It used to be that, during an interview process, if you did well with the grey-hairs you were (in Tony Soprano parlance) a 'made man.' It didn't matter if the sneering junior with a chip on his or her shoulder liked you. The senior guys had the last word. If you managed to go the whole interview without telling them that their wife was ugly you were in. You could deal with those impudent underlings after you got your feet under the desk.
Only the infamous Goldman Sachs employs an interview process is rigidly "360 degrees" (to use a truly awful banking cliché). It is well-known to be exhaustive.
In non-management speak, this means that you will be interviewed by MDs. You will be interviewed by VPs. You will probably also have the misfortune to be interviewed by analysts and associates.
In the Goldman set-up, if one particular analyst who appears to like Justin Bieber, doesn't like you, your entire flawless set of subservient-but-slightly-assertive-and-knowledgeable interviews with more senior staff could be blown. This 'one strike and you're out' philosophy is very rare elsewhere.
Or so I thought. I recently walked into an interview with someone who was still watching CBBC when I started university. It had been made clear to me in advance that this was the guy to impress. Do well, and you're in. Do badly, and it's back to square one.
He was likeable enough and, as we chatted away, it turned out we even had a few mutual friends and ex-colleagues. Unfortunately, these were the guys I used to boss around and lord it over in my previous career incarnations - if only I had been nicer to them whilst we worked together. Word to the wise: karma, in the City, is much less a philosophical belief than a many-tailed, vengeful deity.
Inevitably our speakeasy didn't last forever. He clearly wasn't going to give me an easy ride. The probing questions came thick and fast: what themes was I investing currently; did I have any stock-picks? Every assertion I made was met with a Gestapo-like cross-examination.
This is standard fare for a job interview perhaps, but it felt very strange coming from someone who probably had a MySpace account.
As we chatted further and he relaxed, he let slip several confidential pieces of information
about the firm which I'm sure he wouldn't have gotten away with if one of his older colleagues or someone from HR was in the room too. Dodgy dealings by the chairman, rancorous departures of ex-colleagues, and various other flashing red lights.
I began to realise that this wasn't the opportunity for me, so I tuned out.
Based on this experience I would advise the following for anyone who finds themselves in a make or break situation with someone only recent past puberty:
1) Be obsequious and servile, but don't obviously suck up. He or she is younger than you and it's up to you to make them like you. Get over any stigma that you might be feeling.
2) You'll embarrass yourself if you try to act like "one of the kids". That means no dropping hints that you got "so wasted" in Tramp last Saturday night, etc.
3) Don't capitulate - abject prostration in front of them won't help you. In fact, a little sting in the tail might earn you some respect. Don't be afraid to show some fangs if the time is right.
For example: answer back, interrupt them if they're rambling, call them out on something which they're saying that you know to be wrong.
4) If you decide to name-drop, be very careful. The mutual acquaintances you have might not have flattering thing to say about you if you were once their boss.
5) Watch a bit of MTV the night before - you never know when it might come in handy.
The author works in asset management.