Overemphasis on fit

Would much rather have an analyst who I can 100% depend upon, who produces flawless output quickly and doesn't drink than a mediocre frat star 

If you've actually managed people, you'll probably agree...

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Comments (42)

  • Associate 2 in IB-M&A
Dec 17, 2020 - 3:59pm

Working with someone that you "can have a beer with" is just an expression, it just means someone you are comfortable around. It has nothing to do with whether or not they actually drink as you mentioned above.

  • Analyst 1 in S&T - Equities
Dec 17, 2020 - 4:15pm

I really do think that there are people who disagree with it. I've had trouble getting solid candidates through (ignore my title) who are genuinely good kids and clearly intelligent and ended up with idiots because of "fit." There are enough smart and normal people in the world to sort by intelligence/ability and then fit after that. 

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  • Analyst 1 in S&T - Equities
Dec 17, 2020 - 3:50pm

I'm experiencing this to the nth degree right now...it's really sad to see. The "fit" thing is crazy when you have a small handful of people (at most) calling the shots with hiring, group placement, etc...Fit for who? The few people the candidate interviewed with? I guess those people just have such a deep-rooted understanding of the "culture" of the group that they can make unilateral decisions as to who is good/not good based on their brief interactions with the person.

I'm sure you can tell this is something I've been thinking about. 

Dec 17, 2020 - 4:15pm

Exactly, There is levels to this, where the small number of alumni from your school call the shots to who gets the first round interviews even. How does talking to one or two people who get all the resumes reflect upon a candidate's ability to fit in with the rest of the firm? I call BS and that's why everyone needs that faux-friendly persona from time to time.

  • Analyst 1 in S&T - Equities
Dec 17, 2020 - 4:18pm

To play devil's advocate with myself...clearly there needs to be some kind of process and for better or for worse this is it. The issue begins when there is an overemphasis on fit. There are enough well qualified applicants out there to sort by intelligence/drive/ability before you sort for fit. It is a filtering and weighting problem. 

The arbitrary nature of fit is an entirely different story. I know the exact type OP is talking about. I'm a normal guy, I don't want weirdos around me, but I also am not going to choose a candidate because they are or act like the biggest bro. Those people are annoying in life and even worse at work.

Dec 17, 2020 - 5:52pm

Sounds like a group issue then which is a function of the amorphous thing that people on this forum call "culture."

As someone on the older end of the age range for this site, I definitely appreciate that my group doesn't put an emphasis on face time, and while people are friendly, there's no requirement to spend all of your free time getting drinks with coworkers.

Most Helpful
Dec 19, 2020 - 7:30am

motley_accrual

Are you making the distinction between attitude  (positivity, willingness to learn, humility) and fit (who id rather get a beer with)?

My group puts a lot of emphasis on the former, not so much the latter.

Yeah agree completely. I've been involved in interviewing candidates before (both in IB and PE) and probably the most important trait for my group aside from technicals is attitude. Ideally they should be good at communicating their ideas effectively/speaking well, but for an analyst role that's arguably less important. What is a dealbreaker however is when you get the sense that the candidate either isn't that interested in the role, and/or they won't be willing to give their all and take on whatever tasks need doing.

Obviously any analyst should be treated with respect (and personally I think it's quite pathetic when VP/MDs humiliate analysts and treat them with contempt) but at the same time the worst analyst is someone who thinks they're too good to do certain tasks and/or are lazy. I've worked with analysts like this in the past - often (but not exclusively) they tend to come from privileged backgrounds, and you can tell they're not really that interested in the work but just want the prestige/salary. In short they can be a nightmare to work with - they put in the minimum amount of effort not to get fired, never go the extra mile, and never really have any "value add" or independent contributions.

Also they're not easy to get rid of - in theory you can fire someone at will, but in reality that means explaining it to HR and then having to go through a whole new interviewing process with fresh candidates (which takes a lot of time). The analysts with poor attitudes I've had tend to stick around for 1-2 years, before they're either finally let go or they move on voluntarily when they realize there's no chance of making associate (which of course they take as a big affront as after 2 years of being a mediocre analyst they expect an associate promotion to be automatic).

