Sales and Trading HireVue Questions, Review Process, and Tips
I remember well when HireVue interviews first came to Goldman Sachs. I had just finished by summer analyst stint in sales and trading (S&T) and human resources (Goldman calls them Human Capital Management) sent out a note that all first round interviews across the firm were now to be conducted via HireVue.
Interestingly, this applied not just to outside hires, but also to people looking to lateral within the firm (for example, from IBD to S&T, or from S&T to MBD).
The introduction of HireVue created quite a stir in particular within the sales and trading division.
This is partly because sales and trading professionals generally value having open-ended, free-flowing conversations with candidates and HireVue, by definition, precludes that. Instead, HireVue makes the entire first-round process more commoditized or formulaic.
However, HireVue was introduced in August of 2016 at Goldman and has stuck around. Other banks were either earlier adopters than Goldman or have now introduced HireVue for first round interviews as well.
Today almost every sales and trading summer analyst position you apply to globally will involve HireVue or an analogous tool, so knowing what it is and what to expect is incredibly important for getting to a superday.
On This Page
When I started writing this post I figured it'd be quite quick. Well, it turned out I've written 3,500 words here. That's because HireVue interviews are quite distinct from your traditional interviews and understanding the process and getting it right is crucial.
Below are some quick links to the sections of this page so you can navigate around:
Let's get started...
After you submit your resume and cover letter - either via on-campus recruiting or via the firm's website - anywhere between 20-80% of applicants will be sent a HireVue (depending on how wide a firm casts it's net).
As will be discussed in the next section, this is a wild change from the pre-HireVue era where a much smaller section of candidates got first-round interviews (due to S&T professionals needing to find an hour to review a candidates resumes, schedule a call, and then conduct the 20-25 minute call).
With HireVue, if you're selected for an interview, you will be sent a link to complete the HireVue. You will be told that you can do the interview whenever you'd like within the next 2-7 days (again, how long you have depends on the firm).
When you open up the HireVue interview you will begin a process that you can not stop, so you must have at least 30 minutes of quiet time to conduct it.
The Sales and Trading HireVue interview will proceed as follows:
- You will see a text-based question for roughly 30 seconds before the video recording of your answer must begin
- After 30 seconds you must record your answer to the question. Depending on the firm you'll have 2-3 minutes to answer the question
- You can take less than the 2-3 minutes allotted to you; simply press the stop record button if you're done answering your question in less than your allotted amount of recording time
- Some firms will allow you to re-record your answer one time while others, like Goldman, will not allow you to (so you have just one chance to get it right, just like in a face-to-face interview)
- You will have anywhere between 5-7 questions in total
- Ultimately, the entire process of seeing the questions and recording your answers will take anywhere between 20-30 minutes (depending on how long your answers are, how many questions you have, and if you have the chance to re-record your answers)
Let's take a little look behind the curtain. Here's a diagram showing how a HireVue looks from the reviewers perspective.
We'll go through each of the labeled points sequentially.
Label #1: Name & Position
This is pretty straight forward. Your name will be listed here along with the position to which you're applying (e.g. JPM Markets Summer Analyst).
The little paper icon will often have your CV and cover letter attached so the interviewer can check out both of these after the interview or while they're reviewing your answers.
Label #2: The Question Being Answered
This is the question you're answering in the recorded video.
Label #3: The Video Answer
This is simply the recording of your answer that you made. If you have multiple chances to answer the question, only your final one will be here (meaning there's no way to see your prior attempts).
Label #4: The Questions Asked
Here an interviewer can shuffle between the questions you've been asked and the answers you've been given. Often S&T professionals in particular will glaze through a few questions that they aren't overly interested in and focus in on the questions they want to hear your answer to.
Label #5: Interview Reviewer Notes
Here things get more interesting. Each interview reviewer will be able to submit their thoughts on a given answer and see the thoughts of other interview reviewers.
Every answer will be given a star review by each of the interview reviewers (from one to five) and the total score thus far will be able to be seen by the current interview reviewer.
When the interview reviewer goes through all the candidates answers, giving star reviews to each answer, then they can make a recommendation of "Yes", "No", or "Maybe" and click "Done Evaluating" to move on to reviewing a different candidate.
