Restructuring Superday Tips and TricksUpdated:
Over the past month I've been absurdly busy. As it turns out, all it took to dislodge credit markets from their eighteen month stimulus-induced coma was the market pricing in one of the fastest rate hike cycles in modern history, inflation running at a multi-decade high, consumer confidence hitting an eleven year low, continued supply chain disruptions, and a war.
So, while I always try to put out a post toward the end of every month, I haven't had the time to put together an absurdly long post on something more technical like rights offerings, structural subordination, or China offshore bonds this month.
But given that we're in the midst of the summer analyst recruiting season, I figured I'd just share some general tips and tricks on navigating the superday process. Nothing groundbreaking -- just some things to keep in mind.
Restructuring Superday Tips and Tricks
Below are a few things to keep in mind during your interviews to help make sure you standout from the rest.
- Be Mindful of the Constraints of Zoom
- Ask Good Questions at the End
- Reference Those You've Talked To at The Firm
- Have Pen and Paper Nearby
- Work in Technical Terminology
There's no getting around the fact that something is just lost when using Zoom, et al. to conduct interviews.
What's being lost, in my view, is the inability to really speak over each other. Because during normal conversations - whether by phone or in-person - you play off the other person by occasionally chiming in with a little interjection here and there, which creates a natural flow to the conversation.
But this back-and-forth isn't really possible when using Zoom due to its audio switching. So, the end result is that everyone speaks in a more uninterrupted fashion than they normally would, which just feels awkward and scripted.
Anyway, it's hard to alleviate the awkwardness that can crop up in virtual interviews. But I've always found most of the awkwardness with Zoom, et al. tends to come from people not knowing when the other person is fully done speaking (creating a kind of awkward relay handoff scenario where you're bumping into each other).
So a little tip is trying to end your answers to questions with a pretty clear statement that implies you're done speaking. For example, if you're answering an accounting technical, your final step will obviously be working through the balance sheet. So, at the end of your answer, you can say something like, "So, we're in balance and I think that's it." This provides a pretty clear signal to your interviewer that you're done speaking.
Note: I don't want to get into a whole body language thing here -- but make sure your face isn't entirely deadpan while your interviewer is speaking as well. It's always easy to forget to show some expression when things are virtual.
Almost every interviewer will leave a little bit of time at the end of the interview for any questions you have for them. This is one of the best opportunities you'll have to really differentiate yourself from other interviewees.
Under no circumstances should you ask questions about when you'll hear back about offers, how many candidates they'll be taking, etc. Instead, you should ask thoughtful questions that implicitly show off your knowledge of restructuring.
Awhile ago I wrote a post going over some "rules" for crafting good networking questions to ask, which would likely be helpful to read. There's also the Networking Questions Guide in the members area, which has some good questions for the end of interviews as well.
Some questions that would be good to ask would be along the lines of:
- "I'm just curious that with the Fed beginning what appears to be a pretty aggressive rate hike cycle, and with credit spreads now finally widening, do you think we'll see a significant uptick in restructuring activity towards the end of 2022 and into 2023? I was reading last year that expectations were still pretty muted, but I imagine quite a bit has changed over the past few months."
- "Something I really love about restructuring is that it's industry agnostic. However, I was just wondering if you've developed a preference for working on deals within a certain industry? Because I imagine working on a retail deal is pretty different from working on an oil and gas deal."
- "Is there a certain trend in restructuring you're really interested in, or think will become even more prevalent moving forward? Obviously I don't know much right now, but I've really enjoyed learning a bit about things like non-pro rata uptiers from cases like TriMark, Boardriders, and Serta."
One thing to always keep in mind: you've undoubtably thought a lot more about the firm than the firm has thought about you.
Most of those interviewing you will have given your resume a very cursory glance -- scanning for what school you went to, things you may have in common, etc.
So, you should always try to wedge in who you've talked to at the firm wherever you can. If you're asked why you're interested in the firm, give your answer while namedropping those you've talked to. If you're asked why restructuring, give your answer and say that talking to x, y, and z at the firm only solidified your interest.
Of course, you shouldn't embellish the depth of the conversations had. You don't want your interviewer going and asking an analyst about you, and then having that analyst say they don't remember you that well because they've done thirty networking calls over the past few months. Namedropping who you've talked to at the firm is really just about trying to build some level of social proof and more generally show your interest in the firm.
Note: Don't worry about not having talked to every analyst or associate at the firm. Just namedrop a few people you've spoken to, if the opportunity arises. Also, most firms will keep a list of who candidates networked with and how those conversations roughly went. However, don't take it for granted that your interviewer will have reviewed this closely pre-interview.
This is hopefully obvious, but make sure you have some pen and paper in front of you. The expectation will be that you'll use it to work through accounting questions and some more involved restructuring technicals.
Occasionally I get questions from folks about using a calculator. When all superdays were done in person, you definitely wouldn't bring in a calculator. If you were doing some YTM question, you'd just leave it as a fraction instead of finding the exact percentage.
However, given that you'll be doing interviews remotely, it doesn't hurt to have a calculator nearby. If you end up with a thorny fraction when doing a YTM calculation, you can just give the fraction and say you have a calculator nearby if they'd like the exact answer (they'll say not to worry about using the calculator, but having it nearby will show you're prepared, etc.).
Finally, always try to work in more restructuring-specific terminology whenever you can in your answers. In some interviews you may not be asked questions that are really amenable to working in excess terminology, which is perfectly fine. Just make a best effort when you can and, most importantly, when you feel comfortable and confident doing so.
For example, if you're asked to run through some types of out-of-court restructuring solutions, you can begin your answer by saying, "Well, depending on what the cap structure looks like, I suppose you could first just look at whether you can do a quick amend and extend in order to push out the maturity walls to give the debtor some breathing room...".
Likewise, if you're walking through a Chapter 11 deal, you can reference what classes were impaired, how they were treated, what the post-reorg cap structure roughly looks like, who got the post-reorg equity, etc.
Note: Keep in mind that the vast majority of interviewees work in very minimal terminology, so definitely don't try to cram things into your answers for the sake of it. While you want to standout from the rest, you also don't want to look like you're trying a bit too hard (especially if your use of terminology comes across slightly stilted).
I suppose one final thing I should add - that seems obvious, but is probably worth mentioning - is that while superdays can be stressful, it's absolutely essential to try to keep a positive attitude, laugh if your interviewer tells any little jokes, and always thank them for their time at the very end of interviews.
Ultimately, when bankers talk about "fit" all they really mean is that they want you to be someone they wouldn't mind working with on a stressful deal late at night. While an interview - especially a virtual one - makes it difficult to accurately gauge this, it's all your interviewer has to go off of.
So, with all that being said, try not to get too stressed out before the interview, don't start catastrophizing during the interview if you get one or two technicals wrong, and just try your best while keeping a positive attitude.
If you're currently going through the interview process, I wish you the best of luck. Also, if you end up getting an offer and found the guides helpful, be sure to send me an e-mail to let me know! It always makes my day to hear how my writing has helped people break in.