How to Deal With Rude/Asshole/Disrespectful Interviewers?

Hey everyone,

I recently finished an informational interview where the interviewer suddenly turned a tad rude when he started asking about the education section on my resume (I'm a non-target), and started asking me "how people from a school like that ever plan on entering an industry reserved for the best of the best" and saying "I don't know about you, but I would start looking for jobs more suited for people like you and that no name school"

This caught me off guard, but I maintained a smile on my face and told him I noted the point, and tried the move the conversation to a different topic. I don't know if I'm overreacting, but this seemed to be a bit rude and targeted. Am I overreacting?

And if so, how would you recommend dealing with asshole interviewers during a live interview. Should I simply maintain a smile, tell them that what they said is a quality point, and try to move the conversation forward or?

Thoughts and help would be appreciated, thank you!

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Comments (31)

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2021 - 4:42am

This is the first I'm hearing of something like this, can you elaborate please?

Also, I don't think he was, because this wasn't a 5 second tidbit - the entirety of the rest of the conversation went along these lines.

Aug 31, 2021 - 1:39pm

He was probably being a dick, but to the previous comment it is possible that he took this approach to test how you'd react under a situation like that, how you remain calm and poised, how you get the convo back on track, etc. It actually isn't a terrible strategy if that was the intention. You wouldn't believe how much BS you take from clients, how much they try to call you out or trip you up or put you down, so asking a BS question like that in an interview is actually a good way to test how you handle yourself in an unpleasant pressure situation like that. But realistically he was just being a dick, you have to take it in the interview room, and then you just walk away from them because you don't want to work at a place like that and put up with BS like that every day.

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  • Intern in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2021 - 5:22am

This interviewer guy is obviously delusional and thinks he's some kind of Albert Einstein for believing that the industry is only for "the best of the best". His most important skill is probably overinflating DCF projections and providing comments about logo's being aligned in the middle rather than to the left.

All jokes aside, if you dont get invited for a follow up interview, write an anonymous complaint about this to HR/seniors/even CEO outlining how this person treated you, that you felt he was abusive or discriminated you because you are from a lower/middle class. If this guy has treated you like this, he's definitely done this to others. People in this business understand how important PR is these days. Nobody wants insecure narcissists such as your interviewer working for them and ruining their name. Chances are he'll get warned/first strike or maybe even out on his ass if he's done this before. All this may not get you an offer from this firm, but it sure as hell will feel good.

I've been in a situation like yours, non target, no experience and was looked down upon for every internship that I applied to, untill I was finally given an opportunity thanks to an awesome interviewer for a lmm pe firm, which I then converted into a MM IB intership then leveraged those two internships to get a BB IBD offer. Remember not to give up, all you need is to get your foot in the door, and internships will become easier to land after that. Make sure to keep your head up, continue to apply as much as you can, roll your dices and you will land that first gig. Best of luck!

  • Associate 1 in HF - Other
Aug 29, 2021 - 10:21am

He might had an unpleasant experience from your school alumni in the past. Seems personal and vindictive.

Could be your nontarget school alumni interviewing him back in the day when he was applying for jobs/internships and taking a jab at his background, like "Wow I didn't know people from [Target school] can't answer this simple XYZ question".

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Aug 29, 2021 - 10:46am

1) (It's stupid but) It could be a test to see how willing you are to overcome adversity to get the job. For example, maybe they were doing it so you'd have to really sell yourself and convince them you know you are the best of the best, while not being defensive or offended by the statement. I completely disagree with doing it in this manner, but could be a tactic and I've had something similar happen to me before. In a live setting, let your confidence shine through and offer evidence against the point. For example, if they say something bad about your school, point towards something else amazing that you've done and argue that the example is even more important for being successful in the job. However, do not say the statement is a quality point - it's BS. You can say, I realize my school may not be the best, BUT..... Then, after you sell yourself, just move on with the conversation. Bankers will like people with self confidence. 

2) I wouldn't want to work with someone like this, so you could: i) progress with recruiting and hope you don't have to work with them, ii) recruit, get the offer, and reject it citing the person that made the statement iii) withdraw your application citing why. If I were you, I'd continue recruiting so long as you don't need to work with them.

