Coffee meeting gone wrong - Can I bounce back?

brown.gekko's picture
Rank: Monkey | 31

Hi monkeys,

I met up with an MD at a BB for coffee today and it didn't really go well. Some preface: this was my first time meeting someone above an analyst in the industry so the nerves were definitely a factor in this.

We meet up and its going great but then I essentially blank out when he asks me why Investment Banking. I had a whole response written out prior about why I chose to study finance, why my background led me to where I am and where I want to go. That all went out the window and I said some shit about client interactions. I think. Anyways it went down hill from here. He followed that up with a question on whether I like chess or blackjack more. I played blackjack last weekend so I went with that without much hesitation. He said no wrong answers but boy I was wrong. He then went on for around 5 minutes on why an Investment Banker would pick chess. Whoops. So the conversation wasn't really the best and he suggested I apply to more than just his BB and to not forget about middle market and boutique firms. Also he highly stressed I should apply to junior analyst programs upon graduation as I come from a non target and its my best bet in.

How do you all feel this went and how should I try to recover from my mess ups?

Comments (58)

Jul 13, 2017

Just follow up with a thank you email and ask if there are any colleagues or alums he would recommend you reach out to.

That's about all you can do. Chances are he won't remember the bad parts and the more chances you have to get somebody else to stand up for you if he makes a stink about it the better.

Jul 13, 2017

Do you think its worth trying to be honest and explain my nerves and include what I would've said had I not panicked?

Jul 13, 2017
brown.gekko:

Do you think its worth trying to be honest and explain my nerves and include what I would've said had I not panicked?

Might not be the best move to admit you panicked in what should be a low stress situation when you're expected to be precise/put togethered in actual high stress situations. I'd just move on tbh

    • 3
Jul 13, 2017

No - if he sees some long email he likely won't read it. If you send like 5 sentences that is probably all he can handle.

Jul 13, 2017

Like all the other answers on here: don't sweat it. It's obviously hard to accept when you're the one in your position, but getting coffee with you was probably what he did for 20 minutes instead of reading ESPN and he doesn't remember much about it. It's way more important in your mind than his. As long as you didn't throw up on his tie, you're probably good.

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Jul 13, 2017

Agree with this / what a douche pretending that your preference of board games matters. Don't sweat it.

    • 1
Jul 13, 2017

Probably a no go with this MD and the bank - not sure why the hell he lectured you about chess/checkers...who the F*ck cares.

    • 9
    • 1
Jul 13, 2017

Lol such a weird thing to bring up. I guess it sort of makes sense because Chess requires skill and thought, but with blackjack you can count cards too... so bizarre

Jul 13, 2017
Howard Hughes:

Lol such a weird thing to bring up. I guess it sort of makes sense because Chess requires skill and thought, but with blackjack you can count cards too... so bizarre

Was on the chess team, 2 people who don't know much about the game--> requires skill and thought
2 high level competitive players --> requires skill and thought
average shitty competitive player --> memorizing as many famous chess games/books as possible and regurgitating the moves

    • 1
Jul 14, 2017

I would've said blackjack in a heartbeat too, ** because I like it more than chess. ** Thinking about every hobby you have at a deeper level (does it require mental skills? What's the alternative "smarter hobby?") just to satisfy someone else is ridiculous.

    • 2
Jul 13, 2017

I think his motive was to figure out if I had the right kind of personality for IB. He first asked what I do for fun, one of the things I said was board games and the rest you know.

Jul 14, 2017

Just a guess here, but maybe he used this question as a way to illustrate the difference between banking and, say, trading. Since brown.gekko mentioned he went blank when asked "Why investment banking," the MD probably wanted to give an example of what differentiates IB from other areas of finance.

    • 2
Jul 15, 2017

lol blackjack would be banking (highly repetitive work, low intellectual demands, grinding to get good) and chess would be trading

Best Response
Jul 14, 2017

It's a behavioral/informational interview, guys...no shit the MD is going to have something prepackaged like this that is nonetheless a decent metric of how people think. I highly doubt OP's answer to the chess question did him in...

That being said, blackjack is a deterministic game where the player exerts zero agency on their odds of winning aside from counting cards/understanding combinatoric statistics. Every move is a simple odds calculation - that's it.

Chess is a game that involves recognizing and knowing the strengths/weaknesses in your opponent's strategy, being able to juggle lots of interrelated loose ends, set traps, capitalize on structure of the piece deployments, understand where and how this game was played before, and by whom, and to do all of this while sticking to a time limit.

It's a pretty fucking obvious question to answer correctly if you've ever played chess and blackjack. Probably even if you only have a passing knowledge of the two games.

If you haven't heard of chess or blackjack, what the fuck is wrong with you?

