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How To Join The One Percent

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How To Join The One Percent

Management consultants, investment bankers, and the partners in top tier law firms constitute the new—some would say ruling—global elite. They are the people who shape the direction of whole industries and are most involved in creating, moving, and distributing the world’s wealth. The owners and managers of high-tech and life sciences companies, though catching up, have nothing like the power and prestige enjoyed by members of this professional triad. The best path to big money and exceptional success still lies down the road of law, banking, and consultancy.

The question is: how do mere mortals join these Olympian gods?

While it is true that the best professional service firms tend to take most of their new associates from Ivy League colleges, they do not limit their recruitment to such places. In fact, the most tenuous connection with elite insiders can get you an interview at a top firm. Many of these companies hold diversity events to recruit people from underprivileged backgrounds. If you meet a recruiter at such an event, you must milk the encounter for all it’s worth. Recruiters love to hear “up by the boot straps” stories. The same goes for those who have been in the military. The top firms hold events specially designed to recruit veterans. If you have served, then you should be prepared to make that work to your advantage.

Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door and have been scheduled for a formal interview, you’ve got to perform—exceptionally well.

You must learn how to game the system, which begins and ends with knowing how to interview. The best firms don’t use headhunters or even their own human resources departments to recruit. As incredible as it may seem, the world’s top firms make their hiring decisions based on the impressions that two or three of their associates get from the candidates they interview.  In other words, whether you get to join the one percent doesn’t come down to your knowledge, intelligence, and experience, but how someone feels about you as a person.

The interviewers must balance their busy schedule with their recruiting duties. Each of the persons sitting across from you will not have spent more than two minutes between them reviewing your resume.  The interview itself consists of a set script: a bit of ice-breaking small talk, followed by questions about yourself, and then a case study. The thing to keep in mind is that they have probably had to do a number of these interviews either back-to-back or through a succession of days. They are probably jet-lacked and irritable. The best way to help your chances is to relieve them of tedium. Be fresh and vivacious. Loosen up. Show that you take neither yourself nor life that seriously.

What recruiters are really looking for is a good fit. You’ve heard the word used before in this context. It means someone who can assimilate easily into the team. It is pure myth that candidates for elite firms are chosen through rigorous testing and examination. Though some companies may do this kind of screening to weed out individuals without the intellect to do the required work, the final decision is made by people who would rather choose an easy-going person who is not the brightest of the bunch than a genius who is humorless and unsociable. Given the conditions of work—long hours spent at client sites, in airports, over work dinners, and even on weekends—the individuals doing the hiring would rather have someone who can be their friend as well as their colleague.

In addition to being as relaxed and witty and empathetic as you can, you should also choose one of the interviewers to cozy up to. You will need to make quick judgments about each recruiter. Decide which of them you seem to have the most in common with and work him. Emphasize the experience, perspectives, and ideas you hold in common. If the interviewer sees a bit of himself in you, then he will go to bat for you during the final selection process.

 

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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.

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