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why are people screwing up the interviews?

been looking for an associate for a while now: smart, eager, ability to really dig into something, don’t care if you came from a lesser shop if you can prove you got the drive. etc etc 

So, I interviewed a dozen people and everyone has been pretty bad for the dumbest reasons. getting really tired of this. problems I’ve seen:

-anything on your resume is fair game for me to ask.  if you’re going to use fancy terms on your work experience, you better be ready to explain it.  I asked for a bit more clarity on 1 guy’s first bullet, and he crumbled. nice guy, but I can see through your BS resume in a flash.

-1 guy comes in, leans back in his chair all big-shot like, rocks back and forth in the chair, and talks as I owe him for the privelege of him coming to see me. (he’s currently at a shop that’s pretty sh***y) I threw him out fast.

-another guy during Q&A literally asks, “what’s work/life balance like, I highly value that.”  why would you even say that? do you have any sense at all?

-The 1 girl that did well showed up 20 min late to her 1st and 2nd round without any real excuse. Leave yourself extra time jeez. maybe 1st time you got lost ok, but 2x? am I here to wait for you?

-1 guy is 30 minutes late, finally get an email from him: “sorry, my manager is out, I need to reschedule”. really? I’m going to buy that? you couldn’t have told me that 20-30 min BEFORE the scheduled interview he was out?

quality really downhill these days.. I don’t remember the pool ever being this bad.

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

The whole process has to be revamped.  Candidates might not be stellar, but interviewers have to be better at the craft too.  A lot of managers have no idea how to find talent.  The shy, humble, quiet types are usually overlooked.  When I’m invited to the interview process, I usually favour the quiet, soft spoken type.  They tend to do their jobs with no drama, are more loyal and don’t negotiate hard for pay increases.

Inducted into the AF Hall of Fame, class of ‘17

These people obviously did not sign up for my career coaching services. Shame on them. Sorry they wasted your time.

former trader wrote:

The whole process has to be revamped.  Candidates might not be stellar, but interviewers have to be better at the craft too.  A lot of managers have no idea how to find talent.  The shy, humble, quiet types are usually overlooked.  When I’m invited to the interview process, I usually favour the quiet, soft spoken type.  They tend to do their jobs with no drama, are more loyal and don’t negotiate hard for pay increases.

depends on the role.  You wouldn’t want a shy humble and quiet for a sales role.  Research depends, buyside may be more ok, but sellside research shouldn’t be.  And you can’t really tell from a piece of paper until they come in.

I agree with you on the less drama/loyal and negotaite pay aspects though.

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

Of course, I didn’t mean sales or client interaction positions in my post.  Referring more to trading and IM roles.

Inducted into the AF Hall of Fame, class of ‘17

Obviously you must work at Jefferies or some hacksaw chopshop.  Certainly not GS/MS/JP/KKR

Lol. I don’t think you even get people like that in financial services in Germany.

- Fran: You know, in Tibet, if they want something, do you know what they do? They give something away.
- Bernard: They do, do they? That must be why they're such a dominant global power.

I am at a top shop. everyone coming in looks indeed stellar on paper or they wouldn’t have made it into my office. maybe thats the problem, need to go down more and grab someone who just wants a shot. maybe they’ll be more hungry for it.

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

I’ve heard from my buddies at other firms that either candidate pools have been getting progressively worse or that they don’t get any good candidates (all solid places). 

When I was previously interviewing candidates we sometimes decided to just not hire during a cycle since all the interviewees weren’t good enough. 

itera wrote:
I am at a top shop. everyone coming in looks indeed stellar on paper or they wouldn’t have made it into my office. maybe thats the problem, need to go down more and grab someone who just wants a shot. maybe they’ll be more hungry for it.

I think there are very few truely hungry people. My experience comes from my cfa level i/ii prep classes. People say they are, but most are not (either lazy or incompetent and don’t want to improve). I met people who asked for help to understand capitalizing vs expensing, people who say they are going to only read 70% of the cfa books because they didn’t want to overstudy. It makes it hard to stand out if you actually are hungry since so many are all talk.

We’re gonna win so much, you may even get tired of winning. And you’ll say, 'Please, please. It’s too much winning. We can’t take it anymore. Mr. President, it’s too much.' And I’ll say, 'No, it isn’t!' We have to keep winning!

Itera, can I forward you my resume for consideration? I’m definitely “down more” but ready for the work!

I have the drive to succeed in anything I do but I never get any replies from any big companies. 

I don’t come from a well off family so I have to work to put myself through college, but when I apply for the big firms, I always get rejected because I don’t have any experience.

I don’t need a high paying job, I just need a chance for a face to face interview to show what I can’t show on a piece of paper. I just need a chance to work and be noticed, but without experience, it’s very difficult for me to even secure an interview.

