Why You Didn’t Land an Offer in Your Final Round Interviews at Morgan Stanley

63 Comments | Investment Banking - Interviews

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Why No Final Round Offers“Help! I went to my final round interviews but the interviewer didn’t like me from the start and kept harassing me with irrelevant questions. I asked for feedback afterward and they said, “Improve your technical skills.” How can I do that? They didn’t even ask me any technical questions.”

Final rounds are over.

Banks are done giving out offers.

…and you came close, got a few Superdays (or assessment centers), but you didn’t walk away with any offers.

While most of the articles on this site teach you how to improve yourself and land offers, this one has a different message: interviews are random.

Sometimes it’s not your fault if you don’t get an offer.

Really Beyond Your Control?

There are some things you can always control: your story, your “why investment banking?” answer and the 2-3 mini-stories you can use to answer most “fit” questions.

And you can always improve your technical knowledge.

But sometimes, no matter how many interview guides you’ve read or how many finance classes you’ve taken or how many internships at Goldman Sachs you’ve had, you won’t get an offer.

Problem #1: The Interviewer is Having a Bad Hair Day

Maybe your interviewer just got chewed out by his MD – or maybe a nightmare client ruined his weekend by calling him into work on a Saturday night.

Maybe he broke up with his fiancée right before his planned wedding, or maybe he saw your CV, realized that you’re from a rival school, and decided to hate you as a result.

If you walk into the room and the interviewer is hostile from the start, you won’t overcome that.

What To Do About It: In this scenario you can’t do anything to change the interviewer’s mood – all you can do is control your own emotions.

Always assume the worst when walking into an interview – expect that it will be horribly stressful and that your interviewer will antagonize you the whole time.

And then if it’s better than what you expected, you’ll have it easy – and if it’s as bad as you expected, at least you were prepared.

If it was so horrible that you know you have no chance of landing an offer, you can also ask directly at the end what you could have done to improve your performance.

Not everyone has the guts to do that, and you should only consider it if it was a train wreck of an interview – but that type of question lets you see whether you actually messed up or if it was the interviewer.

Problem #2: The Interviewer is Wrong About a Technical Question

Here are just a few of the incorrect technical questions I’ve seen before:

  • The interviewer has the wrong formula for the terminal value in a DCF and claims that he’s right and you’re wrong.
  • The interviewer claims that 1 valuation methodology “always” gives a higher value than all the others or that there’s always an exact ranking (there isn’t – it depends on the assumptions).
  • The interviewer claims that Depreciation “always” shows up as a separate line item on the income statement (it doesn’t, sometimes it’s partially or fully embedded in other expenses).

There are 3 possibilities when the interviewer has his facts wrong:

  1. The interviewer genuinely thinks he’s right, even though he’s not.
  2. He’s testing you to see whether or not you’ll call him on his mistake.
  3. It’s an advanced or industry-specific topic and his group does things differently from everyone else.

#3 is not terribly likely unless he’s asking extremely advanced technical questions or something where there’s no universally correct answer (e.g. how to project revenue and expenses, which depends on the company and the industry).

#2 is also unlikely because it’s silly to play mind games like that in an interview, but it does happen.

#1 is the most likely scenario – remember, not all investment bankers know finance perfectly.

Some groups get limited exposure to modeling, and banks hire plenty of people without finance backgrounds – so you could always run into an interviewer with weak technical skills.

What To Do About It: If it’s a basic question – e.g. standard formulas in a DCF or how to link the statements together – don’t immediately give in if the interviewer claims that you’re wrong.

Say that you understand what he/she is saying, but that you said something different because [Explain Your Reasoning] – that handles the case where he/she is “testing” you.

Do not do this unless you are 100% certain and it’s a standard question or formula that you’ve seen in books, guides, and other resources before.

But if the interviewer cuts you off or it’s clear that he’s not just testing you after you explain your reasoning, don’t get into an extended argument: sometimes interviewers are just wrong.

But hey, would you want to work somewhere where bankers don’t even have basic technical knowledge?

