The Airplane Test

Posted by The Editors on June 16, 2011
The Airplane Test

Every firm has a different term for the "Could I Get Along with This Person?" test. Some call it the "plane" test. Interviewers ask themselves, "How would I feel sitting on an airplane or being delayed for hours in an airport with this person? Would it be okay? Better than okay? Or insufferable?"

Take, for example, Ralph. On paper Ralph is the perfect investment banking candidate: an Ivy Leaguer who worked as an analyst at another blue-chip investment bank prior to his acceptance into a top-tier MBA program. Ralph has been invited to interview with five of the bulge-bracket firms. His resume screams, "Pick me!" However, in interview after interview, Ralph doesn't make the initial cut. Why? It's not because he isn't prepared; in fact, Ralph knows a lot about the business and has educated answers to every question. However, he never took seriously the fact that he has to pass the plane test.

Perhaps he has offered a damp, limp handshake and failed to look the recruiter in the eyes upon entering the interview room. He sits before the recruiter has taken her seat and slouches, refuses to make consistent eye contact, and yawns frequently. His suit is unpressed and his shoes are scuffed. He is robotic about discussing his resume. When the recruiter asks how business school peers would describe him, he says "as a smart leader," without a trace of humility or any details to back up his comment. He doesn't have questions about the bank and leaves without an appropriately cordial parting or a thank you to the interviewer.

Some of these mistakes may seem obvious. But otherwise good candidates make these and others every year. They behave boorishly, look disheveled, and appear unprepared. They mistakenly believe that the strength of their resumes will carry them through and haven't taken the time to consider seriously how their appearance and actions may weigh against them.

If you have doubts about how to act in an interview, don't hesitate to do some research on the topic, or even speak with a career coach or counselor. Good coaches and counselors can provide a ready list of dos and don'ts.

One additional point: a number of investment banks conduct their first interviews by phone. Phone interviews require every bit as much preparation as a face-to-face meeting. Have your list of questions easily accessible. You'll want to be sure you're in a quiet room-no traffic noise or dogs barking in the background. If possible, avoid phones with call-waiting.

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