days = 18litres per year.
    Round to 20litres.
    20litres × 15m = 300m litres.
  3. Oat milk lovers might drink 4x segment 2’s amount.
    20litres × 4 = 80 litres per year.
    80litres × 5m = 400m litres.

Total population consumption = 300m + 400m = 700m litres per year.

Finding the Revenue Per Year

Finally, estimate the cost of a litre of oat milk to be £1.

Oat milk revenue per year = 700m × £1= £0.7bn

Balancing Exams and Interviews

What are some hacks for balancing exams and interviews?

Here, I’ll be sharing 3 hacks that have helped me deal with those stressful times when interviews and exams clash during university.

Make Time for Short Bursts of ‘Laser Focus’.

For me, this means going to sleep and waking up much earlier than usual every few days alongside a set playlist, turning my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ and delaying breakfast to optimise focus.

For more suggestions on maximising focus, I recommend reading ‘Make Time’.

Prioritise the Interview

Particularly if you’re in your first year which usually doesn’t count as much to your final grade, I am sticking with the contentious view that interviews should take slight precedence since the potential offer and development they provide are priceless.

Calm exam nerves through leveraging past papers

Harness the 80/20 principle by starting with past papers and exam-styled questions – then revise the content areas as you go along.

I’ve found that trying to dominate content first can be frustrating and less efficient. Play the game of exams by starting with questions practice first.

Final Note

As a final note, keep moving forward and remember that pressure is what turns charcoal into the hardest naturally occurring substance on earth.

Not Getting Disheartened Amid the Internship Application Struggle

Starting to feel anxious about future prospects while you see others convert their spring weeks?

Then this post is for you.

Here are 3 actionable steps you can take in disarming unhelpful thoughts like ‘will I even land a summer internship?’, while focusing on playing your own game:

Take Meaningful Action

Reflect on what went wrong in previous applications and create an internship application game plan. If you’re stuck, check out my previous posts and stay tuned for much more to come.

Read the Happiness Trap

This easily makes it into my top 5 in terms of the most impactful books I’ve read.

It builds psychological flexibility through proven techniques and unarming unhelpful thoughts is tackled first.

Keep the Right Perspective

Just like R.U. Darby and his uncle during the Californian Gold Rush, there are countless stories of people missing their greatest success 3 feet from the point of quitting, so changing your perspective on struggle is paramount.

Final Advice

Finally, as innocent civilians lose their lives in violence they did not cause and as people die from a virus many of us are now protected from, I constantly find myself taking for granted the things that matter most in life.

How to Master the Art of Conversations… During Interviews

Here are 3 interview tips I have found invaluable that were inspired by a TED talk called 10 ways to have a better conversation.

If You Don’t Know, Say You Don’t Know

Waffling must be avoided at all costs, for instance, when the interviewer pushes your technical knowledge of finance beyond your comfort zone.

Of course, having a go with your intuition shows initiative, but this can often trap you into a repetitive, long-winded explanation that does more harm than good.

Stay Out of The Weeds

When introducing yourself and particularly when using the “STAR”/”PARADE” technique, the interviewer is not concerned with the names and dates you struggle to remember – that’s why the situation part of STAR should be no more than 15-30 seconds.

Be Brief

Frameworks I have shared like the M&A deal cookie-cutter method (deal summary, 3 key rationales & why it interests you) help strike the balance between enough detail and concision which massively work in your favour.

Although interviews are more of an art than a science, these tips counteract some of the more common downfalls I find us applicants are predisposed to.

Interview Study Groups: The Most Overlooked Application Season Hack?

I believe mock interviews and interview ‘study groups’ are one of the most overlooked hacks for application season and if you’re not convinced, here are 3 reasons why:

You Get Exposed

We all have mannerisms and weaknesses. My problem is that I speak too fast, especially during interviews. Maybe you make weird noises like ‘Ummm…’ when nervous, or swivel on your chair.

Whatever it is, someone in the group is bound to notice and will be there to persistently remind you to work on eliminating the habit.


Meeting for 1hr every week and testing each other on at least one commercial awareness, technical and behavioural question will give you the momentum to prepare early before you have an interview lined up. This tackles the biggest problem: inconsistent preparation left too late.


Weekly group video calls can develop a level of consistency that will be at the heart of compounding your development into the first wave of application season.

Wondering how to form your own interview study group? Stay tuned for next week’s post where I’ll be covering how to form one.

What is your Favourite Film? Answering Personal Interview Questions

How to answer personal interview questions.

Some may argue that these more personal questions are the easiest to answer, while others get caught off guard because the last 12 hours involved grinding through every technical question they could find.

Regardless of which category you fall into, I think the best way to advise on such questions is through a personal example of my own which will hopefully provoke something authentic from yourself.

My Favourite Film

One of my favourite films is “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” which is about a 13-year-old boy in Malawi who pioneers an unconventional solution to save his family from famine.

Here are 3 reasons why it is my favourite:

  1. He persists against others that ridiculed him when trying to solve such a critical and dire problem that appeared to have no solution.
  2. He is immeasurably resourceful when sourcing supplies, for example connecting the dynamo of a bike to a broken pump in the garbage when building a wind turbine to irrigate land.
  3. The film is based on the true story of William Kamkwamba which makes it that much more meaningful.

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