I keep getting told I'm "not technical enough." What's happening?

Cici Black's picture
Rank: Monkey | 51

I'm a post-MBA Associate at a BB bank. I've been recruiting for PE and Corp Dev (tough jump to PE, I know).

I have a corp dev offer in hand. I've also had final rounds with four different PE funds - and no offers. For all but one, I received feedback along the lines of "we are looking for someone more technical" or "someone with more technical skills."

On the one hand, this is good and helpful feedback from interviewers - it's straightforward to keep practicing models, technical questions, etc. It's all about reps. I've been trying to up my game.

On the other hand, I don't think I'm a total idiot, although I did opt for an Assoc role at a bank, so there's that... (H/S/W MBA, top BB).

I feel like I'm really close to PE and want to keep pushing for it. What's going on? Why do I keep getting this feedback (besides the obvious, that I'm not technical enough, duh)? What can I do?

Comments (39)

Jun 20, 2018

Kind of hard to determine what they mean by "technical" based off your description. If they are saying that, I would definitely brush up on my technical skills and be sure to bring them up in the interview. Also, knowing technicals isn't enough, you should practice to make sure you are explaining it correctly. For example, I know the first time I had to explain a DCF to someone in an interview, I knew how to do it, but I was really bad at explaining it in simple terms.

If you really want to PE, keep at it. Don't let 4 interviews turn you down. A company saying technicals could just be the reason they gave you. It's kind of like when you go on a date with someone, and on paper they seem like they should be a match (you find them attractive, they are fun, good job), yet it just doesn't click. At the end of they day, you might really want to work somewhere, but if it doesn't click,it doesn't click.

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Jun 20, 2018

how many years have you actually been doing IB ?

just google it...you're welcome

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Jun 20, 2018

2 years

Array

Jun 20, 2018

2 years...as an associate? What did you do before the MBA?

While 2 years is enough time that i would expect you should have learned all the technicals, and had enough time to practice them in real world applications...its still on the light side on experience. So assuming that is the case, is your problem that you aren't great at communicating that knowledge...or are you actually lacking in expertise?

just google it...you're welcome

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Jun 20, 2018

Have you done much of the technical work in banking or mostly let he analysts run with it? I've seen associates who dont spend much time in excel. If that's the issue, you should look through the M&I guides and review past models.

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Jun 20, 2018

Maybe I am literally just the world's stupidest associate ever to work at a BB bank....

Array

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Jun 21, 2018

I don't know you but I would bet $1 this is not the case.

As was mentioned before you may not be getting the real objection. It's an old saying in sales that the first objection is never the real one.

I can relate to this as for a few years now I have been trying to grow in a technical direction but it's a bit of a gamble...spend 100 hours studying something and never use it / it falls out of favor with the industry. A bit of a catch 22, because when you are working for a firm and they use system or product type 'x', they will usually just have you pull up a seat and learn it, if not send you to classes. But it seems rare beyond entry level for employers to say "This guy is smart, I'm sure he will pick up Python / Visualization Software / whatever bullshit the software pimps are peddling this year".

This bothers me because I always say to myself "If this motherfucker actually read my resume and thought about what I actually have achieved already it would be OBVIOUS that I can learn 'x'" ...but I have not found an effective way to make that point successfully....

If you can identify some software that WILL BE around (e.g. stuff in Office) and you have gaps by all means fill them. Another suggestion for the analytical type - compile 100 job listings for jobs you want and count the number of times each skill shows up. Then start at the top and work your way down.

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Jun 25, 2018

*dumbest

"one for the money two for the better green 3 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine" - M.F. Doom

Jun 21, 2018

Agree, this is an easy trap to fall into as a post-MBA assoc. I've tried not to but you have a good point. To compensate, I've been building LBOs from scratch and doing LBO / PE cases in xls in my spare time...have done dozens now.

Array

Jun 25, 2018
MMBanker14:

Have you done much of the technical work in banking or mostly let he analysts run with it? I've seen associates who dont spend much time in excel. If that's the issue, you should look through the M&I guides and review past models.

I think this is likely the case. It's clear to an interviewer if you just haven't put in the time in excel. I've seen lots of BB associates who never develop the complete technical skills package because they delegate it to the analysts, particularly if the group has strong analysts. I'd recommend on your next couple of deals that you take 100% ownership of the model, and that will get you up the curve quicker than anything.

Jun 25, 2018

Yep, good advice

Array

Jun 21, 2018

I'm pretty suprised that you are able to recruit for PE as a Post-MBA BB ASO. Are the funds you are interviewing at established funds or are they relatively new? Who are you competing against for these roles? People in bschool with pre-MBA PE experience or other Post MBA BB ASO's?

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Jun 21, 2018

@Draper Specter and Co. - you're absolutely right - it's an uphill battle and tough sell. I don't know exactly who I'm competing against, but I'd guess mostly the former (who are all "more qualified" than I in that they have prior PE exposure). As for the funds, it's been a mix in terms of size/AUM and mandate, but all are established funds, nothing in the truly upstart category.

Array

Jun 21, 2018

In my opinion, the often quoted adage that "if you're getting interviews but no offers its because your qualified but you interview poorly" doesn't really apply in a highly competitive field like banking/PE. You do not need a Phd. to be a banker nor to work in PE (you don't even need to have worked in banking to work in PE anymore as firms are recruiting directly from undergrad). As such, being "qualified" is a comparatively low bar (in this case it might just be because you went to H/S/W or work at a BB). It's ultimately up to how well you stack up against the other guys you are competing with....

