Morgan Stanley
  • Students and Graduates

10 Biggest Interview Mistakes

Improve your chances of landing on the shortlist by avoiding these pitfalls.

Putting feet up on furniture, answering the cell phone and wearing jeans and trainers: They’re some of the more obvious things everyone knows not to do when interviewing for a job at an investment bank.

But what about some of the subtler mistakes that could make the difference between you landing on the shortlist or not? We asked some of our senior interviewers from different business units to offer some insights. Here are the top 10 main mistakes they see.

1. Not Doing the Research

“It’s the single biggest and most common mistake made: Going into a job interview without having researched what the job involves, or what the division does. If you’re going for an Investment Banking position, know what deals the firm has done recently and be prepared to speak about their highlights.”

2. Not Wanting the Job

“Don’t tell us you’re applying for a particular job just so you can get a foot in the door for a different role. It’s OK to have a long-term career goal of working with external clients, for example, but you need to explain why you are interested in starting out in the non-client-facing position you might be interviewing for, how it fits your skillset and helps your longer-term career objective.”

3. Padding the Resume

“Don’t put things on your CV that you can’t live up to. Everything on there is fair game, so you need to be able to elaborate on every line. If you say you are fluent in a certain language, then we’ll expect you can prove it.”

4. Not Sending a Thank-You Email

“You should always send a thank-you note after an interview, but don’t literally just say ‘thank you.’ The note should be short and to the point, but not that short! Use the follow-up email as an opportunity to solidify your pitch. Say that you learned a lot and you’re excited about the position. It shows you have sincere interest in the job.”

5. Not Asking Any Questions

“There is no excuse not to have any questions to ask the interviewer. We will always ask whether you have any questions. Even if we’ve answered everything you want to know, improvise and work off something that was mentioned in the interview and say that you’d like us to elaborate more on a particular aspect of the position.”

6. Pigeonholing Yourself

“Sometimes, someone will try to overimpress by showing their knowledge in a particular industry. If it’s a general position you’re going for, it could end up making you look like you aren't interested in anything else.”

7. Being Too Casual

“A lot of students build a rapport with our recruiters and interviewers and then, in the interview, overstep the mark and do something that’s just too casual. Be very polished—this includes dress code—you’re not meeting with a friend. We’re assessing how you would hold yourself in front of clients and other employees.”

8. Fumbling the Obvious Questions

“There are questions that are standard, like: ‘Tell me about yourself,’ ‘Why our firm,’ ‘Why this position?’ Have an answer in your head for these. It doesn’t look good if you can’t tell us about yourself. You really need to have an answer that explains why you differentiate our firm from the other banks and, therefore, why you have chosen to interview with us.”

9. Pretending to Know Something When You Don’t

“You’ll end up digging a hole for yourself. You’re better off just asking the interviewer to elaborate, or even say you don’t know the answer but would like the opportunity to get back to them. Coming back in the thank-you letter with an answer is completely acceptable.”

10. Not Being Yourself

“It’s important that you come across as authentic. Answer questions in your own words, rather than regurgitating a textbook response. It’s a nuanced point because you don’t want to be overly friendly… just be your ‘professional self.’ It’s OK to make small-talk to break the ice and build a rapport with the interviewer—just don’t go overboard and be too casual.”


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