In the previous blog post, I talked about a strategy for answering the “What animal would you be?” interview question.

As part of a recent team activity, my colleagues shared their choices and reasons why they would be a particular animal.

The team came up with several clever examples including some unique justifications. Hope it helps you brainstorm your own answer to the “What animal would be?” interview question.

Sample Answers for the “What animal would you be?” interview question

  • Elephant 🐘: intelligent, social, introverted
  • Waterbear: Tolerate extreme conditions, outlast anyone, microscoipc
  • Dolphin 🐬: communicative, social
  • Lion 🦁: courageous
  • Fox 🦊: clever, cunning, cute
  • Bird 🐦: fly, be part of a flock
  • Cat 🐱: independent, resilient
  • Dog 🐶: get attention, play with others
  • Flamingo: pink, be fashionable & stand out, travel in groups, and sleep on feet
  • Eagle 🦅: be free, troll others

🐶 Answering the “What animal would you be?” Interview Question”

A popular, off-the-wall interview question is:

If you could be any animal, which one would it be?

Interview candidates absolutely dread this question. It seems fun, casual, and harmless. But blurt out a short response like — “Giraffe because I’m tall” or “Fox because I like to plan” — and you’ll disappoint the interviewer.

To help you think through this problem, here are some tips to answer this question, adapted from my recently released book, The Marketing Interview.

What Is the Interviewer Looking For?

Most interviewers would explain that they ask off-the-wall questions to assess a candidate’s ability to think quickly, showcase their personality, and demonstrate creativity. A small handful might admit that they ask off-the-wall questions to lighten up the mood.

Thus, make it fun and make it creative. Present a dull and formal response at your own risk!

How to Approach the Question

Treat this question as a personal brand question. That is, what would you like to be known for? Perhaps you want to be known as someone who is intelligent yet social. In this case, your animal might be an elephant 🐘, an intelligent species that emphasizes social bonding and enrichment. A social yet intelligent personal brand would be ideal for a business development role, where strategic skills and intelligence are prized.

How do you determine your personal brand? You’ll find your personal brand intersecting between where your strengths lie and what the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate. The last part is critical. Your employer has a picture in their mind of what skills and traits an ideal candidate has. To increase your chances of getting the job, synchronize your response with what they’re looking for.

A few more tips

Despite the seemingly inconsequential nature of off-the-wall interview questions, you are still being judged, so take the question seriously.

Details convey credibility. So use the Rule of Three and have three reasons on why you chose a particular animal.

Lastly, it’s very difficult to come up with a creative answer to this question without thinking about your response first. So pre-think your answer in advance. And if you must, take a moment to collect your thoughts before answering.

Conquer those interviews,

Lewis C. Lin 🦊


If you’re getting ready for a Facebook product manager interview, they will ask you questions from three fundamental areas:

  • Product Sense
  • Execution
  • Leadership & Drive

Here’s more information on what you’ll receive from their HR team:

google product manager interview technical questions

During the on-site interviews, Google product management (PM) candidates will get a technical interview in the afternoon, especially if they’ve performed well during the morning interviews, which consists of product design, analytical, and strategic questions.

To help you prepare for the technical interview, here’s a list of recently reported technical questions for the Google product manager interview, based on our research and work with recent Google PM candidates.

Coding Interview Questions

Write an algorithm that detects meeting conflicts.
Write a Scrabble-like algorithm that finds playable words, given a set of letters.

Technical Architecture Questions

How would you design a messaging app, from a technical perspective?
How would you design the Google search engine, from scratch?
Design a load balancer for
How would your reduce Google’s bandwidth consumption?
How would you resolve a server bottleneck?
You’re part of the Google Search web spam team. How would you detect duplicate websites?

Technical Trivia Questions

What happens when you type into a browser?
Explain recursion.
Explain object-oriented programming.

What Does an IT Analyst Do?

February 25th, 2018 by lewis


Most financial transactions—stock trades, corporate mergers, new financings— require an exchange of information, either within Morgan Stanley or between the firm and a client. Morgan Stanley’s information technology division makes the collection, exchange, and analysis of this information possible. As one insider says, “You’re not in a support role here; you definitely influence the bottom line.”

