Get Into Investment Banking 101

In Recruiting | 6 minutes read

If you think there is too much information out there on getting a job in investment banking guess what…You’re right!

It’s a case of insane information overload.

With 100s of blogs, guides and courses it’s enough to make you pull your hair out.

So let’s try to cut the confusion and help you out by just listing some essentials lessons here.

We’ll call this Get Into Banking 101, the introductory class you never had.

How to Get Into Investment Banking in 57 secs

1. Become an expert on investment banking. Read the Wall Street Journal at least once a week, flick read the Vault Guide to Investment Banking and peruse a handful of banking blogs, especially this one.  But most of all, do the basics – hello coffee-fueled Wikipedia session!

2. Learn everything there is out there on investment banking recruiting. Getting into banking is tougher than getting into any other industry, which means you need to prepare for it like you’re Rocky Gekko lovechild.  The other reason…the rules for launching your career in investment banking are hugely different to normal graduate jobs.

3. Create a banker friendly resume. You need to literally spend 20+ hours working on your resume for investment banking.  It needs to be tailor made for bankers.  Think readable in 10 seconds, full of business lingo and achievements-centric.

4. Write a minimalist cover letter. Bankers rarely read cover letters and when they do, you’re lucky if they give it more than a quick glance.  However minimalist cover letters with only the vitals do get read and do reduce your chances of mistakes.

5. Strategize your action plan. Work out what you are going to ‘do’ now, tomorrow and throughout recruiting season.  There’s no need to resort to crazy GANT charts like a mini Jack Welch of course, but get your sh*t sorted sooner rather than later.

6. Move networking to the top of your To Do list. Most students will concentrate on formal recruiting and thus leave networking too late.  It usually takes a few rejections before students get the courage to reach out, cold email and set up a few dozen coffee meetings.  But if you do this you risk turning into an investment banking pumpkin, aka Bear Sterns stock.

7. Learn the interview answers before your Superdays.
You can’t leave interviews to chance or expect to just “handle it” on the day.  Bankers ask tough questions and expect perfect answers.  Prepare for interviews by buying a few investment banking interview guides.  Whether it’s Vault, WSO, M&I, BankonBanking or whoever, just do it.

8. Understand what bankers really want to see from you.
This is a major point for you to take on board now.  You see, bankers often care about things you’ve never thought of, whilst holding things you believe are essential in low esteem.  Speak to your friends in banking to find out the real performance criteria now.  It will surprise!

9. Eliminate any banker pet hates from your repertoire.
From asking for business cards too early to writing douchebag style emails requesting help, eliminate like the plague!

10. Get to grips with current recruiting conditions.
Recruiting in banking has never been worse.  It’s also never been more different. You need to work out what’s changed in your area and what that means for you.

11. Formulate a handful of Plan Bs.
You shouldn’t expect to walk into a banking job any more; even if you have a 3.8 GPA from Stanford.  Instead, both target and non-target school students alike should spend some time now coming up with at least 3 ‘doable’ Plan Bs.  Getting into banking via a corporate internship/job, MBA program or more study are all good places to start.  But don’t stop.  Think of more!  And think of ones that fit/leverage off your situation best.

12. Seek out unpaid internships if you must.
Got internship?  If not, offer to work for free.  Most bulge bracket banks will still think this is too expensive!  I.e. you have to target boutique investment banks with this idea.  PS Have a good story to tell.

13. Hunt down your alumni.
Request the contact details of past students from your campus career center and get emailing.  Always email before calling.  And make sure you have a short & compelling email, otherwise you’ll never get an answer.

14. Cold calling is a last resort.
Cold calling investment banks (we’re talking boutique banks here of course) is your last desperate play.  Reserve it for last.  That’s because it takes 100 calls to get about 5 bankers to even speak to you.  And then of those 5 maybe 1 is interested in a resume/interview.

15. Boost your grades before your ECs.
GPA minimums mean you could have all the ECs in the world but no bank will be interested since you miss the cut off.  Get your priorities right if you have a GPA under 3.3.

16. Consider postponing recruiting till next year.
If the conditions make it mission impossible for you, try delaying your run a year.  Spend the time learning more about IB recruiting, making more contacts inside the banks and furthering your work achievements.  Hello masters!

17. Stop wasting time on the unimportant issues.
Stop reading banking life gossip, put down that technical finance book and leave the 800 IB college club meetings alone.  You’ve got less time than you know.

18. Forget about financial modeling…for now.
You see, although it’s beneficial to know how to put together a financial model, it is more of an optional skill.  First master the essentials like resumes, interview Q&As, networking etc.  Once you’ve done all that, then consider a stint of financial modeling training.

19. Eat your banking frog first thing every morning
.  This means you need to take one actionable step every morning towards getting your dream job in banking.  It means doing the one thing you really don’t want to do, but which could have the biggest impact on your recruiting hopes.  Eg calling a douchebag (but useful) family friend who works at JP Morgan and requesting a sit down meeting.  It hurts, but guess what…the more you dread it the more it’s going to light your recruiting world on fire!

Hope you enjoyed this quick & dirty Get Into Investment Banking 101 list.  You’ll find more details on how to execute every step throughout this site.

(Photo by David Paul Ohmer with a good eye for Wall Street!)

Bottom Post

Screw financial modeling…you only need 6 skills to break into banking

If you’re an over excited wannabe Excel Monkey then you’ve probably tried just about everything to break in…from studying financial modeling till 3am to trying to memorize 100s of complicated technical interview questions.

But here’s the thing…

You’re wasting your time!  If you want to learn how to impress bankers, get interviews and land job offers straight out of college you simply need 6 skills.