“The difficulty is in coming up with a credible excuse or rather, a set of excuses, when you need to do follow on interviews in a short period of time. Let’s face it, three doctors’ appointments, two visits to the dentist and a broken boiler, fridge and blocked sink in the course of the two week period for you to meet every single member of the team at Goldman who is looking to hire you, is not an option.”
Continuing this week’s theme of “assessing strategic alternatives for your career,” or “how to survive and interview for other jobs, even in a bad market,” I wanted to cover one other question I’ve seen lately: how to find time to interview with 2 full-time jobs (welcome to the life of the investment banking analyst).
Even if you’re not in investment banking, but rather another professional field like accounting, consulting, or corporate law, finding time and making up the appropriate excuses will always be an issue.
While it’s easy (easier perhaps) to do phone interviews, you’ll never get an actual offer unless you do at least a few rounds of in-person interviews, and sometimes many more than that.
There are 2 approaches you can take when it comes to being out of the office interviewing for other jobs: deception and honesty.
The classic example here is the doctor appointment. I’ve used this one before – probably too many times in fact.
Dentist is a little better, but still rather conventional.
“Family emergencies” can also work, but it’s even more unbelievable to have 5 family emergencies in one week than to have 5 doctor visits, so be careful with your usage there.
The main problem with using this strategy is that eventually you run out of excuses or you have 10 “doctor appointments” in one week, so it stops being believable.
And if you want to get a little more exotic, don’t even think about it. Saying your pet giraffe needs to go to the vet is a sure sign you have multiple interviews coming up. Variations on the ordinary are far better.
In general, though, I would recommend making up excuses in only 2 situations:
- It’s very early into your time on the job – if you just started at an investment bank in the summer, think January or February – and you are even more on top of recruiting than the average person. You don’t solicit meetings; the headhunters come to you.
- You work at a firm/office where talk of recruiting is taboo and no one is open about it. Or you’re in an industry where it’s not expected that people move on after a few years (surprisingly, there are other industries out there besides finance).
A lot of investment banking analysts think deception is always the best route, but I think this line of thinking is somewhat flawed. If you just have 1 or 2 interviews, sure, it’s easy to write them off as dentist appointments, weddings or broken sinks.
But when you actually find a lead worth pursuing and you have multiple rounds of interviews, it’s pretty obvious to everyone what you’re doing. And even if you don’t say anything directly, they’ll put the pieces together.
If you’re not in investment banking but are trying to break in from another field like accounting or consulting, you will probably have to use some made-up excuses to avoid raising red flags.
My recommendation: rotate among different excuses or come up with a series of events around one excuse. If you go the family emergency route, you can always string together a more detailed account and relay the basics to anyone who asks.
If you’re not in New York or London and you actually drive to work, car accidents (real or imagined) can be another good source of multiple absences within a week or two. You have to go to the hospital… go to the doctor for a follow-up exam… get your car fixed… find out it can’t be fixed… locate a new car.
It’s a gold mine.
Honesty can be the best policy here – as long as your firm and office are reasonable. I was upfront when I went to interview elsewhere and specifically told everyone on my team what I was doing (no, not where I was interviewing, just that I would be out for “private equity interviews“).
No one ever made an issue out of it. The most I ever got was, “Ok, make sure someone else is covering your deals.”
(Forget about “good luck.” This is finance.)
There are some offices where interviewing (or interviewing very frequently) is looked down upon; this actually happens more at boutiques and smaller firms than at bulge brackets, where most Analysts do in fact move on after 2 years.
Again, if you’re not an investment banking analyst, honesty may not in fact be the best policy. Friends switching into private equity or banking from related fields like equity research or accounting have had to jump through some crazy hoops to get in their interviews without arousing suspicion.
Telling Co-Workers: Trust No One
If you are going the “deception” route, you need to be 100% committed to it. You may think that telling fellow Analysts will be fine… that no one would leak what you’re actually doing.
But you would be wrong.
Somehow, it always gets out. I remember once I had people from a completely different office asking me about my trip when I got back. I had only told a few trusted co-workers so I was pretty surprised at first.
And then I realized that word about what you’re doing always leaks if even one person other than you knows.
So if you do have to be confidential for whatever reason, pretend it’s the mid-90’s and the X-Files is still the best show out there and trust no one.