You interviewed, you thought you did well, and then – no offer. The cycle repeats: a promising interview and then no offer. What’s going wrong?
Sometimes another candidate is simply more qualified or a better fit with the company’s team. Other times, however, it comes down to this simple truth: you failed to articulate your value beyond your fixed cost (salary and bonus).
I’m in my fourteenth year recruiting and I’ve placed over 150 investment professionals, CFOs and CEOs at private equity companies, private debt companies and investment banks. The candidates who get the offer are the ones who sell their prospective employer on their value. These are the candidates who have concrete examples of how they’ve made money, saved money, or improved a process– proving their value.
These are five common mistakes that can derail an interview and five easy solutions to get back on track, sell your value and land the offer.
Mistake 1: Failing to organize your answers in advance.
Solution: Use the SAR method: Situation, Action and Revenue.
Don’t let a case of the nerves derail your answer. “SAR” is a classic interview answer technique, adapted for investment professionals. Describe the situation, the action you took, and how that action made money, saved money or improved a process. When prepping for interview questions, use this technique to organize and outline your answers.
For example, let’s say you worked for a company losing $15mm a year due to poor supply chain and high debt service, and the CFO was doing a poor job negotiating the debt facility. You might answer, “We were losing $15mm a year. I brought in a head of supply chain to fix our product delivery problems to our vendors while finding a new lender that gave us cheap debt at L+200. This resulted in a $16.5mm gain per year and helped us deliver on our promises to our vendors with significant supply chain improvements.”
You’ve just delivered a well-organized answer proving your value.
Mistake 2: Failing to defend your views behind the valuation.
Solution: Go beyond numbers: be a compelling storyteller.
I’m sure many of you are analytically gifted and numbers come easy to you. But are you prepared to explain your reasoning to the HR leader, operations leader or CEO who is not a numbers person? For middle-market private equity and debt companies, there is no linear answer to a valuation. Go beyond the numbers by using storytelling to defend your views behind the valuation.
Mistake 3: Failing to prove you are trustworthy.
Solution: Provide concrete examples of the firefights or internal battles that you overcame.
Why should your Managing Director or Partner trust you? Interviewers are judging you on your ability to deal with adversity. They want to know you can be a “firefighter” when needed and can turn a negative situation into a positive one. Give them every reason to be confident in your skills.
Mistake 4: Not “inspecting what you expect.”
Solution: Don’t just list achievements; explain the goal audit process.
It’s easy to talk about how you “meet or exceed expectations,” but what does that look like? How does the interviewer know you can replicate that success at their company? Share your goal audit process: how you set expectations, measure performance, assess success and take steps to improve.
Mistake 5: Failing to demonstrate culture fit.
Solution: Let your personality shine through (within reason).
Sure, you’re technically qualified for the job, but are you also likable? Hiring managers want to build teams of people who mesh well together – people who are positive, outgoing and have a good sense of humor. You don’t have to be the most popular person during an interview, but you should share bits of your personality and interests. Passionate about CrossFit? Training for a marathon? Just got back from two weeks in South America? Mention these details, as appropriate, once they hear your SAR talents.
Finally, don’t forget to state to the hiring manager why you want this job. Make this positive and forward-looking: how are you going to drive success for their company and you? Nail this question and you’re well on your way to getting an offer.