by Brian DeChesare Comments (31)

Investment Banking Mistakes: What Happens When Interviewers Hire the Worst Person for the Job

Investment Banking Hiring Mistakes

One of the best questions I’ve ever received came from a student following a speech at a top university many years ago:

“Have you ever accepted anyone who turned out to be horrible after starting? Have the interviewers ever made a mistake?”

I was surprised that the question did not relate to bonuses, the hours, prestige, or exit opportunities, so I had to think for a moment before responding.

Here are the three stories I came up with:

Mistake #1: The “The Hours Can’t Be That Bad, Right?” Guy

When the hiring market is solid, bankers frequently move from boutique or middle market banks to larger firms.

This particular guy had completed a middle-market internship where “the hours weren’t that bad.”

He was used to going home at 9-10 PM each night and thought it would be exactly the same at a larger bank.

Apparently, the entire interview team never asked him about his expectation for the hours, assuming that he could do banking anywhere.

A month after he started, he left everything on his desk, walked out the door, and never came back.

What Happened to Him: A few months after leaving, he resurfaced at a regional boutique and has been there ever since. I guess the hours “weren’t that bad.”

Mistake #2: The Ph.D. Student

If you have an advanced degree, you can blame this guy for your difficulty in breaking into the industry.

He was a Ph.D. student in a top engineering/science program at one of the leading universities in the US.

In the midst of a market bubble and the final year of his Ph.D. program, he decided that investment banking, rather than lab research, was his true passion.

He had no real work experience, but he was great at BSing his way through interviews and put on a slick presentation for everyone.

It was enough to convince HR and bankers at all levels that he was serious about banking.

The first day of work, he wore more expensive clothes than all the other Analysts/Associates, and he didn’t take a hint when everyone said that he was out of line.

Over the next few weeks, he got increasingly annoyed by the infamous investment banking hours and how he “couldn’t spend enough time with his family.” He left a month after he started.

What Happened to Him: He eventually moved into a sales role in prime brokerage. I guess he “spends more time with his family” these days.

Mistake #3: The Cute Girl

One friend’s office was 90% male – usually it’s not quite that bad, but it’s almost always well over 50% male – and everyone was enamored with this girl who was stunningly attractive.

She made it through multiple rounds of interviews, despite giving contradictory answers and telling people completely different stories.

To one person, she was just interviewing at boutiques; to another, she already had multiple offers; to another, she was only talking to one other bank.

She received an offer despite shaky interview performance.

A month later, an MD was presenting a pitch book she had worked on, and the client realized all the numbers were wrong – not “off by .1” wrong, we’re talking “$400 million vs. $4 million” wrong.

The same story repeated itself many times over the coming months.

What Happened to Her: She is still working and has survived multiple rounds of layoffs.

Struggling to ace your interviews?

Work at a smaller bank, talk a good game, and oh yeah, try to be gorgeous as well.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. damn I guess I m probably the cute girl you are talking about here :/…except that i have not started working in IBD yet. They have just given me the offer after only one face interview and a call with three VPs (seriously)- I have no IBD background and have only worked as fund sales for less a year. They want me to be on board as quickly as possible. I m now trying to learn as much as I could and hopefully I wont make too many mistakes and survive the first two years…

  2. I am applying for jobs in a large financial center while I am working full time in another country. I have my address in the financial center, where I am applying for jobs, on the resume, but for the dates of my current employment do I write “August 2012 – Present” or “August 2012 – September 2013” and update it whenever I sent the resume. I am concerned for background checks if I do this. I am concerned they will never interview me if I write where I am located geographically. Any comments?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you’re/will still be working there, list August 2012 – Present. Otherwise, list the month when you’ll leave the role.

      I wouldn’t worry about your geography.

  3. “Cute girl having survived multiple rounds of layoffs”.

    Is it because everyone wants to get laid with her?

