You can be certain to get some variant of the “walk me through your CV” question in every single investment banking interview. Many interviewers use this as a starting point since it allows them to familiarize themselves with the candidate. It's crucial to note that your response will set the tone for the rest of the conversation. Hence, a well-structured, authentic, and concise reply can make all the difference.
The Significance and Approach
When posed this question, interviewers aren't just seeking a rundown of your resume. They're keen on understanding the narrative of your academic and professional journey. Hence, ensure your response is more than just a chronicle of your achievements so far. The aim is to detail your accomplishments, share the pivotal experiences that have shaped your professional life, and demonstrate how you've arrived at your decision to pursue the role you're interviewing for. It’s an opportunity to make your CV come to life, detailing specific events that might not be overtly evident in a written format and always making sure to explain the why, for example, why you decided to study a specific degree at a specific university, etc.
Crafting an Effective Answer
Opening: Start with a brief introduction. Share a few biographical details like your hometown, your academic background, and any major professional roles you've held.
The Spark: Dive into what ignited your interest in the field. Perhaps it was an internship, a course, or an influential book. Interviewers appreciate understanding the motivation behind your career trajectory. For instance, if you’re into investment banking because of a significant event like Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, then share that. Talk about how specific experiences or courses have solidified this interest.
Highlight Relevant Experiences: Discuss the most pertinent roles or achievements that have readied you for the position in question. Avoid overwhelming the interviewer with every small detail; instead, focus on experiences that showcase your qualifications and aptitude for the role. Remember, it's not about how many experiences you mention, but rather how effectively you connect them to the job at hand. For example, if you studied anything business, finance, or economics related you can highlight those experiences. Mention any extracurricular activities such as your involvement in a finance student club, relevant previous internships, and athletic achievements.
Quantify Where Possible: Given the analytical nature of investment banking, it’s always a good strategy to integrate numbers to substantiate your achievements. This could range from grades to other performance metrics.
Personal Touch: While keeping it professional, don’t shy away from weaving in personal elements to make your answer memorable. Whether it's a unique hobby or a remarkable personal journey, it helps to be relatable.
Conclude by Connecting the Dots: Round off by tying everything back to the role you're interviewing for. Your answer to this question should make it clear to the interviewer that a career in investment banking is the next logical step for you. Also, articulate why your experiences and aspirations align perfectly with the opportunity. For instance, if you're applying for a role in the industrials team, you could say, “With my background in engineering and my previous internship at Daimler, I believe I'd fit right into the industrials practice at your firm.”
Duration and Other Tips
The worst mistake candidates can do here is to go on a +5min rant about every irrelevant detail of their life including which kindergarten they attended. Instead, keep it short and simple and aim for your response to span between 1 to 2 minutes. While this might seem short, it's adequate to articulate your journey without overwhelming the interviewer. If your interviewer wants to know more, he will then ask follow-up questions.
If you are just applying to a spring week, you will probably not have done any internships, yet. In that case, focusing on what you do have: the university you chose, the courses you attended, your achievements at your high school, any interesting extracurricular activities and hobbies, your interest in finance showcased by your attendance of workshops and conferences, etc. Delve deeper into these non-work related topics, shedding light on personality traits and ambitions.
Practice is paramount. You want the answer to flow naturally and not sound rehearsed. And as with any face-to-face interaction, remember the basics: speak clearly, maintain an appropriate amount of eye contact, and ensure your body language conveys confidence.
I originally come from Bonn in Germany and after finishing high school with a GPA of 1.2 which put me in the top 5% of my school, I decided to study Economics at the University of Mannheim because I was very intrigued by the financial crisis of 2008. At the University of Mannheim, I joined the finance society and went to all the events including the speeches from the top investment banks which opened my eyes to the world of M&A. To figure out whether a career in investment banking is the right choice for me, I did my first internship at Nomura in Frankfurt last summer. During that three months internship, I worked closely with the team on a number of pitches as well as one sell-side execution in the MedTech industry which was the highlight of my internship. As part of that deal, I worked hand in hand with the analyst and associate to create the info memo and I was also able to develop my technical skills by performing a comparable company and precedent transaction analysis as well as linking the operating model to a DCF. Overall, this internship strengthened my conviction to start my career in investment banking as I enjoy the transaction-related work as part of a bigger team which is why I am applying to the summer internship at J.P. Morgan now. Finally, in my spare time, I enjoy both sailing where I regularly work as an honorary sailing instructor as well as playing soccer and my team was recently able to win the local university cup.
Pro Tip: Find Commonalities with the Interviewer
Typically, the interviewer starts by introducing himself first by giving a brief summary of his background. Listen closely to what the interviewer is saying and then slightly adjust your response to focus on any commonalities that you have with your interviewer. For example, if the interviewer studied at the same university or at a different university but chose the same degree as you, adjust your response to focus a bit more on that. If the interviewer also did a consulting interview before going into banking, focus a bit more on that. If the interviewer also did some sports on a professionals level during university, focus on that. You get the point.