10 Commandments of IB Recruiting

As a student who recently finished SA recruiting at a semi-target school and got multiple offers (both BB/EB), and 10 first rounders, I'd love to try to provide some brutally honest advice for the IB recruiting process. To preface, I am non-diversity, by no means a genius, have no family in finance, and am not a business/finance major. WSO helped me learn a ton about the industry but there's a lot of nonsense out there that can detract your focus and energy on what actually matters when trying to secure that offer. Here is what I found to be some founding principles for me. Take it as you will.

1. Actually Understand The Job

Fairly obvious but so many kids go into recruiting not understanding what investment bankers actually do, how they actually generate revenue, coverage vs product groups ect. This is the first thing you should do before anything else. Spend a few hours and really soak it in. Ironically, the final question I got in a super day at a bank was "explain IB to a 6 year old" and I was able to hit it on the head, whereas other people rambled on about synergies, pitches, and other ridiculous stuff.

2. Have a Lights-Out "Why IB?" Answer

Everyone says that it's important, but few actually excel at this answer. It's not enough to say that you're "interested in seeing how data and numbers can tell a story" or you "like the blend of quantitative and qualitative skills." These are OK starting points, but tie it to something that directly relates to banking and nothing else. For example: being "interested in having a tangible impact in helping companies reach their strategic needs while having the ability to learn how different companies operate" is IMO, a better answer.

3. GPA Matters.

Everyone has that story of their friend's cousin's sister's goldfish who got an offer at Goldman with a 3.2, but its objectively not the norm. Shoot for a 3.75 at a Bulge Bracket, 3.85 at a boutique. The truth of the matter is this: grades don't show intelligence, but they indicate effort. You don't need to be a genius to be in IB, but you need to work your tail off. Thus, when choosing between a kid with a 3.56 and a 3.92, you can be damn sure the latter is getting that first rounder. I'd suggest loading up on light classes freshman/soph year to boost your gpa since recruiting takes place early.

Alright the stuff above was pretty cookie cutter, now time for some slight nuance.

4. Tunnel Vision

It's easy to get caught up comparing yourself to other candidates/classmates. Don't do it, its a waste of energy and just causes anxiety.

5. Focusing on Actions Rather than the Outcome

Rather than thinking about the end goal, set a few small "action goals" every month. This stuff quickly builds on itself. For instance, set a goal to send 8 emails a week, spend 20 mins a day on technicals, ect. This has a snowballing effect that tangibly improves your odds of getting an offer compared to sitting up at night tweaking. Better to spend 30 mins a day on productive stuff than an hour of stressing without any action.

6. Confidence

This one is HUGE. You essentially need to convince yourself that you're the man/woman–even if it's slightly delusional. However, you don't want to convey to other people these feelings, and want to come across as grateful and appreciative of their time. You're going to have bad calls and awkward interactions, but it's how you respond to it. I know a ton of kids who were flying through recruiting and had one bad networking call where they were called out for being "underprepared" and they simply decided to stop recruiting out of embarrassment. Heck, I made 8 phone calls with people a top BB that finally led to a convo with a Managing Director and was expecting it to be a causal introduction. Instead, he started grilling me on market technicals and I choked. I got off the phone call, hit chest day at the gym, grabbed lunch with the boys, and continued on with my life. Once you lose confidence, you're done for.

However, I want to reiterate that when you're on calls, don't come across as cocky, but rather confident. Strive for a blend of confident in your own skin yet humble and appreciative.

7. Early College Internships Are Mostly a Joke

I was never asked about my freshman/incoming sophomore summer work experiences in any interviews. Banks know that most of these are just shadowing family friends and instead, they asked more questions about investment clubs/projects/sports team/extracurriculars.

8. Junior Bankers Are the Club Bouncers, Senior Bankers Are the Mafia

Everyone is so wrapped up on talking to graduating seniors, analyst and associates. Yes, they are usually in charge of giving out first round interviews but at the end of the day, the MD's can get you through the door. Be the first person to reach out to the MD's from your college as they usually only speak to 3-5 students before they get tired of it. Once you reach the MD's and they like you, they may even refer you to their friends. Once you reach that level, its game over and you're well on your way to getting an interview + support at nearly any bank.

