Background / Personal Interview Questions & Suggested Answers

Typical background questions include inquiries about where you went to school (undergraduate and/or business school), what you majored in, and why/where you studied abroad if you've done that.

These questions are not too difficult to answer as long as you're thoughtful and have a decent rationale for what you say.

The key points: come across as an interesting person (which you should have no trouble doing) and also talk about how your experience better prepared you for investment banking.

Even if you did something seemingly unrelated, such as a Math Major, that can be turned into a good response to lead into the inevitable "Why banking?" question you'll get.


1. Walk me through your resume.


You should really go through all the lessons on telling your "story" right here first:


Start at "the beginning" - if you're in college, that might be where you grew up or where you went to high school. For anyone in business school or beyond, it might be where you went to undergraduate, your first job, or even where you went to business school.

Then, go through how you first became interested in finance/business, how your interest developed over the years via the specific internships / jobs / other experiences you had and conclude with a strong statement about why you're interviewing today.

Aim for 2-3 minutes - if you go on longer than this, the interviewer may get bored or impatient. Also, do not look at your resume when going through your "story."

The 4 most important points:

  1. Be chronological.
  2. Show how each experience along the way led you in the direction of finance.
  3. State why you’re here interviewing today.
  4. Aim for 2-3 minutes.


What are the most common mistakes with the "Walk me through your resume" question?

  1. Going out of order chronologically.
  2. Too much exposition - don't start off by saying, "I've had a lot of great experiences."
  3. Being too short (under 1 minute) or too long (over 5 minutes).
  4. Not sounding certain you want to do banking/finance.
  5. Listing your experiences rather than giving a logical transition between each one.


Again, I highly recommend going through all the video tutorials on this very question -because your "story" is the most important part of any interview:


2. Why did you attend [Your University / Business School]? I'm sure you had many options. / Why did you transfer to [University Name]?


Say that you looked at a lot of places, but settled on wherever you went due to its excellent academic reputation, its strong business/finance/economics program, or something of that nature. If you were interested in something specific it offered (e.g. you were an athlete and went to Stanford on scholarship, or you went to UChicago because of its excellent liberal arts program) you can mention that as well. Try to sound like you made a thoughtful decision rather than deciding randomly.

If you transferred elsewhere, a similar strategy applies but make sure to emphasize it was for academic reasons. For example, don't say you wanted to get out of Massachusetts and move to southern California for an "improved lifestyle!"


3.1 noticed you studied abroad in [Location]. Can you tell me about that experience and why you went there?


Emphasize you did a lot academically rather than partying 24/7. Many study abroad programs do, in fact, involve partying 24/7, but you don't want to admit this. You can mention something about the fun you had, trips you went on, and anything interesting you did (climbing Mt. Fuji, starring in a Korean soap opera, excavating ruins in Troy,

etc.) but don't over-do it and make them think you did nothing constructive while you were there. Think "Work hard and play hard" for this one.


4. Why did you major in [Your Major]?


If it was something related to business/economics, you can discuss your interest in those fields; for other majors, you can emphasize how you liked the challenge and/or had a personal interest in the field, but also took the time to learn the basics of business/finance on your own.


5. Where else did you apply for school? Did you get in anywhere else?


You applied to a number of top schools and got in at other places, but you went through a careful decision-making process and settled on your school for a very good reason.

Show that you're "in-demand" by others and you always become more attractive -whether it's to the bank you're interviewing at or to the schools you're applying to.


6. I see you wrote here that you're fluent in [Language]. Can you tell me about your most recent internship in [Language]?


Be prepared for this if you list any common languages on your resume (Spanish, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) or if you happen to "get lucky" and your interviewer is a native speaker in one of the languages you've listed.

I would suggest some practice discussing your work experience in whatever language(s) you've listed and making sure you can speak intelligently, at least briefly, about what you've done.

If you really don't know much, just tell them upfront rather than making a fool of yourself and trying to talk about EBITDA when you don't know the word for it -1 speak from experience on this one.


7. What do you do for fun?


Obviously, don't say anything illegal or questionable/controversial. If you have anything interesting or not very common (hang gliding, directing movies, bungee jumping) you should bring that up. Otherwise, just be honest and if you really like watching football (North American football for international readers) or other sports, just talk about your interest in those.


8. What was your favorite class in college / business school?


I would not say anything economics/finance-related - it sounds too artificial. Tell them about something you were actually interested in - even if it's not directly related to banking. They want to see who you are as a person, not whether or not you know all the Excel shortcuts in the book.


9. What are your favorite movies / books?


There are 2 common mistakes:

  1. Saying something like Wall Street, American Psycho, or Liar's Poker that indicates you're a boring person.
  2. Saying something like Harry Potter that indicates you're borderline illiterate.


Pick something in the middle - above pop literature/film but not something that has to do with finance specifically. That just sounds weird.


10. Tell me something interesting about you that's not listed on your resume.


Again, don't say anything illegal/inappropriate - use common sense. Talking about that trip to Easter Island or your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu championship both work well.


- prepared by