Q&A: I just conducted interviews in 4 Superdays

I have a long history of posting on WSO and if you've read my posts before, it's no secret that I am in BO at a BB. I came to the firm as a mid-career professional after having a background in consulting, tech and a variety of other companies. I now lead a team of 15 people, I'm making more money than I ever have and net-net, it's been a great move for my career. I knew of WSO prior to this move and I am grateful for all of the things I picked up as a reader while I was in the process of landing my current role. 

Recruiting season is now upon us and I was once again an interviewer for our Superdays. Believe it or not, as much as these Superdays make you nervous as applicants, it can also be brutal on us as interviewers! We held 4 of them back-to-back and I saw 8 candidates on each day. So, quite a few interviews, to say the least.

While I did state that I work in BO, I think that a lot of the advice I can give will apply to FO & BO and I'll add the following to tickle your brain with different ideas for questions I will answer:

  • I have done interviews for both summer and full-time roles coming to us fresh from graduation. Some of those people now work for me and it's nice to see their career progression.
  • I have participated in all aspects of recruiting. I've manned the promo tables on campus, I've done initial resume reads, first round interviews, Superdays, behaviorals, case studies. I'm even one of the people that gets to call you and tell you that you got the position - those are fun calls!
  • As you can guess, it's not my first year doing this; I estimate that I've seen anywhere from 200-300 applicants in my interview room. I can't even begin to think about how many resumes I've read, easily double that number. I know that sounds high, but I can easily come home with 100+ resumes from a single OCR event. Or HR often sends me 30-60 resumes to narrow the field for first round interviews. So, yeah, 400-600 resumes sounds (about) right. 

Finally, I'm putting this out there as a helper for all of you young folks. But please remember this: Don't fall into the trap of thinking that recruiting out of college and landing that oh-so-perfect BB job is something that you have to do or you will be crushed to death! If recruiting season doesn't go the way you want it to, don't worry!

You have a long career ahead of you and you never know if you'll end up in Finance later in your career, just like I did. I see so many kids put a ton of pressure on themselves and it's not healthy. Recruiting is tough, hang in there, do your best and things will work out just like they are intended to be.

WSO Elite Modeling Package

  • 6 courses to mastery: Excel, Financial Statement, LBO, M&A, Valuation and DCF
  • Elite instructors from top BB investment banks and private equity megafunds
  • Includes Company DB + Video Library Access (1 year)

Comments (49)

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Nov 8, 2021 - 12:33am

When you receive a resume, what is the first thing you look at? If a candidate decides to leave his/her gpa off their resume, is that something you note or might raise a brow at? What if they have outstanding work experiences? Thank you.

Nov 8, 2021 - 8:19am

The first thing I look at would be the major and the school they went to. But I don't look at this for the reasons you might think, we dont expect everyone to come to us from HYP. We actually want diversity in schools and majors too (I've hired all kinds of majors). So I may look there first just to make sure we're not getting another "cookie cutter" applicant. 

The missing GPA is definitely problematic. If that's the case, it will come up during the interview. It behooves you to decide that you either want to put it on there or you better have a reasonable response to it during the interview. If I was in your position, I would choose to be upfront and include it on the resume. 

At the risk of sounding cynical, what do you consider to be "outstanding work experience"? We fully understand that you are still in school, we don't expect you to have some deeply meaningful stuff on there. The things that are much more likely to catch attention are your extra-curriculars. If I think about what's caught my eye, I would say its things like Eagle Scout/Gold Award, starting a charity, extensive volunteer work, sport team captain for multiple years, things like that. 