As Morgan Stanley continues to expand its use of technology, the IT division’s recruiting goals have increased. The division’s formal career program has a wide range of opportunities for undergraduates, MBAs, and advanced-degree candidates. Some positions require significant programming experience and knowledge of specific languages or platforms, while others are open to candidates with less-technical backgrounds. But in general, a position in this department means your office would work closely with the strategic project management office in determining how to translate client needs into system requirements and designs. Most new trainees join the distributed systems group, the mainframe group, or the technical service group. Within each of these groups, trainees work on projects for one of the six areas within information technology:

• Engineering

• Application development

• Service

• Enterprise risk projects

• E-business technology

• Coverage group (the liaison between IT and the rest of Morgan Stanley)

A Day in the Life of an IT Analyst

  • 8:15 Arrive at work with the New York Times in hand. While computer boots up, head to the cafeteria for coffee.
  • 9:00 Finish coding that was left over from last night. Want to get this out of the way before the meetings and phone calls start.
  • 10:00 Status meeting. Report to manager on progress of new intranet application for research division. She suggests that one of the other new trainees can help plan the user-testing session.
  • 11:00 Back at my desk. While morning coffee is still in effect, work on impact analysis for intranet application. If all of the implications for the new program are understood before coding begins, there will be a lot less anxiety during the rollout.
  • 1:00 Head out for a quick lunch with two other group members. It’s good to step away from a project sometimes—things seem clearer after a bit of fresh air.
  • 1:30 Ten new e-mails arrived while at lunch. Reply, reply, reply.
  • 2:00 Brainstorming session with new project team for research delivery system. Everyone is expected to contribute. Sometimes the newest analysts have the best ideas for how to structure the program or write the scripts.
  • 4:00 The afternoon’s a good time to code. Put headphones on and turn off e-mail notification. Better to keep focused and concentrate.
  • 5:30 Hands are cramped from typing. Decide to find a team member and discuss that user-testing plan for the intranet application. Go looking for a conference room with a white board on which to sketch out the plan.
  • 6:30 Productive session. Swing by the VP’s office to see if he wants to shoot some hoops. Plan to meet him at the gym in 15 minutes.

Source: Morgan Stanley WetFeet Insider Guide


Morgan Stanley’s securities business is divided by type of client: institutional or individual. The individual securities business is then divided into investor advisory services, independent investor services, and private wealth management. Investor advisory services and independent investor services are the brokerage part of the business, serving almost 4 million clients with a sales force of nearly 10,000 brokers.

Private wealth management (PWM) is a separate group specializing in financial advice and services for high-net-worth families and foundations. The role of a PWM investment adviser is to build relationships with wealthy individuals (often senior management of the firm’s corporate clients) and then manage their assets using Morgan Stanley’s range of securities investment and trading services, complex hedging strategies, and in-depth research products. After training and certification exams, analysts work both as a group to support general PWM projects and individually as apprentices to senior PWM professionals. All new PWM associates start with a 4-month classroom training program in New York. After training and certification exams (Series 3, 7, and 66), associates join their particular office, are assigned to work with experienced investment representatives, and immediately begin to build a book of business.

