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Investment Banking Math: Interview Question

“I see that you are an art history major, so how comfortable do you feel working with numbers?”

Excerpt from WSP's Ace the IB Interview Guide

Excerpt from WSP’s Ace the IB Interview Guide

This question is actually quite similar to our post last week about how to answer “why investment banking given that you’re a liberal arts major”. Except that now the focus is specifically on your quantitative skills.

The key to nailing this type of question is to draw on all of your experiences that require using numbers.  The answer doesn’t need to one that lists all of the courses related to math – it can, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Learn More → Investment Banking Primer

Poor Answers

Poor answers to this question would be generalized, roundabout answers.  You need to be specific.  If you are a member of the finance committee of the art club, you can always discuss how you were involved with budgeting or project allocation and the quantitative skills learned from the experience.  If you really want to impress the interviewer, consider taking some extra financial training courses (like Wall Street Prep) as such courses will make it easy for you to discuss your quantitative abilities.  If you still have time, consider enrolling in quantitative courses (statistics, physics, chemistry, finance, accounting, calculus, etc.).

Great Answers

Great answers to this question again are specific and focus on individual quantitative skills.  Another acceptable answer is one that is honest.  If you haven’t taken quantitative courses (generally acceptable if you are a freshman or sophomore in college), be honest about it.  The worst thing you can do is try to fabricate your quantitative abilities when nothing on your resume supports your answer.  If you are a junior or senior and haven’t taken any math-related courses, your best bet is still to be honest.  Tell them that you were passionate about your major and wanted to take as many courses in that field, but given that you want to go into investment banking, the plan is to take some financial training or online quantitative courses BEFORE the job to learn the quant skills necessary to be successful.

Example of Great Answer to Interview Question

“Even though my university doesn’t offer any finance or accounting courses, I have taken numerous calculus, statistics, physics, and computer science courses to help me develop strong problem solving skills.  In addition, as a member of the Rock Climbing Club, I work on budgeting and have budgeted the next 3 climbing trips to the dollar using a simple excel model that I created from scratch.  I recognize that the position I am interviewing for is an analytical position, that is very much part of the appeal.  I love analytical challenges and feel confident that I can handle the analytical rigor of investment banking.”

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The Investment Banking Interview Guide ("The Red Book")

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