Interviews for Credit Seats

Preparation for your Credit Investing Interviews

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Welcome back!

It’s time for me to shed some light on Credit Investing Interview preparation. I trimmed this down to <5,750 words (the max. to send out properly) and am throwing what didn’t make the cut into future editions and a 2nd post for Premium readers here. That 2nd post is a 4,500+ word vault of technical questions that come up in Banking and Investing interviews.

This guide below is primarily applicable for Buy-Side Public Credits seats (think HY bonds, CLOs, Investment Grade), but will also go through Direct Lending specific elements.

Before we get into it, don’t forget my Merch store is entering the final weeks of the holiday season.

Harry’s Credit Interview Guide:

Getting an interview: I had previously laid out in my Networking post how to meet people, so I’ll be brief. Your network and LinkedIn are natural sources to find jobs in Credit.

Historically, I’ve had recruiters reach out to me quite regularly and they’re a large part of job flow once you enter the workforce. This is especially the case when you turn on the private LinkedIn feature signifying that you’re looking for roles. The one downside of being in Credit though is you get a lot of terrible outreach – like someone saying “this job offer is $65k-$75k a year!” or “Do you want to work in Operations?”.

Your reputation starts getting you in the door: Longer term readers know I have a non-target background and had to grind very hard to get in the door. But Credit is a surprisingly small world and your team’s reputation and/or the good word of ex/current co-workers/bosses can be key drivers in getting you good interview opportunities; or even help you check the boxes needed to secure the job. Build strong relationships with analysts/senior analysts on your team. Produce great work for your PMs. I can assure you it will come back around to you in a way you didn’t expect.

Find a place to hop on the phone: This is key. Often times you need to get on the phone with someone, so you need to find a quiet place in your office building (or outside) where you can take a phone call without anyone barging in or walking by you. Test (if you can) whether people can hear you down the hall or if you’re in a high traffic area where co-workers may be walking by. The last thing you want is for someone to overhear you on the phone - find a place where you can talk (at a moderate volume) freely.

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Harry’s Credit Interview Guide Continued:

Leaving your job during work hours to interview: In a hybrid world it’s thankfully a lot easier to interview now than it used to be. Pre-covid was so tough - you were in the office every day and had to make up an abundance of excuses to leave the desk. In Private Equity, there’s a lot of recruiting that happens “after hours” and late into the evening, but for Credit, you’re looking at a lot of daytime interviews. It’s really hard showing up to the office in a suit when you never wear a suit. You can always say you have a date or an anniversary dinner later, I’ve found that to be the easiest excuse. Either way you’re going to get dirty eyes for wearing a suit. But hey, there’s nothing they can do about it so long as you don’t slip up.

Let’s go through some potential Interview excuses below:

  1. I’m remote and I was away from my computer. I loved maximizing being remote during interviews. This made my life a whole lot easier.

  2. I’m sick. This is another way to go remote randomly for the day.

  3. I’m going to the Doctor’s. Unfortunately, I’ve actually been thru a decent amount of real doctor appointments, but on the bright side it’s a recurring things that gives you cushion to throw some fake doctor appointments in there. Additionally, if you have an actual issue going on, it’s a great retort to guilt someone when they question why you’re out.

  4. Something about my Kids. I don’t have kids, but once you’re a parent you can bring them up as an excuse to leave early or work remotely one day.

  5. There’s a Plumber in my apartment. You have to go back to your apartment to let someone in.

  6. Running an errand. This one is a little harder, but possible. I mean people have to renew their license or passport, or go look for a new apartment.

  7. Extending a lunch out. You could have a business lunch and instead take that time to meet up for an interview.

  8. A Breakfast or Dinner. This is similar to the point above. Come in late or leave early due to some predefined business related excuse.

My key message from these excuses is to maximize remote interviews. There’s truly no reason for early stage interviews where you might get weeded out quickly to be in person. If you’re interviewing at 7 places, you want to be very strategic about how you allocate your excuses. Sure you need to meet people in person for the last two rounds usually, but be protective of your excuse capital. The last thing you want is to run out of excuses and it becomes obvious that you’re looking.

Key Questions you need to work through: Let’s talk through qualitative interview questions.

Pitch me an actionable trade idea: This is a key way to differentiate yourself, but also is frankly the expectation. “Oh you want to work in a buyside credit seat but you didn’t come up with an investment idea? Why are you wasting my time?”. Have something actionable with a clear cut investment thesis and a catalyst. Later on I’ll show you how to look for bond/loan ideas even if you don’t have a Bloomberg terminal.

Talk about a deal you worked on: This gets increasingly important the older you get. Pick 2-3 of your favorite deals and know them like the back of your hand. This includes key stats, the thesis, how you mitigated risks, and the outcome.

How are you currently thinking about the market: This is a good opportunity to lay out your current view of where you see rates, deal flow, GDP, unemployment, or the general market heading.

Explain how you model at your firm: This is an important opportunity to lay out how you currently model financials at your firm. Hopefully, your modeling is good and thoughtful. I’ll give examples later on in the piece on areas to be thoughtful on.

How do you stay updated on market trends, industry developments, or current events: This is most relevant for younger hires so the Manager can assess whether you have a true interest in finance. This is a good opportunity to reference that you’re checking all the boxes – you’re reading Bloomberg, WSJ, etc. Or maybe you’re signed up for some newsletters that really help you. Either way, this is a good way to showcase that you’re passionate about finance/investing/banking.

What is your process for evaluating a new deal: This is going to be a shop specific answer. Ultimately, you really need to sit down and think about your process and be able to eloquently lay it out in under a minute. You can go longer than a minute if you think they’re asking for a very granular layout.

Interview notes:

Here’s some of my key interview notes I want to highlight:

1) Beforehand, you can recite what you want to say in order to prepare for your interview – honestly. There’s nothing weird about rehearsing key messages you want to get across during the interview. It is not uncommon for finance professionals (privately, during their own time) to practice their presentations or prepare some key bullet points they want to address. 

2) When someone leaves the room, jot down notes about the conversation. It’s impossible to remember everything you spoke about, so these notes are crucial in helping you refresh your memory later.

3) Come up with questions to ask ahead of the interview. You should have a handful of questions in the back of your head to ask people. I’ll provide examples in a bit. Just remember that everyone you spoke with is going to huddle up later. It makes sense to ask the same smart question more than once, but you should have a different question for each interviewer. Usually, 3 questions is the norm – but the smartest people in the room get annoyed if you’re asking a question just for the sake of asking a question. 

4) Remember to write thank you notes and to individualize them. It doesn’t have to be super long and you do not want to send the same exact note to everyone, but hopefully, you jotted down and/or remember enough from your discussions to have a nice personalized note. If you don’t get an email address from someone through email correspondence, ask for their card.

5) Remember everyone’s names: When I was an intern, I sat down with eight people in rapid succession and was asked later “Who did you meet with?” and then had to recite everyone’s name to show I had a decent enough memory. This is a key test MDs do following super days.

Technical Questions:

I’m including several more interview questions, case study prep, direct lending interview caveats, and more beyond this point within this 5,700+ word piece.

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