How to impress all the senior M&A bankers you encounter in interviews this year

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Red stilletto shoe of kind possibly favoured by M&A bankers

In the event that you’re interviewing with senior M&A bankers for junior M&A jobs during 2012, you will probably want to impress them. This may not be easy. 2011 was not a good year for M&A; nor is there any indication that 2012 will be very much different.

To make matters worse, the senior M&A banker you are interviewing with may even be a psychopath. According to one ‘senior M&A banker’ interviewed in the  Independent over Christmas, psychopathic tendencies are positively correlated with excellence in M&A and one bank has even been using psychometric tests to screen for them in interviews.

Even if your M&A interviewer isn’t a sociopath, he or she will be busy. How can you make him/her hire YOU?

May we suggest:

 1. Showing a demonstrable interest in them

The Guardian ran an interesting article in its interviews-with-investment bankers series over the now-past Christmas period. In it, a senior lawyer explained how he gets along with the bankers he works with on deals

“When I have an important meeting with an investment banker at the level of managing director I make sure to have some background on him or her,” he said. “They can come from rather different backgrounds and most of them don't like chitchat about soccer or the weather. So I research their CVs and make sure I have something to talk about of interest to them. If they have worked inChinafor three years in a particular sector, and I have some experience in that sector inChinatoo, I bring that up. “

The same applies for interviews: find out who will be interviewing you; find out about their background; look for similarities and points of interest between you; discuss. Flatter.

2. Demonstrating overweening ambition

In the same Guardian article, the lawyer in question remarks upon the drive of the bankers he meets: “Another thing to keep in mind about investment bankers: they radiate ambition and 'they don't suffer fools gladly,' he reflects.

This is echoed by that most notorious of M&A bloggers, Epicurean Dealmaker 

“Over the years, my employers, peers, and I have been completely uninterested in recruiting the “best and brightest” from among the flower of our youth. Instead, we look for bright enough (i.e., very, very bright, but not necessarily the brightest), very hard working, and supremely ambitious,” he writes.

3. Suggesting your propensity for toil

Epicurean Dealmaker is apt here too.

“The nature of investment banking—and, dare I say it, management consulting, too—is not one that demands deep thinkers, brilliantly inventive innovators, or even virtuoso synthesizers of disparate intellectual strands. We want smart, fun, dedicated, aggressive youngsters who can work like animals, day-in, day-out, for as long as it takes,” he writes.

4. Intimating your fun side

You’re not just a cutthroat spreadsheet machine, you are also a charming wit. Be sure to clarify this during your interview.

Hence, TED says he wants: “People who are gregarious and fun to be with at 3:00 in the morning after three all-nighters together.”

This is reflected in our own interview with Linos Lekkas , head of Central European Banking at Citigroup.  “If I were faced with equal candidates with a solid education and a good track record, then what would make me hire you is the fact that you’re fun,” he told us.

However, be aware that over-emphasising your great sense of humour may be presumptuous if you’re merely interviewing for junior M&A roles.

“Hard work is absolutely essential in the early stages of a career as you establish yourself. In your early career you really need to establish yourself as a reliable and safe pair of hands,” Lekkas said. At this point, excessive fun-ness could be detrimental.

If you want to be one of the few people who gets a junior M&A job in 2012 you will therefore need to: flatter those who are interviewing you, to suggest your enormous ambition and associated appetite for hard work, and to appear witty and fun to be with. In that order. Otherwise? Forget it.