Label #6: Candidate Rankings
Based on the accumulated recommendations and star ratings candidates will be placed in ranked tiers. Those who had the positive reviews will be given a superday invitation.
Generally, HireVues will be reviewed in waves. So, for example, HireVue invitations will be sent to 500 candidates. Then these 500 interviews will be reviewed a week or two later in one big batch by a number of sales and trading professionals and members from HR.
HR will determine what the superday size is. Usually it will be around 20-40 people per superday (with most firms 5-10 superdays in total).
The top ranked 20-40 people from this wave of HireView interviews will be given superday invitations and then normally 5-15 people will be given an offer from the superday.
There are really only two positive attributes of HireVues, from the candidates perspective, to my mind.
First, HireVues are much quicker and easier to review than doing first-round interviews by phone.
A S&T professional can fly through the review process in 20 minutes or so and move on. This is opposed to the hour it normally took to schedule calls, review resumes, get on the phone with a candidate for 25-30 minutes, and then write a report to HR about the conversation.
What this means is that much more people get HireVue interview invitations than previously when first-rounds were done by phone.
This has opened up breaking in sales and trading and investment banking roles to a much wider swath of people from so-called "non-target" schools.
Second, HireVues are normally reviewed by at least two or three people each.
When you had first-round phone calls in previous years some candidates would end up speaking to a S&T professional who was just having a bad day, or asked incredibly technical questions, and thus had the bad luck of not moving on (when perhaps they would have performed well with most other interviewers).
With a HireVue you will have multiple folks normally reviewing it and you'll never be taken down a technical rabbit hole by the HireVue questions (since there are not specific follow-ups).
There are most certainly cons to a HireVue though (from the candidates perspective) which is why so many were irritated at Goldman when it was introduced.
First, when you are asked pre-formatted questions it's impossible to get into a conversational flow.
There's no getting around the fact that HireVues are awkward and it's perfectly fine for you to feel that way.
No one likes the way they look on camera or really knows where to look. Everyone reviewing your answers understands that so don't worry about it.
Second, because HireVue questions are taken from a pool of hundreds of potential questions, occasionally you may get one question that throws you off a little bit.
While in an actual interview you can give a non-answer and try to steer the conversation in a different direction, obviously that's hard to do in a HireVue when you're just staring at your webcam.
Third, it can be difficult to really show off your knowledge of S&T.
For example, you may get a HireVue asking if you have a particular interest in certain desks. If you do, you can potentially give a great answer.
However, in a normal interview you'll get some follow-up questions on that where you can really show off your knowledge and be "so good you can't be ignored", so to speak. With a HireVue though there will be no follow ups so every answer is inherently a bit shallow.
With all that being said, HireVue is probably a net benefit as it guarantees that well prepared candidates are probably going to get invitations to interview and as long as you rank highly with your HireVue you will get a superday.
Essentially HireVue democratizes recruiting by allowing HR to cast a wider net and get more people in the door doing these less intensive first-round interviews.
As mentioned, HireVue interviews are a fundamentally different form of interview than traditional phone interviews or superday interviews.
In those latter types of interviews you'll find them to be both more conversational and more technical.
With HireVue it's all a bit more formulaic and part of succeeding in them is showing you've taken the time and effort to get prepared.
Tip #1: Do Lots of Behavioral Prep
As I go over in Sales and Trading Interviews, what I mean by behavioral questions are fundamentally distinct from what you may be used to in traditional investment banking interviews.
Behavioral interview answers require contextual understanding of how the trading floor actually operates in practice.
For example, behavioral interview questions can take the form of questions about what desks you have a preference for or to walk through a recent article about markets that you're interested in.
Many candidates naively assume that there's no real "wrong" answer to these kinds of questions, but that's not the case at all. While you may think your answer is strong, your interview reviewers may immediately recognize that you don't understand what sales and trading is really all about.
By way of example, if you're asked about a recent trend in the markets that you're following you could bring up the proliferation of Special Purpose Acquisition Vehicles (SPACs). This is most certainly a market trend, but it's much more relevant to traditional investment bankers who will be the folks advising on structuring these and doing the acquisitions.
