3 Key Tips for Getting an ER Interview

Back when I was applying for ER associate positions, I was really struggling. Only a handful of positions per year opened in my industry, so I got very good at making the most of each application. I got to the point where if there was an opening, I had a 50% chance or better of landing the interview.

Here are 3 tips which were game-changers for my applications. When I made these changes, my percentage of replies and follow ups increased noticeably. Note that I would always personally contact the analyst through e-mail and never went through HR.

1. Pass CFA Level I

I've seen a lot of discussion on here about usefulness of the CFA. It's not a question of CFA or no CFA. If you just pass Level I, you will get a lot more attention from employers - you don't need the whole CFA this early in your career. Great if you do have it, but CFA Level I is enough. The great part is that it's really easy. Level I basically tests whether you learned what you should have learned in undergrad business school. Yes, sadly the pass rate isn't that high.....

2. Attach a model

Create an intensive model. Something that is going to take you weeks to build. It doesn't have to be correct. The model just has to show that you are putting in the work and are thinking critically about modeling issues. If someone flips through the tabs for 30 seconds, they should recognize that the model took a lot work, is very well organized, and its is thought out. In hindsight, the models that I sent were 100% wrong for my industry. Nonetheless, they still got me more interviews.

3. Writing Sample

Send a writing sample preferably something published somewhere whether it's an academic journal, the school newspaper, Huffington Post, whatever. I can't stress how important writing is to the job. I would rather hire someone from a target school that could write really well than someone from Harvard with a 4.0 and no writing ability. That's one reason that you will see a lot of non-targets in ER. You need a very specific combination of skills. for ER Just because you went to a target doesn't mean you have that exact combination.

If you do the above, you have shown that you know finance, know how to model, and can write. That should really check all of the boxes for any ER analyst looking for an associate. If there is more interest, I'll try to write one of these ER-related posts each week. Please do recommend any other topics of interest.

Comments (68)

Oct 25, 2017

Great post. Agree with all 3. Did #2 and 3 myself.

For another topic, I'd be interested in hearing your opinion on what fresh hires should be doing for their first months/years to maximize their time and increase chances of promotion. Not sure how long you've been in the industry but if you could talk about that, that'd be cool.

Oct 25, 2017

ER has low turnover, so don't expect to be making the move from associate to analyst for a while
but in the years that you work as an associate, do whatever you can to make your analyst's life easier and make as few mistakes as possible and you'll be good
varies from analyst to analyst, but they all will expect you to perform different roles...some will want you to be just an excel monkey, some will want you to do more of the report writing, and some will expect you to focus more on client requests

    • 4
Oct 25, 2017

Yeah, I don't expect it for another couple of years to be honest. Any tips to establish a small client base even as an associate? Or is that something I should not be focusing on yet?

Oct 25, 2017

True but most ER people can still be AVP/VP-type titles that are considered below a research analyst. In my opinion I think most BB ER people want to move to the buyside for more autonomy and less effect of mifid.

Oct 25, 2017

Piggybacking on the 3rd point, if you do a report make sure to give a rating (Buy, Hold, Sell).

I've had a couple of people connect with me on LinkedIn and send reports they have completed, and sometimes it's a little more than a typed of version of the 10-k and highlighted risks and no recommendation.

Providing a writing sample is a good idea, just make sure it highlights your ability.

    • 1
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Oct 25, 2017

On point #1, the CFA Institute actually has an exclusive job board. You become a member when you register for the exam.

I actually found my current job in ER through there.

    • 3
Oct 25, 2017

I'm not even an ER analyst yet. Just some BO bloke spreading financials and using vlookup. How do someone like me start learning financial modeling for ER?

Best Response
Oct 25, 2017

@ ALL

R-E-A-D. That is what this industry is built on.

