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A Tale From the Recruiting Trenches: This is a True Story!

I decided to write about an experience that took place over the Thanksgiving holidays, one that I certainly hope is unique. I am not sure whether it belongs in the humor section or not, but it certainly represents what not to do in the weeks to come as we try to land jobs and internships.

I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa for final round interviews with a major US consulting firm over Thanksgiving. After 16 hours on a plane in economy class… (yes, economy…! Those of you who worked in investment banking from 1997 to 2000 know how shocked I was to go up to the counter for check-in only to find that I was booked in economy for a work-related trans-Atlantic flight!)

But I digress! After 16 hours in coach, I got a chance to freshen up and show up at the hotel lobby for dinner with people from The Firm and my fellow contestants: 2 guys from another prestigious U.S. school and 1 guy from an equally prestigious English institution that shall remain nameless.

This story is about one of my fellow contestants, whom we shall call Peter.
Peter was a second-year student in the Masters in Economics program at one of the unnamed institutions. He was contemplating abandoning his PhD studies in order to get what seemed to me to be his first job. While dinner was getting under way with various insipid pronouncements about how great The Firm was, Peter shared with all attendees that he had never bothered to visit Johannesburg before that very day, as he thought that Capetown was so much better. We all expressed surprise. given how much time he seemed to have spent in the country. One of the senior people at the table (pre-partner level) jokingly told him that Capetown was so boring and cold that even the water was too cold to swim in. Peter chose this very moment to tell Mr. Quasi-Partner the following: “That’s because you’re a wuss! You should jump in there. It will make a man out of you!” Did I mention that Mr. Quasi-Partner was at the top of our list of interviewers for the following day? I personally thought that this was a good time to get more salad from the buffet!

Later on that evening, over two hours into dinner, it was clear that those of us who had landed that afternoon were so jet-lagged that we were struggling to sit up straight in our chairs. The conversation had reached that natural quiet moment when everyone silently agrees to call it a night.

Everyone except Peter. As soon as Mr. Quasi-Partner asked for the check, our dear friend felt the need to interject: ” But… I was quite keen on dessert.” He then went on to the bathroom first, then to the dessert table.

We spent another 45 minutes at the table thanks to our new buddy.

Lest you think he had lost his edge by the following day, he proceeded to crack the following joke while the recruiting coordinator (a woman in her late 20s) was telling us about a written GMAT-like test we all needed to take: “What do you call a small ice formation?….Icicle! So what do you call a small test?”

As you guessed, Peter answered his own question. If you do, please do so quietly and certainly not at your next interview. Good luck!

December 8, 2003
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