So if you were to bring this up as a market trend then your interviewers would immediately think that perhaps you don't really "get" sales and trading as no desk is overly involved in SPACs.
You could make (perhaps) a roundabout argument that SPACs are related to S&T via the equity derivatives desk or some exotics, but that's a stretch.
However, if you were to bring up that you've been reading articles about 2s10s steepening out, or about mortgage repayment rates increasing thus affecting mortgage backed securities, those are highly relevant to dozens of folks within sales and trading.
Remember: you can get away with talking about more obscure or complicated topics in a HireVue as you aren't going to be asked follow-up questions on what you say!
Of course, you don't want to get over your skis and say something that someone reviewing your interview will know is wrong, but you can certainly get away with showing off a little bit on these types of questions
Tip #2: Lighting and Environment
Look, I get it. No one likes the way they look or present themselves on camera. it's all very awkward and everyone understands that.
However, with that said first impressions matter. If you are recording your interviews with a bunch of posters on your wall, or being backlight by a window, it will show that you haven't taken that much care in your preparation. It's just a bad signal.
Remember that you're applying for a role in sales and trading. While it's true that the sales role in sales and trading is quite distinct from traditional sales roles, how you present yourself still matters a great deal and setting up a good environment will go a long way to making a good first impression. It shows professionalism if nothing else.
There's no need to go overboard here. If someone you know has a beautiful wood library, lined with books, you shouldn't record your interview there. That's a bit too much.
Here are some general rules of the road for setting up your environment:
- Do not have flags, posters, or other more college-type things on the wall behind you
- Do not have your setup in front or behind a window as that will throw off the lighting
- Consider investing $30-50 into a "ring" light that you can get off of Amazon; it will give you much more consistent, even light and really make you stand out
- Sit around three to four feet from the camera. You shouldn't take up more than half of the video screen as then it's just a bit uncomfortable to watch
- If you have a desk, some bookshelves, or a nice painting then have that in your background (again, don't overdo it or make it look too pretentious)
I'm no expert on setting up vlog environments, but here's a good video breaking down lighting solutions. Notice his backdrop too. Maybe a bit much for a S&T interview, but definitely in the mold of minimal, but interesting.
I can't stress enough that these little changes do make a difference. You're likely going to be doing multiple video interviews during your recruiting process, so it's worth taking the time and investing a few dollars in having a nice setup.
Also remember that if three people at a firm review your HireVue chances are at least two of them will be from HR or sales. While the traders may not notice or care about all of this as much, HR and sales most certainly do.
Tip #3: Keep Answers Under Two Minutes
In the traditional first-round phone interviews rambling on for a number of minutes was more than fine given the fact you were having a conversation; that's just how conversations work!
However, with HireVue everything is a bit more formulaic and folks in sales and trading are expected to watch a number of these interviews (and they do tend to all blend together).
If at all possible, try to keep your answers under the maximum amount of time given to you. This will show your interviewer you can be concise and that you value their time. They will recognize and appreciate this (subconsciously or consciously).
Tip #4: Have Pen and Paper Nearby
While you likely aren't going to need it, you should have pen and paper nearby just in case you have to jot down a few notes about a question (before you begin to give your answer).
This is just part of being overly prepared. Don't worry too much about having to use a pen and paper; it won't be necessary 99% of the time.
Tip #5: Answer the Actual Question
As mentioned before, in a phone interview or superday setting you can get away with giving a non-answer to a question or quickly pivoting to answering a different question without anyone noticing.
However, look at the diagram I laid out above. The question you're supposed to be answering is listed right above your video answer!
It's very obvious when you are dodging a question or trying to answer a different one. Even if you don't feel like you're giving a strong answer, it's always best to actually answer the question asked of you.
Remember you're going to get anywhere from 5-7 questions per firm, so being subpar on one or two doesn't make or break your chances of getting a superday.
In Sales and Trading Interview, I break down sales and trading interview questions into these five categories:
For a HireVue, if there are seven questions then 5-6 will be behavioral-based, 0-1 will be market-based, and 0-1 will be investment-based.
