Why You Weren’t Selected for That Interview at JP Morgan

128 Comments | Investment Banking - Resumes

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It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot lately.

“Why didn’t I get an interview at Morgan Stanley New York?”

“Why was my friend selected for JP Morgan Houston but I was not?”

“Why did I get an interview at CS Hong Kong even though my resume had a typo in it?”

Interview selection at individual banks is incredibly random, and you never know what someone’s biases will be.

Yes, if you “bankify” your resume and avoid common mistakes, you have a higher probability of getting an interview. But that doesn’t mean you’ll actually get one – and sometimes even if your resume is awful, you might still get an interview.

Example #1: A Real-Life Jack Bauer

Once, we were sitting around reviewing resumes and someone stumbled across a guy who had served in the military (in a country where it was a requirement).

Alone, that wouldn’t be too impressive – but this guy had served in several well-known battlefields and listed them all on his resume.

One of the bankers in the room was also ex-military so this immediately jumped out at him – and even though this guy had 0 finance experience and his resume was marginal at best, he still got an interview on the recommendation of the ex-military banker.

If you know how to commandeer vehicles, pitch books should be easy, right?

Example #2: My Disagreeable Roommate

We had just received a resume from one of my former roommates. He was transitioning from wealth management to investment banking, and he had all the elements of a successful resume.

I took one look at it and told everyone in the room we shouldn’t interview him.

As roommates, we got into arguments over the smallest issues and there was no way I could ever see myself or anyone else working long hours with him.

You could argue that living with someone is different from working with him, but in banking you basically live with your co-workers.

Example #3: That (Fake?) Private Equity Internship

One time we saw a lot of applicants from one school had all “interned” at the same “private equity” firm. Normally we only spent 30 seconds per resume and never did any outside research, but seeing 5-10 people all with internships at one place raised some eyebrows.

None of us had heard of this firm, so it was either fake or another J.T. Marlin.

We did some digging online and found that it was real – but it was also inaccurate to label it “private equity.” It was more of a “Well, my rich uncle just gave us $5 million to invest so let’s look at some cool startups in the area” type of place.

We did not give an interview to anyone who claimed they “worked on LBOs.”

Example #4: The Failed Fraternity Guy

One guy who had some solid experience and a few banking internships had just submitted his resume.

When we were reviewing it, someone else in the room recognized him – it turned out this same guy had (unsuccessfully) rushed his fraternity a few years back. In fact, it was more than unsuccessful – everyone hated him and wanted nothing to do with him in the aftermath.

There were also suspicions of illegal activities on his part (use your imagination). Deciding that the risk was not worth it, we did not give him an interview.

Example #5: The Guy Who Wouldn’t Take “No” for an Answer

This one appeared in the comments the other day but it was in an article from over a year ago, so I felt it would be worth highlighting here:

“My situation was very bad…I had no prior work experience (neither industrial nor financial), I had no student exchange programs (highly rated in Europe), I had no stellar grades…BUT I had a genuine and strong interest for IB.”

Ok, so far you have an uphill battle…

“I wrote a full-of-passion investment banking cover letter, and they called me for the 1st round; my motivation impressed the Associates I talked with and after two weeks I was called for the 2nd round (a business case followed by a discussion with a VP, and a traditional interview with a Director).

The day after they offered me the job, although other candidates had better resumes (prior Internships in Bulge Brackets!).”

Nothing is impossible.

So What Can You Do About It?

If the recruiting process is so random and you get accepted or rejected for reasons beyond your control, what can you actually do about it?

  1. Spread your net wide. A great resume is only effective if you apply everywhere, from the tiniest boutique to Goldman Sachs.
  2. Play nice with others. Finance is a small world, and someone not liking you elsewhere often comes back to haunt you here.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be interesting – random facts can help you quite a bit (but please, don’t do a video resume, at least not in finance).
  4. Oh yeah, you still need to have a good resume anyway. Luck won’t help you everywhere, even if you are a real-life Jack Bauer.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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128 Comments to “Why You Weren’t Selected for That Interview at JP Morgan”

Comments

  1. bo analyst says

    Hi Brian / Nicole,

    I would deeply appreciate your advice on the below:

    I have an IB analyst interview, that may be scheduled sometime mid feb 2014. I’m a 2nd year analyst in operations with some BO experience at a BB and have read some CFA L1 material.

    As you can guess, this is an opportunity of a lifetime for me. I got it because I topped in an in-house equity training course at my BB covering valuation and modeling apart from correctly answering a lot of the questions they asked us (they never thought any of us would have a clue). Also, I networked like hell. Still, the course was basic and I’m going to buy BIWS to learn modeling.

    I would deeply appreciate any advice on how to prepare and use this two month period to prepare.

    Your advice can make my life.

      • BO Analyst says

        Thank you, Nicole!

        I have made up my mind to buy the BIWS premium. Would you be able to advice a book or resource that would help me master accounting before I begin financial modeling training. I am studying the CFA L1 book for accounting called Financial reporting & analysis. Please advise. Thank you.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Thanks for your follow-up! You don’t actually need to go through any additional courses before commencing our courses. If you are going through our Fundamentals course, we’ll go through all you need to know to start and the materials are designed for students who have had limited modeling experience. With the above being said, if you really want to go through another book, I’d suggest http://www.amazon.com/Damodaran-Valuation-Security-Investment-Corporate/dp/0471751219 though it can be pretty intensive and a lot of materials to go through.

