The Airport Test

Olman's picture
Rank: Monkey | 32

I've been told countless times that a big factor in the recruiting process is how much people like you. What personality traits do you see as "failing the airport test?"

Does anyone have any stories of super awkward people and what did they do wrong (either in informational interviews or interviews)?

Edit: Replaced "Airplane" with "Airport."

Comments (45)

Mar 20, 2012

go to glassdoor.com to reveiw interview experience. its neat and has most of the companies on it.

Mar 20, 2012

Getting your interviewers to like you is always going to be the make or break to being hired. Having a stellar resume relative to your competition and crushing all of the technical questions will only get you so far. At the end of the day, people want to work with people that they like and will enjoy being around.

A few months ago, I interviewed for a senior analyst position with fairly sizable bank in their m&a product group. In all, I interviewed with a dozen different individuals. Eleven of the interviews went better than I could have hoped, but the last guy, an analyst, turned out to be a complete stonewall. No smiles, warmth, laughs, etc... he was impossible to talk to and I couldn't get him on my side to save my life. I would have most likely hated my life if I had ended up working with the guy, but undoubtedly he is the reason I wasn't hired. Others will disagree with me, but 90% of landing the job is simply being liked by your interviewers.

Mar 20, 2012
kingtut:

Getting your interviewers to like you is always going to be the make or break to being hired. Having a stellar resume relative to your competition and crushing all of the technical questions will only get you so far. At the end of the day, people want to work with people that they like and will enjoy being around.

A few months ago, I interviewed for a senior analyst position with fairly sizable bank in their m&a product group. In all, I interviewed with a dozen different individuals. Eleven of the interviews went better than I could have hoped, but the last guy, an analyst, turned out to be a complete stonewall. No smiles, warmth, laughs, etc... he was impossible to talk to and I couldn't get him on my side to save my life. I would have most likely hated my life if I had ended up working with the guy, but undoubtedly he is the reason I wasn't hired. Others will disagree with me, but 90% of landing the job is simply being liked by your interviewers.

can one single analyst, the lowest guy on the totem pole, really have enough clout to ding you?

Mar 20, 2012
swagon:

can one single analyst, the lowest guy on the totem pole, really have enough clout to ding you?

YES

fist of all, its failing the AIRPORT test, not the airplane test

Dings include -
- you cant make small talk (ie about sports)
- have nothing to talk about beyond DCFs and the goldman case study you did (ie you are a boring person)
- overeager
- cant make jokes / be funny
- ask stupid questions
- make basic social faux-pas
- have an unkempt appearance
- limp handshake
- stare at the floor
- spikey hair
- cant handle (or look like you cant handle) heavy drinking

basically, if you are the typical undergrad business school student you may be in trouble.

Mar 20, 2012

I never had this issue. People love me right away. Sometimes physically.

Mar 20, 2012

This reminds me that I have to go back to the mma training to get in shape.

    • 1
Mar 20, 2012

If this is a serious question, pick up the Dale Carnegie book. Basically, don't complain about anything or be too aggressive, yet at the same time appear confident and as though you belong in the job. You'd be surprised at how quickly a ding can register for someone that comes across as entitled or douchey.

I dinged one guy who lied to me over the phone and said my boss had cleared him to fly out to our office after a first phone interview. Fucker even tried to convince me to buy him a ticket. I double checked with my boss and the answer was no, he had NOT been invited to come out -- then my boss went ballistic on this SSOB.

Another kid kept talking like he was still part of his old firm that he had been away from for a year and a half (went back to school). When I asked him how he got that job, he said because he was trading ideas with the PM while working for a previous firm -- direct conflict of interest = automatic ding.

One guy was a complete fucking bore during the interview and was clearly overstating his experience. I started nodding off on the phone. He gave me "some advice" about being a better interviewer. Ding.

Other people I've seen lie on their resume. Ding. Don't lie, higher ups in this business are probably a lot smarter than you.

Other people come across as unfriendly or cold. Ding.

Don't be too forthcoming. I dinged a kid for that (contrary to what you might think as an interviewer seeking information, it's a bad trait -- you don't want someone spilling the firm's beans all over the place).

Don't brag about people you know. I interviewed this one kid who said, "My dad is so-and-so muckety muck finance guy that everyone knows, but I don't want to use his name to get a job." Except that you just did, you sly SOB. Ding.