Also, for anyone thinking that the correct answer to this question has to do with something two-dimensional like which has the better odds of a victory, do you really think the MD gives much of a shit about your theorization re: the odds?

For anyone thinking the correct answer has to do with what you actually like to do in your spare time, do you think the MD gives a shit about this?

Clearly a not-so-subtle "how do you like to think?" sort of question.

Jul 14, 2017

Finally someone who gets it.

    • 1
Jul 15, 2017

Both are games that can be played by children. Who the fuck cares? This self righteous behavior is common in people with authority. Verbal diarrhea and petty.

    • 1
    • 1
Jul 18, 2017

sometimes people just to talk and be listened to :-)

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Jul 13, 2017

You dodged a bullet. But yeah, like @George_Banker said, follow up and ask for contacts.

Jul 13, 2017
brown.gekko:

Hi monkeys,

I met up with an MD at a BB for coffee today and it didn't really go well. Some preface: this was my first time meeting someone above an analyst in the industry so the nerves were definitely a factor in this.

We meet up and its going great but then I essentially blank out when he asks me why Investment Banking. I had a whole response written out prior about why I chose to study finance, why my background led me to where I am and where I want to go. That all went out the window and I said some shit about client interactions. I think. Anyways it went down hill from here. He followed that up with a question on whether I like chess or blackjack more. I played blackjack last weekend so I went with that without much hesitation. He said no wrong answers but boy I was wrong. He then went on for around 5 minutes on why an Investment Banker would pick chess. Whoops. So the conversation wasn't really the best and he suggested I apply to more than just his BB and to not forget about middle market and boutique firms. Also he highly stressed I should apply to junior analyst programs upon graduation as I come from a non target and its my best bet in.

How do you all feel this went and how should I try to recover from my mess ups?

Did he say what banks offered junior analyst programs? Thought that was just JPM

    • 1
    • 2
Jul 13, 2017

You're lucky he didn't just get up and leave... The fact that you couldn't hold your own with an MD in a casual setting says a lot about how you would perform in an interview...

    • 2
    • 4
Jul 14, 2017
UnambiguousTrader:

The fact that you couldn't hold your own with an MD in a casual setting says a lot about how you would perform in an interview...

Too true

Jul 13, 2017

Judging someone's ability to perform the job based on an answer to chess vs blackjack is such a poor way of interviewing. Unfortunately happens more often than not.

    • 1
Jul 13, 2017

It might not be as bad as you think. If this was through your father, then this was clearly a favor because your father holds some weight and your father's personal relationship could outweigh whatever you said during the interview. I would just send your thank you note and close the loop properly.

Jul 14, 2017

A little tip, just halfway in topic.
I've noticed a lot of finance executive during interviews have no problem at all with beginning a sentence, then dropping it after a few words and then start again with a new sentence.
It might sound odd as technique but I've noticed in situations when you actually have to give a meaningful answer to a big question and you don't know what to say, this is a way to:
1) take time to think
2) but even more important stop if you are going to say something stupid and you realize it is stupid when you are in the middle of the sentence.

    • 1
Jul 14, 2017

Thanks for the last minute tip. I'm meeting with an associate VP today!

Jul 14, 2017

Quite funny despite the misfortune of the situation - I can't imagine anther industry where senior level people behave this way.
You shouldn't feel bad, why investment banking can be hard in informal conversations and of course you couldn't have had a good answer to the chess question.

Jul 14, 2017

There are a lot of fish in the sea. I wouldn't get too bent out of shape. He gave you solid advice to apply elsewhere. He was just being honest and looking out for your best interest.

It sounds like you really need to get as many chats with people as possible to develop a rapport. These are all ultimately people. They aren't going to eat you (well, most likely not. There are likely a few really sick people who have ascended the ranks).

Jul 14, 2017

Should have said neither and then gone with poker. Chess has almost been solved by AI while full-ring poker games aren't even closed to solved and human interaction/gut reads count for a lot more.

Jul 14, 2017

Do you have any shared interests with the MD? For example, if you are pretty good at golf and the MD likes golf, then ask him to play a game with you.

That way you'd be doing something in your wheel house and you can try to set a more positive tone.

    • 2
Jul 14, 2017

Don't do this. No MD is going to spend anymore time than a coffee meeting.

Asking to play golf with him is just weird.

    • 4
Jul 14, 2017

You're kidding right? That's probably a surefire way for him to recount a story to all his colleagues about how an undergrad thought inviting him to a round of golf for hours of conversation was a great move after being incredibly awkward in a 15 minute conversation.

MDs golf with C-suite execs, not undergrads.

