by Brian DeChesare Comments (103)

Investment Banking Recruiting in the UK: All About Competency Questions, Assessment Centers and More

Assessment Centers and Competency Questions

While we’ve had some good stories from readers in London recently, there hasn’t been a solid overview of recruiting in the UK – until now.

It would be easy to dismiss this and say, “Banking recruiting and interviews are the same everywhere!” – but that’s just not true.

There are huge differences in Europe and Australia compared to the US (Asia, the Middle East, South Africa, and so on are somewhere in between), and you’re going to learn how to approach everything from competency questions to assessment centers and numerical tests in this interview with a reader who just won an IB offer in London.


Q: Can you tell us about your background and how you broke into the industry?

A: Sure. I went to high school in a North African country, then graduated from a top undergraduate business school in Canada, and then earned an MSc in Finance at a top university in London.

I was 100% certain I would do investment banking, but I was never able to get an internship in the industry due to personal reasons. But while I was in school I did a lot of extracurricular activities and got exposed to financial modeling through my involvement in one of the biggest student funds in Canada.

Even though I hadn’t completed an internship, I did a lot of research beforehand and was well-prepared for the full-time recruiting process at my school.

I also speak 4 languages, which is very helpful in London as language skills are more highly valued here than in North America.

Your online courses also helped me a lot and allowed me to talk about M&A deals and LBOs nearly as well as someone who had completed many M&A internships.

UK Recruiting

Q: Great, glad to hear it. You’ve lived in so many different places that you must know how recruiting differs everywhere. Can you walk us through how recruiting in the UK differs from what you see in North America?

A: Sure. Here’s how I would summarize the process:

  1. You apply online by submitting your CV, cover letter, and competency questions, and then get selected for first-round interviews based on the strength of your application.
  2. If you do well, you advance to an assessment center (rather than the Superday interviews you see in the US) and you participate in group exercises, tests, interviews, and presentations there. If you do well, you receive an offer.
  3. In addition, you also have to complete aptitude tests (numerical, verbal, and reasoning) somewhere along the way in this application process.

You might have to take them before you apply (Barclays and Credit Suisse), after your online application is screened (Deutsche Bank and UBS), or after you pass the first round of interviews (Macquarie).

Some people underestimate these tests, but they’re extremely important – banks screen candidates based on the results, and often you get rejected not because of your CV, but rather because of your test results.

If you pass the tests, recruiters will review your entire application once again and then decide whether or not they’ll invite you to interviews – the one exception is Macquarie, where you need to be successful in the first round to be invited to the exams in the first place.

Q: Awesome, thanks for the overview and for mentioning the importance of these tests. I want to jump back into that, but one other question on recruiting at a high-level: it seems there are mixed opinions on whether or not you can just apply online in Europe and get interviews without networking.

What do you think? Does that only work if you go to a top school or you get lucky?

A: Networking is important, but not as important as it is in North America – in London students apply from all over Europe and also from other places like Asia. Networking at information sessions is incredibly difficult because 20+ students surround each banker and it’s almost impossible for them to remember each student.

Unlike presentations in the US, information sessions here are aimed at students applying to full-time, internship, and spring programs (which allow 1st year students to spend 1 week at a specific bank) – since everyone goes to the presentations, the applicant pool is very large and it’s hard to stand out via networking.

It’s still important to attend the sessions because some banks ask students who came to fill in an online form – that way they can see who’s serious about working at the bank.

Q: You mentioned “competency questions” before – I’m sure UK readers are familiar with them, but for everyone else reading, what are they and how important are they?

A: Essentially they are written versions of the standard “fit” questions you receive in all interviews, but they have a word limit and you must complete them along with your online application, CV, and cover letter. Examples of competency questions for banks:

  • “What is the personal achievement you are most proud of? What did you learn from this experience and how does it set you apart from others? Please do not exceed 200 words in your answer.”
  • “One of our core values is client focus. If you were to win a new client for our firm, who would they be and how would our bank help them achieve their goals? Please do not exceed 200 words in your answer.”
  • “Describe a recent situation where you had to set extremely high standards for yourself. What did you do to achieve these standards and exceed expectations? Please do not exceed 250 words.”

An individual bank might ask between 5 and 10 of these questions and the total word count for your answers might be around 1,000 words (perhaps more if they ask more questions).

Sometimes the word count limits are much shorter as well – 50-75 words – which actually makes the questions more difficult because you must be concise.

The questions themselves are as important as the rest of your application. Since the applicant pool in London is larger and more diverse than in the US, recruiters are more selective – or at least more willing to reject someone because of small problems in their application.

Q: Do you have any tips on successfully answering competency questions? Let’s say you get a question on how well you’ve performed under pressure or with a strict deadline. How would you answer it concisely?

