You're not polished enough

I made all the way to superday at a BB. Making it past resume screening was a big deal to me because I go to a non-target with very few alumni in the industry.I made it past 5 rounds of interview, got to superday, then I was told I was a back up candidate. I called to follow up and the recruiter said all the people who received their offers accepted.

I asked for feedback on what I could have done better and all he told me was "you're not polished enough." I was very heartbroken and frustrated at the moment so I just said thank you and got off the phone. I have been pondering on what that means for a while now and was wondering if anyone could give me more color as to what that means.

Comments (77)

Mar 28, 2017 - 11:50pm

it's nice they gave you an answer at all, I've never been told why; but i know the feeling. I know it can be discouraging but all you can do is keep trying.

If you made it that far you did damn well, who knows if that's even the real reason.

Apr 6, 2017 - 5:57pm
JuicyJuice:

I really want to know who the hell would ever provide that kind of feedback to a back up candidate, let alone a college student. Not polished enough? What a complete dick.

Interviewer didn't volunteer it. OP asked for feedback. I personally would have couched it a bit more gently by saying that "something tells me that in a couple of years you'll be at the level we need you to be at" but the interviewer told him where he was lacking after being asked for it.

That's not being a dick; that's being helpful.

If I ask WSO for all of the ways IlliniProgrammer is a douche, and I (perhaps rightly) get an earful, I may not like what I hear but you guys would be acting in a way that is honest and helpful and responsive to my request, not mean.

OP was brave and very adult in asking for feedback. And he got it and if he can address it it will help him in the long run.

Apr 8, 2017 - 7:12pm

This is entirely correct. It lets you know nothing. Ask someone close to you (classmate who you feel is very polished, mentor, etc) about your level of polish and get specifics and coaching if they agree with the feedback. If people you respect with credentials say it's crap, it's crap. See my above response to JuicyJuice.

Mar 31, 2017 - 11:14am

At 26 I've already decided I'm not going to allow myself to go bald. I'll get plugs if it comes to it, but I'm 100% not going to allow baldness to happen to me regardless of cost, effort, or temporary embarrassment required to maintain it.

Nothing short of everything will really do.
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Mar 31, 2017 - 4:14am

It means they went with someone else for whatever reason and couldn't think of another reason to reject you. The other person quite possibly has better contacts.

Either that or you didn't speak or enunciate very well in your interview, you didn't by any chance open with "yo wassup" and a fist bump?

Mar 31, 2017 - 7:57am

I've sorta been dinged because of it, the 19 year old me was an idiot. The exact words used were "I need some fine tuning". So, as someone who actually was not polished enough, if that was actually true, you wouldn't have gotten a callback after the first interview. You survived 5 rounds of interview and were the backup interview. Have some confidence in yourself, man.

Mar 31, 2017 - 7:57am

It's because you go to a non-target and didn't amaze them.

“Elections are a futures market for stolen property”
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Mar 31, 2017 - 9:12am

Pretty much spot on. A target is a safe hire in the beginning, because the team can rationalize the decision to others. If the target applicant doesn't work out it's not really a big deal. If they use a SA offer on a non-target they have to a perfect candidate that they can rationalize to themselves and others on why chose them over a H/P/Y student.

26 Broadway where's your sense of humor?
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Best Response
Mar 31, 2017 - 9:10am

I think the majority of posters here are simply dead wrong. First off, the recruiter did you a huge solid by actually giving you feedback. Very, very few recruiters will ever do this. Second off, the recruiter's feedback was real feedback. It's just that you and the majority of people here don't understand it, and that's understandable because neither did I when I was in undergrad.

When I think of an unpolished candidate, I think of one who rambles (maybe this is just projection judging by the length of my post lol), cannot properly walk me through a transaction on his/her resume, cannot give me a succinct answer to an easy question, cannot form a simple opinion on a complex issue, cannot answer my off-the-wall behavioral questions, etc. Frankly, the vast alumni network, IB-related clubs, and just overall environment at most targets do a much better job than their counterparts at non-targets polishing the students.

