Mr. Exclusive

Investment Banking
Aug 13, 2014
Competency Interview Questions
You should have multiple examples ready that you can draw on for each competency so you can assure the bank you have the appropriate abilities and can apply it to different environments (and after all, to show that you prepared).

"When did you have to deal with a difficult team member and how was this overcome?"
"Name a time you utilised your ingenuity to solve a complex problem?"
"Give an example where you have demonstrated outstanding leadership and the impact this had?"
"Give an example of a time where you have exercised your ability to be a great team player and the end result?"

Varieties of the questions above are very common (some might even say tiresome) and as it has been mentioned you are expected to follow the STAR approach with this. When answering these questions, a good recruiter will stop you if you are heading in the wrong direction and ask for further clarification like "So, what was your contribution in this situation?" or "What was the result of this and what was the key factor in achieving it?" Other recruiters won’t do this but ultimately, at the end of the interview if they haven’t got the information they need from you, they won’t put you through. Therefore, make sure you can answer these in relative depth because chances are, a recruiter will ask a more searching question about it.

- Give me an example of a book you read that you found interesting and the impact it had on your life?
This was one of those weird questions I once got asked (Analyst was a History graduate interviewing me) and I completely stumbled all over the place. This is unlikely to be asked but probably worth thinking about an answer to this type of question either in case it is asked or just to talk about in general to make you seem interesting.

- If your friends could sum you up in three words, what would they be?
Again, there is no "correct" answer to this, do not try and be overly smart with it either. Just come up with something genuine that you think would fit with the values of the bank. An example might be "ambitious, loyal and humble". Make it personal to you, that is the point of the question. It is searching to find something out about you from your own perspective.

- What is your greatest weakness?
Lots of people struggle with this question. The key to answering it is not to necessarily pick an actual flaw or weakness with yourself. Rather you should try to answer with an area that you know you are not so great in but have made a proactive effort to improve in.

For example you might say something like "I’m very self-aware in that I know I lack demonstrated leadership experience and this is a weakness of mine. However, to overcome this, I have recently been elected President of my Sailing Society where I have done xyz." So, the key to answering this question is: weakness + solution.

In other words, a weakness that you know you have overcome or are trying to overcome. Never answer with something like "My weakness is that I am too perfect" or "My weakness is that I am so ambitious I take on too much work”. This tells the recruiter nothing about your self-awareness and gives the impression you do not take any variable in the situation seriously.

- How have you overcome adversity in the past?
Your answer to this can quite honestly be anything – but don’t use anything too personal. Perhaps you failed at something once and then you managed to achieve it second time round. Perhaps you come from a very difficult background but managed to break into a top university. Perhaps on the sports team you failed to win the cup but through practice and perseverance took that team to the cleaners the following season and so on. An example of anything that was a real blow to you personally, how you reacted, what action you took and how this resulted in you overcoming the issue is what recruiters want out of this.

There are an absolutely huge variety of the questions above which could be asked, all of which can be found on Google. Do not over prepare answers to these. Find a few key competency areas such as team work, communication, leadership, adversity, problem-solving and so on. Then find examples from your own experience that fit those competencies and think about how you could articulate an answer which really demonstrates the competency well or frames it in a way that looks impressive.

In the last part I will focus on potential technical questions you might get asked (not overly technical really), brainteasers, commercial awareness and the end of the interview. As always your comments are welcomed.

Part I (fit interview questions) is here.
Part III (technical interview questions) is here.
Aug 11, 2014
Excellent article. Provides a great insight into how to answer difficult interview questions.
With some preparation they could be easily tackled although this obviously depends on how intelligently you can speak your mind (this is usually a given IMO). I'd rather call technical interview questions difficult because you have to know your shyt cold so if the interviewer makes a minor tweak, you'd be still on the ball. Also you just can't have a pre-constructed answer ready like you'd do with fit/competency qs.


Investment Banking
Dec 7, 2016
Once, towards the end of an interview I was asked what book I was reading currently. Fortunately I happened to be reading a book that was interesting and insightful and could talk about that, rather than some nonsense trashy novel.
In future though, a good idea is to think of a book you have read - one you are proud of having read, and if asked what book you are reading - say it's that one, and be prepared to talk about it anyway. Just make sure you have brushed up on it if need be.
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