Problem #3: The Interviewer Keeps Asking Why Your Grades are Low / Why You Didn’t Go to a Top School

So you thought grades and school prestige would only matter for interview selection – but your interviewer disagrees:

  • “Why do you have a 3.2 GPA? Are you lazy or just stupid?”
  • “Why didn’t you go to Harvard, LSE, or Oxford? I’ve never even heard of your school.”

Unlike problems #1 and #2 above, you can actually prepare for these questions ahead of time – just don’t get blindsided by them in an interview without a plan or you won’t be able to do much.

What To Do About It: You can’t do anything to change your GPA or where you went to school – you only have 2 options:

  1. Have a good story explaining why you have lower grades or why you didn’t go to a top school.
  2. Apply for Master’s in Finance programs (or MBA programs in the longer-term) and use those to get a brand name and higher grades.

To explain a low GPA, emphasize improvement over time rather than making excuses (you think they haven’t heard the “family emergency” line before?): acknowledge that you screwed up in your first year but then improved and took classes more seriously.

To explain a less prestige school, say that your family could not afford an expensive option and that you made the most of it to get where you are – remind them what a challenge it was to even get an interview at this bank.

If GPA and school name are a repeated problem in every single interview and they prevent you from getting offers everywhere, then a top Master’s program is your best bet (click here to read all about them).

Problem #4: You’re Put On Hold

You finished your final round interviews and performed well – but a few people were better than you.

You can improve your own performance, but there’s no way to tell what the competition will be like – so this one is out of your control as well.

So you’re on hold, either officially (they tell you) or unofficially (you don’t hear back from them).

You’re tempted to follow-up to “sell yourself” once again and boost your chances…

…but please, don’t do that – at least, don’t do a “hard sell” immediately after.

Persistence is good, but there’s a thin line between persistence and desperation.

Sell yourself before and during the interview, but resist the urge to do so after the fact: it looks desperate and interview decisions are made almost immediately afterward anyway.

What To Do About It: Instead of moving to an immediate “hard sell,” follow-up with everyone within a few days to express your continued interest in the firm.

If they don’t give you a direct answer and time keeps dragging on, call one of them and ask directly what you can do to improve or become a more attractive candidate.

And if it’s something you can fix (e.g., technical skills, communication skills, etc.), do so by submitting evidence of your improvement.

Beyond this, all you can do to accelerate the process is get an offer from another bank, bring it to the first bank, and tell them that you need a decision ASAP due to this pending deadline.

Just make sure you don’t make up an imaginary offer elsewhere and lie about it.

No Offers – What to Do?

Sometimes your offer status is beyond your control – just think about how random the interview selection process is, and now add in all the additional irrationality that comes from meeting bankers in person.

So you need to figure out why you didn’t get an offer and whether you can actually do something about it.

If not, chalk it up to bad luck and move on with life, continue networking, spread your net wider, and follow the advice here if you end up with no offers as recruiting is wrapping up.

And remember: it was the interviewer – not you.

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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63 Comments to “Why You Didn’t Land an Offer in Your Final Round Interviews at Morgan Stanley”

Comments

  1. newbie says

    I know IBanks prefer HF,PE,IBD experience. What about other ones like Asset Management, Credit Analyst, Risk Management, Venture capital? Can you provide rankings?

    • says

      I do not rank anything, whether it’s jobs, schools, banks, or supermodels. The other industries you mention prefer any type of finance experience over non-finance experience… for VC, see the articles on the site about VC under Exit Opportunities at the top. The others are not as picky as banks in terms of other experience, IB/PE/HF still helps a lot but other experience works well.

  2. Ray says

    Well, looks like my case… The only bank that seems to want me is the boutique I summered at – looks like I have to go back now…

  3. Aleksandra says

    I am not done interviewing yet but only have one upcoming interview for the position I don’t really want. Assuming I get it, should I accept in anyhow or continue networking/looking at smaller places? Master’s Degree sounds great but I really want to get some real work experience first and figure out if finance is even for me.

    Thanks for the reply.

    • says

      If you have no other interviews lined up you should accept it and take what you can get… if you had other interviews it might be better to push out the offer deadline and get more time, but if not it’s too risky so you should accept and continue networking.

