Getting your start in investment banking is unlike any other industry. Undergraduate students are expected to master the recruiting process at the start of their sophomore year. Firms are beginning their cycles earlier and earlier as the competition for great early-stage talent intensifies. There's a lot to decode, and this blog post is a great place to begin.
Preparing for the investment banking recruitment process is far from the ordinary relative to other industries in the business world. The process requires profound preparation and networking that can dramatically increase your chances of securing an offer.
While no one recruiting experience across banks is exactly is the same, the standard aspects of investment banking recruitment for candidates include:
- Technical and behavioral interview preparation
Let’s take a look at each of these components to give you a better understanding of the timeline for these events and what each entails.
Networking is an unofficial requirement in the investment banking industry. This can take many forms, but for the purpose of early-stage investment banking recruiting, we specifically mean having phone calls or in-person meetings with current industry professionals in an attempt to build a relationship.
Creating connections with bankers can serve as a means to becoming more informed about different banks, learning about different offices, and increasing your chances of having your candidacy considered.
There are different ways to approach networking, but a good place to start is by reaching out to bankers about six months before the interview process. Be sure to check when a bank's recruiting cycle typically begins, as each bank is different. Some can start as early as February or as late as August.
You can find contacts via LinkedIn or your alumni network and send them a thoughtful note with some background on yourself, your interest in their firm, and request either an in-person/virtual “coffee chat” if you are in their area or will be in the near future, or a phone call.
When on networking calls there are a few main objectives:
- Sharing your background
- Understanding their background, why they joined the firm, and what role they play in the business (groups/deals)
- Having your questions answered about the firm or the recruitment process
- Leaving a good impression (you are looking for their support for your candidacy come interview time)
Try to talk to at least 2-3 bankers from each firm you are interested in. You can read more about our networking tips for the investment banking industry here.
Technical and behavioral interview preparation
One unique aspect of the investment banking recruitment process is the types of interview questions you will be asked. Investment banks tend to ask challenging technical questions about finance, accounting, and valuation concepts to ensure that the candidates they are hiring have the financial acumen to perform well on the job.
The behavioral portion of interviews is not necessarily as difficult or time-consuming to prepare for, however, making sure that you can craft your story and answers around why you are interested in investment banking/the firm you are interviewing with is just as important as nailing the technical questions.
You can read our blog post about crafting your story here.
As you are networking with bankers, you will subsequently need to prepare for numerous hours of studying and practice answering technical questions. Some common technical questions include:
- Walk me through the 3 financial statements
- What are the major valuation methodologies?
- Walk me through a Discounted Cash Flow Analysis (DCF)
There are many guides and free resources online such as Wall Street Prep’s free resource and article page that you can use to learn these concepts and develop answers to technical questions. It is recommended to spend at least a few weeks or months going through concepts, preparing, and completing mock interviews with peers and mentors.
Suited has also partnered with Wall Street Prep to provide free access to their Investment Banking Interview Guide to Suited members (originally $49). All you need to do is sign up for Suited and refer a friend! Learn more here.
Completing applications is the easiest part of the process. You can keep track of which bank’s applications are open by navigating to the “careers'' pages on their websites and periodically checking if the position you are interested in is listed. Different applications vary greatly in the detail they require—some require as little as your resume and others can be as detailed as requiring a resume, cover letter, transcript, and additional personal and professional information. However, most applications are not exceedingly time consuming.
The most important part of completing the application is ensuring that there are no errors on your submission. It is easy to overlook small grammatical or spelling errors, but that can be an easy reason for a bank to not move forward with your candidacy. You should spend additional time ensuring that you have not made any mistakes.
Additionally, once you submit your application you should reach out to any bankers you have connected with and update them on your application status.
At least twelve firms in the industry require Suited as a part of their application process. When you sign up for a Suited profile, your candidacy is automatically surfaced to all of the firms in our network, acting as a common application to over a dozen firms. However, we always recommend completing an application if there is a firm you are particularly interested in joining.
The most crucial part of the investment banking recruitment process is the interview stage. This is your chance to showcase to the bank that you have put in the work through networking and technical and behavioral interview preparation.
Generally speaking, investment banks will first contact you for a short “phone screen” interview, which is a half hour, 1-on-1 conversation with a banker or recruiter from the firm. They will ask you questions about your background and interest in the firm, followed by technical questions.
If you are successful in the phone screen interview, then you will have a formal first-round interview, which is similar to the phone screen interview. Again, if successful in the formal first round interview you will likely be invited to a “Superday” interview with the bank.
The Superday interview can be anywhere from three to seven back to back interviews with different bankers from the bank. These interviewers can range in seniority and group affiliation. Each interview will typically have a different focus to it. For example if you have three interviews, one may be focused on behavioral questions, one on technical questions, and one a case study.
The timeline for these interviews varies but traditionally you can accept the whole interview process to span anywhere from a few days to a month, with the average being two weeks. It is important to make the recruiting team aware of any competing offers that have a shorter timeline.