          • BO Analyst says

            I appreciate your prompt response. I have this book and will go through it if you suggest.

            However, I was looking for a reference/book on accounting rather than valuation because the interview I had 6 months back was veering towards accounting.

            So, based on your response, my rephrased question is: would you say that CFA L1 financial reporting and analysis would be good enough foundation for beginning financial modeling using the BIWS course or would you advise another text?

            I am sorry if I sound repetitive. I just don’t want to lose a single day and I will use my weekend to study based on your advice.

          • M&I - Nicole says

            Your hard work is commendable! I think the CFA Level 1 materials are sufficient. Otherwise, you may be overloading yourself with information. As I’ve said earlier, you can just commence the BIWS course without additional materials. Please head over to our BIWS forum once you’ve signed up for our courses. We look forward to seeing you there!

          • bo analyst / soon to be customer says

            I was expecting your reply by Monday because the weekend had begun, and am astonished by the quickness of your response. It speaks about BIWS / M&I’s commitment. Thank you for saving 1 day of my prep :)
            I’ll purchase the course on the 18th of jan, and will definitely express my gratitude again at that time.
            Have a great weekend!

          • M&I - Nicole says

            No worries. Let us know if you have any questions and we look forward to seeing you in our BIWS community.

  2. bo analyst says

    HELP!

    Hi Nicole / Brian,

    My posts are below. They threw a bomb at me today and have scheduled the interview on Monday @ 6 pm.

    All my planning is useless now. I don’t even know if the interview will be for ibd, equity research or credit analysis. They will tell me in a few mins. Chances are it’ll be for a coverage group if it’s ibd or credit analysis. Sadly, I never followed an industry.

    I would deeply appreciate advice on how I should use this period to prepare, and any SOS advice. How should I convey that I was just about to begin industry research?

    Thanks for your time.

    • bo analyst says

      The interview is for fund accounting. All the members of the group are chartered accountants. I’m depressed because it’s not ibd at all. In your advice, is there a way from MO accounting to FO ibd?
      Thanks, I appreciate your time.

      • bo analyst says

        Fund accounting is a little related to FP&A.

        I’m thoroughly depressed as I have successfully made a mess out of my career.

        You guys were very helpful throughout and I consider this website the best resource of all. Sadly, the ib dream is over for me.
        All the best.

        • bo analyst says

          Thank you so much, Nicole! Once again, i am astonished by the helpfulness displayed by M&I / BIWS. thank you for changing my outlook. I will continue to strive for IBD, and will use the biws guides and course to achieve my goal. Have a great weekend.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Congratulations! This is exciting! I’d focus on your pitch, your background and be able to articulate your skills, your value-add as well as what you’re planning to do in the future. It would be useful to know which group it is for, but if you don’t, you’ll just have to tailor your pitch for a generic purpose. If you have subscribed to our Interview Guide, you may want to go through the fit questions.

  3. J says

    Hi Brian,

    I love the site––it’s been very helpful. I haven’t found an article on what to do after you are chosen as an “alternate for offer.” Is there anyway to boost your chances after that happens? I just had my final round interviews for my top choice bank this summer, and the first few interviews went great, however the last one was mediocre (but not terrible by any means). Overall, I thought the day went fantastic and I was very optimistic after the fact. But I just got notified that I was selected as an “alternate.” What do you feel the odds are in this case? Any advice on what I can do now (if anything)? I thought about sending another email to the head interviewer reiterating my interest in the position, but I don’t want to annoy them or sound desperate. This is definitely my top choice though, so I want to do everything I can.

    Thanks!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Odds: 50/50…I don’t think you can do much because they’ve probably extended the offer to another candidate and waiting for him/her to respond (I maybe wrong). Yes sending an email can help you, though I wouldn’t be too stressed about it. If you have any new developments etc you can keep them posted. Otherwise, I’d wait and continue networking. Seems like you’ve done your best and given your all so I’d pat yourself on the back, relax and see how it goes.

  4. Jerry says

    Thanks, that’s encouraging. Do you have any insight as to whether retail banking is the trap I hear that it is? It has lots of positives: 40 hour weeks, you can work literally anywhere instead of a few major metro areas, etc. The pay pales in comparison to IB but would you wager that the lifestyle more than compensates? I suppose this is a question I’ll have to ask myself, but I’d like to hear your take. I just don’t want to be 30 and still helping people balance checkbooks.

  5. Julia says

    So my intention is to use the experience of business expansion, client interaction, risk assessment etc in terms of skills in operations or IBD.
    What I was wondering about was you stated it’s a lot more appropriate than other pre-MBA experience…not sure what you mean by that.
    Any idea how seriously those referrals are taken? I know they have a massive amount of applications.I’ve been in a back and forth email exchange with the recruiter in charge of the position I applied for (wanted to ask about their process and she ended up asking me for more details of my studies pre-uni) so I hope this won’t have affected my application negatively.

  6. says

    Sure that’s fine, you just have to emphasize how you can work well in a structured environment because banking is 100% the opposite of owning your own business.

    Employee referrals – really depends on who they are, how much you follow-up, and so on. You have to be extremely persistent – if you look at some of the case studies under Recruiting at the top of the page you can get a sense there.

  7. M&I - Nicole says

    Its hard to move to IB if you’re in retail banking. Whether you should do it or not in the longer term depends on what you want to do and what your goals in life are. I can’t say.

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