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How to prepare for Investment Banking superdays

The infamous Investment Banking superday is the final round of the recruiting process. You passed the CV screening. You passed the first-round screening, be it phone, video conference or HireVue. Now, you are invited to an actual on-site day with multiple interviews.

If you have made it this far, you feel confident. The bank has a good first impression of you and wants to continue talking to you. You seem to be a promising candidate. Kudos to you for getting the proper credentials and adequately preparing for your first-round interviews.

However, this is not the time to jump around and think you have the job locked down. This is the time to double down on your interview prep. Not everyone invited to a superday will walk home with an offer. Superdays are notorious for weeding out candidates. This is when we get to see what you are made of. At this point, everyone is equal and the job is yours to lose.

Want to learn how to navigate superday? Keep on reading.

What is a superday?

The superday is the final interview round of the Investment Banking recruiting process. You can block yourself the entire day to have on-site interviews with a bunch of full-timers. The number of interviews varies from 2-5 for the whole day.

If you are recruiting for internship roles, you can expect about 2-3 interviews. If you are recruiting for experienced positions, such as Analysts or Associates, you can expect 3-5 interviews and an on-site financial modeling test. If you are just recruiting for an internship, don’t worry. There will usually not be a financial modeling test for these junior roles.

During each of those 2-5 interviews, you will usually be interviewing with two full-timers of all ranks. You will get the chance to talk to Analysts, Associates, VPs and Managing Directors. Your interviews will cover both behavioral and technical questions. However, there will be interviews that focus more on the technical part and there will be interviews that will focus more on the behavioral part with next to no technical questions.

Generally speaking, VPs and Associates will push the hardest for technical questions. They are the ones who have to work with you. So, they will be asking themselves whether you are competent enough for the job. On the other hand, Managing Directors are more focused on behavioral and fit questions. They want to build their business sustainably. Will this person fit into the team and still smile when we crush him with work? Will this person immediately jump ship with a better offer? That’s why the more senior you get, the more you care about fit and motivational questions.

After the superday, all interviewers will gather and vote on who they think will be the best candidates for the position.

How does the superday fit into the entire recruiting process?

Investment Banking recruiting is a three-step process:

  1. Initial CV screening

  2. First-round screening

  3. Second-round superday

(1) Initial CV screening. You submit your CV and cover letter and hope for the best. What matters the most on your CV? Your university & major, GPA (very important!), and internship experience (very important!). In other words, for your typical business school student, it boils down to GPA and internship experience. That’s how recruiters read your CV. Where did you go to school and what’s your GPA and where did you intern. These are your currencies. To give you a rough feeling: 10% to 15% will pass the CV screening and be invited to a first-round interview.

(2) First-round screening. If your GPA is in-line and you have some relevant internships, you will get invited for a quick first-round screening. Back in the day, it would be a short 30 to 45 minutes phone call or office visit. Nowadays, you can factor in video calls or even HireVue, which is just a recorded version of an on-site interview. The questions are all the same. Smaller boutiques might use an old-school phone or video call. Larger institutions tend to deploy HireVue. The main point is to determine whether you are a normal person and know what you are interviewing for.

(3) Second-round superdays. After passing the initial CV screening and first-round interviews, you will be invited to the second and final round of interviews. By now, the firm knows who they want and who not. As we have said in the beginning, don’t think you have that job locked down. Now, the bank invites you to an on-site and all-day interview marathon to see what you are made of. You will be grilled. You will be asked more challenging questions. The bank wants to filter out the “wannabe” candidates from the “run through a brick wall to get what I want” candidates. Do you really want to be an Investment Banker? Once you’re in the final round, everyone is equal. How you got there does not matter anymore. It is your job to lose.

About 20% of all invited candidates will receive an offer after first and second-round interviews. Getting first-round and even second-round interviews are only participation marks. It’s a good sign that you are on the right track, but nothing to brag about. Usually, the bank hires about 25% to 50% of the second-round candidates. This varies depending on how good the candidates really are. In other words, if you did your homework and are well-prepared, we would say that you have a 50/50 chance of landing an offer once you are invited to final round interviews.

That’s why proper interview preparation is so necessary. The bottom bucket can be easily avoided by getting the basics right and avoiding the most common mistakes. The “good, but not good enough” bucket can be simply outworked by going the extra mile and not cutting corners. Investment banking interviews are not rocket science. It is a fixed amount of content that you need to master.