  4. Hi Brain,
    As a comment, I think you may be deceived by the false appearance of Chinese students’ conservative. Indeed Chinese student will ask fewer questions about models and bottles, but in fact Chinese men are famous for their good appetite for young girls and deep-rooted thirst for polygamy, which existed for a long time in their history. You can also find as many hot models in big cities in china as in U.S.

    1. That was a joke in the beginning, I know Chinese people value money more than life, family, and the universe itself.

      And yes I know all Chinese businessmen have 50 wives one for each different city, I did live there for awhile. I guess this comment will probably offend someone but oh well.

      I will disagree with you on the quality of the models, there are some hot ones but let’s be honest: even other countries in Asia have more attractive females.

      1. Wow, so you do have tasted the flavor of local Chinese tea. You may know that the best tea need more time to release its aroma. Although I know that as a banker it is impossible to spent such time. May you have a longer reside in China next time.

        1. Chinese tea is good but probably not my favorite. :)

          1. Tried Indian Tea?

  5. Avatar

    Hi Brian,
    is there a big difference in pay btw working for a boutique and workign for a bb?

    1. Yes, see the boutique-related articles under On the Job at the top. Bonuses may be 2x bigger at a large bank.

  6. […] Investment Banking Mistakes: What Happens When Interviewers Hire … […]

  7. This is not entirely related, but I know a lot of companies will check your facebook profile during recruitment. Moreover, anyone who has graduated from my school is able to see my profile, and thus, it becomes relatively easy for them.

    Should I be concerned about this? Not that any of my pictures are completely out of the ordinary for a college kid, but should I delete the ones I would not want my parents to see? Should I deactivate my account totally for the time being?

    1. Change your profile so only your friends can view it – I’m paranoid about that stuff, I have all sorts of limited profiles and other things set up for the public at large…

      1. Not sure if this is true or even legal, but I’ve heard that Facebook lets employers bypass restricted profiles and lets them see everything. Just thought I’d throw that out there…

        1. Stories like this explain why I did not even join Facebook until after I had already graduated…

  8. Avatar
    The Graduate

    I had a question regarding background checks for full-time hires. I have a lot of different employment experience on my resume. I played around with some of the job titiles to make them sound more finance related or “bankified” as you put. Some of the experiences was through employment agencies were there was no real title assigned to me. I exaggerated on some of the titles to make them sound more finance oriented and professional though they are not obviously official. Is this something I should worry about? If so, what do you think I should do when filling out background check forms or even before that?

    Examples: Operation Analyst > worked in operations
    Compliance Group > worked in compliance dept.
    Wealth Management Group > worked as financial advisor
    Summer Analyst > worked as financial advisor

    1. You should be fine if there was no real title assigned – if there was a real title, you probably want to list the real title on the background check forms.

  9. Thanks for sharing the stories. During interviews when asked, “tell me about a specific M&A deal recently” are the interviewers looking for any recent deal or a deal specifically related to that bank and industry group?


    1. It can be more general, doesn’t need to be industry-related

  10. you missed one… what about idoit who for the love of your life you can’t figure out how they got hired!

      1. Avatar
        Distinguished Gentleman

        The only reason “that guy” gets hired is because his Dad is the SVP of the Trading dept. or his Momma “flashdanced” to his boss at a company function.

  11. Avatar
    Sydney Banker

    Hmmm… Bit worrying that a discrepancy that large was not caught before the client saw it! Poor attention to detail!!!

    1. Yeah that group was not very attentive to detail at all

  12. I wish I was a hot, attractive girl. (No, I am not getting a sex change)

    1. Yeah I’ve seen people do some crazy things but that would be going a bit too far…

  13. Ha! The third person is absolutely ridiculous. The other two sounded like they hadn’t done enough diligence like they should have.

    1. Bankers never do enough DD, that’s why they’re bankers and not investors…

  14. the third story sounds like something my buddy at Goldman Sachs complains about at least half the time I talk to him.

    1. I think at GS they’ve probably all been laid off…

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