During my career I’ve been part of countless technology graduate interviewing panels at banks like Citi, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. Things have changed over the years and often candidates I speak to at campus events have no idea about what happens at interviews. So, here’s a guide.
The Tech Screening
This is a relatively new development and it is very stressful for candidates. After submitting your application form, if your CV is any good, you’ll be invited to take a timed online coding test on a platform like Hackerrank or Codility or Hirevue. You’ll usually be given a couple of coding challenges - one easy and one more difficult - and an hour or so to complete them. After you complete them then the platform records a video of you explaining your approach and solution. In my opinion videoing is cruel and really open to bias. The code, scores and videos from all the candidates are then divvied up amongst Technology Associates to review and say yes or no to HR.
I genuinely don’t know if I would have been able to pass one of these when I was a student - particularly as I spent more time drinking than learning algorithms. What I would say is that we’ve seen good evidence that candidates are cheating, possibly by inviting clever friends over to sit off camera. They get to the Tech round and haven’t got a clue. In any case, some practice on websites like Hackerrank or Leetcode will really help. Usually the questions will be a little easier than a coding challenge for an experienced hire - but you may be unlucky.
When I was at JPMorgan we used to get candidates to write code on paper as part of the technical interview, but that has now been taken out due to the tech screen. The graduate technology interview is now to all intents and purposes a technical quiz read from a script. However, your interviewer may like to go off-piste and ask his/her own questions. You’ll certainly be asked questions around common data structures, databases and basics of how the internet works. Often the interviewer will go in depth on something they know about - for example I personally like to go into implementing hash tables if the candidate knows what a map is.
If you make it through the first two interviews, you're going to get this. The competency interviews are traditional interviews, sometimes with scenarios for the candidate to read beforehand and select responses. It’s all common sense. You will need good answers to the traditional “why Citi?” and “what are you hoping to get out of the role?”. What we’re looking for is enthusiasm and good clear communication.
I hate sitting through group exercises. It’s awkward, boring, and you don’t learn very much about the candidates. As a candidate you’ll be given a pack on information about a scenario and a role you have to fulfil, and others in the group receive different information and roles. Your job is then to argue for whatever goal your role has prescribed. Generally, we like to see candidates bring others into the conversation, steer the conversation and stick to their brief. If you’ve had a strong technical round, then the group exercise is just used to highlight any red flags in communication style.
After all the interviews have finished (we’re usually interviewing about 12 at a time), the interviewing panel with sit down with someone from HR and go through each interview for all the candidates and come to a hire or no hire decision. The decision is heavily weighted on the technical round. For those that make the cut they are informed the next day by one of the interviewers.
Heath Turner is the pseudonym of a senior technologist in an investment bank
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