  4. Aleksandra says

    What about starting working for a smaller firm now and applying for a summer internship with bulge bracket banks through SEO? Any chance one could start in December or just stay over after the internship in that case? I graduate in May but willing to postpone it if the opportunity is right.

    • says

      I’m not sure of the specifics on SEO but most banks don’t let you complete internships if you’ve already graduated. Postponing graduation, doing an internship at a boutique, and then applying for summer internships via SEO could be a good option though.

  5. 22944 says

    I’m an Australian uni student coming to the US on exchange for spring 2011 and I was thinking of applying for a summer internship with some of the bigger IB’s to get a feeling of how it’s like. As a non-US student should I even bother? Will I be overlooked/ disadvantaged or will they just treat me like everyone else? Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thanks.

    • 22944 says

      Sorry, forgot to mention that my specific student visa allows me to take an internship position as long as it is in my field of study (i.e. finance), so any government work restrictions won’t apply to me.

    • says

      If you have a visa that allows you to complete internships then yes, go for it. If you’re qualified, you’re qualified – no one cares where you from as long as you can do the work.

  6. Joseph says

    Problem #3: The Interviewer Keeps Asking Why Your Grades are Low / Why You Didn’t Go to a Top School

    Totally agree with this one. I always thought Grades only mattered for interview selection, who knew that the VP kept bothering about my grades once I get an interview. I was thinking in my head that if I wasn’t good enough, they wouldn’t have selected me for an interview in the first place. There was XYZ bank who I knew the people that got recruited in the past was STRICTLY from School A and got at least a 3.75 GPA, and I was from School B (less known) and have a 3.2 going in.

    I knew the stats that my chance of getting Superday wasn’t high, but went in anyway. One of my best interviews but I didn’t hear back… Sigh, Brian, sucks when you know you’re fighting a losing battle. Seems like it didn’t matter if I hadn’t gone in but I was always thinking about what if the competition messes up.

    Curious about the US stats, roughly how many people gets sent to Superday, and how many of those gets offer for positions?
    In my region, for XYZ, they only sent 1 person to Superday and they recruit for 7 positions nationally. So I was thinking maybe they have 20 people at Superday, which is almost a 50% chance of landing an offer once gotten to Superday, which IMO, is a pretty good chance, right?

    • says

      I don’t have exact stats but I would say 1/10 at Superdays get offers. It might be a bit higher than that but I don’t think it’s a 50% chance – 20-30% might be plausible.

  7. P says

    Hi there. I have a contact at an BB who forwarded my resume to HR. I got in touch with HR and learned that I still wasn’t granted for first-round interview. I want to stay in touch with my contact because I have heard about additional spots possibly opening up in the spring or something. What do you think is the best way to keep in touch? Does it sound desperate to email once in while and ask “hey, I’m still very interested…is there any opening…?” Thank you.

  8. Joe says

    Great article as always. I am a long time reader of your site and am now a first year analyst. I am just wondering what resources/websites/guides you can recommend to prepare for pe/vc recruiting. You website has come to be the dominate hub of information for people who want to get into IBD, but what about people who have entered IBD and are looking to there next steps…i wish there was a breaking into pe from Banking guide of some sort.

    Thanks!

    • says

      There’s already quite a lot on this site on PE… just do a search for private equity for coverage of interviews, resumes, headhunters, etc. etc. As far as guides, the IB interview guide actually covers PE interviews as well as do the LBO models in the modeling packages.

      I’ve thought about creating a product before but the demand is too low / I already feel like I’m repeating myself with most content these days.

  9. Kim says

    Sorry if you addressed this in another article, but what sort of technical information are you expected to be able to spit back during an interview and how should one go about acquiring it? I read the WSJ daily, but I don’t know what more I can do to prepare.

  10. S says

    Hey Brian,

    was wondering if you know any good resources for a liberal arts graduate who wants to learn about sales and trading. Books (textbook or novel-like), blogs, or websites would be great.

    Also wanted your general input on a question. I graduated with a liberal arts major and taught English in Japan for a year and am still with the teaching job right now (I know….I *really* understand the pitfalls of this job now).