In your case you are getting interviews that I am pretty shocked that you are getting given the competitiveness for Post-MBA ASO positions at established funds for people that HAVE pre-MBA PE experience. I'll caveat this by saying that you've had FOUR different final rounds so maybe my understanding of the competitive landscape for these positions is flawed. That being said, it seems unlikely that you would land one of these roles even if you were extremely technically sound.

Therefore, I think the "not technical enough" is a bullshit excuse in lieu of saying they just liked someone else better because they are more "traditional" (i.e. have pre-MBA PE experience).

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Jun 21, 2018

fwiw...i often see job ads for PE associates...looking for 3-5 yrs of experience. You might just not have enough years under your belt.

just google it...you're welcome

Jun 21, 2018

Agree - 2 years is a bit short but I have ~4Y of relevant experience pre-MBA (Big 4, not Audit or Tax). So I'm sort of in some senses past the 3-5Y mark...

Array

Jun 21, 2018

what did you do at the big 4 firm?

just google it...you're welcome

Jun 24, 2018

How are you sourcing the roles? Networking or recruiters/job boards? In my experience (I haven't recruited post MBA PE but I know some who have made the switch) people often ended up getting interviews but, in the end, lost out to more traditional candidates with analyst experience. And the "not technical enough" caveat is essentially saying they are worried you won't have the expertise of someone with that experience. The people I know who were successful overcame that by heavy heavy networking, including referrals and recommendations. They were also most successful in the LMM space, so you may try to target those firms.

Good luck.

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Jun 25, 2018

I just moved into PE as an MBA associate, having previously interviewed with and been rejected by more than two dozen firms, ranging from mega-funds to mid-market PEs. I think the difficulty boils down to 2 factors, technical skills and age.

Technicals - As you become an associate, your role becomes less modeling intensive and more deal management (think docs, process, chasing people for various deliverables). You need to spend time to get your modeling back up-to-speed (i.e. 3 hours for a full LBO from blank page with all bells and whistles and detailed top-line and cost build-up).

Age / Motivation - I have spoken to friends in industry (and been through numerous final round rejections myself) and my experience is that PE definitely prefers younger candidates. More eager to crunch numbers and endure long nights for another 2 years. I am definitely less keen on this compared to my analysts. So I would think hard about joining a firm which expects you to do this as your not really progressing professionally.

Overall competitiveness - I agree with Draper that PE recruiting is extremely extremely competitive. From what you have described your background is no where near the top (neither is mine), especially given the amount of talented analyst candidates out there. You need some sort of "wow factor" to outshine the other candidates - e.g. being particularly well-researched/knowledgeable about the industry the firm is in, making your pre-MBA experience particularly indispensable etc. So just stick at it and don't give up if PE is what you really want.

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Most Helpful
Jun 25, 2018

You're absolutely spot on. In fact I was surprised no one else brought up the "age" aspect before you on this chat. PE simply prefers candidates who are younger (this is a big, big deal) and willing to grind it out late at night for another couple yrs vs folks who may be interviewing in their late 20s/early 30s.

The other aspect is pay - and you can't disregard this. Unless you're interviewing at the large megafunds (the ones you mentioned above), there's a very, very good chance you're going to have to take a pay cut as a PE associate which is the position you will be entering the game at. This is already true for BB analysts coming into PE after a 2nd or 3rd yr as an analyst (although no one admits it on these forums or to their friends in fear of losing finance's constant dick measuring contest), and it's much more pronounced at the associate level. Unless associate comp has come down in the recent past (which I'm pretty sure it hasn't), the disparity can be meaningful.

You may not have a problem either with the hours or the pay cut, but just know that these factors definitely weigh in on the ultimate decision. You may be viewed as more of a "risk" to churn vs a pre MBA analyst, either for lifestyle or pay reasons. Unfortunately there are just too many well-trained analyst monkeys vying for those spots for them to take a risk on someone at your level.

All that said, keep grinding as the other posters have said as it certainly happens. Also apply to family offices and other non-conventional outfits where there may be an important sourcing element to the role. If there's a way you can sell those capabilities, they could easily eclipse the fund's silly "technical" concerns. Good luck!

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Jun 28, 2018

Agree, that makes a lot of sense. All good points!

Array

Jun 25, 2018

I honestly wouldn't look too much into the feedback. PE interviews are just so competitive and the candidate pool is just so strong that even the best candidates may have to interview at 10+ funds to find an offer. Sample size of 4 I don't think is biggest enough to draw any conclusions.

Just note that (fair or not) you will be judged as 'less technical' then someone who did an analyst/pre-MBA PE stint

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Jun 25, 2018

This is pretty encouraging, actually. Agree that sample size of 4 isn't large....especially when you're improving with every interview you do (the first few were rough).

Array

Jun 25, 2018

I wouldn't fret too much about the feedback re the technicals. The question is how are you getting these interviews. If the answer is through headhunter/LinkedIn/company website then your odds are slim to start. PE is a small world and in all likelihood the candidate that gets hired has internal contacts at the firm or has worked with one of the other partners. Your best bet is to begin networking with your peers within these shops and develop relationships because a warm introduction will improve your odds enormously.

Jun 25, 2018

Yes, most of the interviews I've gotten have been through networking.

I did have one fund that I got in front of via a recruiter, but no offer. Most recruiters won't even talk to me....it's become such an obvious waste of time that I've all but stopped sending out resumes to jobs boards / LinkedIn / recruiters.

Array

Jun 25, 2018

Will echo some other posters.

There's
1) knowing technicals, then there's
2) knowing how to explain your knowledge of technicals

Think back to your worst professor in college. He/she is just about guaranteed to be an incredible talent in their field, but likely blows at explaining their field to others. The gap can be quite large, and just learning more isn't always the solution to the issue.

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Jun 28, 2018
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