A: I’ve always used the techniques you recommended when answering these questions – they’re the same as normal “fit” interview questions, but in written form instead. Normally I use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) approach:

  • Situation: We only had a few weeks left in our internship to deliver the project that the client wanted, and we were well-behind schedule.
  • Task: Finish the remaining 50% of the project, when we only had 2 weeks left and the first 50% of the project took us 8 weeks.
  • Action: I spoke to the rest of our team and decided which features were the most important to include and which ones would be time-consuming but not as useful to the client; we also leveraged the company’s resources and we found a lot of what we needed via contacts in other departments, saving us time and reducing the need to add more members to our team at the last minute.
  • Result: Despite being behind schedule, we delivered 90% of what the client wanted by the end of the internship – it wasn’t the 100% we had set out to deliver, but they were very happy with the end result and ended up giving more business to the company.

That’s just an example – in real-life you might add more details for the type of work you did, the company you worked at, and so on. But you must be concise or they won’t read your answer.

The #1 mistake applicants make is trying to sound “creative” or original when answering these questions.

Just be honest and give a genuine answer, based on a structure like the one I recommended above – they’re not testing your creativity with these questions, but rather how much you’ve learned from your experiences over time and how well you can articulate the key points.

Q: Right, so it sounds like these competency questions are not much different from the normal “fit” questions you would get in an interview. What about the aptitude tests you mentioned earlier? Any tips on what you might see on those and how to prepare?

A: They’re very similar to what you see on standardized tests such as the GMAT – the key is to practice as much as possible beforehand so that nothing surprises you.

The biggest mistake you can make with these is “dramatizing” and over-thinking the answers – on timed standardized tests that is a blunder you can’t afford to make.

They’re just like any other standardized exam: move as quickly as you can, skip anything you don’t know, and come back later to answer anything you skipped the first time. And make sure you go through at least a few practice tests before the real exam, as it’s easy to forget how to take standardized exams well if you haven’t practiced since high school.

If you want the best practice around, sign up for the online aptitude tests and package deals offered on Job Test Prep.

They have a bunch of free tests and their full courses are top-notch, with full score reports and detailed explanations.

Interviews and Assessment Centers

Q: How do you think interviews themselves in the UK differ? Do you still start by walking through your CV and answering the usual “fit” and technical questions?

A: Yes, 99% of the time interviews still start with the famous “Walk me through your CV” question. But many of the interviews here are more “fit”-focused and do not go as in-depth on the technical side. Unlike the US or Canada, most of the interview questions in London are competency-based.

In addition to your guides, I also went through every single behavioral question on this list and made sure that I could answer everything reasonably well.

M&I Note: Before someone leaves a comment saying that you received a plethora of technical questions, your experiences may vary – I’m sure that some offices and groups ask more technical questions than others, and you’ll certainly have to demonstrate technical knowledge at assessment centers (see below).

Q: So let’s say you get past the first round of interviews – what’s a typical assessment center like? How long does it last, how many people are there, and what types of exercises do you complete?

A: I thought assessment centers were more “fun” and diverse than the standard interviews you go through. Usually everything is conducted in small groups (10-20 people) and the assessment center itself lasts an entire day, similar to a Superday in the US.

You might get asked to participate in the following activities:

  • Aptitude Tests (numerical, verbal, and reasoning): They do this to see whether or not applicants cheated in the first round with these tests – since they’re online many people get friends to help or look for answers on the Internet, which are both bad ideas.
  • Individual Case Study: Sometimes you’re given a case study and are asked to analyze it and make a recommendation or decision within a fixed timeframe. Afterward you’ll have to discuss it with the recruiters.
  • Group Presentations: Here, you’re split into groups of 4-6 people and the entire group gets a case study to complete. Recruiters observe you while you work on it, and then you must present your recommendations to bankers at the end.
  • Interviews: Generally you go through 3-5 interviews, one of which is related to the group presentations and the individual case study – the other interviews are a mix of competency-based and technical questions.

Some banks like to be more creative and will ask applicants to “role-play” – for example, interviewees might be asked to act as investment bankers representing the bank, while the interviewers pretend to be potential clients.

Banks use assessment centers because traditional 1-on-1 interviews are not the best way to assess candidates – many people can sound impressive in a 30-minute interview, but fail to perform once they actually receive an offer.

The exercises at an assessment center let them assess how well you’d work in a team, present to clients, and complete other tasks as a banker.

You can read more about them on WikiJob right here.

M&I Note: I think assessment centers are a great idea and that banks in the US should use them as well. Many senior bankers wish they could give candidates a 1-week trial on the job before giving them an offer, and assessment centers would be a good proxy for that.

Q: That sounds more fun than standard final round interviews, though I can see how it could also turn into a bad reality TV show. What mistakes do candidates make at assessment centers that prevent them from getting offers?