A Day in the Life of a PWM Associate

  • 4:00 Alarm goes off. No time to snooze.
  • 4:45 Drive to work. Parking is expensive, but it’s worth not waiting a half hour for the bus at this time of the morning.
  • 5:00 Got milk. Eat cereal at desk while listening to morning research call from New York. (It’s 8:00 a.m. there—this is when you really pay the price for living in San Francisco.)
  • 5:30 Scan the Wall Street Journal for leads. Pay particular attention to CEOS retiring and to buyouts of companies that leave executives flush with cash. Then check Bloomberg for any morning stories that aren’t in the Journal.
  • 7:30 Plan to-do list for the day. Never very realistic, but it’s good to have goals.
  • 8:00 Start making calls to prospects. Always try to make calls in the morning and late afternoon, because that’s when most people are at their desks.
  • 9:30 Do research on leads gleaned from papers this morning. Check to see if another Morgan Stanley investment adviser already covers any of the prospects. I can’t start calling a prospect if they’re already covered by one of my colleagues. If no one’s on them, get approval to approach the client.
  • 12:00 Lunch: PB&J sandwich at the desk. Tweak the to-do list.
  • 1:00 Write letters to prospects who aren’t responding to phone calls. Thankful for the letter-writing workshop during training it’s hard to stand out from the crowd on paper.
  • 4:00 Good time to make phone calls again. Prospects are at their desks, wrapping things up for the day. They may even answer the phone themselves.
  • 5:30 Time to think about heading home, considering it’s been more than 12 hours. One day, there will be dinner out with clients to look forward to. But for now, it’s back to the homestead.
  • 9:00 Time for bed. Put in tape of last week’s Everybody Loves Raymond episode to watch. Will probably be asleep before it’s over.

Source: Morgan Stanley WetFeet Insider Guide


If you’re getting ready for a Facebook data scientist interview, they will ask you an analytical case study.

Here’s more information about what you’ll receive from their HR team:

Analytical Portion (10-20 minutes)

The analytical case study will focus on questions to gauge your product sense.

For the analytical questions, the interviewer is trying to understand how you solve business questions and problems, as well as how creative and articulate you are at thinking through these problems while solving them. It’s not about the arriving at the perfect, or correct answer, but how you engage with the problem.

Spend some time engaging with Facebook products less as a user and more as someone who is tasked with improving or developing these products. The link below outlines what we consider a “Facebook product” [Ads, Mobile, Timeline, News Feed, Messaging, etc.].

Analytical Resources:
Facebook Products
Facebook News

Put yourself in the shoes of the product team who built the product / feature

  • Why do you think they made certain decisions about how it works?
  • What could be done to improve the product?
  • What kind of metrics you would want to consider when solving for questions around health, growth, or the engagement of a product?
  • How would you measure the success of different parts of the product?
  • What metrics would you assess when trying to solve business problems related to our products?
  • How would you tell if a product is performing well or not?
  • How would you set up an experiment to evaluate any new products or improvements?

What Does Institutional Equity Sales Do

February 18th, 2018 by lewis


Institutional salespeople at Morgan Stanley sell the firm’s security offerings to large institutional clients such as pension funds, hedge funds, mutual funds, and insurance companies. Associates enter either the institutional equity or fixed income division and then join a product specialty (or desk) within that division. Candidates are usually expected to have at least their Series 7 and Series 63 licenses. At the beginning, associates usually work with a senior salesperson and share responsibility for a specific group of institutional client accounts.

A Day in the Life of a Salesperson

  • 6:45 Arrive at work with coffee and the Wall Street Journal.
  • 7:30 Tune into the equity division’s morning meeting. Analysts comment on companies that have reported earnings. Then they change their buy and sell recommendations (usually they just add or delete an adjective; they seldom change the actual verb). Lots of chat about newspaper articles that might raise questions from clients. A capital markets rep talks about the progress of certain corporate finance deals, the shape of the subscription book, and the timing of a certain issue.
  • 8:00 Fixed income’s morning meeting. Here, the analysts comment on economic data releases and the bond market’s likely reaction. They also have lots to say about new offerings in municipals and corporates. Jot down the stuff on the corporates.
  • 8:30 Back at the desk. Start calling certain clients with this morning’s news, in hopes of being the first to relay it. (Note: Traders and salespeople need to know much of the same information, which is why both often attend the morning meetings.)
  • 9:30 Market opens. I’m hoping clients will remember my charming face, competence, and excellent service, and will correspondingly direct all their trades through this desk. Sometimes they call with orders; usually they just call the trader directly. Continue making less time-sensitive calls throughout the morning.
  • 12:00 Road show luncheon at the Plaza. With Morgan Stanley’s guidance, the management of this company has streamlined its presentation on strategy, past performance, and future growth prospects, shortening it from 3 hours to a little more than 30 minutes. Know with a sinking heart that the sales pitch is still too convoluted to get investors excited about buying shares in the upcoming IPO.
  • 1:15 Share these thoughts with other people on the desk. Get stuck with writing the first draft of a memo aimed at shortening the presentation even more.
  • 1:30 Spend afternoon making maintenance calls, arranging a one-on-one meeting with the IPO company on behalf of a client, and finding out from the trader how many clients executed trades today.
  • 4:30 Clean up four-by-four area of desk. Call a client to confirm plans to see the Knicks game tonight.
  • 5:15 Run to the gym for a quick workout before schmoozing.
  • 6:00 Grab dinner before heading to the Garden. Maybe these good seats will convince the client to buy on the IPO after all.