Nov 8, 2021 - 8:30am

You might gain some more insight from my answer to the question above. But as far as overall mistakes, I will add:

  • I know this sounds obvious, but have a resume to begin with. I've gone to OCR events where people show up with no resumes or very few to hand out. Don't do that. Always be prepared, always have plenty of resumes to give out. 
  • There is never a need for a resume to be longer than 1 page. I know executives with 30 year careers that can keep it to one page, so I'm positive you can too :). Send me a multi-page resume and it's an auto ding. 
  • Spell check. Print out your resume and then spell check, don't just do it on the screen. I cannot tell you how many resumes I've had with mistakes, also an auto ding.
  • If you present me your resume in person at OCR, be polite and be memorable. Stand up straight, have a verbal "elevator pitch" on your background, smile, ask about my day. I'm going to come home with a lot of resumes that day, if you want me to remember you, be friendly & professional and that puts you a little closer to the top of the pile. 
Learn More

300+ video lessons across 6 modeling courses taught by elite practitioners at the top investment banks and private equity funds -- Excel Modeling -- Financial Statement Modeling -- M&A Modeling -- LBO Modeling -- DCF and Valuation Modeling -- ALL INCLUDED + 2 Huge Bonuses.

Learn more
Nov 8, 2021 - 10:45am

This question really got me thinking. And I'm coming up with the conclusion that it's not about standing out, its more about making sure that it goes well. In other words, I'm much more likely to remember when you completely bomb an interview than to stand out. I may interview, what, 30-40 people in a week. So it's near impossible to stand out, but super easy to blow it. I hope that's coming across in the right way. To that end, here's how you blow it:

  • Be on time. Sounds obvious but you'd be surprised. 
  • Have good lighting in your room. Too much light coming right at your face from the screen is just as bad as not enough light
  • Use the background blur on your zoom/meeting program. Your background may be fine, but blur is the professional thing to do
  • Give me 100% of your attention. Don't have any other chat programs, notifications, etc up during our interview. I've had applicants skyping during the interview - spoiler alert: they didn't get the job.
  • Don't be a robot. I once had a terrible candidate that gave me very robotic answers and even robotic smiles - it was borderline disturbing. Relax, take a few deep breaths before you log in, it's just an interview, smile and be yourself!

Here's couple good things from past interviews. But again, it's more important to not blow it than be focused on standing out:

  • Everyone likes being called "sir" or "maam". Memorable candidates have done that
  • Ask about your interviewer. We're people too and asking about us shows good manners and empathy.
Nov 8, 2021 - 11:05am

What was your most unconventional hire? What was the lowest GPA of your hires? Was there an incident where somebody spun something not so good into something great, if yes, what was it?

Thank you

Most Helpful
Nov 8, 2021 - 12:16pm

There's a good part and a bad part to this answer. 

GOOD

I'm modifying the details a little bit here but my answer still holds - About 2 years ago I had a candidate that had basically zero office experience and he was also a little older than our usual summer analysts. I'm doing this from memory but he was coming to us from being a machinist at a factory in the region (again, I'm obfuscating here, but he had a very blue collar background, no office experience on his resume at all). He was coming from an average school but had a good GPA and had a really good attitude and had researched our company and position prior to applying. He was basically someone that didn't want to work in a machine shop the rest of his life and picked himself up and went to school and was now applying for his first office job. I was his first-round interview and I was impressed - he had a great attitude, really humble guy and was basically well-prepared for the interview. I recommended him for the summer program, he landed it and I went on to be one of his mentors for the summer. I ask all my kids to keep me informed on whether they got the full-time offer or not and he sent me an e-mail telling me that he landed it and he called his mom with tears in his eyes telling her that he didn't have to be a machinist any more. Not going to lie, that one got to me a little and I had an extra whiskey that night in his honor. 

BAD

The bad part of my answer - and this is where I'm going to lose some of you - is that stories like the above don't happen every day and the people with low GPAs are always looking for ways to "pull up" from that or "hey, I can explain it away". But the reality is that low GPAs are usually reflected in other ways such as your overall attitude, your recommendations, your answers during the interviews, etc. Some of these ways you may not even realize you're doing, but they happen. I know this is not going to be a popular opinion - but sometimes there really is just no/little opportunity to recover from a bad GPA. It's just like your credit score will be later in life, it's a convenient, quantitative way to rank people, so a low GPA will work against you. 