P.S. Sorry if I came across as being too entitled.

I agree about the candidate pool getting worse. When we go outside of using an internal referral, the people that walk in the door are most of the time completely unhireable. They may look good on paper, but they tell you what they want to hear, give cookie cutter “interview answers”, or have a feeling of entitlement and just generally don’t show the drive and hunger I’m looking for.

Give me an “interview answer”… goodbye.

Beat around the bush for two minutes instead of just answering “I don’t know”… goodbye.

“Advanced Excel” and you can’t tell me the differece between ISNA and IFERROR (or some other basic function question)… goodbye.

Actually, if you accept my offer for water or coffee when I walk into the conference room, it’s basically over from there. You are here to interview…not refresh yourself with a tasty beverage, not to blow up the toilet. You should have done that at the starbucks around the corner 10 minutes before you got here. Although it IS understood if you need a break after 3 or 4 hours meeting with people.. I will BRING you a water and offer to show you to the restroom.)

One candidate, when asked if they wanted a water or coffee, actually had the moxie to say “I would love a cappucino, thanks”. I’m pretty sure they knew it was downhill from there when half the guys on the floor blurted out in unison some derivative of “ARE YOU FU$%ING KIDDING ME??”

Itera, considering you take a yellow cab driven by a smelly smollian, I really doubt you’re M’n’A’in on the buyside at KKR.

Furthermore, you sound like an asshat to interview with.  So some guy asks about work/life balance, what are you some plantation slave driver making your associates sleep with their phone on?  I’d say fk you too and walk out.  Another guy is confident and you throw him out.  Then, you brought the girl back for a second interview after being late the first time, that’s your fail buddy!  Interviewing is a two way street, I want to be sure that the guys I’m working with are legit and people whom I can stand hanging with 40+ hours a week.  It’s not 2008 anymore, employees do have bargaining power and selection.

Arn’t you the one always preaching that no one, nobody, unless you have a Top 2 MBA and 12inch cock can do ER.  This is living proof that ER jobs ain’t all that hard to come by.  It’s also potential proof that the cat is out of the bag that ER(aka cost center) ain’t all that, and you really just fellate public companies that you want to earn investment bankign dollars from (aka the revenue center).  Yes, there are 1000 resumes per job posted, but 990 of them should not have been sent in the first place.  In the age of the internet where you click apply, it is reasonable to think more people will apply to more jobs.

villnius wrote:

Actually, if you accept my offer for water or coffee when I walk into the conference room, it’s basically over from there. You are here to interview…not refresh yourself with a tasty beverage, not to blow up the toilet. You should have done that at the starbucks around the corner 10 minutes before you got here. Although it IS understood if you need a break after 3 or 4 hours meeting with people.. I will BRING you a water and offer to show you to the restroom.)

That’s unreasonable. If you act hospitable and you judge them for taking something you offered (and it’s just a bottle of water, not like a line of coke), the problem is with you, not them.

We’re gonna win so much, you may even get tired of winning. And you’ll say, 'Please, please. It’s too much winning. We can’t take it anymore. Mr. President, it’s too much.' And I’ll say, 'No, it isn’t!' We have to keep winning!

Something as basic as water or coffee doesn’t seem bad at all…

Maybe I’m behind times. 

But yes most of the time people seem to prop up their resume… a lot or are just very good on paper. I find a lot of the international kids have much better resumes/experiences on average but are unable to communicate fluidly at all. 

CFAvsMBA wrote:

Itera, considering you take a yellow cab driven by a smelly smollian, I really doubt you’re M’n’A’in on the buyside at KKR.

Furthermore, you sound like an asshat to interview with.  So some guy asks about work/life balance, what are you some plantation slave driver making your associates sleep with their phone on?  I’d say fk you too and walk out.  Another guy is confident and you throw him out.  Then, you brought the girl back for a second interview after being late the first time, that’s your fail buddy!  Interviewing is a two way street, I want to be sure that the guys I’m working with are legit and people whom I can stand hanging with 40+ hours a week.  It’s not 2008 anymore, employees do have bargaining power and selection.

Arn’t you the one always preaching that no one, nobody, unless you have a Top 2 MBA and 12inch cock can do ER.  This is living proof that ER jobs ain’t all that hard to come by.  It’s also potential proof that the cat is out of the bag that ER(aka cost center) ain’t all that, and you really just fellate public companies that you want to earn investment bankign dollars from (aka the revenue center).  Yes, there are 1000 resumes per job posted, but 990 of them should not have been sent in the first place.  In the age of the internet where you click apply, it is reasonable to think more people will apply to more jobs.

 I’m not even goign to waste my time with you. go troll somewhere else

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

Dammit. I knew i shouldnt have asked for perrier.

I love my cheese. I got to have my cheddar.

Dammit. I knew i shouldnt have asked for perrier.