Source: Morgan Stanley WetFeet Insider Guide

What Do Traders Do

February 15th, 2018 by lewis


This category includes traders and sales-traders in equity, fixed income, and worldwide markets. A salesperson does what you might expect: sells ideas (stocks and bonds to buy) to institutional customers to generate business (and commissions). A trader will buy and sell securities for a client or for the firm’s own account (this is called proprietary trading). A sales-trader acts as a liaison between the institutional salesperson and the trader. It’s up to sales-traders to help clients buy and sell larger quantities at advantageous prices. Some traders function as market makers, buying and selling securities out of the firm’s inventory to facilitate trades for customers in OTC (small, over-the-counter) securities where markets are less liquid than on the exchanges. In the fixed income area, a market maker may be referred to simply as a trader.

A Day in the Life of a Trader

  • 6:15 Arrive at work. Spread the paper out and reread the interest rate article that didn’t make sense on the half-awake ride downtown. Drink another cup of coffee.
  • 7:00 Listen to the equity division’s morning meeting while checking Bloomberg for any big movements in the overseas markets. Soon after, get a cheat sheet that summarizes important meeting highlights. Tape up sheet so it’s visible all day.
  • 7:30 Drink another cup of coffee. Attend morning meeting for fixed income. Analysts drone on about economic data releases and the bond market. Then they all weigh in with comments on the new municipals, corporates, and treasury auctions.
  • 8:00 Everyone back at their desks and phones. Don’t want to miss any important news. Minutes count—sometimes even seconds make the difference.
  • 9:30 Gulp a warm Coke, consult trade research reports, finish the Coke the broker screen. Execute orders given “on the open.” Call clients with trade executions. Receive order to buy 200,000 shares of a stock “not held.” Make announcement to the rest of the floor and try to shop the order around. Maybe the firm would sell some out of its own account? Someone several seats away impolitely disabuses everyone of that notion.
  • 10:00 Drink another Coke. Place part of the order with a client at the current market price. Start buying the balance in smaller lots. 10:15 Talk to a friend to arrange dinner plans. Hang up when someone yells that he has a seller for 50,000 at my price. 10:25 Think about calling friend back. In midthought, four people start barking in my direction at the same time. Scramble to make sense of what they’re saying. Traders don’t like to repeat themselves. Answer them, never really disengaging from the ongoing stream of numbers on the broker screen.
  • 12:30 Complete order. Lunch delivery arrives. Try not to spill ketchup on keyboards.
  • 1:30 Crisis as new kid on the desk confuses “buy” with “sell.” Drink another Coke. Correct the situation and even make a small gain. Impress upon kid how rare a save like that is. (In truth, feel sorry for him—everyone’s been there.) Guide him through the trade research reports, but not for long. Need them for this next trade. 3:00 Call friend back to arrange dinner plans. Hang up on friend again. Make several calls to confirm “good till cancel” orders.
  • 4:30 Make sure all confirms match tickets. Heart palpitations resume. This time it’s not the caffeine. Check the floor to see if the confirm on 50,000 of the 200,000-share buy order fell under the desk. There it is. Resume breathing.
  • 4:45 Clean up mess on the desk. Enjoy a quiet, uninterrupted phone call to my cellular phone company. Patiently explain for the 13th time why the calls to Belize shouldn’t be on the bill.
  • 5:00 Head to the gym for a much-needed endorphin release.
  • 5:45 Return to desk, make a small dent in mountain of mail and literature, and wrap up the day.
  • 6:30 Head out the door.