    If I want to market myself for jobs in finance (of course I would take things below BB, a finance job in any company has better advancement opportunities than being an English teacher), is there pretty much no chance unless I head back to school? Or do you think a highly motivated individual could study and network and try to make something happen?

  11. brian says

    brian, if you have 2 students, one with bunch of prior experience but 3.2 gpa vs one with no experience but 3.8 gpa, who has better chance out landing an interview at boutiques given that they both go to semi-target, same race, same activities, etc

      • Financier says

        Hey Brian,
        If so, why do they still want to interview the 3.2s? I know quite a handful of people who landed interviews (not at the same bank) when they have 3.2s as well… I mean if it’s so low, why do they still bother interviewing them. Shouldn’t they shortlist the All-stars?

        • says

          Sometimes if people with lower GPAs have solid work experience/internships they will still get interviews, especially if they’ve had IB internships. And GPA isn’t necessarily a great predictor of success, plenty of people with high grades fail miserably in business.

  12. highfinance says

    Brian-
    off topic, but i need to ask.

    I was recently issued a ticket in the city of Denver for marijuana possession. it is an infraction offense, and from what i understand, will not be filed with the state but is public in the county record. i have yet to pay/plead. does an infraction (less than misdemeanor) even need to be disclosed to a potential employer? would a marijuana possession infraction, if properly disclosed, be a dealbreaker after one is accepted and is getting a background check? when would i have an opportunity to disclose this in the hiring process?

    also, i still have the opportunity to challenge it and i’m looking into my legal options. is challenging the ticket worth it at any cost?

    thanks

    • says

      Honestly I just don’t know and I avoid answering questions on background checks because I seriously have no idea – you may want to ask on WallStreetOasis and see if anyone there knows definitively.

  13. Manu says

    Hi,

    Thanks for all the articles, and also for the Break into Investment Banking emails. I’ve networked like a ninja to put myself in the best position I can to get an offer but right now I’m not sure what to do. I’ve interviewed at the top 3 banks in Peru (BCP-Credicorp, BBVA Continental, and Scotiabank) and I’m thinking I’m on hold for all 3. Should I continue going down the chain? Citibank has a very small presence in Peru, Santander is insignificant, and Interbank is huge but it’s operations is almost entirely retail.

    Basically I’ve been networking like a ninja where I feel I have the best contacts (in Peru), and I’ve gotten myself in the best possible position (everyone seems to think that an offer is coming). But I find this waiting crushing to my spirit. with Credicorp I’ve had 3 interviews in 3 weeks, and I’m told that basically I’m a talent they want and they’re just trying to figure out where I can best fit in. with BBVA I interviewed last week and supposedly this Friday I’ll hear back from them. With Scotiabank I interviewed yesterday and was told that nothing was available in corporate finance but a position in trading was opening up in 3 weeks and that my resume would be given to the person in charge of recruiting for that position.

    So right now I’m at: right here, right now, right this moment, what else can I (should I) be doing?

    I’ve thought about US, but the contacts I have there have nothing to do with banking or finance in any way, plus I feel in general since Peru is a huge emerging market that I can plant roots here and gain experience to put myself in a position to advise and service the international contacts I have – that I know, in the future, will be CEOs of various industry companies (family owned companies).

    Any advice?

    Once again, thanks for this website as a whole, it’s been a godsend!

    • says

      Yeah network with other banks and going down the chain if you’re on hold at those places. Other than that you can’t do much unless you want to move into another country and start networking there – it’s frustrating but all you can do when put on hold is to follow-up or bring them an offer you have elsewhere and use the urgency to prompt action.

    • jorge says

      Hi Manu,

      I am also from Peru, how did your offers work out? I am looking for interships in IB in Peru as well, can you shed me some light here?
      I go to school in US, but I am interested in working in Peru in the long term. I am applying for positions through the bank’s website. Any advice?

