After two years at Bain & Co., Eddie joined a private equity firm as an associate where he stayed for two years. After his MBA at Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley) he launched a (stealth) startup BetterUp, where he explores peak performance for business professionals. You can follow him on twitter here.
Nicolas: One of the big challenges people have with networking is the story, what is your view on building a great story for informal interviews and networking events?
Eddie: Well the mistake I see all the time is that people focus too much on their skills and pedigree and not enough on their story. Instead of spending 90% of the time talking about your achievements, you should talk about why you got into finance in the first place and what your goals are 10 years down the line.
Nicolas: Good point yes, but what do you recommend people say to differentiate themselves from others in their story?
Eddie: Well, it’s hard to give you a template for that but for instance you can talk about how you grew up in a specific part of the world with a lot of conflict, and how you moved to the US to find opportunities. That shows vulnerability, which is too rare in finance when everyone is pretending they are perfect. You also need to demonstrate self-awareness, talk about the skills you need to learn to get where you want to be.
Nicolas: So now let’s talk about the other part of the informal interview. How do you make people feel I want to help this person by the end of an informal interview?
Eddie: If you really want your contacts to go to bat for you they need to believe that you are going to win, that you have what it takes for a successful career in finance. They are not going to waste time on you otherwise. The best way to show it is through smart questions.
Nicolas: Ok so let’s say you want to break into private equity, can you give me an example of some smart questions?
Eddie: Private equity is all about curiosity and people are going to dig to see if an investment is viable. So you need to ask questions which show that you are curious and diligent. Ask people about their deals and dig in, ask about the business model of the company and what made them say “It’s a good investment”.
Nicolas: Great stuff. That’s also what I tell my clients. You need to prepare questions to keep the conversation going of course, but the best questions are the one you come up with on the spot. So think about the qualities required for the job you are targeting and instead of saying, “I am a very analytical person”, ask analytical driven questions. Let’s rewind one step here, what do you do if you send out many emails but the person doesn’t respond at all?
Eddie: Well, a friend of mine has a great tactic for this; he uses the rule of reciprocity. Instead of just sending a cold email, he sends a package with great coffee beans to the guy’s office and says, “I’d love to have coffee with you and pick your brain”. The response rate is just huge!
Nicolas: I like that! Ok so now let’s pretend the coffee beans got you a foot in the door, the informal interview went great and you got invited in for a real interview. I know you work with TED speakers, Navy SEALs and researchers in your stealth startup on performance. What tips do you have to prepare for interviews?
Eddie: The key tip is to manage your psychology so you can be at your peak performance when it matters. For your informal interviews, real interviews or assessment centers you need to practice in very realistic situations. For instance instead of calling a friend over the phone to do a mock interview, dress up and meet them at their office and pretend it’s a real interview. You can also use visualization just like Olympic athletes. See yourself in the moment; go through the scenario in your head.
Nicolas: I love visualization and actually one of my client even mastered lucid dreaming so that he could practice for interviews and important presentations. Can you give me another insight on peak performance and how to reach it?
Eddie: The key to peak performance is to understand your physical and psychological state. You need to know how much sleep, exercise, coffee, water etc. works best for you so you can reproduce this before an interview for instance.
Nicolas: Ok great, so now let’s change topics again and talk about LinkedIn. How do you recommend people build their LinkedIn profile?
Eddie: You have two options. Option 1 is to go all out and list all your experiences, recommendations, and write a short summary with specific keywords. Option 2 is to have a short LinkedIn profile with only the key facts and less stuff about your goals.
Nicolas: In what case would you use Option 1 instead of Option 2?
Eddie: Option 1 is best if you want to narrow down your options. For instance if you only want to do M&A then go for Option 1 and build a profile which is 100% relevant. Option 2 is best if you are pursuing different paths and are not completely sure you want M&A or corporate finance for your next job. In that case the LinkedIn profile is only useful to connect with people and you’ll tell your customized story during informal interviews.
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June 18, 2015