Key Interview Takeaways - 2nd Year Analyst Perspective
Sitting at my desk here just waiting for things to wind down so thought I'd give back to the community and try my first long form post. I did some interviewing last year but this year I was heavily involved for both SA and FT interviews so thought I'd lay out some observations / behind the scenes commentary that can be useful for people going forward (likely for the next recruiting cycle at this point though haha).
Context: 2nd year analyst at a MM (non-NYC). Not everything should be taken as gospel here as what I look for in interviews is going to be different from what an MD is looking for, not to mention different offices, firms, etc. This feedback is just from my experience as an analyst interviewer and processes will vary from bank to bank.
Background on the process: There's usually a meet and greet with drinks / appetizers the night before and then your standard superday with a ton of back to back interviews. Immediately after all the interviewers meet in a room and we decide right then and there who gets an offer, who doesn't, and then sometimes set aside a few candidates as backups.
First a really obvious note. If you don't get an offer it's not because you were a bad candidate. Maybe you were equally qualified as somebody else but that person had a referral, went to a better school, or whatever. This was mentioned by another poster in a different thread, but somebody could've gotten an offer on an earlier superday who is worse than you and you're just unlucky in that now there's only one spot left. It's tough but that's how things go. Also just in general don't be a weirdo.
Now onto the more important notes:
1. Thank You:
People always remember to say thank you at the end of a conversation, but one small thing that helps you start off on the right foot is to thank them at the very beginning. Whether this is a superday, phone screen, or networking call, always preface the conversation with something like "thank you so much for taking the time to do this"
Maybe it's just my bank, but fit is absolutely king. At the end of the day one of the most important things is "is the person I want to be working next to me at 2am?" Had a candidate who interned at a GS/JPM/MS and got a return offer but wanted to work at a MM. Fantastic undergrad with a stellar GPA and balanced boutique internships while in school, in addition to having MBB experience. Now this is not the type of candidate my bank usually sees. Everyone rated the candidate fairly highly but everybody was like "they would be great but wouldn't want them in my group", or even just straight up "I wouldn't want to work with them". Thus no offer. Even small things like wearing a gaudy class ring is only going to hurt, not help you, because seriously who wears a class ring normally?
3. Meet & Greet
Go to the meet and greet. Yes, it's optional and yes it might be tough balancing classes or whatever, but nearly 100% of the time going will help your chances as long as you're a normal and interesting human being. Usually helps with the fit thing per point number 1
4. One bad interview:
If you crush it in 7/8 interviews but absolutely blow it in one, you could very much be screwed. Doesn't matter if the interview you blew it in was with analysts or an MD, but there have been times at the roundtable where one person will speak up about something that came up in their interview and that's enough to eliminate you from contention. Obvious but this is especially true if the bad interview was with somebody senior
One thing I often do is drop my guard a bit and get more casual, aka "act more like a bro". This is not your chance to prove that yes you are indeed a super bro. It's fine to make connections and share in the story or whatnot, but you have to keep some semblance of professionalism since it is an interview after all. If you can't keep it together here how can you be trusted with clients?
DO NOT say "I was really busy" or "I had a lot of things to balance" as an excuse for your GPA is so low or something like why you didn't pursue the honors program at your school. Seriously this is the lamest thing to say. There are numerous other candidates that also did a varsity sport, or also worked multiple part-time jobs while in school and have a better GPA so if you can't sell me on this then I'm 100% not going to put a vote in for you to get an offer. This is an especially strong point for me because I worked 2 part-time jobs while in college, played a varsity sport, did a ton of extracurriculars including being the editor of one of my school's newspapers all while graduating with a 3.8+ and Phi Beta Kappa
7. No excuses:
I guess the main takeaway from the point above is just don't make excuses. Really true for people who didn't get return offers from previous internships. Also as somebody from a liberal arts background as well the last thing I want to hear about why you don't know technicals is that your school doesn't offer accounting
8. Don't lie:
It's generally painfully obvious when people lie, so don't do it. This is more true for FT interviews when people try to inflate their internship roles or whatnot but if you can't speak to a certain task/project, don't lie about it on your resume
9. Finance is a small world:
Assume finance is a small world so don't talk negatively about your previous internship or say you got a return offer when you didn't. If I have a buddy at another bank where somebody previously interned, the first thing I do when I get the packet of resumes is shoot them a text and ask them how they were as an intern. Senior guys have even better connections and will always check to see if somebody said x reason for why they didn't get an offer was true or not (related to previous couple points)
10. Shake hands:
I can't believe I have to say this but please for the love of god stand up to shake somebody's hand. More than once had people stay sitting down when I walked in. Like seriously wtf are you so excited about being there you're rocking a full on stiffy and need to hide it? Tape your dick to your leg if this is a recurring problem or something
Too much polish is a bad thing. If you're constantly dropping words like "duality" into your interview, you're going to come off as sleazy, if that's even the right word for it
12. Don't be a douche:
Name dropping all the time makes you seem like a douche. If anything it'll just undermine your credibility of how you got to sit in the seat across the table from me
13. Technical Interview Questions:
This is a more well-known point but if you have a finance or accounting background in undergrad, I'm going to grill you harder on technicals than somebody from a liberal arts college
14. Don't creep me out:
Don't mention stuff you would've only known by looking me up on Linkedin or whatever. THIS IS CREEPY
15. "Do you have any questions to ask me?":
It's weird how much weight the "do you have any questions to ask me" portion of the interview has on people's perceptions of you. I mean if you're a stellar candidate this doesn't matter as much but this section really is what can tip the scale in your favor if people are trying to decide between 2 candidates. Also, don't ask something stupid like "how do you think x tax subsidy is going to affect your industry?" You're just going to sound like a tryhard
16. Two on one interviews:
If the interview is a 2 on 1, look at both people equally. People notice if you're staring at the MD the whole time or if you are ignoring the female interviewer. Related to the above if you're interviewing somebody from industrials and somebody from something "sexy" like tech, don't ask 3 questions about the tech industry and nothing about industrials
Pretty much all I can think of now. Might add on to the list later but feel free to shoot with any additional questions. Hopefully, people find this insightful, apologies for the kinda messed up formatting.
Sidenote 1: People might disagree with me on this but the way I think about interviews is I am actively looking for people to eliminate from the process, and not looking for people who should get the job. Because fact of the matter is if I cut person x really it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things since person y will be just as adequate. It's a numbers game and there are just more qualified candidates than there are spots available generally.
Sidenote 2: When prepping for interviews, there's no excuse to not take advantage of the resources out there available to you. Best value for your $ IMO is the WSO IB Interview Course. I pretty much entirely relied on this resources when I was recruiting for SA positions and it was all I needed.
I went to a liberal arts college with not even a single intro accounting class so I think that speaks to its efficacy. Just put in the time and dedication to studying and then finding people to practice interviews is really all it comes down to.
Mod Note (Andy): Throwback Thursday, this was originally posted Nov 2016