Since you got this far in the process, you can rule out your experience as the issue. What you need to work on is your delivery (i.e. how you answer questions). A starting point would be running through a mock interview with either an alumnus or the WSO Wall St. Mentors program. That should give you a clue as to where your weaknesses lie. I would then spend some time pouring through WSO as everything from how to walk someone through a transaction to how to answer an off-the-wall behavioral question (I actually posted about that yesterday) has been asked and answered here before.

I hope that helps and makes sense. This is understandably frustrating as the solution to this issue is not as linear as just studying technicals more.

Apr 4, 2017 - 12:11pm
Sil:

I think the majority of posters here are simply dead wrong. First off, the recruiter did you a huge solid by actually giving you feedback. Very, very few recruiters will ever do this. Second off, the recruiter's feedback was real feedback. It's just that you and the majority of people here don't understand it, and that's understandable because neither did I when I was in undergrad.

When I think of an unpolished candidate, I think of one who rambles (maybe this is just projection judging by the length of my post lol), cannot properly walk me through a transaction on his/her resume, cannot give me a succinct answer to an easy question, cannot form a simple opinion on a complex issue, cannot answer my off-the-wall behavioral questions, etc. Frankly, the vast alumni network, IB-related clubs, and just overall environment at most targets do a much better job than their counterparts at non-targets polishing the students.

Since you got this far in the process, you can rule out your experience as the issue. What you need to work on is your delivery (i.e. how you answer questions). A starting point would be running through a mock interview with either an alumnus or the WSO Wall St. Mentors program. That should give you a clue as to where your weaknesses lie. I would then spend some time pouring through WSO as everything from how to walk someone through a transaction to how to answer an off-the-wall behavioral question (I actually posted about that yesterday) has been asked and answered here before.

I hope that helps and makes sense. This is understandably frustrating as the solution to this issue is not as linear as just studying technicals more.

This is very accurate. The only thing I would add is that I would also use "not polished" if a candidate didn't use good grammar, didn't demonstrate a broad vocabulary, or regularly said "uhhh" or "ummm." My biggest personal pet peeve is when someone uses a word for something that it doesn't mean.

A great recent example is that I interviewed a sales candidate, and twice in the interview she used "ventricle" in place of "vertical." I could have forgiven it once as a slip-up since we're in healthcare, but twice was painful. She won't be getting an offer.

  • 6
Apr 7, 2017 - 12:04am
Sil:

I think the majority of posters here are simply dead wrong. First off, the recruiter did you a huge solid by actually giving you feedback. Very, very few recruiters will ever do this. Second off, the recruiter's feedback was real feedback. It's just that you and the majority of people here don't understand it, and that's understandable because neither did I when I was in undergrad.

When I think of an unpolished candidate, I think of one who rambles (maybe this is just projection judging by the length of my post lol), cannot properly walk me through a transaction on his/her resume, cannot give me a succinct answer to an easy question, cannot form a simple opinion on a complex issue, cannot answer my off-the-wall behavioral questions, etc. Frankly, the vast alumni network, IB-related clubs, and just overall environment at most targets do a much better job than their counterparts at non-targets polishing the students.

Since you got this far in the process, you can rule out your experience as the issue. What you need to work on is your delivery (i.e. how you answer questions). A starting point would be running through a mock interview with either an alumnus or the WSO Wall St. Mentors program. That should give you a clue as to where your weaknesses lie. I would then spend some time pouring through WSO as everything from how to walk someone through a transaction to how to answer an off-the-wall behavioral question (I actually posted about that yesterday) has been asked and answered here before.

I hope that helps and makes sense. This is understandably frustrating as the solution to this issue is not as linear as just studying technicals more.

This.

Apr 9, 2017 - 5:15pm

Spot on.

"Polish", as vague as it sounds, is very important as you progress. It goes beyond the interview process and weighs heavily in day to day interactions.

Incoming rant: (I am going beyond OP's post now and the following is not aimed at him) It blows my mind how some people lack manners. I have seen analysts slurp their tea loudly in the office, are messy AF, and keep interrupting people when they speak.

Mar 31, 2017 - 9:16am

These seemingly nonsensincal rejections are the worst. My recent experience was the opposite. At my final interview I was told by the interviewer that my resumé, composure and attire was fault-free. The interviewer argued that I fit the profile of someone who might be arrogant.

