Sales and Trading Summer Analyst Interview Process, Question Types, and Tips
Sales and trading summer analyst interviews are unlike any other in finance. This is largely because sales and trading is not a job in and of itself, but rather just the name of a division that encompasses many different desks that do many different things.
Sales and Trading Interview Process
Almost every bank will follow roughly the same interview process, which will include one first-round interview and then a superday interview.
The first-round interview will either be conducted via phone with a sales and trading professional - for roughly 20-30 minutes - or will take the form of a HireVue interview, which will be 5-7 questions that you'll record videos of your answers for.
If your first-round interview goes well, then you will get invited to a superday where you will have three interviews with three different individuals currently working on the trading floor. Each of these will be just 20-25 minutes.
One of the challenges in preparing for the interview process is that each one of your S&T interviewers will come from different areas of the trading floor.
So, for example, the backgrounds of your interviewers could be as follows:
- 1st year VP, equity derivatives trading
- 3yr associate, IG credit sales
- 2nd year VP, interest rate swap trading
The issue here is that each of these interviewers will have a different idea about what makes for a strong summer analyst.
For example, the equity derivatives trader may think the best way to judge a summer analyst is via them demonstrating strong knowledge of what products exist on the trading floor so will pepper the interviewee with technical questions.
At the same time, the IG credit sales individual may think the best way to judge a summer analyst is by having an open-ended conversation that focuses primarily on behavioral questions (with a S&T slant to them).
When preparing for sales and trading interviews, you should operate under the assumption that at least a few of your superday interviewers are going ask tough but fair questions and prepare accordingly.
However, don't worry. While there are undoubtably many types of S&T interview questions, they can be categorized into a few distinct types.
Types of Sales and Trading Interview Questions
Generally speaking, you can break S&T interview questions down into five distinct categories.
The majority of both your first-round interview and your superday interviews will be "behavioral-based questions". However, it's important to understand that behavioral questions in sales and trading are very different then in traditional investment banking.
In sales and trading, behavioral-based questions often rely on having a strong level of understanding of how the trading floor operates, what various desks / products are, and where you think you'd fit in best.
Simply saying that you have an analytic mindset and would want to work on some technically complex product is an entirely insufficient answer.
Of course, I have also put together the most definitive and comprehensive sales and trading interview course as well. It covers over 300 questions and includes nine desk-specific guides to help build your understanding of what various products are and how they're traded. You check it out here, if interested.
Sales and Trading Interview Tips and Tricks
While other areas of this site cover actual interview questions to expect and prepare for, we'll be covering some tips and tricks here for in your interviews.
These are all things that you need to do beyond merely answering a certain technical question correctly.
Tip #1: Have desk preferences
Whether you're interviewing for a rotational summer analyst role (like at Goldman) or a fixed placement (like at JPM), being able to articulate what desks you're interested in and why is an easy way to stand out from the crowd.
As I've repeated many times on this site, one needs to be careful though. You should not say you want to join just one desk - for example, equity derivatives - as that can come across as being a bit presumptuous or arrogant.
Instead, you want to describe a few desks that can be put in the same bucket. For example, saying you're interested in more illiquid areas of credit is great because you're encompassing a number of desks (high yield, distressed, bank loan trading, etc.).
Tip #2: Know the name of the CEO and prominent figures
Common interview questions that come up revolve around naming the CEO of the bank or prominent figures such as central bank heads or political leaders around the world.
This is a way for the interviewer to gauge whether you follow the news much or have done your due diligence on the bank.
Tip #3: Bring a pen and some paper to your superday
In sales and trading it's quite rare you'll actually have to work anything out on paper. For example, no one is likely going to ask you to draw out the interest waterfall in a CLO (although we do cover that in Sales and Trading Interviews!).
However, bringing some pen and paper along is a way to show general preparedness and in the off chance you have to work out something it avoids the embarrassment of having to ask for their pen and some paper.
Obviously if you're doing a remote superday, just have some paper next to you just in case.
Tip #4: Bring copies of your CV and cover letter
While your interviewer will have your CV and potentially your cover letter, it's always a good idea to have four copies of each printed out and in a folder along with some paper and a pen.
The reason why you should have four copies is because you want to have one for each superday interviewer along with an extra copy just in case.
Tip #5: Be prepared for ethical questions
One common type of sales and trading interview question that you don't see in other finance interviews are ethical questions.
These ethical questions are particularly common for Goldman Sachs Sales and Trading interviews.
When answering ethical questions, in the context of sales and trading, it's important to remember:
- Everything done should be in the best interest of the client
- When in doubt, alert those superior to you and be open and honest
Tip #6: Have contextual understanding
Some who have gone through the S&T Interviews course have poked fun at the fact that I really harp on contextual understanding.
However, there's a good reason for it! Many interviewees will have very little understanding of the difference between rates trading and MBS trading, or between IG credit and HY credit.
Showing that you have a rough understanding of the various areas of the trading floor and what products are traded is a fantastic way to show you are a serious candidate who has thought deliberately about your choice to apply to sales and trading.
One thing S&T interviewers are often wary of is the fact that many will apply to the Global Markets program at Goldman Sachs not because they're interested in sales and trading, but rather because they really want to work at Goldman Sachs.
Showing you've done the hard work of figuring out what various desks so and where you want to be (see: Tip #1) is a fantastic way to stand out.
Tip #7: Don't pretend to know what you don't know
As mentioned in the introduction, you may end up interviewing with people from very diverse desks who want to talk about wildly different things.
If you don't know an answer to an interview question, don't pretend that you do. You aren't fooling yourself and you most certainly won't be fooling your interviewer.
Be honest that you aren't sure about the answer to the question, but still take a stab at answering it.
Having the courage to admit what you don't know is critical as once you begin on the floor you'll quickly realize there's an awful lot you don't know (which is the case for everyone when they first begin!).
Tip #8: Reference those you've talked to at the bank
At many banks, networking is less important to getting a first-round interview than ever before.
However, being able to reference those you've talked to at the bank prior to your interviews shows that you have taken a serious interest in the bank.
Referencing those you've talked to is also a way to show why you are specifically interested in the bank you're interviewing with, which is always something interviewers want to hear.
The summer analyst interview process and the kinds of questions you'll be asked in sales and trading are wholly unique and distinct from the rest of finance.
However, that doesn't mean it's impossible to prepare well and put yourself in the best position to get an offer.
If you're currently gearing up for S&T recruiting, or already have interviews lined up, be sure to check out Sales and Trading Interview for more interview questions, desk-specific guides, and an overview guide of S&T (which includes more tips and tricks to stand out in interviews and succeed on the job as a summer analyst or associate).
As always, best of luck!