What was the general interview process for the companies you interviewed? Please mention the number of rounds and the nature of the interview process.
For placements, I had been aiming for all the finance roles. On Day 1, I was shortlisted for 4 companies i.e. IARC, BlackRock, Arpwood Capital, and Nomura. IARC is an asset reconstruction company and it is a subsidiary of Blackstone, which was my first preference. The profile for it was of an investment analyst. There were 5 rounds of interviews. 4 rounds were based on finance and the 5th was related to HR. BlackRock had 2 rounds; 1 technical and then HR. I got an offer from Blackrock and IARC, so I didn’t sit for the other two companies. IARC and Arpwood Capital had a test-based shortlist. The test consisted of questions based on logical reasoning, puzzles, basic English, and data interpretation. Blackrock’s shortlist was based on your CV. Nomura had theoretical math (MATH-1 & MATH-2) based test for the shortlisting.
Could you please list down questions you were asked in the different rounds? Puzzles, HR questions, any other discussion in general that you think will prove to be helpful for students.
Basically, 4 types of questions are asked in all finance profiles. Firstly, the CV-based questions, which are quite common but important. One must be able to explain every point mentioned in his/her CV. You should prepare an answer to ‘Walk me through your CV, as it will be asked in almost every interview. Your answer should connect everything on your CV and explain why you did it. It is also better to have some previous experience in finance because it gives the interviewer some talking points. Then come the puzzles, guesstimates, and financial cases. Puzzles are mostly asked from books like Xingfeng Zhou and Heard on the Street. Puzzles based on expected probability are asked very often. Solving them is a must. Finance cases, which were asked in the IARC interviews, were mostly based on the factors on which investment in a company depends upon, both financial and strategic as well as relevant ratios and macroeconomic factors. Basic guesstimates are also asked. For example, I was asked to estimate the number of ATMs in my hometown in an interview for IARC. Thirdly, the basic finance questions cover all the fundamental topics such as beta, WACC, bonds, valuation, ratios, and their interpretation, basic accounting, etc. Coming to the HR rounds, there are some generic questions like, ‘Why finance after engineering?’, ‘What have you done to follow your interest in Finance’ etc. One must have a solid answer prepared to these questions as they will be asked almost everywhere. Apart from all this, BlackRock’s profile consists of a mix of financial analysis and modelling, etc. and so I was asked a bunch of python-based questions in its interview. So, a basic idea of coding in python or any other language is required.
As a pre-final year student, what can students do to maximize their chances? Please suggest some strategies or resources for the same.
The best thing one can do to get into finance is, to build a good CV. This field is a bit challenging as there are only a few good companies in number as compared to Software. Also, their shortlists are very small. For IARC, there were only 9 students. Coming to BlackRock and Nomura, there were about 25–30. Thus your CV should be good enough to get shortlisted in companies like these because even if there is a test, CVs are also often taken into account on top of the test score. There are 3 major factors that companies consider: CG, interns, and projects. Projects in finance can be taken under Professors of VGSOM, IIM, etc. Interns are the most helpful as they provide you with actual experience. CG is also important and it is paid more importance than PORs and Extracurricular Activities. Financial Engineering courses can help in financial prep. Courses from Coursera can be taken for basic knowledge. Mergers and Inquisitions is a good youtube channel to learn about various terms and valuation techniques. Zerodha Varsity modules are a good source for an introduction to trading. Also, you can subscribe to Finshots and Investopedia- word of the day to learn more each day. You can also go through CFA and FRM books to learn more, they are freely available. Books like Hull and The Intelligent Investor are also good.
What do you think about the weight a certification like CFA or FRM adds to a CV for this role?
They are not completely necessary, to be honest. I have neither of them. Sources to study Finance are barely available on campus, except for VGSOM. To get a broad overview and study in a structured manner, one can definitely study the material for CFA and FRM. The certification can help you get some talking points in the interviews. The interviewer may ask questions that are directly picked from the syllabus of these if you’ve done them. They also serve as proof of your knowledge. If one has to choose between the two, I would prefer CFA to FRM, because it gives a broader view of finance.
How did you prepare for the rounds involved once you were shortlisted?
There is not much time between the shortlist and the interviews. The shortlist for Nomura was announced just 24 hrs prior to the interview. The preparation for all these companies is more or less the same. One must start revising the basic concepts, financial ratios, and their interpretations and start solving books for puzzles about 1–1.5 months before the interview. In the time between the shortlist and the interview, revision can be done. You can practice some guesstimates with your friends who have prepared for consulting or you can refer to ‘Case interviews cracked’ youtube videos or the IIT B case book.
Anything else that you’d want to share with the students?
I have noticed that people don’t invest much time in making a CV, which later hurts. Students should draft their CV and can get it reviewed by seniors placed in similar fields. The CV must be aesthetic and crisp. One must be able to justify the points in their CV in-depth and you should avoid lying. Apart from its importance in shortlisting, most of the interviews are based on your CV so it is integral. Also maintain a good CG, A CG above 8.5 would be very comfortable, above 8 is still fine but below 7.5 will affect the probability to get shortlisted.