This was completely new to me, especially as a I see my CV as mediocre aim to be passionate but objective during interviews. I don't think there is a magic formula other than doing due diligence by talking to previously successful applicants and trying again in 6 months. However, sometimes these things are rooted in our DNA - in such instances, maybe the job and the firm simply doesn't fit your profile.

Mar 31, 2017 - 11:58am

This is really good, helpful advice. Don't take it too hard, and don't take it too personally.

"Not polished enough" does not mean "never"; it just means "not today".

If it helps, I'm exactly 10 years ahead of you in this cycle. I look back at the stuff I was saying and doing in interviews 10 years ago and part of me feels really embarassed. But part of me also knows that I was just a kid, and those mistakes were totally forgiveable and expected for a 21 year old-- but they just meant that I wasn't quite cut out for the FO in that interview.

My toughest interviewers were the ones that helped me improve the most in the long run.

If your biggest issue is polish, you're going to pull this off eventually. Especially if you're coming from a school that doesn't typically place a lot of people into banking. You might not pull this off at 21 or 22 (I'm calling the odds 50/50), but you'll pull it off by 24, especially if you spend 18 months in a white-collar job.

If it helps, my first job put me in a group similar to GS or MS Strats at Lehman Brothers-- I was an excellent programmer, but I lacked the polish for a true FO role. Today I am a quantitative researcher developing alphas on the buyside, and the mistakes I made and the tough interviews I survived at 21 and 22 helped me pull off a really polished interview at 29 that got me the job I have now.

Keep at it, you'll pull this off.

Mar 31, 2017 - 11:27am

mmmm123 as an honest assessment of yourself did you catch yourself rambling or speaking more than you needed to? Did you answer questions as if you were reading from a textbook?

If not, like others have mentioned its because you were a non-target (I think this is BS but there are countless threads on debating this).

I see one of two options:

1.) Next time you have an interview be ballsy and ask the interviewer, "If my resume said Harvard, UPenn, or some other target school instead of Generic State U would this change your opinion on me as a suitable candidate for full-time role?"

2.) Move onto something else. Look at alternatives like Corporate Banking and see if you can use the skills you learn there to lateral into IB.

Unfortunately for any job you can be rejected for the dumbest things. Someone didn't like your face, your hair, your suit, the fact that you may be Asian or black, you were a woman but not as attractive as Katie...who the hell knows.

Truth be told its much better to be at a place that wants you rather than one that doesn't or is on the fence about you. You made it this far as a non-target and although there is no consolation prize you have what it takes to get into the room so maybe reach out to people who know you such as friends in the industry or career advisers and get their feedback on your interviewing skills (i.e. not necessarily technical but behavioral and body language wise).

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Mar 31, 2017 - 1:10pm

Not sure it he's joking, but don't take option 1. If I had a candidate say that to me, and considering that I am actually from a target like most in IB BB/EB, I'd either way be looking to take the candidate from my school if at all possible. Tbh it would just be annoying that she 20 year old kid is here trying to aggressively question that, would be a huge turnoff.

This being said, I've only been an interviewer in first/second round interviews, not superdays. Also, I'm probably a bit of a dick anyway

Mar 31, 2017 - 2:30pm

therealgekko #1 was purely a sarcastic comment and one I would never seriously recommend. However like you said brand loyalty is true (i.e. Texas A&M which is borderline a cult).

2 probably won't be a popular option but there is no shame in getting into a role close to IB in terms of transferable skills (e.g. Financial modeling, creating pitch books or decks, time management in high stress, demanding environments, etc.)

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Mar 31, 2017 - 12:22pm

I was rejected about 3 months ago on "fit". Sounds like somewhat of the same feedback as "not being polished". I got great feedback, that might help you.

Apparently I ramble a bit and sounded too much like the perfect "well practiced" finance interview candidate. They even told me that at a BB they would have hired me, but they wouldn't take the risk at the small EB regional office they were. In hindsight I can see what they meant though. Basically I would look at all the things you think you normally do that might annoy people or aren't your best treats, and then figure out if you did them during your interview. You probably did.

