Looking for Recruiting Advice

Is it just me, or does recruiting feel like one big mess?

I've known about WSO and banking since mid-junior year of high school, and just wrapped up my freshman year of university at a target. I must've read hundreds of threads on here regarding recruitment over the past years, and yet, I still don't have a clear picture of how recruiting for banking is structured.

For reference, I'm at a target university that is historically known for churning out bankers (you can probably guess what school). I also qualify for diversity (joined SEO), and will finish the year with a 3.8+ GPA. I'm not a social recluse, and try to stay in the loop with my classmates.

So all this being said, I started extremely early, am in all the right circles and channels, and still have no idea how shit works. I might sound like an idiot, but please read on to the next part so I can explain.

  1. Target Schools

To begin, the concept of target schools is talked about so much on here, but from my perspective, it feels completely pointless. Most people on WSO agree the biggest benefit of attending a target school is OCR, but what really does On Campus Recruiting actually mean?

Is it just our school Handshake? The various bank info sessions run through our school clubs?

Maybe this is dated, but I've never actually seen a dedicated team of bankers come to our school, and say we must fill our quota of x people from this school. However, I don't attend many info sessions as a freshman, just out of respect for upperclassmen actually going through recruitment. The ones I have been to, it just looks like a few bankers (sometimes even SAs) droning out about the company, and then bunch of sweaty kids in suits swarming and trying to speak over each other. Do resume drops happen at these sessions that I don't know about or something?

Also the timeline for OCR doesn't even make sense. Normal recruiting begins spring of sophomore year and drags all the way to the end of the summer til fall of junior year. Most of that time isn't even school season.

Next, I'll share my two cents on the networking aspect of targets. It's true you have more alumni to reach out to, but do people honestly think the alumni connection is that big a deal?

"Oh I don't know this kid at all, but since he's attending the same school I attended 10+ years ago, which graduates thousands of alums each year, I'll talk with him, and ignore the others."

There are stronger ways to connect, like if you went to the same small town high school, are both varsity athletes, both minorities, etc. Or, I could literally make a generic template, tailor each one slightly differently, and shoot it out to a thousand bankers, and I'd get dozens of chats regardless. Maybe the target school benefit is just that people notice your resume out the pile? I can see that being true, but are perfect non-target kids really getting their resumes trashed over a school name?

That being said, I've noticed the ratio of people on LinkedIn going into banking from target schools to non-target school kids is something between 55-45 to 70-30, but a lot of that honestly just feels like self-selected. Or maybe not. Like I said, maybe a lot of the information on here is dated, but there are hundreds of kids on LinkedIn each year attending schools like Bob Jones University, and are ending up at Goldman.

  1. Diversity

SEO is over rated as fuck man. Everyone hates on it here, loves to say organizations like SEO/MLT are killing the chances of non-diverse students. As someone who is in SEO, shit's a mess, and opaque as hell. SEO is supposed to have a resume book it passes out to get students interviews, but I haven't seen it personally. They have their own job forum, but there's like a couple of listings on there every other week, and rarely do those firms ever reach out to you. Also those are mainly for buyside, and are only looking for the rising junior kid, who will sophomore at Goldman.

Firm specific diversity programs are a joke too. Been to plenty of those open to freshman, and to be honest, if banks are using these to try and funnel diverse talent, they're failing horribly. The number of students named Chen, Zhang, Wang, Patel, Gupta, Kumar who attend these events far exceed the actual number of Black/Latinx/Hispanics.

For example, I recently attended Jefferies J-NOBLE (Black and Hispanic) Insight Day, and the first five kids on the Zoom were named Chen. Lots of these kids are internationals too, with broken ass English, no shame, and nothing to lose. Bet half of them don't even understand the racial dynamics in the US, why these programs exist, and think George Floyd is a rapper. Not that they're to blame, HR at these banks are just shit.

Most these programs are just a waste of an afternoon anyways. Also, where did the concept diverse kids have earlier timelines come from? It's not like Morgan Stanley opens up an application on their website saying "Whites and Asians need not apply until x date."

Lastly, the idea we somehow get easier interviews and can just walk through the door is just insane. Nobody is going to look at my skin tone, think "this kid looks fairly black", and decide to give me easier questions during a super day.

I could go on, but I really on't want to make this a thread debating diversity.

  1. Networking

Talked about networking somewhat previously, but how does it actually work? What is the ideal date to begin (after apps open or before)? How big are references in 2023, and how do I even know if I'm referred or not? How the fuck are bankers stuck at their desks working until 11 PM finding time to take 30 minute coffee breaks in the middle of the day with students?

Do I prioritize analysts, associates, VPs, or directors? Am I network focusing with people from a specific group, or just anyone at the firm? It would make sense to target groups you're interested in, cause the logic is you want to make others want you to work under X person or in Y team. But most of the times (I assume), you aren't applying to or interviewing with a specific team, and half the time there's a generalist period before placement anyways.

I've seen so many kids say they networked with x people at a certain bank and didn't get a first-round, while getting interviews at other firms without networking. From the shit I've seen at my target school, half the weirdos gunning for IB would do better for themselves by avoiding opening their mouths excessively, and avoiding social situations with bankers anyways.

  1. Medium of Application

Handshake? Company Website? Resume Drop? Ask someone to push my resume? SEO resumebook? Random job sites? All of them at the same time?

Where the fuck am I supposed to apply?

And how is networking efforts and potential referrals (see above) even correlate/associated with my online app? There are so many applications, a name like Jack Weiss could be a dozen people applying.