9. Simple Answers are Best

A skill in banking is being able to explain complex deals/financial instruments to clients who may not have the same level of expertise. Thus, when getting interviewed, keep everything as simple as possible. Short and concise always is best. Don't mention formulas, other scenarios, and finance buzz words when not needed. There's no need to try and show the interviewer how smart you are by rambling on about a topic that they know much better than you. Rather, try to find a way to give the clearest answer with the least words. Trust me, they'll ask you follow ups if they want to hear more in which you can elaborate then. If you tell them all you know at first, they will ask a follow up that you can't answer.

10. Develop a Send-It Mentality

Similar to #6, but in this process, the bold always win. Approach incoming full time seniors in the dining hall and introduce yourself, fire off emails to MD's telling them about your progress (sometimes send 6am emails to show dedication), search alumni on LinkedIn and ask to "hear more about their career". People love talking about themselves, heck, I'm spending time right now doing the same thing lol. I know it's uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, I'd rather get hung up on a few times than work at Taco Bell.

Best of luck.

Comments (36)

  • Prospect in IB - Cov
Jul 22, 2022 - 12:37pm

I would add that if you go to a target, find out who the staffer from your school is as they pretty much run recruiting for your school and can essentially get you an automatic superday. The staffers aren't advertised but typically it's an associate or VP. Reach out to upperclassmen to figure out who they are or try to hint at finding out who they are when networking.

Most Helpful
  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Jul 22, 2022 - 12:44pm

This is one of the best advice threads I've read all year. Congrats on the offers OP - know you'll do very well on the job.

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Jul 22, 2022 - 1:24pm

Thanks, I really appreciate it!

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Jul 22, 2022 - 12:45pm

Well said. This should be the holy grail to recruiting.

Congrats OP

Jul 22, 2022 - 12:52pm
OttoReadmore, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Love the maturity here and impressive at your young age. I wish I had this perspective when I was younger. Kudos to you and If you keep this perspective, it will definitely serve you well in the long term.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers
  • 4
  • Intern in IB - Cov
Jul 22, 2022 - 1:03pm

The drive and mindset OP exhibits is like no other. Appreciate the advice, and hope you continue to excel throughout college and into FT

Jul 22, 2022 - 1:26pm
hogcalling2015, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Great write-up, only thing I would note is that if you have early college internships on your resume, especially if you have a deal attached to it, you will get grilled about it. I agree that bankers know these internships are bullshit but you still need to be able to speak intelligently about it and not fumble into saying that you ran the model for a $55MM deal (you didn't). 

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jul 22, 2022 - 1:44pm

My gpa fell so much after recruiting lol

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Jul 22, 2022 - 2:26pm

Strongly disagree with 7. Also experience > GPA once you hit 3.6/7 or so.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jul 23, 2022 - 1:10am

I would agree with the figures posed by OP.

  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Jul 22, 2022 - 2:41pm
Anonymous Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Literally the best advice I've seen here. The MD point is so true I had such a small connection with an MD to the point that my specific subject line on the email I sent to him got his attention. Creative things like that stand out and can make recruitment go in your favor

  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Jul 22, 2022 - 2:54pm
Anonymous Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

So the MD went to undergrad where my sister went (super small school) and got his MBA at my other sisters school. So I put that in my subject like saying "(school name) relative / Current (school name) Student Information Call"Worked out in my favor and the MD gave me mad props for it. Still talk about it with him to this day

Jul 22, 2022 - 5:47pm
IncomingIBDreject, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Seems quite blasphemous imo


  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jul 22, 2022 - 5:48pm

Great post. I would add that it is usually helpful to send follow ups immediately after every networking chat, phone call, interview and superday, and it's generally better to do so right afterwards rather than waiting until the next day. People remember you more the day of, are more likely to respond positively if they liked speaking with you. Even if they do not respond, you'll at least leave a strong last impression and let them see that you're proactive, which is a trait that people view favorably. 