Apr 8, 2017 - 7:19pm

I give consulting candidates this feedback quite a bit. If the firm doesn't feel like they got to know the real you (not the rehearsed you), it ain't happening. We spend too much time together for a firm to risk a hire that they don't truly know.

I bet it has more to do with coming across as genuine rather than annoying habits.

Mar 31, 2017 - 12:55pm

In the Canadian perspective, "polish", really has to do with the prep provided to students/candidates.
Most non-target schools have literally zero support for students trying to break into ib while the target schools all have clubs, counselors and hordes of alumni who really do make that difference in a candidate's polish.
Little things like attire, personal grooming and, yes, language, all make a big difference in getting into the "yes/offer" pile.
If one's school doesn't help, candidates have to fend for themselves. WSO is a great place to start....

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Mar 31, 2017 - 1:10pm

It meant that they just wanted the target school kid, she/he's less risky as a candidate to choose. Think about it, he killed it in high school, got good SAT's and has already been vetted to be chosen by a top university and carries a 3.6 here. Statistically speaking, on the bank's end it is safer to choose him since they are really looking for just an excel monkey who can log in the hours. Plus most of these guys are from targets and looking to recruit from their alma mater, so they will be looking to weed out non-targets. You made it pretty far, try looking for other ops

Mar 31, 2017 - 3:07pm
therealgekko:

It meant that they just wanted the target school kid, she/he's less risky as a candidate to choose. Think about it, he killed it in high school, got good SAT's and has already been vetted to be chosen by a top university and carries a 3.6 here. Statistically speaking, on the bank's end it is safer to choose him since they are really looking for just an excel monkey who can log in the hours. Plus most of these guys are from targets and looking to recruit from their alma mater, so they will be looking to weed out non-targets. You made it pretty far, try looking for other ops


Cynicism like this doesn't really help. If anything, brazen optimism, sometimes on the border of getting yourself called delusional by WSO, is what changes the system.

Our firm tends to pick the guy who gives the best technical interview. Incidentally about 60% of us have some sort of state school on our resumes; 40% exclusively. (mind you these are often flagship schools like Berkeley or UNC Chapel Hill or UMich, but in a field like finance, the guy from Berkeley identifies more with UC Irvine than he does Stanford) We do get a boatload of applicants from HYP, but Berkeley, Ga Tech, UMich, UT Austin, and UIUC often produce higher quality developers, and there's just a better cultural fit. So if anything, being from a state school can be an advantage at some firms.

For the positions where competence matters, where you go to school gets you the interview to be sure, but in the interview, it's all you and what you can bring to the table.

Mar 31, 2017 - 6:50pm

It's not cynicism, just a recognition of the realities that you have to work around. And sometimes the truth is harsh, but at least by knowing it, you can see how you might be able to circumvent or address those concerns to solid material effect. And you're right, brazen optimism is what changes the system, but a college sophomore/junior is realistically not going to change in the system. Therefore, a strong understanding of the system itself is going to serve OP better in navigating it.

Also, I'm not questioning that some firms could have preference for state-school kids for cultural dimensions, but BB IB, and then PE/HF recruiting after at the better firms typically do evaluate based on target school. All else being equal at a good PE firm, they will choose the candidate who went to the target over the nontarget, and same with BB IB. It's just a matter of risk and supporting the alma mater

Mar 31, 2017 - 3:05pm

Why don't you reach out to your interviewers and request feedback?

If I don't get a role, I simply follow up one more time after the thank you email. It couldn't hurt to reach out and say something like, "Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me. I came away with a good impression and was very impressed with blah blah. Any feedback you can provide regarding my interview to better position me in any future interviews with this company would be greatly appreciated"

Worst they can do is say no or ignore your email. Then you are back where you started.
Best case, you get an answer AND they appreciate your proactivity.

Apr 3, 2017 - 10:29pm

I think being not polished enough is just a reality of attending a non-target. I've been told I'm not polished several times. Many of us non-targets have been competing against a certain type of person for xyz years, when you enter banking interviews you're competing against a whole new breed of people.

