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School of hard knocks and harder interviews

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You would have thought that a managing partner who oversees capital markets for one of the world's top law firms would be able to hold his nerve in most situations. But a friend of mine has been forced to accept that there are some things he’s simply not cut out for.

I don’t mean dealing with his bosses, or the billionaire issuers he advises for a living. No — it was actually a kindergarten interview where my friend received an absolute battering this month, when he tried to get his child into one of those prestigious and absurdly expensive international schools in Hong Kong.

My friend did no preparation whatsoever, believing instead that his charm would be enough. After all, that’s how he has been winning business for his firm for the past two decades.

But boy was he wrong for taking kindergarten lightly. Unlike most of the issuers who are mainly interested in how much money they can make for the cheapest price, the panellists grilled him on everything — from comments about his family life to his views on religion, politics and international relations.

It was so intense that he soon realised silence was really golden, and that his wife was far more comfortable with tackling the interrogation.

If this was a board interview, he would normally expect to sail through it and then celebrate lavishly with some vintage bottles of wine. That would have certainly cost him less than the non-refundable HK$500,000 he had to fork in school fees. This is one lesson he won’t forget in a hurry.