A: The main mistake is to act like a “leader” during group work and presentations. You might assume that banks only give offers to leaders, or at least to people who are giving orders – but that’s completely wrong.

In fact, it can backfire and hurt everyone else if you try to do that.

Recruiters notice this and won’t give out offers to anyone who keeps giving orders and trying to “show off” – that means you lack leadership skills.

Meanwhile, other applicants try to talk a lot to stand out – but they don’t say anything meaningful or relevant. Rather than trying to dominate the group presentation and discussion, you should respect everyone else, listen to contributions from others, make good suggestions, and come up with solid solutions.

You also want to show that you’re having fun and enjoying the experience rather than being extremely serious.

I’ve seen applicants who have remained more quiet receive offers because they’ve respected everyone else and made solid contributions when needed – those who attempt to “show off” or do all the talking generally do not receive offers.

Q: So let’s say you get a group exercise where you’re asked to analyze a company’s options – sell, acquire another company, or continue to operate as-is – and make a recommendation on what they should do. You have a few hours to prepare, and 30 minutes to present your findings.

How would you approach that question at an assessment center?

A: I had to work on a similar individual case study at an assessment center, but it was a bit shorter and they gave me the numbers, valuation, and a few DCF models.

I started by giving a brief presentation of the company – their industry, history, and most well-known products – and then I walked the recruiters through the company’s past and current strategies. I mentioned a few relevant figures such as the EBITDA and P/E multiples as well.

They had already given me the valuation and important figures such as the P/E multiple of the combined company post-acquisition, so all I had to do was show that the acquisitions in question were accretive.

I concluded by benchmarking the strategies of each potential target company against those of the acquirer – in my case each acquisition was accretive, so it was more about the strategic fit with the acquirer and which one would produce the best combined company.

The key factors in handling these exercises:

  1. Be logical – There are no correct answers most of the time, as the recruiters are just assessing how well you think and analyze problems. Focus on explaining your reasoning in detail rather than finding the “right” answer.
  2. Do not overcomplicate your presentation – Forget about fancy formatting, going through hypothetical scenarios, or adding complexities to the question. You are under extreme time pressure and do not have time to go into unnecessary detail.
  3. Be extremely structured in your response – Again, it’s better to be “boring” and follow a structure rather than showing off your creativity and confusing your interviewers. See the articles here on case studies and private equity case studies for examples.

Overall, relax and don’t dwell on every little detail – they’re also testing your ability to improvise and discuss topics you’ve recently learned about because you do that all the time as a banker.

Q: Great, thanks for all these tips and for sharing your experiences!

A: No problem – happy to contribute.

For Even More Practice…

For even more practice with numerical, verbal and logical aptitude tests and assessment centers in general, check out Job Test Prep and all their test prep offerings.

They have our highest recommendation for online tests and assessment center prep – and their courses are the single best way around to prepare for EMEA recruiting.

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Md. Ashraful Malek

    So where and when does the brand value / prestige of the university comes into the picture of recruitment in the UK. And does it also mean that a student from LSE is at the same level that of a non-target like UWE Bristol

    1. It comes into play in terms of getting selected for interviews, assessment centers, etc. LSE students are far above the level of students at non-target and semi-target schools in almost all cases.

      1. Md. Ashraful Malek

        Thanks Brian for your guidance . It means a lot to me. Brian do you think networking can help non-target students getting selected for interviews, assessment centers, etc.

        1. Yes, but it’s arguably less effective in London because so many students are applying from all over the world, and more of the process has been automated due to the online tests, assessments, ACs, etc. Networking still “works” at some level, but in the U.K., it’s more useful for winning initial/off-cycle internships at smaller firms, which you can then leverage into roles at the big banks.

  2. Hi Brian,
    I recently got invited to an AC for an IB summer internship with a bank in London, and it will entail a take-home case study, which I will receive more details about in the next few days. I was wondering if you/any readers you spoke to have experience with these and could let me know what to expect?

    1. It could be anything from a 3-statement model or valuation to a qualitative M&A case study about the best company to acquire or the best company to sell to. There are examples of case studies on this site if you do a search.

  3. Hello,
    I just finished an MSc in investment banking and finance from one of the top universities in the UK but I wasn’t able to do any internship due to covid situation. I have been applying to different banks but I haven’t received any positive response from anywhere. Can you please guide me where I can apply or which positions i can apply for in London or Dubai?


    1. I would need more details to give you advice on what to do… have you completed previous internships? What were your grade / A-Levels? Activities? Previous universities? In general, if you don’t win IB offers from banks, apply for other roles such as corporate banking or Big 4 firms that might be proxies for banking.

  4. Do MSc Fin programs have recruiting for associate roles, or only MBAs? (E.g. are MSc Fin grads started as analysts or associates?) Which are the target schools in the UK? Thanks!

