This article is dedicated to sophomore and junior college students thinking about an investment banking career. If you are a senior or recent graduate, please click here.
Before we begin, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Stephanie, former banker and now author and publisher of a series of accounting and finance websites.
I heard about investment banking in my sophomore year and thought it was so cool. I applied for a few investment banking internships in early Spring, and didn’t land a single offer.
After reflecting on my mistakes and working on my weaknesses, I reapplied the following year and this time around, got a couple of offers and spent a fabulous summer at Smith Barney (now part of Citi)’s investment banking department.
I had such a “surreal” experience that I decided to go for the toughest group after I graduate – to the global Mergers and Acquisition Group where I spent time constructing financial models and preparing presentations for CEOs. You can read about my life as an investment banker here.
I’ve “retired” from banking, but I am happy to share my first-hand experience here on how to get into the investment banking analyst program.
How to Get Into the Investment Banking Analyst Program
If you’d like to get an investment banking job description in plain English, click here.
Investment banking is one of the most competitive jobs around the world because of the excitement, glamor, exposure and pay. In order to maximize your chance of success, you will need to excel in the following areas:
- Accumulating relevant experience
- Getting your feet wet with a meaningful internship
- Preparing an outstanding resume
- Acing your interviews
They are all inter-linked and we are going to go through them one by one.
Wait, Is There a Prerequisite?
There are lots of myths out there on what makes people eligible / ineligible for an investment banking job. I personally don’t think there is something as clear cut as that and I try to answer a few popular questions below.
- Do I need a quantitative major to get into i-banking?
- Do I need good grades to get into this industry?
- Do I need to take accounting class before being considered for an investment banking interview?
- Do I have any chance if I don’t go to a target recruiting school.
The answers can be found here on investment banking qualifications.
1. Accumulating Relevant Experience
We’ll talk first about the accumulating your experience because this is going to be the “content” of your resume and interview.
Most college students have some sort of part-time jobs, so why not make them relevant to your future career? Investment banks are looking for candidates who have:
- Quantitative skills
- Ability to work under stress
- Sense of humor
Pick a job or interest that can highlight your strengths in these attributes. It can be anything like:
- Research assistant for a business school professor
- A leadership role in a club in your college
- A notable commitment in a community project that you are passionate about…
… as you see, as long as you can package it to fit most of the attributes investment bankers are looking for, you don’t need to work in a bank to make it a relevant experience. We will talk about how to package your experience in the resume writing section. It is the best if you can start accumulating relevant experience early in college.
2. Investment Banking Internships
Once you have some interesting experience in / outside of college, you should think about applying for an investment banking internship. Why?
- This is the most relevant experience you can ever get when it comes to investment banking.
- It gives you an opportunity to learn the trade and build connections in the industry.
- It is a good testing ground to see whether you like investment banking as a permanent job.
- The pay is good!
- You get to live in New York or other big financial cities and enjoy the fabulous night life.
3. Investment Banking Resume
Your resume is your “spokesperson” before you have a chance to meet the recruiters. It is therefore very important to know how to present your best in this piece of paper.
I have written a few articles on this topic and please take the time to read through and ask any questions that you may have:
- Powerful action oriented verbs for your investment banking resume
- Relevant keywords in investment banking resume that lead to interviews
4. Investment Banking Interviews
For an investment banking internship, there is typically only one round of interview and your interviewer is most likely a junior i-banker (an analyst a couple of years older than you). If your college is one of the target recruiting school, he/she is probably an alumnus.
Here are some tips for your interview preparation:
- 24 most common investment banking interview questions
- Case study: How to lead your interviewers to ask questions YOU want
Feel free to use any of the free resources found on this frequently asked questions page.