    • 2
Jul 14, 2017

Just make sure that you sign off as "-Rain Man" in your email. Seriously though, do it. What do you have to lose at this point? It will be fucking hilarious...

    • 5
Jul 16, 2017

Holy shit. That's brilliant

Jul 14, 2017

I mean I don't think it went awful sounding but not great enough where he would be willing to bat for you? I'm guessing he mentioning don't just apply to his BB was really just true, you need to look at other places and get summer experience since you're at nontarget.

Jul 14, 2017

MD sounds full of himself (what a shocker), but his intuition was sensible in one thing...

You should have strong reasons for what you want to do in life. I don't just mean you OP, but rather every person

You shouldn't need to rehearse an answer of why you want to pursue a particular career - it should flow out of you with mad excitement, burst through your veins with thunderbolts of enthusiasm, and be so fully internalized that no thought at all is required to string together the words to answer that question. Maybe I'm exaggerating slightly, but if you actually need to rehearse the answer to such a question, then I would seriously reevaluate your future plans

Every time I've interviewed someone, my primary goal was to figure out their why. What drives them, what inspires them. Because ultimately, that's what will make the difference in the long run. All those late nights, and inconsiderate assholes, and brutal office politics, and frequent disappointments - it's not easy. And it will be very difficult to keep persevering through all of that if your only motivation is dollars and some arbitrary notion of status. You need something more, in order to be able to power through all of the challenges and struggles that await you

Sure, it's nice to hear correct answers to a bunch of technical questions that you can find in some book or canned responses to generic interview style fit nonsense that you can rehearse, but none of that ever dominated my final impression of someone. What I always look for is that offhand remark, that quirky way in which a sentence was phrased, the brief glimmer or acceleration of their voice, which gives me a small window into the inner world of their dreams

Imagine this. You get down on one knee to propose to a woman you've known for many years, and right after you pop the question, she looks straight into your eyes and asks, "Why do you want to marry me?" And you pause for a bit, and then respond, "Hold on, I just froze up. So much pressure. Let me reach into my pocket and grab my notes"

    • 11
Jul 18, 2017

Excellent advice. If you ever do any research into motivation, which it looks like you have, you'll quickly learn that people are only motivated from within, and things like money, fear of being canned, etc. either do not motivate or barely do. So "why" is the perfect question to ask and the easiest way to see if someone will both show up to work and also work their hardest (i.e. if the person is truly interested in what they do).

    • 1
    • 1
Jul 19, 2017

That's a depressing post... I do what I do because of the paycheck obviously - I am daydreaming all day at work about how to escape this meaningless job/existence. How screwed am I?

Jul 14, 2017

Get out of your head. Follow-up as if it the conversation went fine, and if you don't get the response you were after, who cares. No one bats 100. Keep up with the networking and eventually you'll nail a few informational interviews that will get you into the interview process. Practice makes perfect. Good luck!

    • 1
Jul 14, 2017

Keep your head up and keep networking. Everyone will has a slip up now and then. Also if you do send a follow up email, keep it short and simple, and then tell him fuck you blackjack is way better.

Jul 16, 2017

Shoulda told him 8D Backgammon MAGA.

Jul 16, 2017

The MD was a jerk, fortunately there are a bunch of MDs across the BBs, EBs, MMs, boutiques, send the thank you note, write it off and move on. You'll encounter plenty of assholes in this profession and most other high powered ones.

Jul 18, 2017

@brown.gekko, you've been given some excellent advice in this thread, but let me add something: just relax when you meet bankers. This MD might be twice your age and earn close to seven figures, but he's still a human being just like you are. Take a deep breath and think through what you are about to say. Once you break into IB, you will very frequently be in a situation where you have to make an important call with only a few minutes to think about it. It really helps to take a deep breath and ask "does this make sense?" before opening your mouth, hitting the send button, etc.

    • 2
Jul 23, 2017

Was going to post something very similar but then read this. totally 100% agree here, they're just people like you and me. Like you have a conversation with your friends parents, it should flow the same. He asked an interesting behavioral question, but you may have still passed the airport test.

For the future, we all know it's hard, but relax! Visualize yourself owning the interview and getting along with everyone well. Do breathing exercises to calm your nerves. Don't be fake, be yourself. One guy brought up a good point in rehearsing an answer... in terms of why, it should just come naturally and portray your desire to be part of the industry. That will shine through.

Best of luck.

Jul 18, 2017

dont sweat it OP but at the same time don't 'burn any bridges', do a thank you email as others have suggested. short and sweet. also (and i prob dont have to tell you this) do a good job in your current internship and impress your manager as well as get to know / work with the analysts, associates & VP's or MD's.

Jul 19, 2017
Comment
Jul 21, 2017