    1. No. You are still hired as an Analyst out of MSc Fin programs. See:

  5. Drew_Brees

    Hi I’m a senior sector expert candidate applying to Macquerie in the USA. I have had strong first round interviews and now I am taking the Psychometric test at an offsite location in my city. They are asking me to practice using from a korn ferry website called talentq ? Any advice.. I’m taking the test in a few days ?

    1. Not really – it’s not something we specialize in. Take a lot of practice tests using the sites suggested here and in the other articles on ACs.

  6. Kashir Sarwar

    Hii, one mandatory step in getting through an investment banking job these days is a psychometric/ aptitude tests. The aptitude test, specifically the one I gave for a Citi IB vacancy was on a website called Talent Q. The test is extremely difficult as it involves a lot of data interpretation and calculation within a minute’s time
    What is the way to ace these tests ? Is acing these tests only possible if you have a 150+ iq ?
    Also, are these tests required by all big Investment banks globally or is it specific to some banks ?
    Please help an advise as I cant see how to get through it

    1. Practice, practice, and more practice… there are a lot of online practice tests these days for these:

  7. How hard would it be for an Asian (non-China, non-India) to secure a role in London be? Speaks English and Mandarin as first languages. Is there any advice to overcome such barriers if there are?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Having relevant deal experience would be useful. It is hard to comment on your chances, but being fluent in another European language would help.

  8. Hi. I got a IB interview with the director of the department, and the person I will directly work for. They said they really liked me and that same day the bank recruitment office called me for an interview with them on the next day. When I got there, they made me take a 45 minute aptitude test. The questions where situation questions and were repeated a lot in the exam. I also got the interview. I am wondering what is the weight of this assessment test and what image or type of person are they looking for with this test?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      This assessment test gives you the opportunity to interview. Since you’ve already got the interview, I believe you’ve passed the test so I wouldn’t worry about it.

  9. Hi Brian & team,

    the link to the behavioral questions doesn’t work anymore. I’d be super thankful if you could provide an updated one.

    Big fan of your site!

    1. I’m not sure where to find another list offhand, but if you do a Google search for behavioral interview questions you’ll probably find a good set… or see the examples we include in the interview guide.

  10. Hello! I will be interviewing for a Sales, Trading and Research summer internship in BB in London and I was wondering if you think it is a good idea to explain why I want to work in this department because of, among other things, reasonable work-life balance?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think you should stress your passion in the markets and demonstrate it.

  11. An international undergrad student studying in the US here.

    Wow, I’m starting to feel that my hopes for a London office position are getting shattered…

    Given all this emphasis on your test and assessment center performance, does having previous BB IBD internships tend to be less of an advantage as it is in the US?

    The US seems to give so much weight to prior related experience precisely BECAUSE they don’t go through this long assessment process, and only have your past track record as a source of reassurance.

    I think someone mentioned this above, but honestly, I feel that some hardcore person without prior experience could probably easily study valuation/modeling before recruiting and end up knowing as much or even more than me by testing & assessment time.

    Or maybe I feel this way because most of my internship was spent doing non-real work (i.e. the “random stuff” category) instead of any decent modeling or valuation… Perhaps I’d have been better off spending the summer preparing for UK recruiting than twiddling my thumb over “random stuff” for the sake of sticking that “BB Summer Analyst” line on my CV? =(

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You need to pass the tests before you get the interviews. Once you get the interviews, you can elaborate on your previous IBD experience. But I’d say banks in US probably place more emphasis on previous experience vs banks in UK

      Can’t say whether your summer was well spent or not but the past is the past. What you can do now is to network with as many bankers in London (email them) as possible. Perhaps even fly down to London and meet with some contacts there.

      1. Thanks Nicole.
        For networking, I was hoping that I could get warm leads to London office by asking for references for the Asia office of a BB I just finished interning with.

        But I’m not really sure how approach this since this office hasn’t really given a solid response of whether they’re inviting me back next summer–I’m they’re first sophomore intern and frankly they’re not quite sure what to do with me. I did get a hint from a director, though, that interning at the same regional office twice “might not be productive.”
        How can I push for references in London while not offending them/not appearing as though I used this office as just a stepping stone? (They said they took me because they liked how I expressed particular interest in businesses in this region.)

        1. M&I - Nicole

          I agree with the director that interning at the same regional office twice might not necessary be productive, unless you really like what you did.

          I think you should find out if they plan to invite you back next summer by asking them. They should give you an honest answer. If they say no, ask them why, and if there’s any way they can refer you to the London office. If they say yes, tell them you’d love to join them again (unless you really don’t), though you want to explore working in another office esp since you’ve worked there this year already. Also try to have a chat w the director who said that interning at the same regional office twice “might not be productive”; ask him what his thoughts are!

