- Before you land your dream job in investment banking, you’ll have to get through your “super day” interviews.
- Super day, or the final round of interviews, consists of several hours and rounds of behavioral and technical questions in one-on-one and two-on-one conversations.
- Experts shared with Business Insider their best practices on hacking this final round, even if you’re remote.
- Practice interview questions with a friend and have specific answers prepared for why you want to work at this bank or in this role to demonstrate your collaborative, research, and technical skills.
- It’s a two-way conversation, so don’t shy away from asking the interviewer questions and expressing your gratitude.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“Super day” is the last round of interviews in the recruiting process for investment banking jobs, such as analyst and associate positions. It usually lasts for multiple hours and includes several rounds of behavioral and technical questions in a combination of one-on-one and one-on-two (one candidate and two hiring managers) conversations.
In Europe, you’ll also be asked to visit assessment centers, which will have you role playing or playing games that demonstrate both your technical skills and learning ability, while in the United States you’ll be asked to respond to case study questions.
Many major financial services firms, including Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, have a long tradition of hosting super days. Usually, potential employees are brought into the organization’s headquarters after a phone screening and other in-person interviews, which previously took place on a college or university campus as part of the formal recruiting process. Interviewers then doll out job offers (or not) within a few days of super day, or even on the same day at the end of the event.
In the age of the pandemic, however, many firms are conducting all their interviews and super days virtually, and some banks are not providing job offers as quickly.
Regardless of how super day takes place, those interviewing can prepare themselves to make a good impression by following these tips and tricks.
Wear appropriate attire (and an air of confidence)
The clothes you wear will make an impression, said Marisa Mackey Palmer, a career blogger and senior lecturer at the University of Wisconsin. Palmer, who’s a 2004 graduate of Columbia Business School, went through a super day that resulted in landing a job at Lehman Brothers. Before moving into higher education, Palmer spent 10 years on Wall Street.
“What is unique about the finance field is the corporate culture,” she said. “You have to dress in a classic, formal way. You are the stewards of your client’s capital and value. Investment bankers want you to be personal and affable but also serious about this responsibility.”
As a result, Palmer suggested men wear classic-cut suits and avoid trendy styles. Women, she said, should wear modest, classic skirt suits. Pant suits are acceptable, too, but Palmer said she prefers skirts because they seem more traditional to her.
Snježana “Ana” Billian, founder of Great Career Studios, an online platform for career coaching based in Munich, Germany, and former vice president for learning and development in the investment banking division of UniCredit, an Italian banking and financial services organization, advised people to wear darker colors, such as navy, black, or grey, with white button-down shirts. Even if it’s hot outside, you should always wear closed-toe shoes, she said.
“Show a posture that is confident,” she added. “Adopt a power pose that shows you have composure of yourself.”
Show that you’re collaborative and have the technical skills needed to succeed
While, by design, there might be some surprising questions or situations that the banks will want to see you confront, there are some questions you can anticipate, Billian said.
For instance, you can expect to walk interviewers through your resume, discuss successes and failures, and explain why you’re pursuing investment banking and what interests you about this specific investment bank. You should prepare two to three success stories and one failure that can be used as examples in responses to different questions, Billian said, and know what these anecdotes say about your approach to leadership, teamwork, and emotional IQ.
Don’t be shy about preparing answers. You don’t want to sound rehearsed, but you should have an idea of what you will say, said Judy Panagakos, senior career coach at Early Stage Careers and formerly of JP Morgan Chase, where she worked for 31 years, ran recruiting for several programs, and conducted final selection committees to extend offers.
“Practice with a trusted friend or coach to build concise, powerful responses that you can deliver fluidly,” she said.
In fact, technical skills will only take you so far. Billian remembered interviewing a young woman, who earned high marks in the technical portion of her interviews, but she told the hiring committee that she wouldn’t go to lunch with anyone. Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.
In addition, Panagakos tells those interviewing to think about how they’ll react if they’re stumped by technical question sets. Palmer said you can expect case study questions related to valuing a company or building an LBO (leveraged buyout) model. Panagakos recommended checking out Wall Street Oasis to help practice.
“Extensively practice interview questions, a broad range, so that you are ready for any nuance to those questions, practicing with a friend and switching up the way the question is phrased,” Panagakos added. “That practice builds confidence and will make you sound less rehearsed when you are really in the interview setting.”
Have a specific answer prepared for why this bank or role
You need to know why you’ve chosen to pursue a career in investment banking and be able to explain this succinctly. More importantly, you need to explain why you want to work for the particular bank you’re interviewing with. Many people are too vague when answering this question, Billian said.
“Interviewers want to know if you took the time and cared enough to learn about their bank,” she said.
Instead of just saying you like the culture, Billian suggested pointing to the bank’s mission statement, name-dropping an alum who worked there and inspired you, referring to your previous interviews, describing something you appreciated during recruitment, or reflecting on recent positive headlines about the bank.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
“Approach interviews as a two-way conversation,” Billian said. “Don’t hesitate to interject questions as you go.”
For example, Palmer said, turn around and ask the interviewer what brought them to investment banking and this bank once you’ve explained your side of the story.
At the end of the interview, when the hiring manager asks if you have any questions for them, ask them to share a success story from their time at the bank or about the bank’s strategy for dealing with a macroeconomic trend, Billian suggested as a couple examples.
Show your gratitude
Competition is fierce, so it’s important that you’re memorable for all the right reasons at the end of a super day.
Palmer interviewed with a New York real estate investment firm during recruitment at her school. While the recruiter was still on campus, Palmer returned home, wrote a handwritten thank-you note expressing how much she wanted the job, and immediately returned to the interview site to deliver it in person.
“Don’t hesitate to show your enthusiasm for a company or a role,” Palmer said. “Make the employer feel as loved as you want to be loved by him or her.”
You should always send a thank-you note either by snail mail or email. In her note to the recruiter, Palmer expressed thanks, described her desire to work with the firm, and reiterated what she thought made her the best candidate.
Prepare for a long day
Staying focused for multiple hours can be challenging. Billian advised people to eat well before the interviews and have water nearby.
“Our brain does not work well if we are hungry or dehydrated,” she said.
By many accounts, the interviewers take on different roles during super day. Some are friendly, while others might be stoic because they want to test your learning agility and ability to adapt, Billian said. In addition, Palmer said you shouldn’t get hung up if you think one interview went badly. Quickly move on and remember that the interviewer’s impression might be different than yours, she said.
Finally, don’t be afraid to repeat some of your answers if appropriate. With so many interview questions, you might find some of the stories you’ve prepared fit into responses of different questions. What’s important is to get across the message that you have the chops and commitment to take on this role.
“Remember,” Billian said, “what recruiters and senior bankers want to know is, do you have what it takes to do the job?”