Andy note: this was originally posted on 9/14/12
So last time we established that when I come to recruit at your school (and I promise you, today I am recruiting at a school attended by probably at least 40-50 of the people on this board), I’m really just doing it to get a much-needed break from the office, a little sleep, and a chance to do my own thing (read: booze it up and party with old friends) for a day or two. It would be pretty cool if I could accomplish this without actually doing recruiting activities, because I find them just as awkward and lame as you do. But I’m stuck with it, and so are you. So here’s how you should make the best of it.
First, don’t be scared.
Yes, I’m clearly tired, and no, talking to you is not on my top ten list of things I’d like to be doing with my time away from the office. But this isn’t your fault, and I know it. In fact, this can be a mutually beneficial arrangement for us both. Remember, though I may act like a douchebag, I don’t hate you. If you don’t make things hard for me, I may even like you.
How might you make things hard for me? Well, you could be dense, difficult to talk to, too nervous to make sense, or overly serious and intense. You could give three-word answers to my questions, forcing me to then pry answers out of you. You could also ramble at length, forcing me to work hard to follow your chain of logic (I won’t). Or you could ask four-part questions all at once, forcing me to remember all four parts and construct a long speech on the fly that will answer all of them.
How do you make things easy for me? Keep the conversation light, be entertaining without being too high-energy, don’t ask anything that’ll make me think too hard. Is it fair to ask you to do these things for me so I can relax while you have to stay on top of your game? Nope. Will I appreciate it nonetheless? Hell yes. It’ll also demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to interact with my bosses.
Second: Be surgical, especially in the daytime. The rules for an EIS or a daytime networking session are different than for a cocktail event. If there is a drink in my hand, I’m a little more off-duty and it’s time for enjoyable chitchat. If there’s a drink in my hand, by all means tell me about your cycling hobby and your summer in Mongolia... as long as I’m making encouraging noises to show I’m genuinely interested.
If there is no drink in my hand, my meter is running. You may still think you need or deserve 5-6 minutes of my time, and that this much time will make me remember you in a positive light. The sad fact is that unless you’re an Olympic gold medalist or a fighter pilot or something along those lines, taking that much of my time prior to the cocktail hour is probably going to hurt you rather than help. The reason is this: you can't get a job offer at a networking session; all you can hope to accomplish is to make a vaguely positive impression. If you pass the blink test and move on in 60 seconds, my impression is vaguely positive and you have very little chance to fuck it up. In 5-6 minutes, you will probably fuck it up. In an interview, that’s okay because everyone fucks it up. But at an EIS, you risk being that one guy who monopolized me for 5+ minutes with a boring story about some deal you worked on at a shitty MM PE fund last summer. Yawn. Your first deal may be magical, but by the time you've hit ten deals, the next one is about as thrilling as rereading six-month-old PIBs.
Third, understand my goals in each situation and help me meet them.
The EIS: My goal is to get in and out fast, leave you with a positive impression of the firm, and get an initial list of names of people I might want to invite to first rounds. The EIS is not the right venue for you to try to land the job. It’s the right venue for you to land the first round interview.
I don’t even care about anything on your resume at this point. I show up in person in order to make your career services people happy and in order to help us avoid wasting a first-round slot on someone who looks good on paper but who will never survive second round. To this end, all I’m trying to do is to take note of people who speak English clearly and who strike me as relaxed, intelligent, and non-awkward.
The cocktail networking session: My goal is to form the same initial first-round list while having a couple of (hopefully) interesting conversations about something other than work and getting lightly buzzed on something that doesn’t taste like shit. (Bonus points: If conversation stalls, coax me into talking about myself, even if I strike you as the most boring individual you have ever met.)
The recruiting dinner: My goal is to spend 70-90 minutes eating dinner with a picked handful of high-potential candidates while enjoying myself, selling the firm, and making sure they won’t embarrass me if I bring them in. Just remember that my evening doesn’t really begin until the dinner event is over, and I want to go on someplace to meet my friends without you in tow (no offense). So when you see me begin to extricate myself, hopefully with at least a modicum of grace, let me go, even if the night’s still young. Do not invite me on to wherever you and your friends are going, no matter how friendly I seem. And don’t hang around hoping for me to invite you to continue the evening elsewhere.
The first-round interview: My goal is to get through 30 or 45 minutes with you as painlessly as possible and then to walk out at the end of the day with a list of 3-5 people I think won’t embarrass me at second-rounds. On my way back to the airport I’m going to shoot out an email with 1-3 short sentences for each candidate saying why I think they deserve to take up a slot in our second round. Generally, those sentences explain three things: how I know the candidate is smart, how I know they work hard, and how I know he’s socially a decent fit.
Since my name will be behind you if I bring you in for second rounds, I need to make sure you’re good. That said, I don’t want to work very hard at it. So, honestly, I want someone who can make it through the interview with little to no hand-holding, whose story looks good enough on paper, who can rapid-fire answers back to me that don’t sound stupid, and who doesn’t make me worried that they’re going to act weird under pressure. So don’t dazzle me with your outside-the-box thinking skills. Sorry. They’re nice to have, but that’s not what’s going to seal the deal.
All right, guys, now it's your turn. Anything you've always wanted to tell your douchebag recruiter but didn't have the balls to say to their face? Now's your chance. Go!