How to get a job over equally qualified (or even MORE qualified) applicants

Want to know how to beat the competition in recruiting? How to get a job hundreds of people are vying for?

Good, you're in the right spot.

What I am about to lay out isn't going to get you the job if you aren't qualified. But it IS going to help you get the job if you are qualified, by giving you an edge over every other qualified applicant in the running.

This is about the psychology of an interview and how to make an incredible impression.

First, a disclaimer: this article is not about technicals. There is no advice below about how to do a DCF, case interview, or brain teaser.

There are so many articles, guides, and coaches dedicated to that topic, it would be a waste of your time to rehash that here. If you want help with your technicals, I highly recommend getting interview guides. WSO has some, Vault has some. Make sure you understand what kind of questions to anticipate.

Nail the technicals, that's step one. No bones about it, if you can't interview without botching your technicals, you need to study up. mock interview and practice your answers out loud.

But for most jobs, including investment banking, they don't hire the

most technically impressive person. Seriously, they don't.

The job isn't actually that hard, it's mostly simple algorithms. It's a completely doable job.

And for each individual spot at a top investment bank, there are a hundred completely qualified applicants with great resumes who understand finance math, know Microsoft Office, and can do algebra.

Think about it from your interviewer's point of view.

Your interviewer determines your fate, so it's worth taking the time to really think about the process from their point of view.

He/She is going to make a decision about you based on your time together. Maybe they will rank you or score you numerically, maybe they just get to decide hire or not hire. Either way, it's subjective. Your fate is 100% tied to their impression of you. Not how smart you actually are. Not how good you would be at the job. THEIR impression of those things.

They are screening for a person that is "above the bar" capable and after that they pick who they like, who they think will be a good worker and good to work with, and who they want around the office every day.

So the question is, how do I make it clear that I'm that person?

I'm going to break this down into three parts: body language, tonality, and what to say.

Some of this advice is going to seem simple and obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many people you see during the interview process not doing these simple, yet very important things.

Body language and non-verbal communication: easy, low hanging fruit

Hold your head up, shoulders back, make eye contact, and smile. When you smile, it's not just with your teeth, it's with your eyes. Smile every time you meet someone. Smile during the interview where appropriate. You don't need to be a kiss ass, but bring a positive energy to the conversation.

Hold out your hand for a handshake right away wherever appropriate.

Sit upright in your chair, don't slouch. Not to the point of being stiff, but so that you look confident and self assured.

Gesticulate when you speak.

Not only will this make you look more confident, it will make you BE more confident. Obviously this doesn't mean put your feet up on your interviewer's desk, but it does mean strike the Wonder Woman beforehand.

Tone / Delivery

Be positive.

Be nice to everyone in the office, not just the interviewers. The interview doesn't start and stop when you are being interviewed, it's the entire time you are in the office. Too many times I have seen someone perform well in an interview and then blow it by being a dick to someone they don't think matters. Take this life lesson with you into the job as well.

Avoid at all costs an arrogant or condescending tone.

Don't sound like a recording. This doesn't mean don't practice your answers. It means practice until you have unconscious competence. Get to the point where you don't have to think about what you want to say, because you've said it out loud so many times you know without knowing the exact words that you'll hit all the key points.

The Actual Conversation

There's pages to write about here, but I'm going to focus on just one massively important part of the interview that rarely gets much love - the part where YOU get to ask the questions.

You just nailed your technicals, came off as a good dude when giving your background, and now you've got five minutes left to really hammer home that you're the guy for the job. What is the goal?

Make them like you! Make them walk out thinking "that guy/gal seemed really good, I like him/her a lot"
When you get to ask questions, think to yourself "what kind of mood will this put the interviewer in?" "How will this make them feel?"

Ask questions that get them thinking positive things and associating them with you.


"What characteristics do you think make the best analysts? Not what makes a good candidate, but I mean what makes a great analyst once on the job"

This gets them thinking about their previous best analysts and also thinking about you in association with being already hired at the firm AND being a great analyst. Nod your head as they are talking so that they get a sense that you fit the type of analyst they are describing.

"What do you think is the best differentiator of this company/group/analyst program?"

Get them selling you.

"What is your favorite part about working here?" and "What has been the most pleasant surprise about [the firm]?"

Get them feeling good.

"Do people have the opportunity to stay on or come back if they perform well and the firm likes them?"

Get them thinking of you as someone who could stay on beyond when most people do. Also by asking, it implies that you think you will perform well enough to get the offer.

Important Note: Don't ask any negative questions, such as "what are the hours like?" or "what's your least favorite part about working here?". Save those for after you get an offer.

Will this stuff get you hired if you aren't qualified? No. But it WILL get you hired if you are qualified, over all of the other equally qualified people that are applying.


If you think posts like this are interesting, you can go here to get free early chapters of our upcoming book Charisma On Command. It will take you to the next level as an interviewer, presenter, and leader.

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Feb 18, 2014 - 4:31pm
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