  12. Analysis

    If you can do the competency tests before interviews/recruiters check you out, you should dominate the test. Should be easy to figure out how for anyone applying to a bank and I honestly can’t think top banks would be stupid enough to let people take these tests as a part of uploading CV/cover letters (I haven’t checked)

  13. LSEboy – hi. I’m a VP at BarCap in London, just tooling around the site remembering when I was applying for positions. Quiet day!

    Little hint – you may want to ease off on the homophobic language. It makes you look immature, if nothing else. You’re applying for a job in banking, not a role in the Inbetweeners.

    1. Dear James,

      Are the numeracy and verbal test required from all UK banks? Why are they not a thing in the US?

  14. Hi, Brian

    I just finished my assessment test for a asset managament position.
    I thought the test would be really simple and easy after taking the practice test, but, on the real test, i did not have time to answer the last 4 questions.
    it had 20 questions and i think i got like 15.
    would 15/20 fail me?
    should ive asked a math genius to do this for me??

    oh,and do they check my CVs/resume/application again once i pass this test??
    im worried because i go to McGill and McGill’s not even in the school lists on the application so i had to put others and specify
    also, my gpa isnt that high

    1. Honestly not sure what the cutoff requirements are, maybe someone else can help there.

      Checking your CV/application again depends on the bank (see the guidelines above) but yes they may do that.

      1. I think the cut off for online tests is 70%.

  15. Finance sounds really interesting on the senior level. Unfortunately it seems that the only way to get there is to deliver monkey work + sleep deprivation + work under tremendous pressure for A DECADE. Do you think this decade is required because it is a LEARNING PROCESS? If not, what’s going on in this industry?

    1. Nope, it’s required because it’s a pyramid structure just like law firms… have to wait until people higher-up burn out or die before advancing

  16. Hey Brian,

    I was recently offered a 3-year FT M&A Analyst position in London. I know that many BBs only give out 2 year offers. Why the difference and what do you recommend? Do you think three year contracts are less desirable because you can get tied down? Any thoughts?



    1. I think in Europe those types of contracts are more common, if that’s the best offer you should still take it… not really tying you down as people still hop around all the time.

  17. I can’t stress how important the online tests are. I landed a BB job in IBD from a non target with no connections or previous experience purely because I dominated the online test (I was told in my first round interview). Granted I only interviewed at one bank at all but all you need is one.

    The tests are easy so there’s no reason not to smash them.

    1. LSEMScFinance2014-5

      how did you prepare for the test? I’m starting a MSc Finance @ LSE and am applying to banks now. Really need to do well since I paid a fortune to study abroad to break into banking. Thanks

  18. GS/JPM – will work you like a dog either way. Which do you prefer? Also, summer just gone a chick I met at a party had a neurological fit JPM IBD. Good luck if thats your thing. Its a slaughter house. God Speed.

    The applications process is random but thats for everything. I have met 3 extremely good looking (but dim) ladies who’ll be interning at a banks this summer. Chicks can tart it up and turn on the charm but be absolutely stupid/clueless. Just look on a given trading floor there will be hot females dotted around. Sex sells.

    S+T do group-exercises and team work tasks. It’ll vary by bank but usually its in the form of a debate and how well you are able to sell/defend your position. There is alot of game dynamics and if you’re good at this you can easily pass it and make even the most alpha person lose points in these tasks.

    1. Miran, I am not sure I understand what you are trying to say.

      Did you say you met a chick who worked at JPM IBD over summer and had a neurological fit at the party in which you attended?

      Must have been too much 8====D during her internship.

    2. jpmburnoutpsychobanker

      Yeah, I have worked at JPM IBD London for 1 year and there’s no way you can sleep more than 3h/day during weektime (and more than 1h/day during weekends: you are in London, you want to go out from 3am when you leave the office til 7am, then sleep 1h, then get back to office at 8am). I have been looking forward to better times but everyday is the same. Good part is that time goes really fast – can almost see myself as a VP by next week.

      Do you think it is worth working there at JPM? I think you can get exactly the same exit jobs, by working less hours at GS, UBS, DB, MS or whatever… I would even say more, you can get PE jobs simply by doing management consulting for a couple of years ad avoiding banking (at least in Europe).

      Is there a difference in terms of bonuses between analysts at JPM and the other places, that would support working longer hours than everywhere else? More prestige or better exit opportunities? What’s the point after all, when other guys are sleeping more somewhere else and getting the same reward?

      Miran, you used the right word – neurological. JPM IBD London = neurological permanent sequela for the rest of your life.

  19. LSEactuary

    My experience with this year’s recruiting at LSE went against nearly everything posted on this website.

    People with 2:2’s and below we interviewed at GS etc. and have received offers.

