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