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by Derek Loosvelt | June 13, 2012


During the past three months, we surveyed thousands of investment bankers and traders, asking them to tell us what it's like to work for their firms, as well as to rate their firms in various workplace categories, including compensation, hours, culture, work/life balance, and training. This year, a portion of our Banking Survey (which we use to compile our annual Vault Banking 50) was devoted to interviews—we asked bankers and traders to rate their firm's hiring process, as well as to provide us with a list of actual questions their firms ask during interviews.

And, to that end, as expected, many of the interview questions we were told currently being asked on Wall Street include: Why investment banking? Why our firm? Why should we hire you? Tell me about a time when you worked on a team? Tell me about a time when you made a mistake and how you went about correcting it? What are your best qualities? Your worst? How do you value a company?

But we also received many questions that are a little out of the ordinary, that take a little more pondering, and that focus on business ethics (which I don't remember hearing about in years' past).

And so what follows are, from the pool of interview questions we received from the thousands of professionals who took our Banking Survey, the 19 most difficult currently being asked by the largest banks on Wall Street (all questions come from insiders at one of the following four banks: Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, or Credit Suisse). In no particular order:

1. What's 16 x 17?

2. If you overstated depreciation by $100 million on your income statement, what would you need to do to correct the error, and what is the impact on the three financial statements?

3. How would explain what present value is to your mom?

4. In plain English, tell me how to price a bond?

5. In less than three minutes, give me an overview of what caused the 2008 financial crisis and the steps that have been taken to help get us out of the recession.

6. Pitch me a merger of any two companies.

7. Would you rather I give you a dollar a day for the rest of your life or $1,000 right now? Why?

8. What is your level of knowledge of financial products (on a scale of 1 to 10)?

9. What can you tell me about the current market? What is you interest rate outlook?

10. What does it mean to have business ethics?

11. How do you define an inclusive environment? What have you personally done to ensure your team/school was inclusive?

12. What does risk management mean?

13. If you had three million dollars to invest right now, what would you do?

14. Tell me about a time where you were challenged to do something you felt was wrong and/or disconnected from your values?

15. Describe to me your views on current Fed policy?

16. Walk me through the last difficult decision you had to make with incomplete information. How did the problem arise? How did you go about understanding the situation? What alternative did you consider? What solutions did you try? What was the outcome?

17. What was the last thing you researched or learned about because you wanted to understand it, not because you were told to for a class?

18. How many golf balls can you fit in a 747?

19. What was your most embarrassing moment?

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Read More:
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21 Interview Questions the Big 4 Ask