      Thanks in advance

  14. Kim says

    Brian,

    I’m an undergrad senior in the U.S. on the west coast, and I want to work in investment banking in London. I have a few friends working in IB in Europe and have asked them for HR and analyst/associate/VP contact info. I have contacted a few people but not many, as I do not know anyone from my school who works outside of the U.S.-most work in LA and a few in NY.

    In general, how does the Analyst Graduate recruitment process work in London? What else do you recommend that I do to gain traction?

  15. AJ says

    Hi,
    I was wondering based on your article, what is the timeline for recruitmnent the full time analyst positions. I know alot them that posted positions did so in August/September. Have they finished interviews and filling positions?

    • says

      Read The Banker Blueprint, a sample timeline is included there. Most banks finish up recruiting in Sept-Oct. but a few will go on past that.

  16. Evening Joe says

    Hi Brian,

    I appreciate your writings. Have read pretty much every article on the site :)
    My question is: I was applying for a position in bb in europe, and was introduced by a relative to one of the heads there. Gave him “my store” for 2-3 minutes over the phone and we arranged for me to send him my resume. The response I got was that my application has been forwarded to HR and they will let me know if any openings become available. Should I hold my breath? Probably not…

    Thanks!

  17. J says

    Hi Brian,

    It’s been two days since I finished a final round interview where I met the VP and MD of the group, and I was wondering which party I should contact with a follow up. There was also an analyst and associate who interviewed me for the first two rounds, as well as the HR person who coordinated everything.

    Thanks for the great site by the way!

  18. S says

    Question regarding contacting boutiques: is it generally frowned upon to actually go in person to the boutique and ask to speak with HR regarding potential internships/co-ops?

    • says

      I would not do that unless they have been unresponsive to everything you’ve tried. Even then I probably wouldn’t because it might actually piss them off and get you a bad reputation. If you have no other solid leads and they are unresponsive you can try it, but it’s better to go for other options first.

  19. Jan says

    I interviewed at UBS for a Summer Internship position and was told that they liked me a lot and thought I interviewed well; should something open up, they would get back to me.

    Is this a bad thing? Are they waiting for someone to renege on an offer? Also, is it bad to keep calling to find out what’s going on? What should I do?

    My GPA is 3.8 and I’ve transferred from a 2 year college to a 4 year college that isn’t a Tier I school. Could this be the reason?

    • says

      Yes it sounds like you’ve been wait-listed – not much you can do at this point other than follow-up each week to check.

  20. H says

    I have graduated in May from a well known non ivy university. I have not been unable to break into a graduate training program with any of the banks or the financial institutions so far. I interned in mangement consulting, project finance, and private equity in my undergraduate summers (all were abroad). I am now at an insurance company. I was wondering what options or paths I still have to break in. Thanks

    • M&I - Nicole says

      You can look at financial institution groups at IBs and equity research (possibly analyzing finance stocks). Just network with the group head directly and see if they have anything for you

  21. John says

    Hey M&I,

    Had an interview with a firm yesterday for an internship position, unsure of how it went.

    Didn’t receive and offer on the spot, was told that they were interviewing a couple of other potential applicants and it will take them around a week to get back to me.

    Does that mean no offer at all?

    Thanks

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No it means they are interviewing other candidates and keeping their options open now. Be patient. Send a short sweet thank you note expressing your interest in working for the firm

  22. Khan says

    You mentioned the GPA issue and I have one. I went to a good private school (not ivy league) but a $55K a year school but had a low GPA. Turns out, almost a year after I graduated, that I have ADHD. I also have a stuttering problem but have overcome that somewhat. Do you think this should be mentioned in my story as to why I have a low GPA? Will it be enough or will they just say I am full of crap and they do not believe in ADHD.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      ADHD is a reason though I don’t know if you will make the resume cut-off w your low GPA – it can be hard!

  23. Andrew says

    I have an offer from a MM bank and recently did a superday at a regional BB as well. I got an offer from the MM but haven’t heard back yet from the regional BB (someone said they already extended offers but I never got a call so I’m assuming I’m being placed on hold or they just didn’t contact me to reject me). The due date for the MM offer is coming in a couple weeks, would it be advantageous to let the BB know that I have an offer and that I need a response by then? Would this possibly influence them to extend out another offer and take me off the waitlist?

