Guide: Cold Contacting Investment Bankers For Non Targets

Hi Folks,

I posted a thread earlier in the month and there was a lot of interest in techniques and tips for cold contacting investment bankers so I thought I would share what I know.

First things first, I'm not an investment banker. I'm a data room sales rep with an extensive background in cold contacting (email/phone) investment bankers internationally. If you're working on M&A teams in North America there is a good chance I've called you. I've managed to create a pretty big network primarily from cold contacting so I'm here to offer basic sales tips and insights on methods that may work for you.

Note: I highly recommend reading the book How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It's a pretty quick read that will help you understand how people communicate and how to leverage it to your will.

Disclaimer: I know very little about the recruiting cycles in banking and less about what specific traits/achievements recruiters look for. If anyone who has been through the process wants to chime in I will be happy to edit this post to create a better resource.

Getting Started

Before we get any further I wanted to emphasize that landing an interview will have very little to do with Investment banking. Sure, you may be able to pump out DCF models faster and more accurate than anyone else but it's irrelevant if you aren't given the opportunity to display your skills. In reality, getting an interview is a sales process in which you are selling yourself.

Cold Contacting Strategy

Anyone who tells you they enjoy cold calling and emailing people are lying to you. The reality is that you're going to interrupt someone and it's uncomfortable. The big thing to remember is that as long as you are polite and aren't overly aggressive with your contact volume very little bad can come out of cold contacting. Think about it, the last time someone cold called for a service you weren't interested in how long did you remember them for? 20 seconds? the same applies here.

There are 4 main topics relating to cold calling: tools, targets, timing and content.


Contact Information Gathering
Zoominfo/ are the two go to tools for getting phone numbers and email addresses. It's important to put an emphasis on direct phone lines. If the email isn't there it's alright, banks follow a uniform email format so a quick google search can land you any email(i.e [email protected])

Email Tracking
Email tracking is a very important tool that has become common practice in sales and marketing. There are a lot of providers but the only one I’ve tried and can vouch for is Yesware.

The service is about $15/month but completely worth it. You will be able to track when/how many times your email was opened, if the email has been forwarded, and if any attachments have been clicked or opened. This is all useful information in gauging interest and gives you a better idea of where you are gaining traction.


Admittedly, this section is the weakest in the guide. I know my targets in my sales process, but I know this probably changes in terms of recruitment. If anyone wants to chime in here I would love to edit this to be as accurate as possible. Anyways, I've taken my best guess and added insight on what I know.

Analysts: Probably not decision makers in hiring

-From experience, Analysts are understandably the least likely to donate their time. In the case of recruitment they aren’t your best target.

Associates: Worth contacting but shouldn’t be your first target

- Associates are usually more willing to spend a minute or two to help you out. I may be wrong but I would imagine their role is more evaluating people already in the recruitment funnel. As a non- target you may want to aim slightly higher.

VP/Director/Principal: These guys are your sweet spot and my recommendation for targets

- My initial thought was these titles would be too busy/senior to get a hold of and generally not willing to give you the time of day. I was wrong. Internal data proves that these targets spend the most time on the phone and have the highest conversion rates. These guys have more pull and may be able to help you make meaningful progress. Don’t be afraid of their titles.

Managing Director: Obviously your ideal target, MD’s are generally pretty social and definitely have the pull for you to create meaningful opportunities

- Unfortunately, these guys are heavily gated and hard to contact. In BB firms it’s near impossible that a cold request actually gets seen by an MD. They literally pay secretaries to protect their time and to act as a filter to make sure only important inquiries get seen. In boutique firms you might have better luck, use your judgment for these guys.


Timing and follow-up are very important when trying to get in touch with someone.

in terms of specific timing, the best time to email/call someone is from 4-5pm and the best days are Thursday/Friday.

In sales we use a term called cadence, which is pretty much consistent steps to attempt to contact someone. I would recommend the following cadence:

Attempt 1: Email
-wait 1 week-
Attempt 2: Call & leave a voicemail. Explain that you are following up on an email from attempt 1
-Wait 3 business days-
Attempt 3: Call - No voicemail
-wait two business days-
Attempt 4: Follow-up email (make sure to send it as a reply to your initial email)

Move on.

At any point in this process, if they contact you, take them off the cadence. Use Excel to track each person and which step of the process they are on.