How does a superday play out in reality?

You have passed the CV screening. You have passed a first-round interview. Now it’s time for the superday. You know it will be a long interview day with 2-5 interviews. But how does it play out in real life? How are the logistics?

A super day usually has three phases:

  1. Pre-superday events

  2. The actual superday

  3. Feedback after the superday

1. Pre-superday events

Pre-superday events are optional and depend on how the bank organizes the day. What’s for sure, though, is that you will be traveling. Any form of reception or dinner is optional.

Traveling: We always recommend blocking a minimum of two days for superdays. You need one day for traveling and one day for the actual superday and return trip. We do not recommend you travel on the same days as the superday unless you can get there without a red-eye flight. You will not be well-rested taking a red-eye flight and there is just too much on the line. Once you arrive at the city where the office is located, you get to check in to your hotel. No worries, the company will pay for all your travel expenses.

HINT: This is the time to review your executive summary and visualize yourself going over the most common interview questions. This is your pre-interview routine. This is why interview prep is so important. Once the recruiting process kicks off, there is little time to prep for interviews. It’s showtime. You are busy applying and interviewing. There is not a lot of time to discover and process new material.

Reception & dinner (optional): This is optional and depends on company policy. Most banks just invite their candidates straight to the office without any fuss. However, in some cases, you may find yourself in a more formal setting with a reception and dinner the day before the big interview day. This is an interesting situation because you get to see your competition in real life. Everything that happens before the superday is less official and off the records – aka not fit and technical questions. However, keep in mind that it is still part of the recruiting process and that you are still being observed by your recruiters. So, it’s best to veer on the conservative and professional side.

2. The actual superday

After traveling and the optional dinner, the superday starts the next day. It’s the final round of interviews in the recruiting process. Everyone who has made it this far has passed the CV screening and the first-round screening.

Depending on the level you are interviewing for, you will get around 2-5 interviews for about 60 minutes each. You will be placed in a conference room after you arrive at the office. This is your home base. You will remain in this conference room for the entire day. Then, all the interviewers will take turns interviewing you. Two full-timers will usually interview you. Some interviews will focus more on behavioral questions and some more on technical questions. Throughout the interview day, you will be thoroughly grilled on both topics. After a lengthy interview marathon, most candidates are typically wiped out.

3. Feedback after the superday

Ok, you have made it through your interview marathon and are completely exhausted. What happens next? As opposed to Management Consulting, you will not get an offer on the spot. You will not get a final decision on the spot. Yes, you have to wait a bit.

Here is what’s happening behind closed doors: Once you have left the office, your interviewers will all gather in a room and discuss how the invited candidates did. For internship roles, the hiring decision is usually more straightforward. 20 minutes after you leave the office, a decision has been made. For full-time positions, it may take longer depending on how well you did. For both interns and full-time hires, this is how interviewers categorize your performance:

  • The “stellar” candidate, who ticks all the boxes, will usually receive a callback the next day or the day after. The VP, Associate and the two Analysts involved in the interviews all liked that candidate. They all gave him a thumbs up. Easy callback

  • The “ok” candidate, who did well but was not good enough for an immediate offer, might be kept on hold. These candidates didn’t completely bomb the interview, but they weren’t stellar either. The team is divided. Some see no problem hiring them. Some have doubts and want to veto. What happens is that the team will most likely decide to interview other candidates and come back to you if there is no better candidate. That’s how the in-between candidates are set “on hold”

  • The “not good enough” candidate, who missed a couple of big questions and didn’t know what he was interviewing for, will get a rejection outright. These candidates are clear rejections. They did not make the cut. They either lacked technical skills or the partners didn’t think they would fit in or were committed enough. No debates here. They either didn’t take the opportunity serious enough or they kept repeating the most common errors

This is what’s happening behind closed doors. Following a stressful superday, you will usually receive a call regarding the final decision. You can expect an answer within a couple of days. If you have to wait up to a week or two, that’s usually not a good sign and means that the bank may be talking to other candidates.

Suppose you receive an offer, congratulations! Kudos to you and your hard work. Now, you can start thinking about whether you want to accept that offer. For interns, the offers are standardized with no room for negotiations. If you are a full-timer and received a good offer, take it. If you receive an unfavorable offer, you need to decide what you want to re-negotiate.