I'd read intelligent investor, Barron's, WSJ, NY Times, Valuation by McKinsey, Rosenbaum and pearl, Buffett's accounting notes, 10-ks, shareholder letters, Wall Street Prep, and research reports from BBs. Probably some others I've missed but this will be plenty for a 1 month binge. Credit Suisse HOLT has a case competition that anyone can sign up for and you get access to their HOLT platform.

@monkey10011 Practice with comps and DCF. You will rarely use LBOs, if ever. Write an ER report and have ER people poke holes at it until it is solid.

CFA is solid but you need experience too. ER or AM is ideal but don't look down PWM as a freshman or sophomore. Maybe you could work at a BB PWM and write research reports and macro newsletters for the FAs. CFA cannot and will not replace the use of networking and experience. CFA job board works for those who are competent and not just bookworms and passed the cfa with no experience.

DON'T BE A PRESTIGE WHORE! There are plenty of solid ER and AM shops that aren't the BBs and still are good experience for someone trying to get in/lateral from a non-er gig. Not to mention they're not required to be in NY so the pay and lower COL is nice.

Honestly, ER is a "do your homework" type of industry. I don't know why people trying to break in haven't figured that out. It's not a prestige fest where a bunch of schmucks from an ivy can get in just because of their school like ib. Don't get me wrong though, ER and AM do recruit at ivies but will give non-targets that crush the interview a chance over the ivy kid who can't pitch a stock.

I still believe Asset Management is better but you have to start somewhere right?

    • 15
Oct 25, 2017

This is on point. Just hustle.

Try udemy.com, they have basic modelling courses to get you started.

    • 1
Oct 25, 2017

Seriously, this shit isn't rocket science. Spend 100-150 hours spread over a month and you will know everything you need.

Oct 25, 2017

Thanks for the thorough answer. Im currently on chapter 5 of the intelligent investors. Takes me a while to read, because I tend to take a lot of notes

Oct 25, 2017

No problem. Be on the lookout for some recruiting/ER threads by me when things die down in December. Target kids will be pissed lol.

    • 2
Oct 27, 2017

This is what I did - got me my first job as an Associate. I noticed that if an Analyst (or senior Associate) took the time to read my report/models, I at least got a phone call back (and always skipped HR).

My background: non-target, 3.2 GPA, no connections, no-name internships. If I can do it, any of you can. Just keep swinging the bat and you'll hit a homer.

    • 7
Oct 27, 2017

[deleted]

Oct 27, 2017

Hey, just out of curiosity, how long did it take you to 1) write your report, and 2) market yourself to get your job

I'm a senior and this past sem has been busy with CFA level 1 and trying to boost my GPA. I have a couple ideas for stocks to pitch, but I still have to learn to model. I will begin working on this hard starting Saturday, after my last exam. Any advice?

Oct 27, 2017

Took me about a week to write the report/construct the model, but that was probably my 15th iteration of doing so - the more you do it, the faster you are and your quality goes up.

ER recruiting isn't as structured as IB. The bigger BB banks and ER shops have small summer Associate programs and recruit into FT pools where they dispense you where needed, but overall ER recruits on an as-needed basis. I graduated in June, took an awful analyst job at a credit ratings agency because I hadn't had found a FT ER position yet. Kept applying, and about a month in I was offered my ER position, and dipped out of the CRA position (which was a toxic culture anyways). So all in all, about 2 months out of graduation.

It's a bit nerve-wracking, because they won't consider you til graduation (they will procrastinate hiring until they desperately need an associate, and then they'll need you to be available immediately), but if your work is solid and you're personable, you should be fine.

Oct 28, 2017

I was told by one guy in ER that working in a mutual fund for a year would be another avenue in. Whats your take on that?

Oct 28, 2017

If you can get a research role at a mutual fund, you should be able to easily make a transition to equity research with the caveat that you also have decent writing skills.

That said, you might then just want to stay at the mutual fund...Most people in ER hope to exit-op to the buy side so jumping from a mutual fund to ER is sort of going in the opposite direction, although I have seen it done occasionally.