General: Investment bankers are among the most intelligent and skeptical people on the planet. In general try to be concise and avoid bullshit.

The goal of your emails should be to try and get someone on the phone or out for a beer/coffee. In person contact resonates 1000x greater than an email or call.

General Format:

Explain who you are and why you are reaching out.

Explain why you want to work at X firm and why you should be considered.

If you are trying to advertise yourself stay away from subjective terms. I.e “I’m hardworking/motivated/etc” This is literally meaningless bullshit and everyone applying for any job will say it. Instead, provide objective examples that demonstrate this behavior. I.e I achieved an x GPA/I lead my schools finance club to achieve x/etc. You get the point.

Now we go ahead with our “ask” which is for a call or meeting.

Avoid a general asks such as “I would love to meet for a coffee or beer”. Instead, do some research. Find a place near their office and make your request specific. I.e “I would be willing to meet up and buy you a beer. How does X bar on Thursday or Friday evening work?”

Your complete email should be no longer than a paragraph. Once you’re done email it to yourself and read it on your phone. How does it look? If you received an email like this would you read it? If not, make some changes.

Cold Calling
Plain and simple cold calling sucks. With that said, stats prove calling has a greater impact than email and can be a very powerful process when trying to achieve our goal.

You have to accept that you are going to interrupt someone but that’s okay. Just like the email we want to keep this quick. Make sure to quickly identify yourself, bankers get called frequently by clients and it’s important you bring down their guard asap.

In terms of wording, stick to a format similar to the email. briefly explain who you are and how you believe you can help their firm/team.

I hope this helps. I will be sticking around to answer any questions you guys have. The process can be pretty daunting, but keep in mind you only need one opportunity to work out to land a gig.

Mod Note (Andy): Best of 2016, this post ranks #43 for the past year


Thanks for the guide, as a student at a non-target, I want to chime in on some of the things you said. I may be wrong, but this is just in my experience:

Contacting analysts / associates are probably the best point of contact coming from a non-target. They were most recently in your shoes and are really willing to stick their neck out for you if you can prove yourself to them. The way it seems, they're the main points of contact when it comes to recruiting at the non-target, and have significant pull.

Also, regarding the "objective examples," it seems that some people take that poorly. Especially the "I achieved a x.x GPA." I think some of the objective examples are best saved for the phone call when you actually get the chance to speak (or meet). If you want to show them you have a high GPA to try to prove your worth, what I do is attach my resume and say "if you want to learn more about me, I've attached my resume" or something along those lines.

I think most of the other information you've posted is really helpful. Thanks a lot for this.


I think you're right on this one. As i mentioned, roles in recruitment isn't something i'm familiar with.

I also agree with the GPA point that may not be the best example, however, stand by the logic of providing objective examples of how you can help.

Thousands of people apply for IBD roles, you have to create value and provide a reason for people to give you a chance.


Thanks to OP for this post - wish I had this when I was going through the process.

I want to echo what dartzrip is saying. I'm also from a non-target, and after quite a bit of rejection and preserving recently was offered full-time at a BB in IBD. I've found that contacting junior people can be so helpful for two reasons. First, there's the chance they like you (for reasons above) and they're willing to set something up with someone more senior. Second, even if there's not much he/she can do, at least when you do have the chance to speak with someone more senior you can share what you've learned about the role and let them know you've put in the time to meet some of the people you'd (potentially) be working with. This is especially relevant for us who have to rely more on networking to get a seat at the table.

This was my strategy - meet with as many analysts/associates as I could so that when the time came to speak with the VPs and MDs I had a much better understanding of analysts' work, and I could show them that I've put a lot of effort in to learn.

OP, thanks again for this post. And good luck to all my fellow non-targets

  • How do you suggest people win at this game when you've revealed the game plan for new potential players in this realm who are cold emailing that adds to the queue of cold emails of existing players using similar strategies?

  • What will make one cold email jump above another cold email vs work emails and other casual emails of this individual?

  • How come there is no mention of using "Read Receipt" or "Delivery Receipt" to ensure logistically the email got sent, delivered, and received?

  • Where would you suggest the audience to go if existing markets are crowded already and they are looking for new fertile grounds to cultivate their own individual and respective careers?


Nice guide. Thanks for putting it together. I actually wasn't aware about that email tracking service. That's pretty sweet, and I will certainly think about using it in the future.

