Wednesday, December 15, 2021

How to over-prepare for a presentation

If you like reading someone with voice, Matt Levine with Bloomberg is pretty entertaining, even when he is banging on about securities fraud or SPACs. This is a funny recent piece about weird interview practices at PIMCO (a bond investment firm which apparently would yell at people in interviews*). The below reminds me of grad school a bit: 

But “mock client presentations”? When I was in a client-facing financial-services job I don’t think I ever did a mock client presentation, and in hindsight I hate myself for that. Of course I should have been doing mock client presentations to prepare for real client presentations! Of course those mock client presentations should have been so ludicrously rigorous that they left me in tears! Then you go to the real client presentation and you handle all of their questions with ease, because you were so over-prepared for the terrifying mock presentation, and also you are warm and charming and personable and excited to be there because it’s so much nicer to be with clients than with your colleagues. “I really felt a connection with them,” you say after the client meeting; “they didn’t make me cry once.”

I think this is actually a pretty decent way to prepare for interviews, i.e. go in front of a trusted group of friends two weeks before an interview presentation, and have them chew on you lovingly for two or three hours. Then you have a drink, take their advice and adapt your presentation, and do it again before your interview until you're smooth. 

Clearly in the finance sector, folks like to yell and curse and be mean; I don't think that's necessary. It's no fun to subject yourself to rigorous questioning, but it's good practice to have friends who can be critical of your presentation and give you good feedback. No tears needed, but definitely checking one's ego at the door is good. 


  1. I have three friends that work in financial research and modeling for Citi, Key Bank, and FactSet, and none have ever spoken of poor interview experiences. The one guy at Citi worked on Wall St. for a few years before transitioning to a different location doing nearly the same job function but significantly better working conditions/environment. He even said that if anyone was ever a complete jerk about anything, it was well after starting work there from high pressure delivery timelines, toxic work environment/berating of people, etc. But they have all told me the interviews were surprisingly easy for them, and the one person used to be an analytical chemist who wanted out of lab...

  2. Reminds me of grad school as well. The chemistry graduate student association set up opportunities to give a mock qualifying exam presentation to a small group of fellow students. These were often more harrowing than the actual exams.

    1. We did that in my graduate program too, and I was one of the most harrowing audience members because my toxic advisor had given me the impression that any discussion of someone's research was supposed to be a verbal beat-down.

      My experience giving presentations in industry interviews and conferences has been much easier. It isn't considered a feather in your cap to humiliate someone the way it is in academia.


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