If you get rejected, don’t take it personally. Yes, it’s frustrating – especially after advancing to the final rounds. Keep in mind: it’s just business. The bank does not owe you anything. You can humbly ask for honest and informal feedback to identify your shortcomings and improve upon. But after that, you should just move on. Keep your energy up and keep applying.

How to prepare for a superday?

How to prepare for the interview: fit and technical questions

Preparation is super important. With a full day of interviews, you will be pushed to your limits. Compared to your first-round 60-minute interview, a superday requires a lot more stamina. You need to know what you are doing if you want to have a realistic chance. The good news is that the interviews are relatively similar. The main concepts remain essentially the same. Investment Banking interviews follow a predictable pattern and cover fit and technical questions. The content is essentially the same.

Fit/behavioral question: This is where you tell the interviewers about your story, your past academic & work experience and why you will be a great fit for the company. Here is what we are looking at:

  • Your story

  • Strengths and weaknesses

  • Leadership questions

  • Commitment questions

  • “Do you have any questions?”

Technical questions: These questions will cover topics around accounting, valuation and “understanding Investment Banking”. Here, we are looking at:

  • Accounting

  • Valuation – Enterprise Value

  • Valuation – Multiple valuations

  • Valuation – DCF

  • Understanding Investment Banking

This is what you can expect from an Investment Banking interview. Some interviews will lean more toward technical questions, while others will lean more toward behavioral questions. This is what you need to cover to have a realistic chance. At a superday, you have to smoothly walk through all these topics multiple times.

At minimum, you would have to start 2-3 months in advance to understand the fit and technical questions if you are starting from zero. You can’t just cram all the content in your head in a fire drill session and expect to be prepared. You have to know what you are doing in an interview situation. On the flip side, you need to assimilate and master a finite amount of knowledge to consistently do well.

How to prepare for each interviewer: from Analyst to Managing Director

Once you have a strong grip on your fit and technical questions, it’s time to take a closer look at your interviewer. You will likely be interviewed by a lot of different people from the bank covering different levels of seniority. On a superday you can expect your interviewers to be more senior compared to your first-round screenings. In general, Analysts have the least influence on the hiring decision. Associates and VPs will challenge your technical knowledge and have significant weight when judging your technical ability. Managing Directors will usually not care about your technical skills but will focus more on fit questions. Here is how it will play out in detail:

  • Analysts – You “may” be able to lighten up a little bit. These guys are usually super bitter and overworked. If you can choose who likes you the most, go with the Senior Bankers. You can “read” whether they are super eager and uptight. If so, veer on the professional side. If not, you can try and build some rapport

  • Associates – These guys are more senior than Analysts, but not that senior that they have forgotten what it was like back in the days. These guys will ask you more challenging technical questions than Analysts, but not as rocky as VPs. Get all the technical stuff correct and try to make a connection with them

  • Vice Presidents – Have your intensity up here. These guys will challenge you technically. This is the rockiest part of the interview. Be super professional. Give very conservative answers. No joking around. Give humble and professional answers that are 100% correct. No “rounding”. Write down numbers and make it obvious you are double-checking your work

  • Directors and Managing Directors – These guys just want to expand their business in a non-risky way. The last thing they need is somebody quitting after six months because work was “too much”. They will not ask you any technical questions. The VPs and Associates already did that more than enough. MDs will want to know why you want to work at their bank, so have a super strong grip on your story and know their deal flow

Where does it leave us?

Yes, superdays are very strenuous and nerve-wracking. It’s a long interview marathon, where the bank gets a very good impression of how serious you are about Investment Banking. With multiple back-to-back interviews, there is no place to hide and no room for “luck”. All your weaknesses and all the corners you have cut will be uncovered. You need to know what you are doing to have a realistic chance of winning an offer.

The good news is that the interviews are relatively similar. The main concepts remain essentially the same. Investment Banking interviews follow a predictable pattern and cover fit and technical questions. The topics and questions are always the same.

You need to accept that interviewing is an entirely different skill set you need to learn on top of your studies. How do you get good at interviewing? Preparation and practice. You need to familiarize yourself with the content ahead of time and practice the delivery. Speaking out loud and walking yourself through the topics is an excellent technique to simulate a mock interview all by yourself. While you are rehearsing, make sure everything runs flawlessly. You will be more nervous and stressed in an actual interview situation with a real job at stake.

Additional resources

Feeling inspired to break into Investment Banking? Are you up for the challenge?

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