“Blake: A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.”
-Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
“I’ve done everything you’ve told me to in your investment banking jobs guide. I’ve convinced them I can burn the midnight oil, work til I drop, and want to be Gordon Gekko. But I’m not getting any offers. What’s wrong?”
What’s wrong? You’re lacking a hook. To seal the deal and land offers, it’s not enough to show you can do the job well and have a serious interest in investment banking as a career.
You have to show them that they need you more than you need them.
Of course, this is never really true. You’re just a resource. They’re a $100 billion bulge bracket firm.
But perception is what counts.
What’s A Hook?
A hook makes you stand out from everyone else. It can be your extreme enthusiasm over the job that caused you to email them 59 days in a row (just like Bud Fox calling Gordon Gekko). It can be the experience you had working at a Chinese Private Equity Firm last summer. It can even be how you were a Varsity Athlete in that sport they’ve never heard of.
But it can’t be, “I really want to do banking so I can learn!” or, “I like the fast-paced environment!”
Those are not hooks. Those are just standard reasons to say you want to do the job.
When bankers quiz you in superday interviews, they try to answer three questions:
- Is he smart?
- Can he do the job?
- Do I like him?
If you want to close, the answer to #3 has to be, “yes.” You have to have a hook.
But I’m Just A Normal Person, How Can I Get A Hook?
If you just have standard experience, you have to go outside your previous jobs and activities to close your offers. One tactic is making a connection with your interviewer by having similar interests or asking questions about some topic he or she likes talking about.
This requires upfront research and isn’t always possible. But when you can do it, making a connection with the interviewer is a great tactic for increasing your success rate.
Was your interviewer in the Marines? Maybe your brother/cousin/uncle was too. Was he at a certain company or in the industry where your dad/cousin/uncle works? Same undergraduate schools?
Think far and wide to find that connection.
No One Wants You Until Someone Wants You (Then Everyone Wants You)
Yup, everything really is just like high school all over again.
Convince the firm that you have offers with other investment banks and you’ll get a big advantage. When they find out others want you, they’ll be afraid they’re missing something and decide they want you more now.
The correct answer to, “Are you interviewing with other firms?” is NEVER, “No.” Even if you’re not or have not gotten interviews with others, never say, “no.” Just be vague and say you are interviewing with other firms and are considering several options.
If you are indeed interviewing successfully with other firms, feel free to mention the names – this works especially well if they are competitive with your current firm. Naming any of the bulge brackets when interviewing with a bulge bracket, for example, gives you credibility (sometimes you can even get into specific offices, like UBS LA).
But I’ve Got Nothing… Really, Nothing!
Sometimes this happens. You don’t have any unusual or unique experience. Nothing in common with the interviewer. And no other competitive offers that might hurry them along.
Sometimes it’s just not meant to be. This is why you spread your net wide when interviewing at investment banks, especially in a tougher market. It’s just like applying to colleges – sure, go for Harvard, Yale and Princeton, but make sure you have some safeties (middle-markets and boutiques) in there as well.
Eventually, you’ll find one where people just mysteriously like you and you don’t need a “hook” or one where you have some connection to the interviewer.
And then you’ll close your interview and land your offer.