    People who do absolutely no EC’s or anything with their lives got summer internship offers without any technical questions and gave ridiculous answers to competency questions – yet got through thanks to HR’s laziness to interview more people.

    People with excellent CV’s and a real passion for the division who applied early and passed the tests were not even interviewed to the first round. And when they went to get feedback on their application from the recruiters in residence, the man/woman was speechless and couldn’t provide a single reason for a rejection

    So all in all, a lot of ‘incorrect’ people got summer internships and a lot of good candidates were not considered. So… just another year at LSE! Lol I think it’s purely down to pot luck getting picked. If your ‘good CV’ is between 2 over-qualified master’s students or your rubbish CV is between two even crapper ones – you only have a chance of being selected with the second option….

    1. I think it’s hard to say anything like that based on a small, non-randomly selected set of data. If you could look at grades and other criteria for everyone who applied then you could say something more definitive. Yes, there is a degree of randomness and luck involved but most others seem to agree with this account.

  20. Hi Brian,

    Interestingly I interned for Deutsche Bank in London but because I was recruited from a US school I didn’t have to do any of the aptitude tests mentioned here.

    Just wondered whether you had any thoughts about Deutsche’s IBD presence in New York, as opposed to London (where it is traditionally stronger?)

    1. Not really sure there, probably stronger in London but definitely still a contender in NY.

  21. americanbanker

    Considering how important london is to finance, why does it have so few global investment banks?? Where is the contribution coming from?

    1. What? A lot of global banks are based in Europe even if not London specifically

  22. Just out of curiosity, how many of you guys with offers are EU/UK citizens. The gay ass protectionist UK govt is going to restrict the PSW.

    One of my mates has a 45k job and he cant take it because the firm has exceeded the foreign worker quota.

    1. Stranger Danger

      I am a Canadian and I have an offer to start next month. I got my PSW in December. Last year while I was at LSE, I didn’t get 0 interviews because I was honest and checked that ‘I am not eligible to work in the UK’ in my online applications. BIG MISTAKE. Anyways I went through recruiting again this year and got handful of interviews just because I check ‘Yes’.

      Bottom line, check ‘Yes’, regardless of whether you are really eligible to work or not. If you check ‘No; you are going to get canned straight away.

      BTW LSEboy, which LSE program were you in?

      1. MSc Management

      2. I’m still studying though, not yet graduated.

      3. I’m going to be at LSE this Fall, and preparing myself for the application process. What was the response in the interview after they noticed that you weren’t eligible to work full time?

      4. I don’t thinl ur totally correct on the “eligibility” thing. The process is really random, so this is a multitude of factors that play in. I dont study in the UK and dont have the right to work there, but still got some interviews from BBs. So dont blame that box for all the rejections.

  23. how does this differ for sales and trading analyst role in HK?

    1. Not 100% sure but I don’t think they do teamwork and group exercises for S&T and I think in HK assessment centers are less prevalent though not certain there.

  24. Can I ask what North African Country?

    1. He didn’t want to say as it would make him quite easy to identify in London.

  25. Good article, I confirm everything he said and I would like to underline the importance of the tests. Anyway it would be interesting also to share some information about the recruiting process for BB offices around Europe because it is quite different.
    I had interviews for London, Milan and Frankfurt and I found the interviews in regional offices a lot more technical that the ones in London.
    Since I secured internships both in Milan and Frankfurt, I would be more than pleased to share my experience if you think it could be interesting.
    I also had to say that I was able to secure those internship after I had read the Investment Banking book that one of your guest wrote and that you suggested.

    1. Interesting to hear about your experiences – we have something upcoming on Germany and featured Italy awhile back, but happy to chat if you want to focus on recruiting in those places instead.

      Thanks again for volunteering to help!

  26. Hi. I have 2 M&A analyst offers in London: JPM and GS. Where would you go and why? Thanks.

    1. GS!!!

    2. Most would say GS because it’s “more prestigious” but that’s actually kind of stupid because these days JPM is not even far behind and is arguably the #2 bank. I would decide based on which group you liked more, if you really can’t decide there then choose GS if you are 100% focused on incremental prestige.

      1. 1) “more prestigious” = better exit opportunities?

        2) JPM financial performance these days seems a lot better than GS. Some insiders say bonuses at JPM “might” be higher…?


        1. 1) Debatable, hard to find solid evidence either way.

          2) Yes but that is a bad reason to join as a junior… that only affects 55-year old MDs.

  27. Brian,

    I am a sophomore at a non-target. I couldn’t participate in OCR because the internships are reserved for juniors so I’m wondering what exactly i should be doing right now?

    1. Go for a rotational internship, cold-call local boutiques or local companies looking for people to fill finance or business roles, do anything that could be remotely related to investment banking.

