There is no “perfect profile”. Hustle and be yourself
Landing an Investment Banking job at Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan or any other prestigious large or boutique investment firm is definitely one of the most challenging graduate career paths a student can take.
Congrapps, has the the UK’s largest database of 100% verified past successful cover letters. They identified patterns, talked to people and discovered that those who failed were more or less the same – template cover letters, generalised answers and lack of creativity. Amongst them, were people from Oxford, Cambridge, LSE and many of the other traditional “target schools”. On the other hand, the ones who succeeded were all unique in their own way. What does this mean? There is no golden rule when it comes to a successful application.
The truth about Investment Banking Graduate Recruitment
There are three types of people landing an investment banking graduate job:
- Those who had prior Bulge Bracket internships (Bulge Bracket are the 9 largest investment banks in the world);
- Students who had M&A and other relevant experience;
- Students who HR feels may become good analysts
The 1st category is rather intuitive. Early exposure to the big banks is music to the ears of those recruiting for entry-level investment banking jobs. This is also the reason why so much emphasis is placed on Spring Weeks. From their point of view, attending “Early Career” events or securing short internships shows discipline, dedication and sacrifice - values paramount for someone aspiring to conquer the investment banking world.
From the student’s perspective, early exposure is even more important. One thing is certain, you need to answer the question - “why investment banking/ why X firm” in your application. A good way to answer this question is to say why you want to work for a particular firm and continue by describing why you want to be an investment banker for this firm specifically.
To do this, you need to research a lot. While all the answers are available online, it is often difficult to contextualise what you are reading or not get lost amongst the millions of thought leaders out there. A spring week in this instance will function as the glue that will help you connect the dots, understand the industry and be ready to answer any question that might come up. But in case you wondered how do you even start, or where to focus during a Career Event or Spring Week, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Look at and refer to their work,
- Learn how they structure their teams and specialisms (annual or other recent reports are a good source to get an understanding of each company’s structure)
- See where do they lead the market and what revenues they bring;
- What changes have they generated and what has been their impact in the community;
- What do you like about their working practices, and how can you connect this to yourself and your own experiences;
The 2nd category of students landing investment banking jobs is those who had relevant experience either at a smaller bank, investment firm or in other types of firms where the candidate may have had investment banking related exposure (i.e., financial modelling, market research and valuation). So students for example, who interned at mid-market or boutique banks in the M&A division would be pre-screened and potentially selected provided they can demonstrate transferable skills.
Finally, for category 3, students will have to understand what the day to day job of an analyst is and build skills and knowledge that will convince recruiters that they are worth a shot. This is a difficult path but as you will see in the extract we share below, it is definitely possible. So for now, here is a question for you. If you have no relevant experience or degree what can you do to convince me you will develop into a great analyst?
Practical Hacks to land an Investment Banking graduate Job
Networking comes in many forms, the most common and easy one to use is Linkedin.
While the chances of getting recruited through Linkedin are minimal, the platform is super important in order to stand out and impress those you care about. In fact, you should see Linkedin as a tool that is going to help you in getting tips and contacts. If you are in your 2nd or 3rd year of University looking for a summer internship the best people to approach are high school (or university) alumni who just got hired. Recently graduated students who got hired into these banks are still eager and want to help as it hasn’t been long since they were on the other side of the table. Get in front of those analysts before the job duties become so overwhelming that they no longer have time to reciprocate.
To enhance your chances of getting selected, find an analyst or associate working in the group you are applying for and reach out to them. So if you submit your resume for a position in M&A at Morgan Stanley, use Linkedin to find who is actually working in that group and send them an email. Keep your message short and professional and specify what interests you about this department. Most importantly avoid general and cliché statements.
They will never respond to you unless they think you might eventually make a good analyst.
Investment Bankers get a ton of emails from students who want to break into the industry, however, as work takes over and conversations with students can become surprisingly repetitive, bankers will filter who they respond to. Give them a reason to respond to you. Similar to the actual application, vague or long messages will not work. Demonstrate how serious you are about breaking into Investment banking. This makes the cut.
It is very important that candidates prove in some way that they know what they are getting themselves into. In existing bankers’ minds there are two types of students:
- Candidates who read Wall Street Oasis and watch the Wolf of Wall Street or Big Short but doesn't really understand the function and roles of a banker;
- Candidates who are genuinely passionate and qualified (as qualified their age allows) but just haven’t obtained the right opportunity yet
This is all you need to know about Linkedin . Prove you understand the industry and that you have the qualifications to excel. Talk like a normal human being and show your uniqueness.
The second practical hack to get a step close to your goal of landing an investment banking job is to embrace e-learning as part of your University journey. In other words, be proactive.
Covid-19 exposed us to what all of us knew but often neglected. The power of online education and course providers like Coursera and Udemy. In addition to the undeniable benefits of proactive pursuit of knowledge and practical benefits in your future career, getting an online certificate is an easy way to demonstrate commitment to a career in Banking.
For example, Coursera has partnered with Wharton to deliver an excellent introductory course in Corporate Finance. You can choose high-level courses for knowledge that will help you connect the dots or opt for specialised courses in fields such as Python or Machine Learning for Finance. What’s the best part? You can get certified for less than what you would spend in a night out in London.
While a certificate is a great first step, it is also important to demonstrate how you applied those skills. The easiest way and what many successful applicants wrote in their applications is Virtual Trading. Another interesting approach is to perform your own analysis (based on publicly available data) on a recently announced Merger, Acquisition or IPO. No one will care and no one expects your valuations to be spot-on. What matters is that you took the time to do it. This shows that you understand finance and are aware of some basic modelling concepts. It also demonstrates drive, commitment and passion.
We can’t stress enough how important the above exercise is. Once you do this you will differentiate yourself from the majority of candidates. It’s so easy and nothing – literally nothing - stops you from doing it.
Here is how a successful candidate who took advantage of the above to land a Summer Analyst interview at BNP Paribas:
“Dear [ Name of Graduate Recruiter],
After analysing the Vision Fund in a recent work experience, I realised the importance of diversification, leverage, but also, the distortions in valuation models. Since joining university, I took the initiative to study the Corporate Finance course offered by the business school. Having built a DCF model for Uber, by conducting comparable analysis with a range of high-growth tech and mature transport firms, both of which pointed to uber being over-valued and Softbank’s over-zealous approach to cash out on their paper-based earnings. I am applying for this internship because I want to expand my knowledge in equity markets, the analysis involved, assumptions and holistic approach. I am incredibly passionate, and I am willing to do whatever it takes in order to progress into such a rewarding yet challenging career.
Another example is the following application for a hedge fund in London:
“Dear [Name of Graduate Recruitment Contact],
I do not go to a business school and I do not study Finance. After attending campus events, participating in work experience and studying my [relative] lecture courses in Accounting & Finance, I’ve realised that [type of applied sciences degree] is not for me. I want to work in Finance because of its performance-driven nature, the numerical analysis involved, and the level of responsibility given at entry-level. I am attracted by the prospect of combining my [applied sciences degree] knowledge to analyse companies in the [Industry his/her degree is focusing on].
While there are many routes into investment banking and finance in general, we believe proactiveness is the most important attribute. Similarly, by viewing past successful applications and identifying patterns we realised that the most common mistakes are also the easiest to avoid. These are:
- Not understanding your unique selling points and failing to communicate your value;
- Not understanding what Investment Banking entails and why you want a career in the industry.
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