by Brian DeChesare Comments (71)

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

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:

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.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.
by Brian DeChesare Comments (187)

The Investment Banking Interview Selection Process

The Investment Banking Interview Selection Process

“Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them.”

-Bud Fox, Wall Street

Heading into an investment banking interview? Make sure you read this carefully, since your life will depend on it.

One of my most frequently asked questions is how exactly investment bankers decide who gets an offer following a round of Superday interviews. Sure, maybe you did everything right to close your interview offer, but ultimately it’s up to those who interviewed you.

Although it may be tempting, you don’t want to be like Bud Fox and use inside information to get an investment banking job.

Who Calls The Shots

Unlike the investment banking resume review process, Managing Directors are actually involved in handing out offers. HR, by contrast, does essentially nothing aside from the logistics. They don’t review resumes or make any calls themselves, aside from possibly how many Analysts to give offers to. But usually the MDs tell them how many they need.

Typically everyone from Analyst level to the Managing Director will interview candidates. It’s ultimately the MD’s decision who gets hired and who does not, but everyone does have a say in the process.

The Selection Process

After the first round of interviews, the interviewers decide among themselves who they want to invite back for final round interviews. We don’t “rank” people but generally have in mind the best few people we saw that day.

Sometimes there are too many people and not enough slots, in which case we will give slots to the best few and then decide who among the rest should get an interview. This part of the process can be unfair because not everyone has interviewed all the candidates and different people have different standards.

During Superday, each interviewer will evaluate different qualities (leadership, drive, technical skills, etc.) for each candidate. There is no “ranking” most of the time unless there are a ton of great people and not enough slots. I’ve never seen that happen as there are generally very few outstanding people.

Afterward, HR will gather everyone up for a debrief and see what people thought. Usually consensus emerges pretty quickly on who we give offers to, who we say no to and who we put “on hold.” The MDs have final say, but very rarely do people disagree. And needless to say, if an Analyst is pushing for someone but no one else liked him/her, the investment banking analyst is overruled.

How Many Get Selected

The absolute number depends on the office, group, and specific bank so it’s meaningless to list that here. In general, we will receive 500-1000 investment banking resumes for 30-50 spots, then give Superday interviews to 10 of those 30-50. Then we will pick 2-3 of those to actually receive offers, or maybe even fewer depending on how interviews go.

On a strict percentage basis, your odds aren’t great here. However, most people we interview do not stand out much and you can greatly improve your chances just by following a few simple interview tips.

Investment banks repeat this process at different schools until enough Analysts are hired. If there’s attrition mid-year or people back out of offers, we might look for lateral hires.

What We Look For In Candidates

School/GPA is almost irrelevant after the interview. It’s only relevant for getting your foot in the door.

Generally I look for people who really, really want an investment banking job and will do anything to get it.

Some interviewees are doing it just to test the waters and don’t really know what they’re getting into. Bankers can spot people like this from a mile away.

You don’t want to be one of them. Prove that you can work hard on very little sleep, learn quickly, play well in teams and are hungry to get experience and you will get offers.

Does The Interview Selection Process Change From Year To Year?

Not really, no. This is one area where banks could improve their interview processes – see who does well in the job vs. how they came across in interviews, and look for more of the qualities that result in good Analysts.

It’s very easy to discern a good interviewee from a bad one, but it’s much harder to tell good bankers from bad bankers before they actually do the job. I know of people who interview very well but are actually bad employees and I know of great investment banking analysts who are terrible at interviewing.

It’s never a perfect process but reviewing past interviews and hires may definitely be a good way to re-calibrate things.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.