  28. Whats the difference in salaries between london and ny, if any?

    1. If you’d convert 1st year base salary from pounds to dollars it’ll pretty much be the same. However, 40-45k pounds in London will buy you less than $ 60-70k in New York…

      1. Stranger Danger

        True, but rent is a bit cheaper than New York, well depends on where you live, but, in Central London/Canary Wharf it is definitely possible to find good places for affordable price. In, Manhattan it is just impossible

    2. What they said: it’s the same but in pounds rather than USD, but the cost of living in London can actually be higher in some ways.

      1. 40-45k GBP after taxes is nothing. After taxes, that leaves you with around 30k.

        Costs per annum
        Rent = 12k – 15k
        Food = 6k
        Misc = 4k

        You don’t get to save much after that. But then again if your bonus is top bracket you might get an additional 30k bonus on top of ur base

        1. Yeah but that’s not much different from NY, cost of living is about the same but in dollars and I think taxes might actually be higher.

  29. Hey Brian,

    I am a junior at a semi-target. Recruiting hasn’t really treated me well and though I’ve had multiple superdays, I’ve yet to secure a good offer. I was thinking that I should contact alums for help. How would you approach this at this time period? Should I attach my resume in my email? Should I ask them to forward my resume at the end of the informational phone call? Or should I play it cool? I have the networking ninja course but hope that you can add some texture on this specific issue.


    1. I would still just email them to set up a quick call, then ask about recruiting and opportunities at the end. Focus on smaller firms that haven’t finished recruiting yet. I would not forward your resume in the initial email if you’re contacting alumni as your chances are much higher if you can talk to them first.

  30. I guess some haven’t see the so-called “talent assessment” with Standard Chartered. It’s the worst thing in an online test, coz it’s just MBTI, but they actually reject you if your scores are like 69 under their 70 cut-off mark. It’s unfair and lame.

  31. New York- I can verify the Macquarie process. I did well on the first round and had to take their logic/verbal/math test at their office, which I did poorly as I did not hear back. You get a 4-function calculator, lead pencils, scratch paper, and the test is done on the computer.

    This is a timed test, and you cannot go back to change your answers.

    “Complaints”- You may be using a different calculator than that you are used to, so different button sizes, how hard you need to push the buttons for the calculator to respond, etc. can slow you down. Also, you cannot change the font size of the questions on the computer screen, and the size was quite small (size 8), so hard to read at times.

    Logic- A series of pictures is shown, pick the next one from the list. Some were quite tricky/weird. They don’t teach this stuff in school. You either see the pattern or you don’t.

    Math- By no means simple. This isn’t the Optiver style of math questions. Often you have to read a paragraph, distill the information, and quickly calculate. Or quickly distill two pie charts/ bar charts, etc. to gather information. You have to read carefully and make sure you are doing the right calculation or you will waste time. Example question- calculate CAGR (using your 4-function calculator).

    Verbal- Read passages on various topics. For the questions, a statement is presented, and you have three choices: statement presented is true based on the passage, statement is false based on the passage, true/false cannot be determined. The key is to base your answer on the information based in the passage only. Do not use any “outside” knowledge you may happen to know about the topic discussed in the passage.

    The biggest surprise for me was that during the practice tests online, I had 1 minute for each question and I could go back to check / re-do questions. For the real deal, I was only given 30 seconds and could not go back to check / re-do.

    After the test you have to do a >100 question personality test, similar to the ones SIG gives. They want to test how “truthful” you are based on how you answer the questions. The often as the same question 10 times over, so the key is not to get fatigued and just blaze through it.

    1. That sounds like the process you go through to join eHarmony… ouch.

  32. Girls can get an easier ride especially if they’re good looking. It is also the reason why on a trading floor you will see a decent amount of EXTREMELY good looking females doing sales (rarely trading). I personally know plenty lovely (but dim) ladies who’ll be interning at 3 top banks (nice marriage pool for the MDs). Also, for London the scariest test is the RBS ABLE test you CANNOT prepare for that it is totally different to the SHL/PSL tests found online

    1. MIKEL,

      To add to your last point; in the experience of myself and most people who I spoke to, by far the toughest test was the Citi “Elements” numerical as it is in a different format from SHL/Konexa tests and with stricter time limits and multiple choices of 50 answers rather than 5! This screens out a much higher proportion of applicants than most firm’s ability tests and there are no similar ones to practice online.

      1. Stranger Danger

        Yeah, the Citi test was ridiculous, I didn’t even pass the online one

      2. 50 answers sounds horrible, that’s not even multiple choice wow.

        1. Yes, it is pretty gay. I have had friends who are on the MSc Finance at LSE (Supposedly the most competitive finance course in Europe) who have gotten rejections from BBs because of these stupid tests.

          I mean seriously, these guys are hardcore and have worked hard to get into top finance programmes only to be dinged.

