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Ask Brock: The Continuation of Crock Mantasia’s Virtual Buy-Side Interview

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Brock Fantasia is the only remaining person in the JPMorgan analyst class of 2002 to still work at JPMorgan, which is in no way testament to the work environment at JPMorgan. In fact, Brock likes to think of himself as the Highlander of his analyst class, wielding an indestructible claymore of corporate finance.

After “totally wrecking” (in his own words) the Analyst-to-Associate program in the M&A group, Brock was briefly moved to the Natural Resources group, due to increased deal flow in the M&A group. Brock graduated from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Wharton with a degree in Finance and is working in investment banking until he can find a buy-side job. Brock has been interviewing for buy-side jobs throughout the past 3 years and has not been a “good fit” anywhere, despite his ever-burgeoning skill-set.

[Editor's P.S.,- Some of this is true. But only some of it. Previous Ask Brocks are here. Send your questions to : brock AT dealbreaker DOT com]
(Recap: We have been chronicling the story of Bro…Crock Mantasia, loose acquaintance and clear non-friend of Brock Fantasia, who wants to leave JPMorgan for a buy side shop. The following buy side virtual interview is based on Crock’s experiences. Crock just conspicuously slipped out of 277 Park Avenue wearing an “interview tie” and clean, matching socks. Having tenuously inched past the screening interviews, the INTENSITY of the process is starting to reach banker pimple during a live deal levels. Something is about to burst, as Crock reaches Round 3. See my last column for the full recap.)
Round 3
The Final Round…of the initial set of Rounds. In this round, you again turn yourself into a cymbal playing monkey in order to demonstrate that are a good “fit” within a firm that is considering you.
Running out of conventional excuses to free up time for round after round of interviews, you are left to tell your deal team that there’s been an emergency at your sister’s friend’s quinceanera and that the mariachi band is a man down from an errant piñata swing, and that you must fill in because you’re the only person within a 15 block radius who knows the chords to Cielito Lindo. Fortunately, a senior VP on your deal team knows that one cannot become a Hispanic woman without first hearing Cielito Lindo.

