How did you manage to forgive yourself?

I had the most important interview of my life (GS/JPM/MS) and I dedicated my everything to the preparation of this interview. I did like 8 mock interviews and prepped for every possible thing I could think of. However, unfortunately, I believe I messed up the first interview (there were 3 in total, the other two went very well though).

This has really been plaguing me as the outcome of this interview will really change my career trajectory and life forever and I somehow can't forgive myself even though I did everything within my power to prepare. So, I wanted to ask you, how did you guys manage to forgive yourselves for major mistakes?

Thank you very much for your time!

Comments (43)

  • Intern in IB - Restr
Jul 5, 2022 - 12:10pm

Honest answer, which many will not like. Think about what went wrong, and fix it. You did everything in your power to prepare, but now you have to move on. Thinking about what you could've done differently in the situation will not change anything. It's learning from your situation and applying it to the next interview that will inevitably get you that offer!

Jul 5, 2022 - 12:10pm
rabbit, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You can wallow in the misery of your mistakes or you can take them as powerful lessons on how to be better. Sometimes it's just a lesson on getting back up on that horse and moving forward. Life has its ups and downs man, and everyone makes mistakes.

IMO the most important lessons from failure or "misses" is to learn to move past them in a healthy way. You'll screw up at interviews and lose opportunities that may have changed your life, you'll say stupid shit and drive off men/women you have incredible chemistry with etc. etc. Regret is a powerful thing, not in a good way. I try to just live in the now and look forward.

Most Helpful
  • Associate 1 in CorpDev
Jul 5, 2022 - 12:36pm

Sounds like you're new to failure. No judgement here, everyone fails for the first time at something significant at a different point in their life. The biggest thing is to accept a mistake and call a spade a spade. You prepared hard, worked hard, but things did not go as planned. Be proud of yourself for working hard and putting in the time to correctly prepare. Acknowledge that life is all about growth, and that whatever mistake you made, you will not make again.

A similar opportunity will come along again. As long as you learn from your mistake, you'll be better positioned to succeed next time. 

Failure is critical in life. The best thing I did for myself was reach a point where failure hardly slowed me down. It stopped impacting my motivation because I had simply failed so many times, and I was just proud that I tried my hardest. When I stopped feeling disheartened by failure is when I pushed myself the hardest and achieved things I thought impossible. 

Edit: This goes far beyond career development. I apply this approach to EVERYTHING I care about. Working out, my passions, chasing girls, and of course, career development. Pushing yourself beyond what you thought possible is where life gets exciting. 

Jul 5, 2022 - 2:34pm
Venturepapi, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is gold and you should print it off and revisit it. 

The one other thing I'll add is don't let this "failure" define you. The best thing you can do is to get back on the horse as fast as you can and don't wallow on defeat. A careers a marathon and not a sprint. This mess up / miss (however defined in your mind), is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. 

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 6, 2022 - 12:28pm

Your story and take on failure (being proud that you tried the hardest) were incredibly inspiring to me. Really, thank you very much for being so kind to take so much time to encourage a stranger on a forum. Really appreciate it and congrats on all your success!

  • Associate 1 in CorpDev
Jul 7, 2022 - 7:44am

Glad to hear it, and I think it is especially important to realize failing is ok, particularly when you're in college. 

Did you overload your class schedule? Try to interview for too many positions at once? Somehow outkick your coverage and land a HF internship interview? Did you fail at all of these at the same time? Then good for you. This means you are challenging yourself, and adjusting your expectations for yourself upward. 

I want to be explicitly clear that my odds of making it in finance were around 1%. I was an underperformer academically and thought the one thing I was good at was math, until I was placed into the slow math group. I graduated late, I got a sub 3.5 GPA, I bombed an important class related to my major. But I never quite gave up. I just kept trying to be better. I made mistakes. Thousands if not tens of thousands. This is what you are supposed to do when you are young. So long as you learn from them, you are growing from your mistakes. 

In college, a blown interview feels like the end of the world. I told myself at least 20 times, "Wow, that was my one shot at XYZ role. I cant believe I didnt prep hard enough / came off too nervous / didnt do enough company prep work." For some of those roles, it was true, I never got another chance. But you know what? I found something else I was actually better suited for, something else I was equally as proud of, and possibly even liked more. 

Whatever you do, dont let mistakes or failures in college define you. If you can stay positive now, persist through tougher times, and keep hustling, that mindset will stay with you all your life. 