    • says

      Yes, definitely let them know that you have an exploding offer and that while they’re your #1 choice, you need a quick response or you’ll be forced to accept the other offer.

  24. Julio says

    Hey brian,

    Firstly I wan to thank you for your website and for the BIWS premium package. I have the opposite problem of this post. I have 2 full time offers (one from an top international BB and another one for a top BB in Spain) and I am in the final round of the Summer internship at the best Investment Bank. The problem is that I did a lot of networking and at the moment I have to say no to one of them and I am quite afraid that the guys I networked at the option I am going to say no are going to get angry. what do you think about it? what should I said to them?
    Thank you very much in advance

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Thank you for your support. Congratulations on your two full time offers! Since you’re not reneging an offer, I wouldn’t worry about making people angry. This is a good spot to be in especially since you have options. Yes you will have to say no to at least one offer. And you can do so gracefully and keep the connections; you never know, you may end up joining the firm down the line. To do so gracefully, tell them you enjoyed meeting them and loved your interactions. However, you’ve decided to pursue another offer. You’d still love to stay in touch. You may want to call them vs. email to keep the connection

  25. Mike says

    Brian and Nicole,

    Really appreciate your website, it’s been an excellent resource. I had a question about my particular situation. I’ve had at least 15 final round interviews from the top firms to regionals and boutiques, that I felt went very well, and received no offers. I’ve consistently done a follow-up with the recruiters and interviewers, and nearly all of them concluded that I was a very good candidate but they decided to choose someone else. Is there something I’m missing? This is really cutting into my motivation to pursue more opportunities, and so I was also wondering if I should just set my targets lower to another position.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Thank you for your support. I can understand your frustration because I’ve been through the same situation. Don’t give up and don’t take it personally. What I can say is this: Try to contact your interviews and ask them assertively if they have any suggestions on how you can improve your interviewing skills and pitch, and why they decided to choose someone else. Be polite and firm. When they open up, listen without judgement and don’t take it personally; treat this as the opportunity for you to improve. Secondly, I’m pretty sure you can improve on your pitch. Their decisions maybe driven by unconscious factors, and perhaps you didn’t convey that you were the *best* fit for the role verbally and nonverbally. This is hard for me to say on this form, but I’d suggest you to have your friends give you feedback on your pitch and presentation skills. Otherwise, generate more new leads and start networking again on LinkedIn – *don’t* give up. You still have time!

      • Mike says

        Thanks so much for your feedback. I completely agree with the first one, but surprisingly haven’t thought too much about really changing my pitch. I will definitely try to fine-tune my story and search for all forms of constructive criticism. Keep up the great work!

  26. Alex says

    Brian and Nicole,,

    First of all, your website is incredible – way to give back.

    I’d love your experienced perspective with this question:

    I recently went through the recruiting process at one of the Megafunds for a PE analyst role. I went pretty far, to final round in NY (3 rounds in total + modelling tests, case studies and math tests). Unfortunately, final round was as far as I got, as they sent me a very polite email and called informing me that they were going with another candidate but to make sure I keep in touch and all that.

    Here is the question: could I use this in anyway with my recruiting efforts at other firms? Is it impressive on its own that I got to final round with a top tier firm/will it be enough to generate interest from other employers?

    I figure that a lot of the times since the candidate pool for final rounds at Megafunds have been weeded down so much and have have been vetted with two prior rounds, sometimes the reason you don’t get the offer isn’t necessarily b/c you’re bad, but just b/c the other girl/guy was slightly better or hit it off with a MD a bit more.

    Maybe other recruiters think this way, and it’s worth a mention that I got to final stage? or maybe I am just clinging on too much to past time?

    Cheers

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Good question. Yes you can talk about this in interviews though I’m not sure if you can use it to your advantage. Yes getting to the final round is commendable though people may wonder “Why did he not make the last cut? He’s a good candidate..” This can work against you if the firm decided not to hire anyone at the end. But if they chose someone else over you, it may not be the best tool you can use. I’d just focus on doing well at the other interviews.

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