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Morning Coffee: The excruciating finance interviews with questions about childhood. Lawyers claim mantle for most intolerable hours

Next time you balk at the motivational questions that occur in most banks' Hirevue interviews, be grateful that it's not worse. You could be in a five-hour interview for a job at Citadel or Blackstone, being asked about your character as a child.

Business Insider reports that both these firms are fans of an intense psychological interview run by a Chicago-based company called ghSmart and devised by a man called Geoff Smart with a PhD in psychology. Every ghSmart assessment costs $25k, so you'll only encounter it at the final stages of the recruitment process. On the back of it, the company will produce a 30-50 page report with 600 data points on whether you're any good for the role. The report will recommend categorically whether you should be hired or avoided. 

A ghSmart interview is all about identifying patterns of behaviour going back years. You will be expected to discuss your entire life including 'childhood experiences, dreams, and ambitions,' plus any issues with extracurriculars at school, college and university. You'll talk through every single job you've had. You'll discuss what you want for the future and for your life. Sometimes five hours isn't enough. You'll get a short break every 90 minutes.

In theory, you can't prepare for the ordeal, which is reportedly validated by Ken Griffin, CEO of Citadel. "You should just be honest and speak confidently about yourself. Try to frame a consistent narrative of curiosity, capability and self-improvement," says someone who's been through it. "Basically, they want to make sure you're actually natively interested in securities selection and not just trying to seek prestige or get as much money as possible," says another, although someone else says they did speak about their overwhelming interest in money and still got the job.

In fact, though, it is possible to anticipate a few things. Smart says you will be asked five identical questions about every job you've done: '1. What were you hired to do? 2. What did you accomplish? 3. What were your low points and/or mistakes? 4. Who did you work with? What would each say were your biggest strengths back then and your biggest areas for improvement? 5. Why did you leave?' Each of these questions will lead to follow-up questions; what you don't say is as important as what you do. It's about whether you're a fit, and if you're not, then so be it...

Separately, now that junior bankers don't have as much work to do, a new category of young person is assuming the identity of being the most ground down. Following a long article in The Times about the terrible life of people working for American law firms in London, who are getting married to people they don't necessarily love simply because, "a honeymoon is one of the only times you can take a real holiday and it won’t get cancelled," the following Tweet has been doing the rounds from a large US law firm. It's followed by an array of stories about culture that are reminiscent of banking circa 2021. 

Meanwhile...

You can also use online games to identify candidates. Each year, PwC has to narrow down about 100,000 applicants for its roles to 2,000; it says games are swift and unbiased and accelerate the process. (The Times) 

Bank of America's online client conference on geopolitics was curtailed after complaints that it was too positive about Russia. “It was more like Bank of Russia than Bank of America.” (Financial Times)

FTX US President Brett Harrison resigned last year after his bonus was drastically reduced when he complained about “the lack of appropriate delegation of authority, formal management structure and key hires.” (Coindesk)

Jes Staley's lawyer is fighting back. “The allegations against him are slanderous, and the potential damages are astronomical.”  (Financial Times) 

How to divorce your identity from work. “What fills your time?” or “What brings you joy?” (WSJ) 

Demonstrators got into BlackRock's Paris headquarters on Thursday. "We went to the headquarters of BlackRock to tell them: the money of workers, for our pensions, they are taking it.” (CNN) 

Alphabet is struggling to fire anyone in France because of French labour laws. (Bloomberg) 

Hedge funds made $7bn shorting banks. (Financial Times) 

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Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available (Telegram: @SarahButcher)

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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