Surprisingly, your interviewer is in charge of surveying emerging markets with a focus on Latin America and decides that a candidate cannot be hired until Cielito Lindo is sung. Thanking your ninth grade Spanish teacher for assigning such dribble, you breeze through the tune while the interviewing partner demonstrates rare percussive mastery utilizing traditional office supplies.
Like a skilled blacksmith, only half-Mexican, your interviewer sees in you a supple piece of wrought iron that looks malleable enough to “fit” the sheath of firm specifications after being manually forged into a sharp blade, which your interviewer finds amusing because his name is “Manuel,” which means he would literally be “Manuelly” forging the aforementioned blade, but after briefly admiring his own cleverness, your interviewer is left confused and unable to continue his lengthy, ill-constructed and misbegotten metaphor. The inconclusiveness surrounding your current “fit” causes your interviewer to persist, inexplicably in the realm of light classical opera.
You navigate coarsely as Eisenstein through the climactic terzett of Die Fledermaus in the original German, with your interviewer supplying the voices of Alfred and Rosalinde using a hand puppet. You are flat in a couple of the more boisterous allegro verses, but not to the point of crippling the entire piece. You regain your composure as your interviewer inexplicably bursts into a rendition of Adele’s Laughing Song.
If you are not questioning what any of this has to do with complementing a fund’s investment strategy, and don’t think that the whole notion of being a good “fit” with a buy side firm validates completely arbitrary hiring practices, proceed to Round 4. If an over-developed sense of guilt causes you to call the whole process off so you can reinsert your soul into the rusty bear-trap of investment banking unimpeded by hope or the will to live, go back to Round 1, do not collect $200k.
Round 4
The modeling test. In this round you are given a modeling test in Excel administered by a lower level associate, which is necessitated because watching a partner use Excel is like watching a documentary on human evolution right around the time when the apes start using tools. If you’re a female, this is a different kind of modeling test, and you will be asked if you like stuff again, only by more senior people.
The actual modeling test is an insult to people who can do basic arithmetic, and is designed so consultants do not embarrass themselves and can get elite buy side jobs.
If you inexplicably displayed the range of a horribly inaccurate 3-year IRR from your LBO model in a colorfully embedded Excel pie chart, and were especially chipper outlining the numerous times you displayed leadership skills at BCG, proceed to Round 5. If you work at an investment bank and made some minor, non-outcome influencing error involving the shareholder’s equity line-item on the post-transaction balance sheet, go back to Round 1, do not collect $200k.
Round 5
Heredity check. In this round you meet with a very senior partner, usually hired inauspiciously with no prior financial background, who asks your opinion on some random political issue, like the privatization of social security or the drop-kicking of live baby seals. It really doesn’t matter how you answer, as it turns out that you are dealing with a man named Chrysler Harrington Townsend Butterthorpe Sachs-Morgan III, hired as a “special consultant” partner to the fund. C.H.T.B.S-M III (monogrammed on his shirt and decorative kerchief) has never worked in finance, and previously gained prominence for pioneering a reverse grip elephant walk in the “punching” regimen of the Porcellian finals club at Harvard that was more degrading than a normal elephant walk. (P.S. – “Punching” is what you call “hazing” when you have a trust fund)
After saying absolutely nothing meaningful for 17 minutes, but affably and with conviction, Chrysler Harrington Townsend Butterthorpe Sachs-Morgan III gives you an arbitrarily sized ladies leather glove to place your hand into labeled with the firm’s logo and the words “Fit Glove” underneath.
If you proffered your father’s country club ID or identified the campus edifice carrying your namesake at your undergraduate university, go to Round 6. If you have ever done your own laundry and weren’t able to summer at Goldman your sophomore year of high school because you needed to work at the local Snack Shack for gas money (because that Goldman job was waiting…), go back to Round 1, do not collect $200k. Besides, you probably broke or snagged the “Fit Glove” anyway, as you are not ridiculously effete, lady-fingered, or manicured. If, however, regardless of class, you took the glove and slapped Chrysler Harrington Townsend Butterthorpe Sachs-Morgan III across the face with it, proceed to Round 6 after inevitably winning the ensuing duel.
Round 6
The feats of strength. In this round you meet with another very senior partner, usually hired laterally from an investment bank. This partner is “no nonsense,” and introduced in hush-tones beforehand by several members of the firm as such. As you tremble before the man’s 5’4’’ frame completely lacking in even wiry strength, Monsieur Aucun Non-Sens asks you a question about the difference in the treatment of LIFO and FIFO inventory accounting just to prove how absolutely no nonsense he is. For apparently no reason during the middle of your admittedly mangled answer, the interviewer attempts to bite off your testicles.
The out of court settlement stipulates that you must go to Round 7.
Round 7
The “Firm Culture” fit round. In this round you meet with a partner going through an evident mid-life crisis. As you enter his office, you interrupt him badly missing the miniature basketball hoop hovering above his refuse container with a crumpled paper ball. He swivels around, tells you to call him by an abbreviated version of his first name, like “Bri” for “Brian,” and readjusts himself with his chair-back forward and his arms folded over it. This way, he can really connect with you, all while achieving that look of a badly staged high school senior picture or a “cool kid” extra on Saved by the Bell. You also didn’t realize FUBU had a line of white collared and cuffed blue striped dress shirts, but the logo is evident, or perhaps just crudely written on the man’s lapel with a Sharpie.
You mistakenly attempt to talk about your qualifications and your massively tumescent hard-on for midcap deals in the telecom industry, but Bri keeps asking you if you’ve ever been street luging and if you’re getting the Playstation 3. Bri whips out an iPod shuffle, pauses, puts the iPod shuffle back in his drawer and pulls out a “remastered” iPod nano, puts one earpiece in his ear and offers you the other. With your faces uncomfortably close and stretching across the desk, you realize you are listening to something you can only describe as Jim Cramer vs. Franz Ferdinand, with stock tips overlaying the beat to “Take Me Out.” You cautiously offer an affirmative “nice” and Bri nods and continues to awkwardly bob his head until the song is done, in seven minutes and forty-two seconds.
After standing behind Bri at his request to watch a couple of videos of bears falling off trampolines and people getting tasered on YouTube, Bri shotguns a triple espresso macchiato and tells you about the time he soloed Onyxia, daughter of Neltharion the Earthwarder and sister of Nefarian in Dustwallow Marsh as a level 60 paladin in World of Warcraft. He asks you if you’re a member of the Horde or the Alliance. You respond that you don’t know what the Christ he’s talking about. Bri dismisses you, mumbling something about n00bs and a frozen throne, then smiles, offers you a pound, and comments that the experience has been “Fergalicious.”
If you survived this round without lighting yourself on fire or self-defenestration, proceed to Round 8. If not, after your brief hospital, and post-hospital asylum stay, go back to Round 1, do not collect $200k.
The typical buy-side interview process, now in week 12, has run into a major holiday, deal, scandal, management shakeup, feline AIDS epidemic, small arms race, pencil shortage, or some other event that has pushed back your next interview.
Now is the time to inadvertently drop off a drug-free stool sample in an unmarked brown paper bag to the firm in question, which may or may not catch fire at the drop-off point during the delivery process. If you manage to transgress current facial recognition technology, go to Round 8.
Round 8
The meeting with the head honcho, the queso primero, the shiznit sans the biznitch, the guy behind the guy in a totally not gay way. Despite your efforts, the process is now entirely out of your hands as the head of the firm will make an ad hoc decision on hiring you without regard for anything his colleagues have told him. Listen, you don’t get the highest percentage of carry at the largest f-ing middle market buyout shop specializing in manufacturing and consumer companies in the southeastern Midwest by “listening” to “people,” alright!
If the head of the firm’s daughter has the stomach flu, go back to Round 1, do not collect $200k. If the head of the firm was given an especially vigorous and extortion-free hummer by the lobby’s Starbucks barista during the duo’s weekly lunchtime tryst, sign the offer letter, collect $200k.
The second you sign the offer letter, you reach out to shake the managing partner’s hand, and in a puff of smoke he turns into a small creature wearing a giant mushroom-shaped hat and exclaims:
“CONGRATULATIONS – Thank you [your name here]! But your job is in another corporate castle!”
[Roll credits and go back to Round 1, this time in “hard(ass) mode,” where all your interviewers have been replaced by Penn Wharton alumni]
Supplementary Reading:
With the arguable success of my recent poetic surge, here is a piece dedicated to the pursuit of buy side jobs:
The Job Not Taken
Two roads diverged on the bright buy side,
And I could not interview for both
And be a banker, with dreams denied
And so to PE I then applied
To what most lent to career growth;
Then took an offer, at a hedge fund,
And having perhaps more to earn,
Because work life balance was often shunned;
Though at my bonus I was stunned
Had I just received a market return?
And then both jobs equally lay
In leaving the bank nothing gained.
Oh, I kept the job for another day!
Yet knowing life would suck either way,
I doubted if I should stay so chained.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere trapped in a career hence:
Two roads diverged on the buy side, and I –
I opted out and said goodbye,
And that has made all the difference.