          Intake/applications in 2009: 64/2,346

          1. I heard that HEC Paris’s MSc in Finance was also equally selective, given they are the top program for so many years? Is that true?! I heard from my seniors that they only have 40 students per cohort over the 1700+ applications they receive.

      3. This is true, the Citi test is insane.

        1. Agreed, I’ve literally just arrived home from a Citi first round interview (IBD) and had to complete a Talent Q (Elements) verification numerical test (I passed the first online one). I’m a maths student at a top UK university, and I seriously think I got 0/6 just now…

          1. Yep to reiterate CITI numerical test is a joke. Hardest online test by far.

  33. Stranger Danger


    I have a very similar profile to the contributer! Undergrad-Canada, Masters in Finance in London and an offer in London.

    Some additional stuff:

    1. Behavioral interviews are cool but seriously sometimes are way too unfair, since its completely based on the interviewer liking your ‘stories’. Because a lot of times, I see people with less than average technical knowledge getting offers over extremely brilliant (and interesting) people. If you are technically strong, control the interview by dropping hints. For e.g. While walking through my CV I claimed that I follow TMT sector and have done some valuations in Oil and Gas. This helped divert the interview towards these stories and avoid repetitive behavioral questions. Be careful, it could backfire!

    2. You will see a lot more girls in assessment centers, around 50% as compared to in North America -10% lol.

    3. Numerical tests can be mastered through practice. Get a good calculator though. The calculators supplied by banks in AC are shit. Get your own one – Casio’s are the best, definitely give you an edge for sure.


    1. Awesome thanks for sharing. Point #2 is interesting…

  34. Hey,

    Off topic question. When professionals ask questions like “tell me about yourself” or “what did you do on [insert experience]” during an INFORMATIONAL interview, are you supposed to respond in an interview manner or what? I’ve done about 20 information sessions and 9/10 times they ask questions like these. Should I be interview like in my answers or be personable and just give a casual story? Thanks


    1. You can be a little more casual but still structure it like an interview response.

  35. I agree, those tests are very important. I know a guy who did extremely well on one of them (not online) – basically, the test was designed in such a way that it was impossible to finish it within the timeframe (or so the bankers thought). He finished 5 minutes earlier and didn’t make a single mistake. He got an offer on the spot, didn’t even need to attend the assessment centre.

    The stupid thing about on-line tests is that a lot of the questions repeat. The more applications you fill in the easier it gets simply because by the time you take the test for the 10th time you already know half of the questions. I’m not a fan of such tests, in this way they don’t really test anything.

    1. That was a point I wanted to add. All the tests are pretty much the same, many of them even have the exact same questions with different numbers, so when you figure out how to get the answer it becomes pretty easy. A very good advice I got myself is to sign up for as many banks as possible, even if you wouldn’t work there and start completing the tests in order, the one that interests you the most last. You’ll see that the last tests actually become very easy.

      BTW, I just got an offer as a summer analyst in S&T in London, and I didn’t have an assesment center. Just first and final round interviews (6 in total). Is that because the bank is different or S&T candidates don’t get assesment centers?

      1. For S&T you usually will get ACs so that is probably an exception.

  36. Extremely accurate.

    Do not underestimate the tests. I have met countless people who missed out on an offer b/c they did not score high enough. They are awkward tests I’ll admit but that can be overcome by practice, practice, practice!

    1. Yup seems like there are more variables that factor into the offer equation… in the US it is much simpler.

  37. Finaly an article that gives a thruthful picture of how the recruiting process in Europe actually works. Keep up the good work.

  38. Hey Brian,

    Great article.

    Just a suggestion for your site: Maybe you should add articles targetted for sophomore college students aspiring to break into the IB industry.

    I know that this corresponds alot with articles such as “breaking into finance from a non-target”, but perhaps it’d be beneficials for sophomores out there to know that there are diversity programs that cater specifically to them.

    Having just received an offer from Citigroup in NYC, I would be happy to answer any recruitment/interview/networking questions.

    Honestly though, I have found that networking really isn’t all that important for sophomores…

    1. Thanks for the suggestion – I’ll see what we can do there. If you entered a valid email address I’ll contact you separately.

  39. Once again, excellent article. Having recently won a summer analyst offer in London, one point I would make about the competency questions is that their main purpose is not to demonstrate how many interesting experiences you have had. I found that you had to write something that would make you stand out in a good way so that the recruiter will remember you.

    In one of my applications I got a question on: “How can bank X remain a market leader? (200 Words)” For the first 150 words I wrote the usual stuff but at the end I added that it would be beneficial for them to hire me since I am going to be very successful! I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone but this boldness worked for me because I got the offer.


    1. Interesting approach, glad to hear that it worked out.

      1. maybe they hired you in spite of that and not because of that…

        1. Yeah, I would agree with BartPo here.

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