If you're just not a douchebag, you're already ahead of 90% of the people in this business.

Mar 20, 2012
Ravenous:

If this is a serious question, pick up the Dale Carnegie book. Basically, don't complain about anything or be too aggressive, yet at the same time appear confident and as though you belong in the job. You'd be surprised at how quickly a ding can register for someone that comes across as entitled or douchey.

I dinged one guy who lied to me over the phone and said my boss had cleared him to fly out to our office after a first phone interview. Fucker even tried to convince me to buy him a ticket. I double checked with my boss and the answer was no, he had NOT been invited to come out -- then my boss went ballistic on this SSOB.

Another kid kept talking like he was still part of his old firm that he had been away from for a year and a half (went back to school). When I asked him how he got that job, he said because he was trading ideas with the PM while working for a previous firm -- direct conflict of interest = automatic ding.

One guy was a complete fucking bore during the interview and was clearly overstating his experience. I started nodding off on the phone. He gave me "some advice" about being a better interviewer. Ding.

Other people I've seen lie on their resume. Ding. Don't lie, higher ups in this business are probably a lot smarter than you.

Other people come across as unfriendly or cold. Ding.

Don't be too forthcoming. I dinged a kid for that (contrary to what you might think as an interviewer seeking information, it's a bad trait -- you don't want someone spilling the firm's beans all over the place).

Don't brag about people you know. I interviewed this one kid who said, "My dad is so-and-so muckety muck finance guy that everyone knows, but I don't want to use his name to get a job." Except that you just did, you sly SOB. Ding.

If you're just not a douchebag, you're already ahead of 90% of the people in this business.

If it weren't for people actually in a hiring position telling these stories I would never believe it.

It's just hard to imagine people doing this kind of stuff and thinking that they are doing what they are supposed to.

Mar 20, 2012

first, yes one single analyst can ding you. When you have hundreds of qualified applicants it's not unreasonable to expect that every person you interview with has to say yes.

Don't sulk when you don't receive an offer. That's life. I even saw someone get dinged because one person thought he was too perfect - answered the questions perfectly, had a fantastic gpa, had tons of relevant experience.

Be confident but not cocky, don't lie, and emphasize you know there's a lot to learn but you're willing to put in the effort necessary. For me personally, the best analysts are the ones who seem to have no hobbies, other than studying or engrossing themselves in the stock market. Show me an analyst who seems more interested in talking sports or backpacking through Europe...ding.

Mar 20, 2012
blackcleo:

For me personally, the best analysts are the ones who seem to have no hobbies, other than studying or engrossing themselves in the stock market. Show me an analyst who seems more interested in talking sports or backpacking through Europe...ding.

Seriously? This is so contrary to everything I have heard. In an interview sure but not on the job...

Mar 21, 2012
FusRoDah:
blackcleo:

For me personally, the best analysts are the ones who seem to have no hobbies, other than studying or engrossing themselves in the stock market. Show me an analyst who seems more interested in talking sports or backpacking through Europe...ding.

Seriously? This is so contrary to everything I have heard. In an interview sure but not on the job...

When I first starting hiring, I hired the talkative, well-rounded, fraternity types. Later I found that the best analysts (non-complaining, no attitude, smart, eager, hard working, etc) were the exact opposite. Not to generalize, but many of the best are asian or they came from humble backgrounds (i.e. their parents were not wealthy). And these are the kids who typically are not hugely into sports, traveling the world, etc.

Mar 20, 2012

Yes, it's hard to understand, especially because several of those people were HYPS 3.9 demi-gods.

One more I would add to the list: If someone asks you to do something during the interview process, do it. There was one guy we liked who seemed pretty sharp but whiffed on 2 out of 3 of the stocks I gave him (Yale, BB IB, Top HF, 3.8, 1550 old SAT). Okay, smart guy, let's give him another chance, right? So I sent him a short list of reading materials from common books in the industry (Intelligent Investor, etc.) for him to review before I met him for dinner the next week -- as in, hey, jackass, you're getting a second chance, try not to screw this up. All of the readings were directly related to what he messed up in his analysis, so I would have expected him to realize that and be ready to have a decent dialogue about the stocks I gave him.