These are obviously stereotypes, but my favorite candidates from an attitude/fit perspective are always:

- The finance geek - whether he's from a privileged or not so privileged background, you know he will just want to work hard and learn.

- Kid who maybe isn't obsessed with finance but is hungry - be it they have something to prove, are from a poor background etc. Again you know these guys will work hard and want to learn as much as possible.

And yes, I would 100% take these guys over someone who is great to have a beer with but is mediocre in the office. Obviously you should try not to be boring, and ideally it's great when you get someone who is a finance geek/hungry and can also hold a good conversation over beers - but ultimately it's their work product which is really going to matter. Obviously if you're hiring a VP/MD this might be a bit different as socializing/bringing in business is a big part of your role then.

  • Associate 2 in IB-M&A
Dec 17, 2020 - 4:04pm

Your thinking is too binary, it generally isn't one or the other. Yes, you will have people who fall on either side of the bell curve but for the most part we're all probably fairly decent at our jobs and not complete frat boy douchebags or IB hardos who live for the job.

  • VP in IB - Gen
Dec 17, 2020 - 5:26pm

Generally, I find that these type of questions are asked by people who ask "bros or hoes?"

Usually they have neither - they're socially awkward and their output is mediocre at best. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Dec 17, 2020 - 6:20pm

When I think of "fit" I think of someone who is easy to work with and friendly. I don't care if they're a "frat star" or not. Once you've worked with assholes or socially incompetent people you realize how important this is 

Dec 18, 2020 - 11:59pm

When I think of "fit" I think of someone who is easy to work with and friendly. I don't care if they're a "frat star" or not. Once you've worked with assholes or socially incompetent people you realize how important this is 

This. +SB

I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.
Dec 17, 2020 - 9:43pm

I feel like a lot of this is similar to little kids on a playground picking their clique.

I'm an adult and a professional. I can work with anyone and have fun conversations with them. You're into hockey? Sure, cool deal. You're an anime geek or gamer? No problem. We can find stuff to talk about. You like doing ironman on the weekends? That's interesting too. In my opinion, if you're a well-rounded adult, "fit" shouldn't matter that much...

Side note: As mentioned by some others, there can be issues with people who are socially awkward. However, I wouldn't consider that "fit" but instead a lack of a certain SKILL which is necessary for a lot of positions in this business.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Dec 17, 2020 - 10:55pm

Some people excel in different environments (I.e. fit). I personally would have failed at Moelis or a very intense firm but doing great at a bigger bank with more support. Matter of finding something that fits your personality.

Dec 18, 2020 - 9:56am

I'm surprised by the sentiment on this thread in all honesty. I've managed people and I disagree, with an asterisk. It depends on your definition of "fit". 

I'll give my $0.01 below as somebody who has only ever worked on lean teams that emphasize fit for the last 5 or so years (2.5 IB + 2.5 PE), just for a different perspective. I've been a part of a few hiring processes that picked a "weaker" technical candidate for better "fit" over somebody who was a "technical" stud and have actively contributed to those discussions. They are not easy choices and it is never black and white, so keep that in mind as you read further. This is not binary.

First of all, definitions (for my particular post): 

"Technical" skillset - Model building, presentation preparation, etc. the general grindy, execution type stuff we are all familiar with. Also in this bucket I'd lump industry knowledge and deal experience. The "Technical" stud can build you the sleekest model with few errors and output that into a beautiful presentation with good insights throughout.

"Fit" - Not just somebody you'd get a beer with, but somebody with the right attitude. Willingness to learn. Humility. Somebody who can take feedback rather than get defensive (this is huge). Somebody who is not set in their ways and somebody who is flexible. Fit is more about attitude than being a social butterfly. In fact its all about attitude.

The benefit of fit is tough to articulate. The right fit candidate is easy to work with and give feedback to. A good fit candidate is someone who is personable and social - this doesn't mean that they have to be a heavy drinker or partier at all (ie, fit != frat star). On a lean team this is more important than technical skillset because you're spending 80 hours a week together and often a junior is the one doing all the iteration and taking all the changes/comments. I've worked with guys who were output machines but got offended at any feedback and would become stubborn in their views only because you challenged them, regardless of whether or not they were wrong. 