I am not the rockstar prodigy on my team, I am far from the sharpest guy here. However, I am pulling my own weight in a role I truly never thought I would make it into. And the biggest thing, is that I am happy and still shooting for more :) 

Jul 5, 2022 - 1:13pm
apetrynamakeit, what's your opinion? Comment below:

As others have said, use this opportunity to pick yourself up and keep moving forward. It sucks and I'm sorry that you messed up. But use it to fix your mistakes and land something else.

You're not alone in this boat btw. I'm sure everyone on here has failed a TON of interviews before they landed their job. It's just the nature of the industry. I fucked up so many interviews before I landed my current role. I didn't land a SA internship I wanted, even after a ton of work. Was a very defeating experience. But I focused my energy and was able to land an amazing FT offer. During OCR, I fucked up at the first place I interviewed and remember feeling so defeated/worthless and wanting to cry as I was ubering home at 2am. So in the next interview I honed in on the things I messed up and was able to land my dream MF role.

Point being is that a lot of people on this forum can relate to what you are feeling - pick yourself up, practice what you messed up, and things will eventually work out if you keep at it. You got this!:)

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 6, 2022 - 12:24pm

Thank you very much! Your story was very inspiring to me and congrats on the FT offer!! Truly appreciate the time you took to encourage me.

Jul 5, 2022 - 2:09pm
Green_Zeus, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Learn from your mistakes and avoid them in the future. There is are two binary logic loops I use: 

Did you do your best?

1. No - you did not really want it

2. Yes - there is no regret and let's grow to excel the next one

Same for mistakes. Could it have been avoided?

1. Yes - it was just bad luck and pressure 

2. No - big deal, learn from it. Now you are a better person than you were

In many cases, interviews are hit or miss and it is a numbers game. I've failed many last rounds after lengthy case studies. Sometimes it came down to one or two wrong answers or a misspelled word. Failed one final round in S&T due to internet failure lol (Gotta miss COVID processes)

Sometimes you just gotta carry on and the only way forward is to not dwell in the past

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 6, 2022 - 12:22pm

I'm very sorry about that internet failure man! Really appreciate your take, thank you very much!

Jul 5, 2022 - 2:56pm
Sharky286, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You can't control outside events but you can control your perception of them. And you can never really know if something you consider to be bad is actually bad. I'm not telling you to see this as a positive. I'm telling you to be emotionally uninvested. Have a positive outlook on life. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

Jul 5, 2022 - 3:04pm
TimesNewMoney, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Don't catastrophize. You missed on one IB interview, who gives a shit, that's part of the grind, you aren't going to have a 100% interview success rate. Keep on trucking, if you can get an interview at GS/MS/JPM, you can get an interview anywhere. 

Realistically speaking the bank you do your initial stint at in your early 20s isn't going to determine your life outcome. At the junior level, sure it'll help you get ahead and maybe find a better PE gig easier than MM banks, but in the long-haul your talent and drive is going to dictate how far you get as a senior banker/investor. A hard worker with a ton of drive, talent and willingness to learn who starts out at MM is going to earn more over his lifetime and end up in a better position than a lazy, unmotivated analyst at GS who simply got a lucky break that other candidates didn't. 

Don't believe me? Go to your nearest country club or luxury condo building and observe how many millionaires exist that didn't start out as an Analyst at GS

  • Associate 2 in IB - Cov
Jul 6, 2022 - 3:03pm

as someone who has had some pretty big accomplishments in sports/military/business, and also some big failures I can tell you that just eventually forget about it

like for a couple days/weeks/even months (if its that big of a failure), you will be "haunted" by it.   but eventually you just forget it mostly and move on.

Look at Mitt Romney, guy lost the presidential election when he had a legit chance of winning seeing as Obama got obliterated in the midterms prior, and he was on the record that the failure of it all REALLY REALLY hurt.

now he's one of the most influential senators (for better or worse depending how you feel about him).  he bounced back

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 7, 2022 - 4:51pm

Thank you very much for taking the time to comment and help me out! That is indeed a brilliant example, I really appreciate your input and that stellar example!

Moreover, since you were so kind to allude to your many successes (and failures), is there any general advice you'd give to me as a student looking to work in IB? It's a very open question but I phrased it in such an open way because I thought your very broad experience might allow me and some fellow WSOlers cut our learning curve :)

Again, really, it means so much to me that you care to help and encourage me as a stranger on a forum.

  • Incoming Analyst in AM - Equities
Jul 6, 2022 - 3:39pm

I felt the same thing when I got denied from GS after my SuperDay last year. I wish everyone knew they accepted 1.5% of their applications last year for SA22. Please do not be hard on yourself. Thats a 1/3rd of Harvard's acceptance rate.