So at the dinner meeting, he seems like a decent guy, and we get to talking about the stocks in question. He goes, "Yeah, I've read all of that stuff before... I kind of skimmed through it again, but I already know that stuff." How dense can you be? I actually tried to hand him the answers and he still couldn't figure it out. We hired some kid out of a non-target instead (he did better on the analysis anyway).

Mar 21, 2012

Isn't it hard to say that you aced your cases when the evaluators told you that you didn't? That's like saying that I aced the test but the teacher gave me a C. Doesn't make much sense...

Anyway, feel lucky that you got an MBB offer when they told you that you came across as arrogant, and try not to be so arrogant...

Things that won't work in your first year include telling your engagement manager that you aced the PowerPoint when they don't like it and want you to redo it.

Mar 21, 2012

There is a thin line between being cocky and being confident.
We all went through it. It just takes time.

Mar 21, 2012

The question is: When they ding you for personal reasns, do they say that it was due to personal reasons or do they come up with something else. The official reason why I did not get the position at ome company, was that my depreciation assumption was way off: 10 years instead of 5 for some device. That is just ridiculous.

Mar 21, 2012
Il Cavaliere:

The question is: When they ding you for personal reasns, do they say that it was due to personal reasons or do they come up with something else. The official reason why I did not get the position at ome company, was that my depreciation assumption was way off: 10 years instead of 5 for some device. That is just ridiculous.

Not exactly the same thing, but I think it falls in line with what you are asking:
A couple months ago I was recruiting for my sophomore summer internship. I got rejected from a local PE shop and as feedback my interviewer said that they had other candidates with more m&a experience. Yesterday I learned that one of their interns they took on was a freshman with no experience. Why can't they give honest with feedback, I agree. I actually thought the interview went well, but apparently they're afraid to say, "we like other people more."

Mar 21, 2012

Have you ever had to call and reject people for a job? I have, and it sucks. You hear them pick up the phone with such hope, and you wreck their day almost immediately. Then you give them candid, honest feedback? That's really tough to do. Sometimes it's not something that they can change. I talked to some people and I just knew immediately that they weren't cut out for the job. How do I tell them that? Plus, the more feedback you give the more likely you are to screw up and say something damaging to your employer.

Mar 21, 2012

I'm sure they would be better analysts. But I thought being able to like the person is more important than their actual competence (assuming it meets a certain level). Do you work in IB?

Mar 21, 2012

you don't make money, your firm does.

Mar 21, 2012

you don't make money, your firm does.

Mar 21, 2012

It's not so much that they prioritize the "airport test" over making money, but more that the firms hiring for these so-called "good jobs" that you speak of can afford to be picky and choose somebody who has the complete package. This particularly holds true for the junior levels.Competition on Wall Street is intense. There are always more people available and they are abundantly capable of doing the job that needs to be done. Not to mention, there are dozens of people lined up right behind you, ready to take your place.

Of course, there are exceptions, usually at the senior-level. An absolute rainmaker on Wall Street could probably find another gig fairly easily even if he didn't pass the airport test. There are plenty of big personalities in the industry who are difficult to get along with or downright nasty (heck, there are people like that at the firm I currently work at), but that doesn't matter since they add a ton of value by bringing in deals, etc.

    • 1
Mar 21, 2012

That makes me wonder how they got on Wall Street in the beginning. I've certainly seen my share of less than desirable personalities, but were they always this way or did their status as a rainmaker (or, a rainmaker in their mind alone) lead them to take on new personality characteristics?

Mar 21, 2012

Someone else already pretty much covered this but it's actually really simple. Put 20 very smart kids in a room with me that have a passion for Finance/Markets and my guess is 10-12 of them would make decent traders. I have 3 openings on my desk. I know that I'm going to have to sit with these three little fuckers for 12 hours a day. Why would I not take the three that I get along with best, given all other things equal?

Mar 21, 2012

If the airport test consists of sitting in the lounge banging back as much Sapphire or Woodford as possible, then I think that's the most important test ever.

    • 1
Mar 21, 2012
Dingdong08:

If the airport test consists of sitting in the lounge banging back as much Sapphire or Woodford as possible, then I think that's the most important test ever.

Couldn't agree more.

    • 1
Mar 21, 2012
ugots:

I was wondering why so many good jobs on Wall Street depend on the Airport Test. For an industry so hellbent on making as much money as possible, why would they Prioritize this over their ability to make money?