I have also worked with toxic people as I'm sure we all have. We've made an effort to remove these people and ensure that we don't hire folks who exhibit the same traits. I can honestly say there is a palpable difference working with a team that emphasizes fit because we all get along and play well off each ohers ideas and views. We can have debate without getting offended or defensive. We enjoy going out to dinners and drinks together and have colleagues and their spouses over to our homes. It's not a quantifiable impact but mentally I can tell you I notice that the team performs better if we all get along quite well and would be friends outside of work.

Technical skills as described in this thread and by me - flawless outputs - can be taught/trained/built up to. Attitude - fit - is much harder to learn / train, and I would argue that on average, people don't fundamentally change. And you never hire somebody with a phenomenal attitude if they can't put together a decent fucking model or presentation to begin with. That goes without saying.

If your interview process is robust you shouldn't be getting duds who made it in because they are a good fit. If you are, then perhaps an overemphasis on fit is the issue - as a symptom of shitty hiring processes and controls. If you're hiring people literally because they're the best to get a beer with of the candidates interviewed, you have an HR problem.

Parting thought: I am biased by own experience. This is just based on my relatively narrow perspective on this and your mileage may vary. Just wanted to contribute a counter-argument to what seems to be the consensus in this thread.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Dec 18, 2020 - 10:12am

Agreed, I think people have a misunderstanding of what interviewers consider to be "good fit." It's not about really being a frat star and having "connections."

Dec 18, 2020 - 2:41pm

Good discussion. Personally don't view fit as "humility", "willingness to learn", "takes feedback well." Those to me are broadly positive characteristics in the vein of technically competent, works hard, has a lot of experience etc. I.e. those are always good. It's always better to have someone who takes feedback well than not...

I think fit is by definition fungible to the fund itself. It goes beyond these broadly positive characteristics above. 

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Dec 18, 2020 - 3:43pm

Lol I love how binary people treat the fit vs. competency discussion. It's almost as if the mind cannot register that there's a large field of competent people that are likable as well. 

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Dec 18, 2020 - 5:30pm

You post implies that the chose is between the population of "an analyst who I can 100% depend upon, who produces flawless output quickly and doesn't drink" and "a mediocre frat star," which, yes, any sensible manager would agree with. However, in the real world, which is where I happen to live, there is a range of individuals that exists on the spectrum between those two profiles and outside of them. 

An example:

  1. a rockstar frat star (rockstar here implying produces flawless output quickly), which I'd prefer over the analyst you described that doesn't drink.
Dec 19, 2020 - 1:08pm

This is a neverending sort of subject because everyone has significant personal experience on the topic. 

In banking, there's really two dichotomous kinds of "fit" hiring: A players hiring A players, and B players hiring C players.

A players hiring A players: when the hiring team is full of very high performers, who have already filtered down a shortlist to candidates who are demonstrably talented and hard-working. The hiring team finds the actual work downright easy, if not at least highly teachable, but knows that the workload is significant and will test a new hire's emotional and physical stamina. They have strong pattern recognition and are effective at sorting out, via on-paper screening and early recruiting events, the wheat from the chaff in a work capability sense. This screening includes identifying talent that isn't coachable. If you can't do that, you're not going to hire good talent anyway. In any case, once you've assessed capabilities, fit is the differentiator. This is when they've got two identical "athletes" in terms of output and coachability, but one of them can talk football and Cape Cod, and the other just doesn't speak until the work is done. Fratty deal teams would hire the former, ascetic/monastic finance purists might prefer the latter. It's not a compromise on talent, but the next differentiator once there is no more marginal benefit to differentiating on talent. 