  • Associate 3 in PE - Other
Nov 12, 2021 - 5:30pm

Fully agree with above.

You would be surprised at how much low GPA comes up even years out of school.  I've been at a UMM fund for 4 years with strong performance at the fund, did a law degree at a T20 school with good grades / rank and still comes up from time to time.   

If you are a junior interviewer, sending your boss someone you found out has a sub-3.0 GPA is a no go, makes you look super bad.   

Nov 8, 2021 - 12:25pm

We do. But please see my previous answer about also wanting diversity in majors. Yes, there are some portions of my firm that want MBAs specifically, but there are plenty of functions that want diverse Masters candidates. So I'm more than open to any number of post-grad students. Now that I think about it, our biggest threat to losing analysts in usually grad school. So in that regard, a post-grad applicant is slightly more attractive because we actually have a shot at keeping you.

If there is one thing I wish could disappear from WSO, it would be the concept of "target schools". Yes, again, some functions of the bank (maybe down to the team level) might demand that. But we recruit from any number of schools, some of which I've never even heard of - so how are there "target" schools? There's schools that we might attend an OCR for, but that's just because it's a good "critical mass" advertisement opportunity, but it's not like we're going to trash your resume if you apply and it's not from the "right" school. All of the basic rules still hold - learn as much as you can in school, polish your resume, wear clean clothes to your interview and do your best - if you're truly a good, smart candidate then good things will come your way regardless of school or major.   

  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Nov 8, 2021 - 1:00pm

Well obviously target schools aren't relevant for BO positions, as they just aren't that competitive, relatively, so I understand why you would feel that way. However, that is definitely not the case for FO positions.

Nov 8, 2021 - 3:16pm

Thanks for your response. Re: my target schools question, I actually just meant which schools you attend an OCR for. I'm interested in schools that can reach a critical mass of applicants because that means there will likely be like-minded peers at the school who are interested in the same opportunities, and also that the careers office will likely be familiar with recruitment into such pipelines.

Nov 8, 2021 - 1:21pm

I recently had a candidate ask me just for general life advice. I can't remember exactly how he phrased it but it was along the lines of "I saw you on LinkedIn and you've had a great career. What advice would you give to someone that wants to progress like that or what are some of the common things you saw along the way". Again, paraphrasing, but it was a very "meta" question like that. I thought it was insightful because it showed that this applicant was taking a long-term view to their career and was genuinely looking for advice, not just "what's the right thing I need to say to work this summer" type of question. It was a memorable question. 

Nov 11, 2021 - 10:38am

It's really interesting that you heard a question like that. I never had the guts to ask a question like that to someone during the interview process, but literally just yesterday asked that to one of colleagues at my firm. 

Being able to ask deep and insightful questions during an interview sticks out to most people, and can definitely vouch for this both in my own interviewing experience and experience in interviewing others. 

Nov 8, 2021 - 3:01pm

I went and worked in corporate for a bit before and after graduating and I found the work environment provided a great foundation for global work expansion. However I have also found that there is a spectrum of jobs which pay anywhere between a few dollars up to a few million per year. Then there's 1000's apon 1000's of jobs and they all in different companies and then there's many vps, ceos, cios, p's and they all running these large company's which are found on a variety of stock exchanges. Now the crux of the matter is the company selection and or labor market entry points. The hardest part if I don't own my entire finance function, basically the means to cover myself which is basic model of house office vehicle and extras, then I'm reliant on the job and payslip which puts pressure on the mortgage and rents, so I have started looking into trying to source private equity and hedge funds as a means to secure the primary living situation as I want a nice setup. However I noticed there's about 10000 cities, 200 countries, 700000 universities and soon going to be about 300 million graduates so I'm hopeful that the economies support the ouflux of graduates. I'm quite nervous about having to work with other people and about relocating and would rather work remotely and travel to see what I like, I'm only really interested in 100 k plus jobs but something in the 350 k plus per annum seems nicer however I'm having to stack jobs unless I get a fund of some sort. Probably going to study a masters in business administration, maybe data science, computer science. I need to have a nice schedule though with some flexibility though. Mostly just for Varsity, exercise and travel times, maybe some nice rehabilitation after covid lol. 🙂

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Nov 8, 2021 - 3:04pm

When you see an international student's resume how does your thought process change? What are you looking out for? Are you beginning to sub-consciously disregard the applicant because your firm's h1b policy is strict, or non-existent?