It'll all work out in its own way. Don't be too hard on yourself. I know thats hard on this forum because you are talking to the top of the top of this industry and moreover some of top 5-7% of the workforce out of undergrad.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 7, 2022 - 4:55pm

Thank you very much for being so kind to comment on my thread. Really great points with the acceptance rate and the workforce sample within WSO. Just to learn, what would you say you were some of your biggest insights from your interview experience?

Again, I really appreciate your help!

Jul 6, 2022 - 6:47pm
Sequoia, what's your opinion? Comment below:

"This has really been plaguing me as the outcome of this interview will really change my career trajectory and life forever"

You're right, this has changed your career trajectory and life forever. I have 0 doubt about that. What's bothering you is that you feel this changed your life for the negative, which I'm here to tell you is almost never the case.

Let me tell you my own story. Interned at a low-end BB IB and didn't get a return offer. Felt horrible but I came to realize I never actually liked IB, just the 'prestige' that young kids often associate with it. After graduating I found a seat as an associate at a top AM, have since been promoted once and am on track to get promoted again at some point. I work 50hrs a week now (vs. 70-90hrs in IB) and really enjoy what I do. You know what happened to the group I was interning with in that BB IB? Most of them ended up getting canned / pushed out in the ensuing years due to poor dealflow. It was all for the best, if I'd gotten a return offer I might've rejected this amazing opportunity at this AM as at the time I thought IB was the way & was hoping to enter the HF world (which at this point I'm convinced is NOT for me).

Likewise, if you talk to professionals in their 40s and beyond most have these kinds of rejections but tend to be quite happy with how things worked out for them in the long run. So I'd say, realize that things didn't work out but there are amazing opportunities around the corner -- my guess is if you remember this post a decade or two from now, you'll be laughing at yourself just realizing how good things are. Best of luck 

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 7, 2022 - 5:00pm

Hi Sequoia,

I really appreciate you taking the time to share your story and I'm very happy to hear about you having found your dream role!

Just out of curiosity and to better direct my own career path, what is it that makes you enjoy your role so much?

Thank you very much for your time and insights!

Jul 8, 2022 - 9:55am
Sequoia, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Well what do you enjoy? I'm a extroverted introvert. Like spending time with people but I love spending time by myself thinking & learning, which a research role is perfect for. Love diving into the nuts and bolts of a company & thinking long-term, especially love the search for that elusive insight on a great company. 

Are you extroverted / like sales? Lots of sales roles out there in IM, or even IR roles

Do you like the deal process? PE / Growth Equity could be for you, or even Corp Dev

Love speaking with entreprenuers, maybe not so research driven? VC perhaps

Want a 9-5 that isn't too stressful? Corp fin could be great (along with IR)

Really depends on what you enjoy & what you're willing to tollerate for the incremental dollar 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jul 7, 2022 - 3:52pm

I got laughed at the end of a PJT interview (zoom).

I took me a while, but I got over it.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jul 8, 2022 - 7:37am

Banks for of assholes

  • Associate 2 in PE - Growth
Jul 7, 2022 - 4:31pm

Read one of the top posts about a guy getting the shits from a food stand burrito during a super day-it happens and it really isn't that big a deal in the scheme of things.

Look, the truth is life has a lot of luck and trends over time eventually become pretty apparent versus single screw ups and failures. The easiest observation for me has been many of my friends in college who partied and got subpar grades, got jobs in finance at large companies or big 4, lateraled to mm banks, and now work in PE. When you are young you overestimate how much a single year or job matters and it seems like everyone is in a race to progress in their career, constantly measuring in terms of years; however, right around your 30's or late 20's opportunities become much less linear. As a result, whether you become a VP in PE at 28 or 30 no one cares and in the scheme of your life, you won't care either. 

In some sense this is a defining moment for you though, you need to determine how you will respond. Will you let this affect your confidence and view yourself as a failure or will you think about where you could improve and redouble your effort to find opportunities that could make sense for your future. Further, as others mentioned, the age old saying of, "when one door closes, another opens" is cliche, but often true. There is no way to know in the long run how not getting the role will impact you-it could be this allows you to find a field that you are better suited for or one where you make more money and are more fulfilled in the long run. 

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 7, 2022 - 5:11pm

Just wanted to say that I really appreciate your post. Especially the points you made about trends and what you'll care about in the grand scheme of things really resonated with me. Also, the example of your friends was truly motivating and really evinced your point about the grand scheme of things. I truly appreciate that you took the time to help me out despite being on such a demanding schedule.

Your answer really sparked my interest so I thought I'd ask, is there any general interview advice you'd give?

Thank you very much for your help.