I love my cheese. I got to have my cheddar.

I always reject an offer for something to drink but not because I think they will think “eff, this guy should have refreshed himself before the interview” but because I tend to think most interviewers are prepared (like I am when I interview people) and know basic tell tale signs of lying. Dry mouth for example is an indication that lying could be present and if you have a bottle of water and are drinking it the whole time, I’m gonna think you’re lying to me. Thus, when I interview I reject the bottle of water in case the interviewer is as knowledgable as I am about lie detection. Besides, I don’t need it…I’ll have drank my water and coffee that morning and won’t be lying…that just catches up with you during the background check and reference calls.

Ramos4rm, CFA, CAIA

CFAvMBA was harsh with his language, but his basic point is not entirely unreasonable.

I hear a lot of people complaining that the dozens of candidates they interview can’t compete with the imaginary candidate in their head.  So they go on understaffed and cutting corners to squeeze a 240 hour job into an 80 hour week. because someone wanted to know what to expect regarding work/life balance.

I was called into an interview by a headhunter recently.  They told me that I was qualified, but that they were worried that I didn’t have enough experience to compete with the ZERO people they had found in the last 4-5 months of searching, but if I wanted to produce a fully functioning model for them on my own time that was backtested and worked to deliver alpha, they’d be happy to “have me walk them through it” and possibly reconsider me.

One guy said “The problem is that you’re competing with people who’ve done this for 20 years.”  And then his boss said “But keep at it, because we can’t find anyone with this particular combination of skills, and the need isn’t going to go away - in fact, it’s growing”.  Really?  Which is it?  Arent’ there all these people doing it for 20 years?  And you can’t locate a single one after four months of work???? 

That’s fine - I understand that they’re just embarrased that they couldn’t find someone to match their dream.  The interview actually motivated me to get to work on some of my own research - but the arrogance is really comical.

You want a quote?  Haven’t I written enough already???

numi wrote:
These people obviously did not sign up for my career coaching services. Shame on them. Sorry they wasted your time.

If they made any of these mistakes I’m sure it’d be a nice long term gig for you Numi, and I hope you charge by the hour because your billables will be off the charts.

Really surprised at the behaviour of some of these ‘top’ candidates.

"Verdict: TRUE" - Fact Check

hpracing007 wrote:

villnius wrote:

Actually, if you accept my offer for water or coffee when I walk into the conference room, it’s basically over from there. You are here to interview…not refresh yourself with a tasty beverage, not to blow up the toilet. You should have done that at the starbucks around the corner 10 minutes before you got here. Although it IS understood if you need a break after 3 or 4 hours meeting with people.. I will BRING you a water and offer to show you to the restroom.)

That’s unreasonable. If you act hospitable and you judge them for taking something you offered (and it’s just a bottle of water, not like a line of coke), the problem is with you, not them.

You offer a glass of water, guys says yes, so you ding him ? 

Makes perfect sense. 


- Fran: You know, in Tibet, if they want something, do you know what they do? They give something away.
- Bernard: They do, do they? That must be why they're such a dominant global power.

bchad wrote:

CFAvMBA was harsh with his language, but his basic point is not entirely unreasonable.

I hear a lot of people complaining that the dozens of candidates they interview can’t compete with the imaginary candidate in their head.  So they go on understaffed and cutting corners to squeeze a 240 hour job into an 80 hour week.

I was called into an interview by a headhunter recently.  They told me that I was qualified, but that they were worried that I didn’t have enough experience to compete with the ZERO people they had found in the last 4-5 months of searching, but if I wanted to produce a fully functioning model for them on my own time that was backtested and worked to deliver alpha, they’d be happy to “have me walk them through it” and possibly reconsider me.

One guy said “The problem is that you’re competing with people who’ve done this for 20 years.”  And then his boss said “But keep at it, because we can’t find anyone with this particular combination of skills, and the need isn’t going to go away - in fact, it’s growing”.  Really?  Which is it?  Arent’ there all these people doing it for 20 years?  And you can’t locate a single one after four months of work???? 

That’s fine - I understand that they’re just embarrased - but interview actually motivated me to get to work on some of my own research - but the arrogance is really comical.

Bchad, seriously, which example of mine showed I had set unreasonable expectations? seriously which one?

CFAvMBA response was flat out rude.

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

I said that CvM’s language was harsh.

I don’t know what “crumbled on the first bullet point” actually means, so we just have to take your word for it.

I also don’t know what “sat back in the chair and acted like I should be glad he agreed to be interview” means, other than he rubbed you the wrong way, somehow.

Showing up late for an interview without a good excuse does seem like an obvious no-no.  Particularly when you do it twice.

Asking about work/life balance is a legit thing to ask and not a reason in itself to ding people, particularly if you can’t find someone better.  Maybe you just offer them less money in exchange, or tell them the truth about the level of work and see if they’re still interested in the job.