Any advice for an international student from the UK would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

Nov 8, 2021 - 3:28pm

That's a great question and I wish I knew more about this topic. But the reality is that HR does all of this filtering for me already. Even when doing initial resume reads, they've already done some filtering for things like GPA or visa status or whatever. So I'm not 100% sure what happens to do that. But by the time you're at my desk or interview room, I can basically assume that you are good-to-go for work authorization and are a viable candidate for me to choose. HR wouldn't waste my time by pairing me with someone I can't actually hire. 

  • VP in IB - Cov
Nov 8, 2021 - 3:25pm

Most of this is absolutely garbage advice. Anyone reading this - please do not take note of any of this. Back office mentality clearly on show here. There are many more insightful and helpful career posts on WSO - this is not one of them.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Nov 8, 2021 - 3:38pm

This is literally the boomer "nice firm handshake and a good attitude" meme personified, this is useless advice

Nov 8, 2021 - 7:50pm

Back office can mean many things and it's almost always bigger than all FO roles - it take a lot to run a bank behind the scenes! 

My group is composed of multiple teams, a total of about 2,000 people. Our Superdays cover all teams within the entire group. Summer analyst class might be 20-25, First year class might be slightly bigger than that. But it can vary from year to year. 

  • Associate 1 in IB - Cov
Nov 8, 2021 - 10:54pm

I wouldn't go as far as saying it's garbage advice like some people above, but having been through four full interview cycles now as a candidate (undergrad internship/FT, MBA internship/FT) I can tell you that 80% of it is the "interview lottery" - i.e., do you get an interviewer that you connect with as a person on a personality level.  Also, have mentioned this before but there are other intangibles that happen behind the scenes that I've seen as an interviewer that have nothing to do with how well your interview went (e.g., diversity).  Have seen otherwise solid candidates be dinged for not being diverse (white males).  Don't believe me?  Reread all of OP's answers and see how many times he mentions the word "diverse."  He's referring to majors and schools but is obviously leaving out the other half of it.

Nov 9, 2021 - 9:29am

I disagree with this. If what you're saying is true then you'd see a much higher turnover rate because the winners of your "lottery" would have a significant amount of randomness to their selection and they would not do as well (or win as many "lotteries") when they join your colleagues in the actual job and subsequently wash out. 

People who have done good work tend to be prepared, interview well and keep doing good work in the job - I promise you that it really is that simple. Please see my previous discussion on GPA (or how many discussions have we had on WSO about arrest records???) - everyone wants a second/third/fourth chance or "I'll just talk my way out of this in the interview" but the reality is that you cannot. Candidates that are inherently good, quality workers will always shine through in an interview no matter who interviews them, no lottery needed. 

Nov 9, 2021 - 10:10am

I don't think that it is necessarily over,  but at some point people have to realize that hard work and accolades compound.  And the amount of work you have to put in to get ahead is going to be so large you just can't.  I think we have see a little bit of the changing of the colors as people who have high level accolades have choosen to go different routes and thus more doors have been opening in IB.   

Long story short - Mopre luck today then there was 10 years ago,  but that does not mean that you get to slack off.  

  • Associate 1 in IB - Cov
Nov 9, 2021 - 10:40am

GoingToBeAnMD

I disagree with this. If what you're saying is true then you'd see a much higher turnover rate because the winners of your "lottery" would have a significant amount of randomness to their selection and they would not do as well (or win as many "lotteries") when they join your colleagues in the actual job and subsequently wash out. 

