A quantitative (quant) interview is designed to help the interviewer understand how you think, and may include specific industry references including financial terms, economic theories or established mathematical models. Interviewers assess these skills through computations, logic problems and brain teasers.
What traits are firms seeking in quant candidates?
Organizations hiring for analytical roles seek candidates with logical reasoning processes, exceptional computational skills and strong statistical abilities. Because such organizations often operate at a fast pace and the decisions staff make can have far-reaching economic and financial impacts, interviewers seek to assess an applicant’s mathematical mastery, critical thinking skill and creativity, as well as the ability to perform under pressure.
What does a quant interview look like?
Organizations may ask you to complete a 30-minute online assessment before interviewing with a company representative. The most common tools for online assessments are Pymetrics, a platform that gamifies calculations and logical reasoning, and Hirevue, a video question bank of behavioral, mathematical and industry-specific questions.
Through the use of AI, a firm can assess the speed and accuracy of your analytical skills and/or your interest in and knowledge of the field before considering your resume.
A preliminary quant interpersonal interview is typically 45-60 minutes, and may be in person or virtual. For in-person interviews, you may be handed a pencil and paper or markers for a whiteboard for your calculations. For virtual interviews, you might work on a shared virtual whiteboard or Google Doc.
Your interviewer will provide instructions to either take time to work through a problem first and then share your solution, or to work and explain your rationale as you go. In either case, you should be mindful not to get hung up on terms you don’t know or calculations you can’t compute. Instead, communicate what you are thinking and why.
With the initial interview largely assessing analytical skills, subsequent interviews may focus on in-depth quant concepts related to the industry and to broader personality characteristics, such as how you weigh a given set of options, how you manage your time and why you’re drawn to working in that particular industry.
How should I prepare?
Although each company will have its own interview protocol, here are steps you can take to prepare for quant interviews regardless of the organization:
- Keep current on business issues and financial markets to understand trends
- Cultivate a basic financial vocabulary
- Practice mental math so you can work with quantitative data more easily
- Review brain teasers and practice solving them
- Connect with alumni who work in quant roles to learn more and/or practice interviewing
- Attend information sessions with quant employers to learn about their firm’s interview processes
- Read about the specific organization with whom you are interviewing to understand their clients and the services, and the philosophy that guides their practice
- Be prepared to devote time over a number of weeks to become fluent in financial terms and proficient with the different types of quant interview questions
Review company resources
Some major investment banks and trading firms have interview preparation tips on their websites, typically in the “Careers” or “Work with Us” sections.
Some may also post these resources on platforms such as YouTube and host live events, which are usually listed in Handshake. These resources can be a valuable tool in your interview preparation, as they are tailored to the specific company for which you are interviewing.
Find external resources
A quick online search for “quant interview prep” will yield ample videos, podcasts and documents offering tips and advice. Be cautious as you explore these tools, as some may be free snippets that are really commercials for their paid products.
The content on sites like Quora, Reddit and Glassdoor are populated by group members and may not accurately reflect the content or conditions under which your interview will take place.
Princeton University maintains a subscription to Firsthand, a site that provides in-depth intelligence on what it’s really like to work within an industry, company, or profession. Firsthand's Guide to Finance Interviews and descriptions of quantitative analyst roles across industries are helpful resources for learning about the field.
There are many books on the topic of quant interview prep. A few recent books include:
- 150 Most Frequently Asked Questions on Quant Interviews, 2nd Edition (2019) by Dan Stefanica, Radoš Radoičić and Tai-Ho Wang
- Cracking the Finance Quant Interview: 75 Interview Questions and Solutions (2020) by Jean Peyre
Examples of quant interview questions
- How might you forecast future prices using a Monte Carlo simulation technique?
- When you begin a new tech project, what types of systems requirements do you gather?
- In what ways might fiscal policy influence economic growth?
Mathematical computation questions
- What is the sum of the numbers from 1 to 100?
- With a three-cup jug and a five-cup jug, how do you measure out one cup of water?
- If a train conductor issues 27 tickets in 30 minutes, how many tickets can they issue in eight hours?
- If you have 18 blue socks and 14 black socks in a drawer, in the dark, how many do you have to pull out before you have a matching pair?
- If I roll two dice, what is the probability that I will get a two on the second roll?
- Why are manhole covers round?
- How many tennis balls fit in an airplane?
- When might you use a linear equation in your daily life?
Don’t fret if you haven’t memorized banking vocabulary or the specific nuances of a particular mathematical formula. The most important trait to demonstrate in these types of interviews is your ability to think quickly and to explain the rationale behind your decision-making.