Aug 30, 2021 - 6:59am

I'm willing to bet that this guy is either very early in his career and hasn't seen the multitude of different ways people end up getting into finance gigs. You'd be amazed at some of the moves that are made at the later stages of a person's career. You'd also be amazed how much money can be made outside of banking for way less effort. Respect to the guy for being successful in taking the conventional route when most fail to do so, but he sounds pretty clueless when it comes to ways of doing things outside of his own narrow focus.

If he's VP level or higher, he's a complete clown.

Most Helpful
Aug 30, 2021 - 8:21am

I did an informational interview with a business connection of my father, and to this day I remember the shitstain of a person this guy was. opened up by talking about how he went to harvard for UG and HBS and did investment banking and how someone with my background could never make it in finance, saying things like "I guess you could TRY and get into a good school, but I don't know how much that would help." I've not tried to get into business school and made partner within 5y of becoming client facing.

then, someone I did admin work for before becoming client facing told me to my face during my year end review (after I mentioned I'd like to explore growth opportunities within the team and wondered what thoughts they had) that she saw no future in the industry for me. she's been in the business twice as long as I have and I make more than double what she does now, she got kicked out of our firm for lack of production.

OP, you will encounter douchebags in life. they are equally represented in all ages, races, genders, religions, and backgrounds (yes there are douchey buddhists). the best thing you can do is what us sales guys tell ourselves when a prospect says "fuck off," is that every no is one step closer to a yes. so don't sweat the small stuff, keep focusing on doing the right stuff consistently and repeatedly, and with diligence plus some luck, you should find your way.

and rather than conversing with them ever again, kill them with kindness and always remember that living well is the best revenge

  • Intern in PE - LBOs
Aug 30, 2021 - 9:47am

I had the exact same thing happen to me in an interview once, and they ended up giving me the internship offer anyway.  I do think it might be a psychological thing wherein interviewers try to see how you react under pressure, but that doesn't make it any less of an insulting statement.  As someone else mentioned, keep your head up, OP; you would be surprised just how many people are successful in finance beyond the traditional target school background.

Aug 30, 2021 - 12:27pm

Okay so yes the interviewer was an asshole.

I think you handled it well.  I think you can handle it even better if you are more prepared for this sort of objection in an interview next time. 

When people see my resume, they see The University of Illinois and Princeton. (There was also five years of work experience between undergrad and grad school.)  I tell folks that I went to the best damn school in the country-- UIUC.

There is a gentle point to be made here about having a diversity of backgrounds coming at the same idea.  And you're not going to get that strictly hiring from H/S/W.  Google doesn't hire strictly or even a majority from H/S/W either, and they hire the best of the best.  Same with NASA.  Same with many of the hedge funds and prop shops.  So perhaps there is a very gentle point to make here that the best firms hire the best people, wherever they come from, and it is often the ones with insecurity issues that only hire from certain schools.  Perhaps if they're not confident that they're the best, nobody ever got fired for buying IBM and nobody ever got fired for hiring from HBS"But here is what I bring that I think you need that the Harvard kid does not have."

And as you refine the pitch, you will tone that first part down-- hopefully before your first interview, and you will flesh out and emphasize the part in bold from the last paragraph-- what you bring to the table that the template hire does not.  But that rub against them is an impetus for the thrust of your point.  Hiring only from elite schools might be a very small mark of insecurity on their part, and a lack of belief in their brand or the product that they are trying to deliver.  It tells you that, if they really believe that they should only hire from certain schools, they are worried they don't have credibility with clients or investors or whatnot, and perhaps they are a little worried that their reputation does not stand on its own.  That their brand is H/Y/P, not Lazard or Goldman or Bridgewater or whatnot.

It's a very very ginger dance that you have to make, without dumping on their preconceived notions.  Sometimes it's easier after you've worked in the industry for a little bit.

I always see that point as the opportunity to make the sale to a skeptic.  In fact, sometimes it's a test.  How good is this guy at selling stuff? 

So for example, I will talk about how UIUC outranks the Ivies in CS and Engineering and whatnot and how UIUC Engineering ought to be a target for S&T and QR and Technology internship programs.  And how it's yes, hire the MIT guy, but if you've got a room full of MIT and Stanford and Harvard guys, you need a smart guy from UIUC or Berkeley or UT Austin in there too.  At a minimum it's a stopgap against groupthink, but often the UC Berkeley or UT Austin guy has two or three questions that will result in a better answer.  