Apr 6, 2017 - 5:23pm

It's true... I interviewed a couple guys for our Vol desk... One of the guys at my desk was making fun of a candidate's cufflinks. He was a terrible candidate anyway, so we were calling stuff out... Every interview I go to, I make sure my hair is short and tight, shaved, make sure my tie is nice size to my belt, shoes are polished, make sure my dress shirt isn't tucking out... Everything is perfect.

Apr 6, 2017 - 6:55pm
mswoonc:

It's true... I interviewed a couple guys for our Vol desk... One of the guys at my desk was making fun of a candidate's cufflinks. He was a terrible candidate anyway, so we were calling stuff out... Every interview I go to, I make sure my hair is short and tight, shaved, make sure my tie is nice size to my belt, shoes are polished, make sure my dress shirt isn't tucking out... Everything is perfect.

Every interview I go to, I wear jeans, a plaid shirt (typically with a tear or two), thick rimmed glasses, and IlliniProgrammer DiSheveled Quant Hair Cream (TM) for that geek-who-rolled-out-of-bed-look. Interviewers yell at me that I'm supposed to wear a suit, then I get asked a bunch of technical questions about statistical learning and behavioral finance, and I get an offer a few weeks later for some hedge fund thingajobber.

Agreed 100%. The secret's in the clothing and appearance. And my Quant Hair Cream is on sale at Circuit City for $29.95 if you hurry up and buy now.

In all seriousness, QR candidates should be expected to wear a suit and tie to an interview, as well as dress shoes and (maybe) a belt and appropriate socks. They should look like they've showered in the past 48 hours (ideally that day) and their hair (including beard) should be well trimmed. You don't gotta get everything right as a quant-- you just have to show you understand the system and have made an effort. Beyond that, the polish is in nailing the technicals and understanding what the job entails.

Calm down kids-- don't be intimidated by this fellow with an apparent inferiority complex. You can do this.

Apr 6, 2017 - 6:17pm

Almost every time I've heard that term in a post interview deliberation room it relates to how organised and effective an applicant responds to questions as well as how they do the resume walk-through. Were they to the point? Did they emphasizes what are clearly their most important accomplishments, tone of voice etc. Essentially it all boils down to: would I be comfortable having this person present to senior leaders and clients? Will they make me look good or bad? this is very subjective too but at least now you know so you can adjust accordingly for next time. good luck.

"I'm talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing. " -GG
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Apr 7, 2017 - 10:23am

Bingo. Do they sound like they know what they're doing, know what they want, and do they stay on point? Do they know how to solve a technical question in front of an interviewer.

That said, if superdays are American Idol, I generally find myself playing Paula Abdul (one of the judges), or at least playing her in the interview. Interviews are tough; they're stressful. On top of that, a lot of us quants have issues with social anxiety as one could probably imagine. On the one hand I want to find the best candidate (so I ask a tough question and state it as such); on the other, I don't want to make it any harder than it has to be and I am constantly making it clear I am not expecting too much from a 21 year old kid.

Apr 7, 2017 - 6:16pm

Agree with Coote that you did very well getting as far as you did, and you are lucky that you received feedback (although it could have been given more tactfully). You could use that feedback and talk to a public speaking coach, and get more specific feedback about how you come off (first impression) to a stranger. Even get videotaped. I did this and was amazed at what the camera showed.

Apr 8, 2017 - 12:09pm

Worth reading books like Importance of Being Earnest, anything from PG Wodehouse, etc These are not only funny but give you great examples of polished delivery of thoughts (modern, not medivial). I picked up reading just recently and regret not doing it in my youth. Also, Plato's works are rather conversational as well. It will take time of course to implement elements of their style into your way of speaking, but if you have more than just a few days to prep, this can certainly serve as addition to your comms style.

P.S. The above mentioned books were written by and about people one could consider "target", i.e. members of the aristocracy and leading thinkers/writers of their times. A glimpse into their lives and how they interact could be of use.

Apr 9, 2017 - 6:41pm

Ah, to be young enough to think that 'incorporating the elements of [Plato's] style' would mean shit-all in banking. For what it's worth, Shakespeare would be the closest comp for IB's approach to language --> write a lot, please the masses, and, when in doubt, make words up to fit your needs.

Life's is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
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