  • Associate 2 in PE - Growth
Jul 7, 2022 - 10:58pm

Yeah, I'll give a few pointers, reposting from another thread:

Generally prospects overemphasize technicals. Most people don't get an offer not due to technicals, but their story being not great. I knocked way more people for behavioral questions than technicals.

Key things most people flub or give crap answers to:

  • Why you want to work in IB
  • What people actually do in IB
  • Why that specific bank is where you want to work 
  • How your story makes you unique and someone people want to work with

It sounds simple, but I almost never got cohesive confident answers to the above. Those that did, always seemed on another level to me, eventually setting up a halo effect for the whole rest of the interview on how they are perceived. It's also why I was able to get away with such little prep when I got a job in IB-I had a unique life story, very concrete reasons for entering the role, was very targeted with my outreach, and was likeable. Numerous times when I was on the other side of the table interviewing and selecting, MD's or D's would say, "how did x do on technicals? I liked them." If the answer wasn't he/ she shit the bed, that kids getting an offer. Pretty confident I was one of those kids. What I said just made sense and people trusted I wasn't giving manufactured answers, I had done independent research and concluded this was the right role for me and I was a confident competent person they could trust in a fire drill. They were right and my reputation in business has always been someone very sharp and on their shit. Just as an example: 

If you sound like you just sorta want a banking role because it will make you "learn analytical skills and operate in a fast pace environment" and you crush technicals, it often will go way less well than a kid who does alright on technicals and says, "I want to learn how to sell businesses, I worked at x internship and learned how investment banks teach people how to model the financials and operating of a business and also how to properly frame what makes companies unique. Truthfully, I don't really know what I will do the rest of my life, but based on people I've talked to whether I want to be an entrepreneur, invest, or be a banker, I think understanding the transaction process and how to model and fundraise and sell companies will be very important. I also think based on my past intense experience in x and being the sort of person that is all or nothing, I really am excited to dive in and learn, even if it's as painful as some people say." 

One looks like a canned robot, the other looks like a kid who is an honest, hardworker doing the role for the right reasons.

So in summary on the above, you differentiate through having a cohesive mature story and being likeable, not technicals. Ultimately though, even with telling a great story and doing everything right, interviewing can be random and you need to accept it is a crap shoot/ a numbers game. You could end up with an interviewer who hates you for no reason or someone who is especially tired and as a result doesn't vouch for you meanwhile someone else got interviewed by a person who loudly bangs the table to get the person hired. Good luck!

  • Quant in Research - Other
Jul 7, 2022 - 11:11pm

I got rejected by MS IBD super day back then. I was sad for a month. No reasons could convince me to not be sad because have an offer is always better than having no offer.

Looking back, it is one of the best thing happened to me. I choose another path and KEEP WORKING HARD and now I am suddenly at the top firm with the smartest people ever.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 13, 2022 - 2:59pm


Thank you so much for sharing this! Wow, crazy to think that you ended up on a way better path considering it was MS.

Congrats on your success and thank you very much for helping me out!

I'm very sorry for the follow up question, but how did you manage to get back your focus and not be sad anymore?

Jul 8, 2022 - 12:11am
arbjunkie, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I went to final rounds with all the top banks. GS, EVR, etc. Made it to the superday with every bank I interviewed with. And then one by one got cut at them, and snuck into a lower tier BB off the waitlist.

Then didn't get a return at that BB when I made a stupid mistake or two.

Ended up going MBB full time - and the reason I did IB instead of consulting in the first place was that I thought I would have better odds in finance. Sometimes your failures lead you somewhere better than you would have been without them.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 13, 2022 - 2:56pm

Congrats on your success, that's an incredibly impressive comeback! I really admire you for persisting despite these challenges. Wow.

Thank you so much for helping me and sharing your story!

Just out of curiosity, how did it feel once you made it to MBB?

Jul 8, 2022 - 3:45am
boristhegreat, what's your opinion? Comment below:

As a physician, I failed many times in life that I stopped counting. Also, my mentors continuously fail somewhere. Everyone is failing constantly at something, it's just that some people are better that other at hiding failure. The critical thing to recognize is that failure is a concept that is built inside your head, you've internalized it through your parents. Life is about failing and continue going. We all will fail, lose everything we love, lose everything we have, and die. Life is really to short to think much about failure.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jul 8, 2022 - 8:45am

Relax, don't over stress. It's just a job, just an interview. You may not see it now but in a few years you won't ever remember this. Nobody cares whether you go to JPM or BAML or Citi or Lazard

Jul 8, 2022 - 10:50am
DeltaDecay, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 13, 2022 - 2:51pm

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