Here is the point.  You went to this school.  You have to believe in yourself to a certain extent in order to sell yourself and to get the job.  So think of something that you can offer that the template hire can't offer.  Or think of something that you're really proud of about your school that H/Y/P does not have.  And try to work that into what this particular firm either knows it needs and wants, or might not realize it needs or wants.  That's sales.  And if you can sell your non-target to some H/Y/P/S/W guy who is acting like a douche, you're probably good enough at it to find a job somewhere in finance, simply in a pure sales gig somewhere.

  • Business School in IB - Gen
Aug 31, 2021 - 1:38pm

When I was interviewing for SA out of undergrad, I had the worst interviewer I've ever had to this day (the bank shall remain nameless). I was at a target, but the interviewer, who was a second year analyst, all interview was saying I would never be in their group. He said I would never be a "cultural fit" and said he knew my type, had me pegged from my resume and LinkedIn alone. On technicals, I got them right and put in extra detail to prove myself but he kept finding some BS nit with my answers each time.

I smiled and awkwardly laughed whenever he was an asshole but I just walked out thinking I'll never work there. Shockingly, the next week they called me for a superday when everyone else turned down their offer. I had my superday, they offered me the job shortly after, and I turned it down because I had gotten another comparable offer that morning and would have only joined as a last resort. I never told them how awful the guy was, but friends who interviewed with him had the same experience. Somehow he has remained there and is on the verge of VP.

Aug 31, 2021 - 2:00pm

In my experience, the most incompetent and wanting professionals love to talk about how only certain schools prepare you for the real world when in reality an Ivy League 4.0 student likely isn't prepared.  

Unrelated, but people who tout their MBA tend to be the most overconfident and underperforming in the industry as well.  Congrats on paying six figures for a network.

  • Analyst 1 in CorpFin
Aug 31, 2021 - 3:10pm

Similar story - interviewer asked me "tell me about Michigan/Ross, I am only familiar with Wharton"...I was like, dude are you serious? Ross is at least a semi-target

  • Analyst 1 in Research - FI
Aug 31, 2021 - 3:23pm

lol, semi-target here:

interviewed for a FT on a rates desk at WF, female VP:

'talk me through your CV' 

*I did*

'do you have any experience in rates?'

'no'

'well what the FUCK are you doing here then?'

Sep 1, 2021 - 1:47am

Having been quite a while out from when I was networking as a total non-target student, I was appalled at what your interviewer said. But then I remembered my first interview in finance which was with a credit risk guy at Citi for a non-IB role and he completely let loose on me for not being from a core Citi school (ie. non-target school) and how I had no business interviewing for roles which were "reserved" for more educated folks. Honestly if people bring up and shit on your education then fuck them. They have no business commenting on that and doing so just validates their superiority complex.

After the experience I mentioned above, I went through several IB interviews as was never once questioned on the quality of my college education but rather the usual ropes IB candidates are faces with. Most people at firms worth mentioning won't treat you like shit for having gone to xyz school. Never accept that kind of behavior

  • 4
  • Intern in IB - Gen
Sep 3, 2021 - 2:51am

Acknowledge it, but then respond with something that highlights your accomplishments/qualifications. Also, this is why I'd recommend reaching out to senior bankers who went to non-targets for undergrad. Some of the best bankers went to random undergrad schools. If they like you and put in a good word, 99% of people won't say shit to you and it helps so much with getting an offer. Similar situation happened to me with a few analysts all at the same bank. 

Sep 3, 2021 - 8:20am

Good job. You played it right.  Clearly if way too many people are assholes at that company, then maybe cross it off your list (or take the job if it's your only option and put in your 2 years knowing its a platform to spring elsewhere).  But just remember in life you're going to face assholes anywhere you go. It's an unfortunate reality.  Politics can get way worse once you move up, so try to keep a thick skin and make people like you... it's always a good thing when even the assholes say "yea, but he's a pretty cool guy".... As long as you also keep people in check if they threaten you when you're higher up.

Sep 3, 2021 - 1:28pm

douche for sure, even if he was trying to test how you would react. If I was in that situation, I would probably respond something along the lines of how there are people who never finished school and dropped out to start their own industries and are making multiples of what your entire team would ever would. Then after that, wait a couple seconds to see his reaction then hang up. Turn the table back on him!

Sep 4, 2021 - 2:42pm

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