“Dinging” people comes from the image of someone ringing a bell and saying “Next!” for next candidate.  The idea is that someone is so bad that the next candidate is so obviously going to be a better choice that there’s no point in continuing.  “Dinging” people makes no sense if there is no next candidate who is obviously better.

Where CvM sounds like he has a point is that it also looks like you’re too eager to find reasons to ding people, which matches what he sees (and I somewhat agree with) as your history of posts here, that suggest that only people who jump through every hoop perfectly are worthy of consideration, because the world is just that competitive.  It’s like there’s a game of “aha, I’ve discovered you’re not absolutely perfect,” and you play it well at other people’s expense.

I’ll agree that people who jump through every hoop perfectly are awesome, when you can find them, but when you can’t find any, sometimes you just have to work with what you can find, do without, or adjust expectations.

But if your job is not attracting quality candidates, perhaps you and your firm are expecting too much.  Maybe your job isn’t as awesome an opportunity as you think it is; otherwise you’d be attracting better candidates.  That’s certainly what you’d say to job-seekers, why wouldn’t the same apply to employers?

You want a quote?  Haven’t I written enough already???

mk17 wrote:
Really surprised at the behaviour of some of these ‘top’ candidates.

Just because someone went to a top 2 school and got a good job through daddy’s connections doesn’t mean they’re a good candidate to do anything but look pretty and add another Harvard listing to the company’s about us page. Itera should look for people that actually did something rather than someone that checks the boxes of his preferred school and previous shops (this shows when they can’t explain their own resume). But who am I to say, I’m a hacksaw loser.

I especially like how he contemplates sinking down into the pools of heathen to maybe find someone with drive. But when I read this, it makes me think the office would need to be disinfected immediately after the candidate left:

itera wrote:
I am at a top shop. everyone coming in looks indeed stellar on paper or they wouldn’t have made it into my office.


“I can no longer obey. I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up.”

Ramos4rm wrote:

I always reject an offer for something to drink but not because I think they will think “eff, this guy should have refreshed himself before the interview” but because I tend to think most interviewers are prepared (like I am when I interview people) and know basic tell tale signs of lying. Dry mouth for example is an indication that lying could be present and if you have a bottle of water and are drinking it the whole time, I’m gonna think you’re lying to me. Thus, when I interview I reject the bottle of water in case the interviewer is as knowledgable as I am about lie detection. Besides, I don’t need it…I’ll have drank my water and coffee that morning and won’t be lying…that just catches up with you during the background check and reference calls.

I agree that dry mouth and lip-licking can be signs that someone is trying to relieve anxiety, but I think it’s also important to understand physiological behavior. For me, I tend to have dry lips and like to hydrate furiously (usually I bring my own water, though). If what people in this thread have said about requesting a drink were some universal truth, perhaps nobody would have hired me for anything.

Back to itera’s original question – I think the reason why there are so many lackluster candidates out there is simply because they think they’re good, but they really aren’t. That is the worst kind of situation imaginable – when someone is unconsciously ignorant of their own lack of ability.

I have advised a broad range of clients – nearly 500 in total – in getting front office finance jobs. I help them without discrimination and try to understand their story. I like to think they’re always better off after working with me than they were before. However, the ones that seem to always do best are the ones that come with me about a specific issue that they’re having, realize it’s holding them back, and we focus much of the energy on fixing those problems. Over the course of getting to know them, I’ll also pick up on other things that they should be doing differently, both owing to my experience in screening/hiring candidates as well as some of my own misadventures in my career (or, to be more constructive, “lessons learned”).

It seems that the candidates that have the most balanced and honest assessments of themselves end up doing the best in the job search. And frankly, it isn’t even close. The people that have a real handle on their situation and KNOW they need help without any pretention have a very high hit rate on getting six-figure paying jobs. Often it’s a matter of time but within six months, about 75% of the candidates in this cohort end up getting a front office finance role or similar adjacency like corporate strategy or business development.

I have to believe that some of the candidates that itera has mentioned likely have no idea what they’re doing wrong, which is a shame. However, they also seem so insufferable that few people would be willing to give them the feedback to turn them in the right direction. Hopefully they develop more self-awareness over time.

I’m going to bat for the little guy here.  It would kill me to learn some eager L1 candidate fresh out of UConn would read this and be discouraged thinking that he/she doesn’t have a shot. 

Itera always seems to throw it out that ‘af poster’ has no shot.

I say nothing ventured, nothing gained.  The worst thing that could happen is they try and fail, then guess what, they are in the exact same place Itera said they should be.  Otherwise the upside potential is huge to make it against all odds and all adversity.

^i.e. YOLO 

I love my cheese. I got to have my cheddar.

glad to know i’m part of the 75% cuz it’s the new 1%