However, as mentioned before, don't think that answering behavioral questions on a whim is going to get you a superday invite. You need to be prepared to give clear, concise, and knowledgable answers that show you understand what sales and trading is.
The way HireVue question selection works is that there are dozens - or often hundreds - of potential questions in a question bank. Then seven will be randomly shown to a given candidate (or the same seven questions will be given to a group of interviewees so they can be compared to each other better).
Below are some HireVue-style questions that are quite common.
Question #1: What do we even do in Sales and Trading?
Below is an example of an answer you could give. Notice that if you say it out loud, it'll be 1-2 minutes in length. That's what you should aim for in any given answer.
With a question like this, it's broad. Interviewers will pay careful attention to how you synthesize what you know and how well you articulate it.
Well, obviously sales and trading is kind of a catchall term that could denote desks that are in equities, commodities, fixed income, or FX. Further, S&T encompasses desks that are more flow-oriented and those that are more illiquid or structured and include roles that range from managing a book to dealing with clients to structuring novel transactions.
What S&T really boils down to in 2021 – from what I understand – is serving clients by being a leading market maker and managing risk. This is accomplished by traders, sales people, salestraders, quants, and structurers (depending on the desk).
Like I said, obviously there’s a huge diversity in roles and desks. But I think it all comes down to serving clients and managing risk.
Question #2: Who are our clients?
This is another kind of question that is meant to see if you really "get" what sales and trading is. No one expects you to know the exact distribution of types of clients (it is wildly different depending on the desk).
However, many struggle with this kind of question and just say "hedge funds" and don't realize the diversity of clients a trading floor will serve.
What all clients have in common is that they are very large and need to transact in size. This could mean you’re dealing with fast money (hedge funds) or institutional clients like pension funds, endowments, and sovereign wealth managers. Of course, there are also large corporate clients as well. The mix of clients one will deal with will depend on the desk, of course. For example, treasuries will be bought by lots of large institutional buyers, whereas distressed debt will probably have a bend toward hedge funds.
Question #3: What is one major asset class you’re following closely?
This is another broad, open-ended question. It's one that you need to prepare before hand because trying to speak extemporaneously on a major asset class will likely not be overly impressive unless you're a wildly talented orator who has been paying close attention to the markets.
I always recommend trying to stay away from just talking about equities. The reason being is that equities are the most popularized asset class and will be what 90% of interviewees talk about.
Further, in sales and trading you aren't engaged in pitching single name cash equities, if you're dealing with equities you're most likely on quite a technical desk (like equity derivatives).
So unless you're going to be talking about implied vol levels in the market or something like that it's best to steer clear of equities. Most equities related answers won't really demonstrate an understanding of what occurs on the floor.
I’m quite interested in where rates are right now. In particular, we’ve seen a steepening out of the yield curve, which I think is indicative of the fact that market anticipates some level of enhanced inflation (5y5y has ticked up as well) and stronger economic growth moving forward while the Fed holds the overnight rate at the zero lower bound.
I enjoy following rates news and in particular have enjoyed seeing the back and forth between rates strategists regarding whether or not we'll see continued steepening in the curve or whether it will flatten out again (like it has been rather consistently for the past five years in 2s10s)
Well, there you have it! When I started writing this I imagined it would end up being quite a bit shorter, but the more information you have the better.
The reality is that I used to be quite put off by HireVue as an interviewing technique. I think it's true that something is really lost when you aren't able to have a back-and-forth conversation with a candidate.
However, I've come around to the view that HireVue first-round S&T interviews do provide an opportunity to get to see many more candidates. As I mentioned in the pros and cons section, it's remarkable how many more candidates are being seen now than in pre-2016.
You should take your HireVue preparation very seriously if for no other reason than it will help you with your superday preparation. The HireVue stage is the one that the majority will get weeded out at. This means you should understand the types of questions being asked, have them prepared quite well before hand, and create a good background for your videos so that you look professional. This is your chance to make a great first impression and will be necessary for any virtual superdays as well.
As always, best of luck and if you're looking for hundreds of more questions, an overview guide of sales and trading, and nine desk-specific guides, be sure to check out the homepage. I've also put together a rather large overview of the sales and trading industry in another post as well.