You’re interviewing for a job in an investment bank. At the end, it’s your turn to ask questions. Do you avail yourself of it and ask the sort of things that will get you noticed and leave you better informed about the role? Or do you ask something formulaic and call it day?
If you’re interviewing for a banking job, you need to employ the first tactic. With most applicants for banking jobs rejected, you need to ask impressively brilliant questions. And with most banks reviewing their strategic priorities, you need to clarify exactly what kind of job and organization you’re stepping into.
We asked a selection of bankers, recruiters, banking analysts and coaches for their advice on questions to conclude your interview. This is what they said.
1. What kind of training will you offer with this role? Which skills would you expect me to acquire or develop?
Victoria Macpherson, a former banker and recruiter turned coach, suggests you need to use your questions to subtly unearth how supportive the firm you’re joining is. Now that pay is less significant in banking than it used to be, she says people are more interested in culture and working hours. What’s it really like to work for Bank X? Questions about training can help clarify whether an employer is supportive or not.
2. What will success look like in this role? Now, and in three years’ time?
This helps establish exactly what’s expected of you. What kind of P&L are you expected to generate? How many cost savings are you expected to make? How much client business are you expected to bring in?
3. What kind of leadership and personal development training do you offer?
If you’re asking about training, Macpherson advises focusing on softer aspects alongside hard skills. If you aspire to management, what will the firm you’re joining do to prepare you for this? “You want to establish that you’re joining an organization that has systems in place to care for its people,” says Macpherson.
4. What would you say my growth potential is in this role?
This is essentially a straight-up version of question one. Michael Karp, CEO of global financial services recruitment firm Options Group, says this is the fundamental thing you need to find out during your interview. – Where will the job take you?
5. Can you let me know what kinds of benefits you offer alongside your compensation?
It’s not a good idea to make bald queries about remuneration during the interview (you can inquire later, or through the recruiter – assuming you used an intermediary). By asking about non-monetary benefits, you’re putting the issue of reward on the table and probing the extent to which the firm rewards in softer ways. This can lead to a conversation about flexible working, for example.
6. If I’m successful and you offer me the job, what should I be doing to prepare myself for starting in this role?
This was suggested by a recruiter at a bank in London. By asking this, you’re focusing interviewers’ minds on the possibility of employing you. You’re showing too that you’re genuinely interested in the job and thinking about how to prepare for it.
7. Where are you in terms of any strategic re-positioning of this business?
Banks are always in the process of strategic renewal. One banking analyst says it’s therefore worth asking whether changes have and are taking place, and their likely impact on the role you’re interviewing for.
8. How do you assess people at the end of the year?
Macpherson advises asking this question as another way of eliciting information on a firm’s culture. Ideally, she says you want to join a business that conducts 360 degree assessments (eg. Goldman Sachs). They’re fairer and indicate that the bank is genuinely interested in appraising its people properly.
9. Is the capital allocated to this business likely to change in the next 12 months?
Is the business you’re joining likely to undergo big changes as its capital allocation is cut? If so, how will this alter the strategy?
10. How does the return on equity in this business compare to the group target?
This is another means of establishing the extent to which the group you’re joining is in a process of upheaval. If the return on equity is significantly sub-par, big changes are inevitable.
11. How do you expect technology to change this business and this role?
Suggested by the head of banks research, this is the golden question as banks seek to automate as much as possible.
12. Has cost-cutting impacted this business area? How are you working more efficiently?
Most banking divisions are being asked to become more efficient. How are these efficiencies likely to change the role you’re applying to?
13. What do you like most about working here?
Finally, it helps to give your interviewer a chance to talk about themselves. People love to discuss their own experiences. Asking personal questions provides this opportunity. It also gives you another opportunity to probe the cultural aspects of the firm you’re thinking of joining.