The Airport Test is not for rainmakers. Please explain how an incoming analyst/associate would have an ability to make money.

Mar 21, 2012

Are you guys kidding me? What exactly do you think 'rainmakers' do? Bend the market to their will with their extraordinary minds? Carefully water money trees?

It's a freaking sales job! Not all senior guys in S&T are salesmen (not the traders), but the senior guys have to manage teams nonetheless. They may not give the airport test to senior guys, but that's because their relationship management skills should be time-tested and you can tell if someone is a douche as you move a little bit away from pure technicals.

Mar 21, 2012
GoodBread:

They may not give the airport test to senior guys, but that's because their relationship management skills should be time-tested and you can tell if someone is a douche as you move a little bit away from pure technicals.

That was my point. If you're interviewing for a fucking analyst or associate job, you have no proven ability to make money. Moreover, as an analyst or associate your value-add is pretty limited, at least in terms of you vs the next best candidate. And since most people with half a brain can *do* the job, being likeable is a differentiating factor.

If you're an MD with a track record, then it really doesn't matter as much if coworkers like you because you've shown clients do...and that you will make your bosses money in the process.

Mar 21, 2012

Ok, you have 10-12 guys, they are all competent, you need to pick 3. You think, 'I'm already loaded, I don't care about the future of this company, I'm going to pick 3 guys that have some good titty jokes so I don't bash their heads in when they fuck up.' Meanwhile, there's a shop that' picks up a bunch of smart guys that you passed up and they take your lunch in 10 years.

Mar 21, 2012

Stop being such a nerd. There are plenty of people out there who are both smart and fun to have a beer with. If the 3 with the jokes were competent, you'll pick up a bunch of business, while the shop with the 10 nerds will have gone bust because they couldn't get anyone to buy their product and their fool-proof structured funding arrangement will have sent them in to chapter 11.

    • 1
Mar 21, 2012

The "Airport Test" is just another way to say do you want to work with this person. I'm coming from a PE angle (all of the quants can completely disagree with this and probably rightfully so), but contrary to popular opinion this isn't exactly brain surgery. There's a base level of intelligence required on my team at the junior level but I also want someone who's going to get along with people and work well together. And be personable. I don't need everyone to have an IQ of >160 who are going to pull Rain Man antics and pontificate about their KMart underwear. And those people, at least in IB or PE, are not going to be the people who make it because this is a largely relationship business. I want production from the people we employ but you're also an investment: I want people to stay with us forever and advance. If you get to the fit questions/airport test, it means you've passed the qualifications, experience and technical aspects of the interview process. Now you need to be able to be an actual person and someone who's going to work well together with the overall team.

And I've literally (and that's a word I do not often use) been stuck in shitball airports half way around the world for long periods of time with people I work with. And I actually want to get along with them.

Mar 21, 2012

I understand this is a conservative business, meaning it's more focused on maintaining the status quo than it is on innovating. This is probably because there aren't really any viable alternatives to Wall Street, so it is free to do as it pleases.

But back to the conversation, I'd hire a few salesmen, teach them what to say and have them procure business. It's not like that doesn't already exist.

    • 2
Mar 21, 2012

Stop trolling man, the idea that only people without interesting personalities or lives are the only ones that can innovate is one of the stupidest things I've ever read on this site.

    • 1
Mar 21, 2012

Yeah I just don't understand how people have a hard time with this. No matter how smart you are, if no one likes you then you're not going to be an asset to the firm. As mentioned by others, it's not impossible for people to be outrageously smart and also lots of fun to spend time with. Unless you're taking a job where you literally build models alone all day and never talk to anyone, they're going to take the guy with a 130-140 IQ that was in a fraternity or played a sport, likes to go out and have fun and has a sense of humor over the nerdy kid with a 160 IQ and no EQ. I don't like the word EQ or social IQ or whatever people call it now, but being articulate and friendly and funny can get you much further in life, all else being equal.

Mar 21, 2012

I come from the hedge fund side and on senior levels there reallyis no airport test. If a guy has a legit track record he can write his own ticket even if he is insufferable. I have plenty of examples that come to my mind immediately.

    • 1
Mar 21, 2012
Comment
Mar 21, 2012
Comment

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."