Take Control of Your Life

Interview Prep 101

As some of you know – I worked in finance as well as created a tech company (not To Be Alpha). The site focuses on career preparation and one of my initial clients was a Columbia University student (yes, the Ivy League school) that wanted to get a job at an investment bank.

He got in touch with me and we did some work together to get him prepared. As part of the follow-up I wrote him the following email to give him some last minute advice.

I want to paste it for you guys (and edit it slightly) so you can use this information if you have an interview coming up. Although the prep information is geared towards a finance type interview – there are general tips that every person can use.


Talk slowly – it’s ok to be nervous but just remember the interviewer is no better than you.
Control the interview – you are in control of what you tell them and what they should know, so highlight all of your strenghts.

Key things to focus on

Always know how to highlight your strengths during the interview
  • qualitative and quantitative analysis
  • valuation
  • team oriented
  • you like the reputation and culture of the firm

1) When you are asked to walk through your resume

  • Highlight your education
  • Talk briefly about your vast experiences in finance and consulting and how you’ve done qualitative and quantitative analysis on companies and looked at deal structures

2) When asked why finance or investment banking

  • Talk about how you enjoy working with numbers and doing analysis
  • Speak about your research work
  • Talk about how you’ve worked on transactions at your PE firm and written memos after analyzing the industry and company and doing financial analysis
  • Talk about working on a team and how you enjoy that

3) When asked about why this company

  • reputation – great investment bank, great place to start your career
  • people – smart and intelligent, you want to be around smart people
  • location – you want to be back in asia

4) When asked about your strengths

  • great work ethic
  • diligent and detail oriented
  • exceed expectations

5) When asked about your weaknesses

  • Always wanting to learn and take on as much as you can so you need to push back sometimes
  • You like to take control of projects but you need to let others help you out more often in order to succeed and get things done quicker
  • You’re always curious and ask a lot of questions
  • (or come up with your own)

6) When asked about a time you failed

  • Talk about communicating better and setting expectations with your boss or seniors

7) When asked about mutli-tasking

  • Talk about all the things you do now and how you are able to accomplish everything

8) When asked about a moment you are proud of

  • Talk about your mountain climb and all the hard work it took and even though it was really tough you knew you just had to put in the work and you would make it to the top
  • You always have the attitude that you would accomplish the goal and there was no way you would fail

9) When asked where do you see yourself in 5 years

  • Say you want to be promoted to associate or VP and still work in investment banking but take on more of a leadership role where you can deal more with clients and mentor associates and analyst

10) When asked to talk about what type of analysis you’ve done

  • Talk about trends, industry, company analysis
  • Metrics you look at
  • valuation ratios

THE RESULT of Using this as a Guide??

Ken, the name of the guy that I wrote this for, got the job and is now a full time investment banking analyst at Citigroup in Asia.

How Can You Use This?

Honestly, you can take all the general tips and use them. Some of the answers for why this company, what are your weaknesses and strengths can be used universally for every job interview.

As much as I want to say job interviews are suppose to help an employer or hiring manager get to know you and whether or not you are right for the job – I don’t really believe that is the case. I think interviews are a chance for the candidate to showcase their skills and tell the story they want the employer to believe. 

I don’t want to tell you to lie in your interviews but you should never be completely honest (not just in job interviews, but in the corporate world). Work is like most things. It’s just a game of that you have to play better than others.

If you guys need some help with your career or interviews – let me know. We’ll eventually put a guide out (maybe free, maybe not) for giving you a competitive advantage to getting a job.

Have a game plan and you can get any job you interview for.

Be Alpha. 

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