Source: Morgan Stanley WetFeet Insider Guide


Investment bankers provide financial and strategic advice to corporations, government agencies, and, in some groups, to local public entities. Morgan Stanley has both industry and product groups. (An example of an industry group is technology; a product group would be M&A.) Senior bankers cultivate strong relationships with top corporate management. Less experienced members (probably you, at least at first) do a lot of research and listening, so they can better understand a company’s strategic objectives, provide what they hope is innovative financing to meet those objectives, and of course begin cultivating relationships within the upper ranks.

Being an analyst is a good way to try investment banking for a few years, particularly since you’re not expected to know a great deal before you begin. You’ll be expected to learn quickly, write quickly, and swim in deep waters Wu corporate leaders, however. A good job for the self-directed, the analyst position is more difficult for those who need a less severe learning curve.

The associate position is the starting point for those who think they might have found their life’s calling in investment banking. Once you’re in, it’s pretty much an uphill climb until you join all the other exhausted managing directors struggling for breath at the top (or decide to abandon for greener pastures). At first, associates may perform similar to those of analysts, but as you gain experience, take on significant client responsibility and serve as the senior bankers’ right-hand man. (Women can apparently be right-hand men, too.)

Typical responsibilities for I-bankers include the following:

• Underwriting initial public offerings or secondary offerings of stock

• Debt issuance

 • Advisory work on mergers and acquisitions

 • Assisting in the solicitation and execution of assignments

• Preparing presentations to maintain ongoing client dialogue

• Conducting research and financial analysis

• Building spreadsheet models

• Drafting offering memorandums

• Assisting the deal team in managing the day-to-day logistics of an assignment

Duties specific to associates include the following:

  • Fostering client relationships
  • Producing market/risk analysis
  • Developing planning approaches
  • Developing and updating audit work documentation
  • Identifying key control descriptions

A Day in the Life of an Investment Banking Analyst

  • 6:45 Stumble into shower after only 4 hours of sleep.
  • 7:45 Snooze on the subway for a few more fitful minutes.
  • 8:30 Arrive at work. Attend division meeting. Gulp coffee to prevent head bobs.
  • 9:00 Make corrections to an IPO roadshow slide presentation. Principal has decided there are too many words per page. He’s right, but all the words are critical.
  • 11:00 Finish making revisions and continue working on an M&A project. E-mail library to download proxies from similar deals.
  • 1:30 Conference call with IPO client to discuss revisions to the roadshow presentation. Principal promised the client CFO that the would be FedExed yesterday for approval, but forgot to tell anyone. Sneak out of the call to fax slides immediately.
  • 2:00 After the call, talk with principal about other issues that came up. Have to say he does have some good ideas for graphs that will make more compelling. Guess who has to come up with the new graphs.
  • 4:00 Stomach is growling ominously now. Take ten to pick up a pick-me-up—a smoothie and a super grande coffee. Back at desk, start to work on valuation model for new M&A spin-off deal.
  • 7:30 Those lucky enough to leave early tonight have left. Put in a new CD, adjust headphones, and crank a little harder on these numbers.
  • 9:00 While eating dinner and talking to a friend on the phone, accidentally bump the keyboard and get “#REF!” all over the spreadsheet. Think about maybe becoming a teacher instead.
  • 9:45 Find the error and get the model running. Calculate how many trips to Sun Valley the next bonus check could buy. Bag the teacher idea till after the next bonus.
  • 10:30 Begin working on additional “pictures” for road show. Principal wants to show pictures to client as possible alternatives to the current batch. They would be terrible alternatives, but they sure make the current ones look better. Grumble loudly and create lots of little straw men.
  • 1:30 Finish slides and have color copies printed for meeting tomorrow with IPO management. Stumble home in a daze. This IPO will be over soon.

Source: Morgan Stanley WetFeet Insider Guide