Investment Banking Interview Lesson: Telling a Strategic Anecdote
I see that as a member of the Class Council, you managed to raise $12,000 for your class. Tell me about this.
This question is testing your understanding of processes, and an opportunity for you to tell a story that puts you in a positive light. In investment banking, the entire deal is a process from start to finish. You want to make sure that you provide organized steps of the process from a higher level and then what you specifically did to raise the $12,000. Investment banks / financial firms are looking for leaders – people to run with projects with little guidance. This is your chance to shine and show how you take initiative and need little “hand holding.”
Poor responses to this question include ones that focus on “we.” I know that sounds strange because you hear that everything done in the corporate world is done in teams. This is definitely true, but an investment bank/financial firm is not hiring a packaged team, they are hiring you. So, without sounding pompous, you need to illustrate the impact that you personally have on teams. Other bad responses are too general and don’t provide specific actions / statistics. To say “we raised $12,000 for the class as a team” is not good enough. You need to provide specific details.
Great responses to this question include ones that clearly depict you as a leader without sounding arrogant. You want to give responses like “took initiative to go to each dorm and market the event to dorm reps and bargained with vendors to get prices for food and drink - reducing original prices by 15%. The aggressive marketing coupled with reduction in prices allowed us to raise approximately $12,000 in funds for my class.”
Sample great answer
“As a member of the Freshman Class Council, I joined the Social Committee which was responsible for raising money and holding social events for the freshman class. In that role, I managed to help raise $12,000. At a high level, the event consisted of having a student band perform and offering $20 tickets to the event which included free food and soda. I decided to take initiative and focus my efforts on both marketing and cost-cutting. To market the event, I went to every dorm on campus and strategically placed catchy fliers on bathroom doors, at the entrances to the door, in the laundry room, and in each stairwell. I also had the Dorm President of each dorm include a blurb about the event in their weekly blasts. Lastly, I went to some of the major places on campus including the Library, dining halls, and Student Center and posted these catchy fliers also in strategic places. We had close to 800 freshman show up for the event – I’d say that was a success given our class size of roughly 2,000 people.
After my marketing efforts, I focused on cost-cutting. I contacted various local food vendors and found out their prices for catering an event like this. After finding various vendors, I managed to talk down prices by 15%, thus increasing the gross profit of the event. Getting such a discount was not an easy feat, but what helped was telling the vendor that they would be our “go to” for all future events and we already had four events in the works. Establishing this relationship was critical in getting prices reduced.”
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