  1. Specific Groups, Offices, Divisons

A lot of emphasis is placed on group placement within firms on this forum, in terms of prestige, buyside recruitment, etc. I've noticed some firms post job openings by specific groups, and others just have a general app? How does that affect the processes listed above, and are there varying rates of difficulty for each team?

Like who decides which Goldman SA is placed into TMT vs HC? I'd assume everyone would flock to the best group. Also, do my chances double if I apply to several offices? Do my chances double, or are they damaged, if I apply for IB, S&T, AM, all within the same firm?

  1. Timelines

This one might be the most confusing. General consensus is tradition recruiting begins spring of sophomore year, and ends officially fall of junior year.

People say diversity recruiting begins earlier, but how so? There's no app for RBC on Handshake that says "Blacks Only."

When does diversity recruiting begin officially?

Should we get our apps in by x number of days after an application opens? Should we complete our HireVues as soon as we get them?

How are y'all even tracking what opens when? And don't be the pussy that says excel.

List of firms and religiously checking the website of each one?

If each firm doesn't have a historical set date to open apps, doesn't that throw off timing for networking?

I probably have more questions, but I'll end it here. I'd really appreciate it if someone could help me with even a single question. Hopefully this thread helps the next classes of students interested in banking.


Most these programs are just a waste of an afternoon anyways. Also, where did the concept diverse kids have earlier timelines come from? It's not like Morgan Stanley opens up an application on their website saying "Whites and Asians need not apply until x date."

Using your Morgan Stanley example, they have a sophomore IB internship for diverse kids specifically. So yes, they do open up an application on their website saying "Whites and Asians need not apply until x date." They also have an Early Insights program for diverse sophomores, which ends with an auto interview before regular interviews have gone out. Most banks host diversity programs that result in some kind of early interview process. This is typically a few weeks before the regular application opens or before they've started giving out interviews to the regular applicant pool. 

Lastly, the idea we somehow get easier interviews and can just walk through the door is just insane. Nobody is going to look at my skin tone, think "this kid looks fairly black", and decide to give me easier questions during a super day

It is already common knowledge that at most brand-name firms, there is a separate list of (easier) questions for diversity kids. HR tells the interviewers to not "intimidate" diversity kids by avoiding questions that are too intense and could turn them away from the industry.

Note: I am not arguing against/for these programs, I am just trying to correct your misunderstandings.

Most Helpful

Every prospect that comments here will be angry, arrogant, rich white kids that will bang the diversity drum and not give any actual advice so let me try and help.

Context: Non-diversity, Non-target Sophomore that has a SD this next week (guess where)

A big part of recruiting (and life, tbh) is trial and error. You've had two times the amount of time knowing what IB is compared to me; I literally discovered the word 'finance' 18 months ago. Despite that, based on your post, I am more familiar with the recruiting process (due to just experiencing it). What I'm getting at is that it's okay you don't have the answers. That's what networking and this trial and error is for.

My main takeaway is this: recruiting is a crapshoot no matter how you slice it. Target, diversity, finance major, doesn't matter; shit happens and there's no 'optimal' path. I can give three big points that hopefully answer some of your questions, though:

  • Always resume drop/apply on the bank's website and ALWAYS attach it when you send networking emails (Handshake is an afterthought and all bankers do is flag your resume when you network)
  • Connect with bankers in the groups/locations that YOU like, not what's best exits or most alumni (I've found that being able to ask semi-adept questions shows you're serious about a conversation and not 'checking a box')
  • Have a damn good story (If nothing else, listen to this. Nobody gives a damn that you're black or go to a target if you don't show how the grind has changed you and why you NEED to go into banking)

Most importantly, just know a little ball. What I mean by that is have social awareness mixed with technical knowledge. Talking to an associate? Ask how they gradually have gained trust for their analysts what they value most in them. Works in LevFin? Ask what work they do compared to two years ago pre-rapid rate hikes. Show that you have some knowledge and how you want to learn even more by asking educated questions.

Most importantly-er, fuck prestige. Let the sweaty kids in suits talk over each other with the uninterested former SA/first-year AN at these info sessions; sit back and relax while you connect with the people you want to speak with at the banks you want to work at.

You're going to bomb interviews, have painfully awkward coffee chats, leave typos in emails, forget to attach your resume in cold emails, etc. Like the theme of these internships we're all gunning for, it's okay that it happens once; don't let it happen again.

Create your own narrative from all of this, both what's happened and what's yet to happen when you experience this next year. Break free from the labels of "target student" and "diversity candidate". People talk, and if you can speak with/impress multiple people in one group, they're going to talk about you and you're 100% guaranteed to get an interview if this is the case.

I'm sure this came off as scatter-brained and might leave more questions than answers, but that's kinda just how recruiting is. All you need to know is if you give it true 100% effort it WILL work out. Let your peers talk about how diversity and targets have it easier and then knock recruiting out of the park when you STILL put in more work than them.


I very much agree with this. One thing I’d add is that, if you have the time, you should apply (and apply early) to all the banks “lower than” what you are actually trying to get. Like the person who I am responding to said, this is a random process with a lot of trial and error. So don’t have your first go around be with firms you actually want to work at. Have those be with smaller firms or with teams you aren’t that interested in to get the reps. Interview for CD roles or restructuring roles. This way, when it comes around to interviewing for roles you actually want, you will already have experience interviewing. You will already have an opportunity to identify and fix any problems


Great point. Try to minimize the difference in how you actually act during recruiting vs how you'd act if you could do it over again with hindsight.

Again, I'm no master of the prospect universe, not even a little, but BBs and EBs would've been very much obtainable if I knew/experienced everything I have before Jan/Feb.


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