5 Tips for Stellar Courtesy Visits

olafenizer's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,109

So you've scored a chat with someone who works in the industry. What do you do next so you don't screw it all up and look like a fool?

First, I use the term 'courtesy visit' for two reasons: 1) because I hate the term 'informational interview'. To me it just sounds stupid. You never actually use the phrase in conversation, and I cringe at the idea of someone writing "Hi, I'd like to meet you for an informational interview." It just sounds awkward, and 2) you booked a flight to their respective city and are actually meeting these people face-to-face over coffee.

1. Know the bank, know your contact, and know the basics of their sector.

Read up a little bit on the news specific to that bank. Linkedin is useful for figuring out the background of the person you're talking to (if you haven't already done that). Don't spend hours absorbing every little bit of information because #2...

2. Don't be a know-it-all. It's okay to be a little 'aggressive', but don't go over the top. I really don't care that you have the league tables memorized or that you know every deal that every bank has advised on in the past year or that you memorized some arcane crap about pension accounting. Frankly you really should try to talk as little as possible in order to reduce the probability of you putting your foot in your mouth.

3. Be honest. If you're talking to a FIG banker but you don't know anything about banks, don't try to b.s. Just admit you don't know very much about the particular industry, but that's the reason you want to talk to that guy- because you want to become more familiar with it and the people who cover that industry. Don't ever lie; it is unprofessional and it will come back to bite you in the ass.

4. Make a specific request. You could spend all day and night talking with people at the banks, but what's the point of doing so unless something actually comes of it? If the person you're meeting with was kind enough to meet you in the first place, they're very likely perfectly willing to put you in contact with a colleague or somebody else you ought to talk to.

5. Follow up the same day. Send a short note thanking for them for their time and incorporating a unique element of the conversation you had. If it was a good conversation, you should have at least one unique thing to share.

Thank you again for taking the time to meet with me today. It was great to meet someone else who collects Pez dispensers...

As for general advice about the basics of how to talk to people, I highly recommend How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes (Amazon Link). Parts of it may seem a bit corny, but all-in-all it's a great book.

Finally, don't ever be late and always wear a suit & tie (conservative patterns, please).

Comments (14)

Sep 11, 2012

+1 thanks for the post

Sep 11, 2012

4...so many times when i take a call, the kid is just going through the motions and thinks their work is done now that they are on the phone. They ask me generic questions and then expect me to offer advice or to connect them to my network.

Do yourself a favor and have specific / interesting questions that you are genuinely interested in...act human. If you go through the motions and are just waiting for me to offer help when I'm not impressed by you, then it probably wont happen...

Sep 11, 2012
WallStreetOasis.com:

#4...so many times when i take a call, the kid is just going through the motions and thinks their work is done now that they are on the phone. They ask me generic questions and then expect me to offer advice or to connect them to my network.

Do yourself a favor and have specific / interesting questions that you are genuinely interested in...act human. If you go through the motions and are just waiting for me to offer help when I'm not impressed by you, then it probably wont happen...

I've PMed users on this site in IB about how to ask for help and referrals. A certain legendary Certified User that used to work in IB now PE said to let them intervene b/c they will do so if they want to help.

Opinions on this issue seem pretty divided. I'll probably never feel like there's a right answer.

Sep 11, 2012
Ron Paul:
WallStreetOasis.com:

#4...so many times when i take a call, the kid is just going through the motions and thinks their work is done now that they are on the phone. They ask me generic questions and then expect me to offer advice or to connect them to my network.

Do yourself a favor and have specific / interesting questions that you are genuinely interested in...act human. If you go through the motions and are just waiting for me to offer help when I'm not impressed by you, then it probably wont happen...

I've PMed users on this site in IB about how to ask for help and referrals. A certain legendary Certified User that used to work in IB now PE said to let them intervene b/c they will do so if they want to help.

Opinions on this issue seem pretty divided. I'll probably never feel like there's a right answer.

Yes, I agree you shouldn't have to ask to have your resume passed along, my point was to have specific intelligent questions prepared that you actually want answered. Not just "so tell me about IB"..."how did you get into PE?" "is placement of PE good out of Rothschild?"...i feel like more specific questions that show you have done your homework will come off as more impressive. I'm not saying to ask for your resume to be passed along...

Sep 11, 2012
WallStreetOasis.com:

#4...so many times when i take a call, the kid is just going through the motions and thinks their work is done now that they are on the phone. They ask me generic questions and then expect me to offer advice or to connect them to my network.

Do yourself a favor and have specific / interesting questions that you are genuinely interested in...act human. If you go through the motions and are just waiting for me to offer help when I'm not impressed by you, then it probably wont happen...

What are some interesting questions to ask? There is only so much you can gather from a company or LinkedIn profile.

Sep 11, 2012
KKS:
WallStreetOasis.com:

#4...so many times when i take a call, the kid is just going through the motions and thinks their work is done now that they are on the phone. They ask me generic questions and then expect me to offer advice or to connect them to my network.

Do yourself a favor and have specific / interesting questions that you are genuinely interested in...act human. If you go through the motions and are just waiting for me to offer help when I'm not impressed by you, then it probably wont happen...

What are some interesting questions to ask? There is only so much you can gather from a company or LinkedIn profile.

That's true, it's not easy -- but if you can explain more about your background and not ask generic questions about the industry I think overall you come across better.

Sep 12, 2012

Screw that noise about not asking for contacts -- why not ask, but most of the time you don't have to. Unless you have not prepared, or the person is a legitimate asshat (not often) they will have people for you to contact.

The informational interview is a venue to gather information on both sides.

I see it this way: Either they have a position, know about a position, or have friends who work in an area or for a firm that can use your particular skill set. Otherwise why waste their 30 mins or whatever time to talk to you.

In the beginning of doing these meetings I sat back and let them run the show, that shit does not work, especially if (and is most likely the case otherwise it would be an actual interview -- they don't have a job opening) it just stalls if you do not instigate the proceedings.

If you know your story cold, can give them the elevator spiel, and have actual experience to discuss, or know something about the projects/deals they are doing, or are in their space, that's fodder.

You have to assume they A) Did not read your resume and B) Have not spent 1 millisecond thinking of ways to help you out before the meeting.

When you engage in a meaningful conversation about what it is you do they will only then start to think of how they can use you themselves, or who of their friends can use you.

That's how I create value in these meetings.

An additional thought:
Following up and securing the interview. Call. Call again. Shame them into calling you back. Make sure you ask first, but use the name of the person who referred you. They always like to ask how you know that person. If it is a person that I have been referred to speak with, I look at it like this: If I do not have a conversation with someone they recommended me to speak with, then I have wasted their time in speaking with me. Seeing it as my duty to follow up is the necessary factor for me to put aside the "I don't want to be a bother" mentality.

Sep 18, 2012
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