Students who discovered a back door into elite banks face reality

Josefina – Student in Miami

As Wall Street goes back to the office, it looks like the next round of graduate interviews are going to be conducted in person rather than online.  That’s apparently quite a disappointment to a lot of students, because it means that they won’t be able to look more knowledgeable about banking than they really are by having cheat sheets propped up against their computers during the Zoom interview call.

Some students interviewed by Reed Alexander at Business Insider seem to have put more work into building their cheat sheets last year than would be required for an average pitch book.  There were apparently multi-page Google documents with hyperlinks to quickly click from place to place and stacks of handwritten primers on LBO modelling carefully placed to look like scratch paper for calculations.

The trick is, apparently (and this could be useful to a lot of existing bankers who still have to do lots of client meetings virtually) to minimize the window for the Zoom call, then have your notes in the middle of the screen.  That way, as long as you consistently look at the middle of your notes, scrolling up and down as required, your face is pointed roughly at the camera and people on the other end think you’re looking them in the eye. 

Apparently quite a lot of candidates didn’t master the skill last year, though.  Interviewing bankers were able to spot them looking downwards, or with their hands too actively clicking on different windows, or failing to respond to visual cues.  Students who were suspected of giving pre-written answers were ignominiously cut from the process.

This seems a bit harsh.  On the one hand, it is kind of cheating and as Professor Steve Sibley scolds, “When you land a job at Bank of America or JPMorgan or Goldman Sachs, don’t you want to know that you did it based on your own merit rather than your ability to cheat and to game the system?”.  But on the other hand, who really wants junior bankers to memorize the formulas and definitions rather than looking them up?

You could even make a case that the successful cheaters are exactly the candidates that should have got the job.  They had the understanding of what questions they needed to know.  They had the ability to construct a concise summary of the important points that could be quickly consulted in a meeting, and the humility to use them rather than winging it.  And then they had good enough control over their body language to fool a more experienced banker.

But those golden times are over.  Now, undergraduates are finding that just as their campus social life begins to open back up, they’re missing it all in order to spend more time cramming investment banking facts which will most likely exit their brains approximately five minutes after the interviews finish.  If it’s any consolation, most of the Managing Directors have to look them up too.

 Daniel Davies –


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