Cold calling/emailing is probably one of my least favorite things to do, and I used to avoid it like the plague when I was younger. Always made me feel uncomfortable. Social phobia is a bitch. But once you buck up and learn to do it, it's an invaluable tool.

Best Response

With all due respect, I completely disagree with 90% of your post.

Your Tools section offers great advice. I would add that is a good way to verify emails. For tracking, I just used Excel, but can see why a sales person would need something more high tech.

I would suggest to never ever cold call an investment banker. Think about how busy they are and in the middle of their work, some random college student calls them to network. I have probably spent 100 hours in the past year helping college students out because I know how tough it is to break in, but even I would be extremely annoyed if I got an unsolicited call. This is even more annoying for senior bankers because they spend all day on the phone. When you call them unsolicited, you are literally preventing them from doing their job (i.e. speaking with clients).

Your Targets section is probably spot-on for sales, but I would not recommend this strategy for college students. College students should be contacting analysts and associates. VPs and up are the only ones who can walk into HR an almost guarantee you an interview, but most of them are too busy, too far removed from the process, unable to identify with you, broke into the industry when it was not as competitive, etc. I would still network with VPs and above (the best advice I have received came from them), but focus 95% of your effort on analysts an associates. They are closer to your age, most likely networked like you are doing, went through the process in the past two to three years, have more time to devote to helping you, etc.

My experience with timing was different. I had the best luck sending cold emails Tuesdays at 10AM. My logic was that if the emails are sent on Tuesdays, you are not bombarding anyone on a Monday morning, but there still is plenty of time during the week to connect. Thursdays and Fridays are too close to the weekend, and it is easier to write your cold email off as “I’ll contact that guy next week”.

I would not suggest contacting bankers four times. That is a recipe for disaster and a clear demonstration that you cannot take a hint (a terrible quality for an analyst). I would suggest one email and a follow up email a week later. That’s all. By contacting them more often, you’re risking your email getting forwarded to everyone with a “do not hire” note.

I think that your Content section is not correct for college students. Don’t send a novel. All you need is a quick “Hi, I’m a junior at Harvard. I am interest in pursuing a career in IB and was wondering if you had some time this week to discuss your career and experience at Goldman Sachs. Thank you.” That’s all. Everyone who gets your email knows exactly what you want. Writing more than what I suggested is waste of your time (a terrible quality for an analyst) and a complete waste of time for the person reading your email. You want the email to be just long enough to get the message across, but short enough where I get the gist by just looking at the lock screen on my iPhone or the Outlook new email pop-up. Your wording for meeting up sounds very awkward. You’re not meeting with your grandfather- you’re meeting with some guy close to your age.

I hope this does not sound negative because it’s not supposed to. I just wanted to point out what I think does not apply to college students. And, please, stop cold calling me about data rooms ;) You’d have more luck if you took my group out to a bar, a golf course, bowling, etc.



Thanks for your feedback. I'll try to address each point.

  1. Mailtester is great, I will add that to the tools section.

  2. I disagree with your statement "never ever cold call an investment banker". People are generally more receptive over the phone than you might think. I do agree that it would be wise to ask "is this a good time for you to chat for a minute" it gives your target an opportunity to exit the call if they aren't interested. I will add this above.

  3. Based on yours/others feedback I'm going to completely change the targets section. As you mentioned, this is good for sales but not recruitment- thanks for the input.

  4. Timing- I gathered all the numbers from internal data. I understand the logic behind your post, but based off experience I would stick to my suggested timing.

  5. Contact: After second look, four times may be too many for a recruit. I've changed it to two emails and one call. As you mentioned earlier in your post, bankers are very busy. Many times you will be contacting someone who is willing to help, but not able to at the moment. Contacting three times helps combat this.

  6. I also somewhat disagree your messaging for emails, if you're a target this will work. But Non targets didn't go to schools that will automatically have them considered for ibd jobs. They have to mention something very brief that sparks interest. I do agree that the messaging can be more casual now that the target has been changed to Analysts/Associated- initially when I wrote that I was under the impression that we would be shooting higher up. I will take a look.

Again, Thanks for the feedback. I'm admittedly out of my element in regards to recruitment and any feedback helps.

P.S On my downtime I will do my best to find out what firm you're with and give you a cold call :D


Sil is absolutely spot-on.

