Sameer Syed has been through quite a few intense interviews over the course of his career.
Syed started off as an investment banker at JPMorgan, landing his first job as an analyst in 2007. Today, he works in strategic partnerships at Google and runs Wall Street to Silicon Alley, an organization that aims to help other financiers transition into the world of tech.
He tells Business Insider that there’s a pretty major difference between interviewing at a top bank like JPMorgan and a tech giant like Google.
“With JPMorgan, I kind of knew what to expect,” Syed says. “It’s pretty straightforward. You’ll probably get a case study, which is a brain teaser. You’ll get some technical questions around financial statements and modeling. A lot of that stuff is pretty straightforward.”
He says he studied up using the “Vault Guide” series, calling it the “Bible” for finance interviews.
“If you memorize that thing, you’re probably pretty good,” he says.
But when the time came to interview at Google, how to prepare was far less clear.
“At Google, it’s a black box,” Syed says. “You have no idea. If you go and try to search for interview questions, there are some rumors out there, but there’s really not a ton of information out there to tell you what kinds of questions you’re going to get.”
“Google is also known for asking very pointed, targeted question to see how you think or understand your thought process around a certain area,” Syed adds. “They’re very good at that. Everyone’s not asked the same questions.”
Syed didn’t go into specifics about what questions he received, but he did say that the interview was tricky.
“Google has so many products,” he says. “That was the biggest struggle for me. If you get a question about a product and you know nothing about it, you’re going to fall flat on your face.”
In the end, Syed says that the Google interview was far more difficult, thanks to that level of uncertainty.
“You don’t know what you’re going to get and it’s difficult to prepare,” he says.