Investment analysts analyze securities for their employers. Some investment analysts work on the sell side, employed by investment banks and brokerage houses to make buy and sell recommendations to clients. Others work on the buy side for hedge funds and money management firms, helping their employers identify the most lucrative securities to invest in.
Jobs as an investment analyst are numerous in big banking meccas, such as New York City and Charlotte, but the competition for these jobs is intense. When recruiting recent graduates, banks place a myopic focus on the most prestigious universities, making it difficult for someone from a middling school to get a foot in the door.
Landing an interview is an achievement in itself, but it in no way guarantees a job offer. Set yourself apart from the competition by anticipating the kinds of questions you'll be asked and preparing winning responses.
What Are Your Career Goals?
This is basically a variation of the question "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Though it is a bit cliche, it is an important question for aspiring investment analysts because the number of potential career paths in the field is virtually infinite. Ideally, the company wants to invest in a new hire who can help it grow over the long haul, not ones who use the firm as a stepping stone before jumping ship for a better opportunity.
Expect the interviewer to probe your career goals so they can assess whether the goals align with the company's needs. Find the balance between telling the interviewer what they want to hear and accurately representing your career goals. Study the company by researching online, and learn the types of opportunities available within. This way, you can chart a potential career path that is available within the confines of the firm.
What Are Your Major Educational Accomplishments?
Investment analyst jobs are highly sought after by recent college graduates. This is due to supply and demand dynamics. The supply of jobs that pay this much money for this little experience is infinitesimal, giving money-hungry young professionals few other options. Pretty much all of them gravitate toward analyst positions, which makes the competition fierce.
If your work experience is limited, the interviewer is going to place a lot of focus on your education. If you were not at the top of your class or you did not attend an elite university, you might be asked, in a polite way, what makes you think you can compete with other candidates who did.
Remember that a tiny percentage of applicants even make it to the interview stage, so the fact you are here means the company sees something in you. When talking about your education, pivot away from the ranking of your school or your GPA, and discuss the unique accomplishments that differentiate you, such as being treasurer of a large fraternity or landing a prestigious summer internship.
Are You Willing to Put in the Extra Work?
Investment analyst jobs are not Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 gigs. Most analysts work at least 60 hours per week during the first year, which includes regular weekend work. Following the Great Recession, many investment banks, in an effort to improve their public images, have improved the work-life balance for employees, with some going as far as encouraging new hires to take weekends off. However, a 40-hour workweek is still a rarity for investment analysts, and the interviewer wants to ensure you are willing to put in the work – and the hours – to be successful.
If you took heavy course loads, or especially if you worked your way through college, highlight it when asked about your capacity for hard work and long hours. The interviewer wants to be confident that you are not going to be shell-shocked by your first 14-hour day on the job.