People who have done good work tend to be prepared, interview well and keep doing good work in the job - I promise you that it really is that simple. Please see my previous discussion on GPA (or how many discussions have we had on WSO about arrest records???) - everyone wants a second/third/fourth chance or "I'll just talk my way out of this in the interview" but the reality is that you cannot. Candidates that are inherently good, quality workers will always shine through in an interview no matter who interviews them, no lottery needed. 

I'm actually genuinely surprised that you disagree and after reading your response think you're a bit delusional/corporate koolaid type.  The point isn't that high gpas / life preparation help (it does), it's that once you get to that interview stage if your personality doesn't match with your interviewer it doesn't matter what you did up until then.  And again, there are intangibles that happen behind the scenes that have nothing to do with how qualified a candidate is.

As for washing out by not "winning the lottery" after being hired, these banks/teams/corporations are huge and have tons of different personalities (see: diversity).  Several times I've had back to back interviews with two people at the same company where I felt like I had to modify how I spoke to them from interview to interview because their personalities were so different (this is a key principle of management also to modify your approach based on who you're speaking to and what motivates them).  On small teams like a middle market PE fund or something, sure, most people are somewhat alike.  Not at a big bank.

Nov 9, 2021 - 5:58am

Hi! Thanks for doing this! I am Active Duty military with about 18 months left until I transition. I am early 30s and have an MBA, what else, besides networking of course, can I do to make myself competitive? I am excited for this transition but concerned that I would be overlooked due to lack of relative experience.  

Nov 9, 2021 - 9:41am

The very first thing I would do is check for the veteran "transition to work" style programs that some of the large banks offer. Some of them are very generous and bring you in at a high level depending on your equivalent military experience. I know of one BB that will be bring in some military officers at the Director level, which is a huge leg up. 

The next thing I would do is to highlight any leadership experience/courses that you may have attended in the military. All other things being equal, leadership training is always looked on favorably by interviewers and most people want that on their teams. Heck, make it a whole section on your resume if you can, really make it stand out, really describe the training involved in each course.  

Finally, really get to know the officer levels at the banks you're applying to and don't be afraid to go for some of the higher ones. If you think that a person you see on LinkedIn (or whatever) is close to you in age and they are officer level Y then go after similar levels. You might be pleasantly surprised at how well that can work out for you. 

Nov 9, 2021 - 1:39pm

Voluptatem non dicta voluptatem impedit nihil. Quos laudantium reprehenderit repellat voluptatem eos error. Officia facere et qui rem necessitatibus iure. Exercitationem magnam tempora consequatur dolorem fugit. Qui soluta accusamus doloribus deleniti. Placeat ab assumenda qui.

Perferendis ab sint sed. Voluptatem debitis inventore animi quia dolores rerum.

Dolor tempora est sint hic vero saepe. Iste eligendi quia dolor dolor dicta. Praesentium assumenda omnis aut. Non distinctio autem eos esse. Non quia beatae sint dolorem saepe eaque quas. Quia iure qui odio quo.

Nov 10, 2021 - 8:22am

Eius facere aut vel qui quibusdam. Minus a possimus doloribus dignissimos harum magnam. Praesentium harum ipsa iste cum. Delectus nihil nam doloremque. Tenetur architecto aspernatur eum odio at quaerat ea. Eaque pariatur sint numquam tempora.

Quisquam maiores velit et incidunt enim aut enim soluta. Laboriosam autem tenetur ipsa. Quaerat facilis eveniet dolorem non eum. Repudiandae error ea porro voluptas.

Nesciunt quam mollitia qui illum et repudiandae placeat quam. Deleniti qui sed et at et aut atque.

Start Discussion

Total Avg Compensation

November 2021 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (10) $853
  • Vice President (40) $360
  • Associates (234) $234
  • 2nd Year Analyst (144) $156
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (34) $154
  • Intern/Summer Associate (107) $146
  • 1st Year Analyst (513) $136
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (393) $83