Making partner at a Big 4 firm is a massive achievement, one that is very difficult to secure for two reasons: one, the gruelling Partner Panel Interview and two, the mistakes that partner candidates make before and during the interview. The bad news is that the interview is unavoidable. The good news, however, is that the mistakes are. In this blog, we outline the 5 most common mistakes that are made during the Partner Panel Interview stage.

Mistake 1: Not enough preparation beforehand

Given that in your Partner Panel Interview you will be interrogated by a number of partners on the merits of your business and personal case, you would assume that every partner candidate would over-prepare for this stage. In actual fact, not enough preparation is actually one of the most common places that candidates go wrong. If you have the time, your final rehearsal for your pitch needs to be 1-2 weeks before the big day so be aware of the timeline and know that it is never too early to prepare! If you need help with preparations, read 6 tried and tested tips to prepare successfully for your partner panel interview and how to pinpoint the exact questions you are likely to be asked in your interview.

Mistake 2: Prioritising client work over preparing for pitch

Another big mistake that partner candidates make at the Partner Panel Interview stage is prioritising client work over preparing their pitch. Yes, you have work that needs to get done, but you also have a presentation and interview coming up that is essential to your career progression. Time management is key here. Dedicate time to both tasks every day and try to do this as early as you can before the date of your interview looms near. There is nothing more damaging than getting your work done and then working late into the night preparing for your pitch and not getting enough sleep, especially when it comes to the week of your Partner Panel Interview.

Mistake 3: Main selling points getting lost in too much detail

It can be really tempting to add in detail and expand on points here or there when preparing for your pitch, but when this starts to engulf your main selling points so that they become forgotten, this is when it becomes a big mistake. Build your 1-sentence sell and your 3-sentence sell and then base your pitch around these main selling points. In one sentence, sum up why the partnership should make you partner and then expand this into 3 clear selling points. Once you have these and you write your pitch around them, you won’t fall prey to trying to fit everything in, you will only include what is relevant to keep your 3 points front of mind. If you can condense your business case into a 1-pager document or talk sheet this helps you get real clarity. Download a template for a talk sheet here.

Mistake 4: Crowdsourcing pitch and business case documents

Asking questions and getting advice from partners is a great way to prepare for your business case presentation and pitch. When you apply too many changes because of feedback to the point where it no longer becomes your business case, however, that’s when it becomes a big mistake. When it comes to the presentation and Partner Panel Interview, you will have to talk about your business case and answer questions on it, so make sure that it is your own. Ask as many questions as you want and look at different examples of business case documents but don’t try and apply everything. Just use them as a guide to do your own work

Mistake 5: Getting defensive with tough questions

Partner Panel Interviews are supposed to be tough, there may be some resistance to your business case and there will definitely be challenging questions asked. It can be really easy to become defensive in these moments and many partner candidates do but they shouldn’t. How you handle these moments of confrontation can make or break your interview so always try to prepare for these situations and practice them. During the interview, if they arise, take your time to take a deep breath and think about a positive way to respond. Think ‘Respond’ rather than ‘React.’ (Here’s how you can ace your interview!)

Don’t lose your chance to make partner because of one (avoidable) mistake

Not getting partner or simply not getting to the next round of the process can come down to the result of just one error. Most of the time, these errors aren’t due to inability, but rather one of the avoidable mistakes that we have listed above; lack of preparation, poor prioritisation, applying too much feedback and getting lost in detail. Don’t let any of these silly mistakes lose you the chance to make partner.

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