B players hiring C players: not every group/desk at every bulge bracket in every major city/market is full of top talent. Plenty are downright mediocre; either an also-ran in their market, or because the product itself is elementary. When these folks get overly poetic about fit, watch out. They're aware their group is inherently unattractive to top talent, so they resort to "fit" to address their challenges in both talent acquisition and retention. This box comes in many wrappings, but ultimately speaks to an underlying lack of self confidence. "Our work isn't glamorous; this candidate seems content with being well-paid for reliably chugging thru menial work, which is a good fit" or "two enthusiastic candidates; I can't pronounce this one's name, while this one studies at my non-target" etc. What these groups usually have in common is a previously unsuccessful experience trying to move up the talent ladder - they tried hiring a junior with more raw talent and/or educational achievement than they have, and it didn't work out. Sometimes, they hired a jerk. Other times, they just don't know how to manage talent. Either way, they rationalize it by "fit". It doesn't take long, btw, for these groups to actually tell you about the time they hired some wicked smart kid who was a terrible fit. 

Your group might not fit very neatly into either dichotomous category, but the above is an abstraction. Reality can be a little messy; some teams are in transition from one end of the spectrum to another. But with a little fine-tuning, you should be able to identify which category your group more closely aligns to. Within the constraints of your own personal bias (everyone would like to think they're an A player hired by an A team, for fit). 

The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
  • 2
  • Intern in IB - DCM
Dec 23, 2020 - 2:55am

How do you know when someone is getting "overly poetic" about fit? I feel like this is something nearly every bank talks about a lot, and I've seen bankers talk about this both at info sessions and during networking calls.

Dec 20, 2020 - 6:03am

I guess because of the age of most people here, this topic focused primarily on 'fit' as it concerned junior positions. Whatever your thoughts may be on juniors fitting in with the team, 'fit' becomes increasingly important the more senior you become. I think the importance placed on fit is also inversely proportional to the size of your team. As you become more senior, there are naturally fewer positions available, and people tend to stay longer in their roles, so it matters quite a bit if someone doesn't fit in. With an analyst, they're typically only going to be around for 2-3 years, they aren't likely to interact with clients much, and the directors and MDs aren't going to have to spend a lot of time with them, so 'fit' is less important IMO. At the VP-level or above, however, I think fit matters enormously.

This is probably why you don't see a lot of diversity at the top of firms. The partners at virtually every fund I can think of all tend to go to the same schools (as their other partners), work at the same places, and live in the same communities. Even if they don't think about it in those terms, when they're looking to add to the partnership, they're going to be naturally more predisposed to hiring someone or promoting someone who 'fits' within their mold. If the founders come from hard-scrabble backgrounds and made something of themselves despite the odds, that's what they're likely to value. Or maybe they always wished they could have gone to H/Y/P, so they exclusively surround themselves with people of that pedigree. Or maybe they went to top schools and did well, so that's what they value.

If I were guessing, I'd say that's why there is a lot of inertia in senior executive ranks everywhere as it concerns race and gender. People like other people who are like themselves (especially in the upper echelons of professional services businesses where there is a much higher prevalence of narcissism than in the world at large). What many confuse for racism or sexism is oftentimes narcissism. The whole concept of 'fit' is largely predicated on what you think you need in the personality and interests of another person to get along with them. This way of thinking is narrow and a bit silly, but it is not uncommon. It is hard for most people to be introspective enough to recognize their own biases in the hiring process. This thread centered on juniors mostly, but the problem metastasizes as you get more senior.

Dec 20, 2020 - 12:20pm

Echo all of this. I do think it's pretty fun to see people from somewhat different backgrounds excel and how senior people might warm up to them. You never know who will hit it out of the park with a counterparty despite not checking the typical boxes. But even then there is a deeper level of fit required, namely is this the kind of person you would trust with a big part of your business?

Dec 20, 2020 - 8:11am

Hiring someone who doesn't fit the culture can actually destroy your entire team. I've seen it myself. It might not be as impactful at an analyst level though; making bad fit hires at a management level can lead to awful performance and/or whole groups of staff leaving.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Dec 20, 2020 - 4:05pm

Just FYI there's a middle ground between "nerdy finance try hard" and "meathead frat star." I think what makes finance recruiting unique for college grads is that you need to show that you can be on top of your sh*t and also be able to be a part of a collegial environment. I go to a target and a lot of these meat heads I know never make it into any reputable firms. I'm sure some slip in through the cracks but it's not as black and white as how OP spins it. 

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