Jul 22, 2022 - 6:31pm
Gordon.Ghetto, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Facts, especially #10. Good advice for the introverts, like myself. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and in the spotlight. You've got to be about it and let people know what you're doing. Got to stay on top of peoples mind or they'll forget about you. Important aspect the job has taught me. If there's 40 interns, you've got to stand out in some way.

Jul 22, 2022 - 9:07pm
Miracle1111, what's your opinion? Comment below:

at the end of the day, I'd rather get hung up on a few times than work at Taco Bell.

Jul 23, 2022 - 5:13am
pe_imposter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

 Very well said. I think your first point is especially important. When I'm interviewing candidates the single most important factor for me is that they have a solid yet nuanced understanding of what we do. I always ask a similar Q to - explain IB to a 6 year old. 

The answer I want to receive is:

Investment Bankers are simply financial advisors. However, whereas normal financial advisors offer advice to individuals, investment bankers offer advice to businesses. They can offer solutions to help businesses borrow money, reorganise the money they've already borrowed, buy other businesses, sell themselves etc. 

My SA who just started genuinely thought as investment bankers we invested in business. Really pissed me off that he got on my desk and I gave the analyst that interviewed him some shit. 

Brownie points if you get the nuance to it. E.g. I'm an M&A banker for a bank that mainly does sell sides. Understanding the biz dev functions of the job - how we win mandates, what mandates we like to win, understanding the main players in the market, e.g. PE, strategics etc. I had a candidate who once asked me to talk her through my ideal mandate to win - i was very impressed with this q as i thought it demonstrated she really 'got it'. Another great question I got was 'can you explain to me how an M&A process differs when you're selling a private vs public business', also thought this demonstrated great nuance 

Jul 23, 2022 - 8:53am
rickle, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Great write up and congrats on the offers. I particularly connect with #5. That's not an IB specific thing but a great way to be successful at basically anything. It's about the process. You don't go from A to Z. You have to go through the steps. I'm a lifelong sales expert, coach, etc. Getting a job (any job but absolutely the tough ones) is a sales job. You are the product. They don't know you exist. You are responsible for controlling the message of you, how they benefit from knowing you exist. Regardless of what you sell, there is a formula / process for success. It typically involves 5 steps with many sub steps. Although you may occasionally get luck, in general you can't bypass the steps. It's a process. Getting yourself to send out X emails, do Y calls, practice technicals for Z hours each day, is all part of the process. What you've done is shown people how to break down an intimidating amount of prep into small, bite size, manageable pieces that anyone can do. None of that takes intelligence, charisma, etc. ALL OF IT takes tenacity, effort, focus. That's what they're looking for. By doing that and being properly prepared, you're answering the question they never ask: Why should we care about you? Once they're satisfied with that answer, they'll find a place for you. All of the actual work is very teachable.

Great job!

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Jul 23, 2022 - 11:28am

Agree with all except #7. I'm an incoming sophomore at a semi-target and I'm doing my second ib internship. I'm an international student with no relatives in this country. And none of my family members are in the finance industry. Tbh I don't know if these internship experiences will be useful. But I know my schoolmates gonna beat me brutally if I don't do internships.

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Jul 23, 2022 - 2:47pm

That's a fair point, but maybe OPs message was moreso that if you don't have a great freshman summer internship, it's not the end of the world. Obviously if you have a few good ones by the time you're recruiting, that should be helpful.

Jul 23, 2022 - 8:20pm
glorified psycho, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is exactly what it takes. Don't be a weirdo / hardo and try and show off to the interviewer about how much you know about scenarios and analysis. They just want a kid who will work hard and has a general understanding of the industry / job responsibilities.

Jul 28, 2022 - 10:03pm
bddjfj1345, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Great post. I needed number 6 right now. Just got off a networking call where I got grilled. Makes me feel so much better knowing someone who got offers also fucked up prior times. Working my ass off getting ready for FT recruitment next month and need to keep going.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 30, 2022 - 10:54am

I'm a rising sophomore and what should I do if i have messed up my freshman year GPA(primarily due to first semester). I basically only have one semester to bring it up. I'm sitting at a 3.37 right now( 3.03 first semester, 3.72 second semester)

Jul 30, 2022 - 11:27am
freshman trying to figure it out, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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