To add, and this is just based on me personally so results may vary, but I hate receiving cold calls - I answer the phone assuming its a client, buyer/investor on an active deal, or one of my many bosses - if I want to talk to someone regarding networking I will respond via email and set up a time. Regarding the email itself, I agree that short and succinct is best, highlighting why you're reaching out, where you are currently, and asking for a time to set up a call. Guys in this industry generally aren't a-holes, their just busy...don't be annoying, but absolutely follow up, and then get to the point. I think most folks enjoy helping people out when they're genuine and respectful of the time they are asking for.


Thanks for the feedback. From what I've gathered I may have missed the mark on cold calls/targets. Cold calling does work in sales, I've had a lot of great conversations with bankers, but you're right, it may not work in terms of recruiting. I will take your/Sil's feedback and incorporate it in the changes.


yeah- this kids never had to work for anything. Cold calling works. period. The article was great.


Agree pretty much entirely with Sil on this one.

-Definitely do not pay for an email database site -Do not cold call me out of the blue -Analysts and associates should be your go to and can often have more pull in pushing resumes through than you might think -Do not email four times -The last thing I want to do is follow up on a random networking email late on a Friday. That is 100% going to wait until Monday -No need to send a novel

Also you should always attach a resume in my opinion.


Unless you have some personal connections to them (e.g. your dad's a client), they won't talk to you. 90% of people won't reply - actually, that's an understatement. More like 95%.

Of the 5% that reply to you, maybe 1% (aka just one guy) will vouch for you. But hey, sometimes you only need one guy.


How do you feel about homeless people bugging you for change? At least they probably need help more than you do, and that takes less time and effort.

You better be bringing something pretty great to the table if you're going to bother me randomly in real life. On WSO, I think that's kind of the understood point, and either I'll respond to PMs, or I won't. But if someone did this on LinkedIn then there's a 1% chance I'd respond.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of Starwood Points

I am looking to RE finance, but I email everyone. A guy from a target in the RE group at a top bank just forwarded my resume around for their analyst program, so don't limit yourself.

I pretty much just blast out tons of emails. Cast a wide net and you'll definitely find some helpful people. I say something along the lines of "hi my name is XX, I worked at XX this summer and am trying to transition over to (their industry), was wondering if you would be willing to take some time to talk about your experiences in the field, appreciate the advice and hope to hear back from you." I'd say my response rate is probably 15-20%. Also RE generally has need-based hiring and not structured programs, but a lot of the guys who are working at firms with structured analyst programs have offered to forward my resume.

I can tell a lot of these guys have never had a college kid cold email them before. It might be different for general IB/consulting judging from the posts on this site, but this is what I've experienced.


If they don't respond, I will send them another email a few days later. If they still don't respond, shoot for someone else. The worst in when you know they read your email because they view your linkedin profile (after you don't look at theirs), but never give you a response.

I've gotten some good feedback and even have met some MDs at top MM firms. But I also call to "follow up on the email I sent" as well.


There's def. an art to cold-emailing people with no visible connections. Just b specific with y u are connecting with him/her and only her. As opposed to some other random MD at the same firm. Response rates are low tho, def. below the 30% line.

Baby you're the perfect shape, baby you're the perfect weight. Treat me like my birthday, I want it this way and I want it that way. It makes a man feel good baby.

This entire thread is pretty useful but one question I have for all of you... What would you suggest as a Subject to a cold email? I don't want the email to get filtered to spam or sound like some dumb match making spam email lol. The best I came up with is "Looking for more information" or "Looking for info session". I think "Looking to connect" sounds weird. Any thoughts on this aspect?


Congrats Whiskey.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."
Is anyone else wondering how this guy got internships w. congressmen and senators going to University of Bumfuck nowhere?

No, not really.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."
Is anyone else wondering how this guy got internships w. congressmen and senators going to University of Bumfuck nowhere?

Congressmen and senators tend to hire from their home districts. Not too hard to figure out.

As I've told you before, congrats man. Fuck you for not putting me under friends though. :(

MM IB -> Corporate Development -> Strategic Finance


I thought you slithered in via URM channels... Or tennis...

jk. Congrats dude. WELL deserved.

P.S. "So I told him I took a cab from the hotel to get there." I would not work for someone who didn't at least crack some semblance of smile at that.