Also, keep in mind that if you're an undergrad with no considerable experience, it's usually easier to get an ER associate position with no experience than a mutual fund research role.

Oct 28, 2017

This is my story. I'm a 31 y/o medical doctor with a couple years of clinical experience looking to jump into biotech equity research. I found a small private ER firm to write equity research reports for in biotech as I do some healthcare consulting work for an entrepreneur. I can write as I was a philosophy major and I am published in medical research. I feel confident selling myself and jumping on a phone pitching (as I did real estate sales in my year off before med school).

I see tons of PhD's in equity research and no disrespect to them, they can research like the best of them given their experience. However, I would have thought a medical doctor with extensive training and clinical experience with pharmaceuticals would gain more attention in this field. I was told by a ER analyst that don't expect them to make any assumption so just put it down on your resume that you have prescribed pharmaceuticals in nephrology, cardiology, oncology, neurology, etc sub-sectors all of which are true.

Anybody else have any idea how I can leverage my experience?

    • 1
Oct 28, 2017

@alyeshmerni"

With a background like that, ,you should be slam dunk candidate for biotech. So, I'm not sure what's holding you back. How long have you been on the search for an ER position?

The only thing that I think you would have to prove as a candidate is that you really want to do this and that you're willing to work for less comp at the start of your ER career because it's going to be a while before you make a MD-equivalent salary. If you look at companies like Novartis, half of their 30 or so analysts are MDs or PhDs.

On a side note, personally I would just stay in medicine unless you just absolutely hate it or something like that. ER comp can be better way down the road but it also comes with considerable risk, It's the Hunger Games every year in the business and the hours aren't that much better.

Oct 28, 2017
NoEquityResearch:

@alyeshmerni"

With a background like that, ,you should be slam dunk candidate for biotech. So, I'm not sure what's holding you back. How long have you been on the search for an ER position?

The only thing that I think you would have to prove as a candidate is that you really want to do this and that you're willing to work for less comp at the start of your ER career because it's going to be a while before you make a MD-equivalent salary. If you look at companies like Novartis, half of their 30 or so analysts are MDs or PhDs.

On a side note, personally I would just stay in medicine unless you just absolutely hate it or something like that. ER comp can be better way down the road but it also comes with considerable risk, It's the Hunger Games every year in the business and the hours aren't that much better.

I've been looking for 1-2 months, very hard the last month though. I'm writing equity research reports for a private firm which also features them on seeking alpha. I'm learning financial modeling and trying to build a model for Johnson and Johnson. I have offered to reduce my salary, even mentioned I would work without comp (but that was as an add on once I failed to get the job). The MD actually really tried to bring me on this way but was halted by upper management.

Any other ideas?

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Oct 28, 2017

This might just be a product of how I, specifically, broke in. But, having an interest specific to the sector was pretty important for me. Equity research itself is really just a set of tools by which you analyze your sector.

    • 1
Oct 29, 2017

I found that networking was one of the most important things that allowed me to break in to the industry. For each job posting there are probably several hundred qualified people applying with great backgrounds, so having people in the industry who can vouch for you goes a very long way.

Oct 28, 2017

Networking? I really do inside people I know in finance which isn't many and of course hitting LinkedIn hard. In the 2 months I've been looking I had 1 interview and that was from connecting with someone random on LinkedIn. I have someone on the inside of a bigger bank who pushed my resume to the top where I got a call the next day but the call ended quick when the senior analyst learned I have no hard ER experience. What else am I missing?

Oct 30, 2017

You're not missing anything. Except MIFID 2 which will cut the # of analysts by 50%+. Simply bad timing, but that's the markets for you.

    • 2
Nov 4, 2017

If you don't mind me asking, what is your background?

Also, for someone who has graduated and has started working full time, where can you find ER associate openings?

Nov 10, 2017

Hi All,

I am in the process of doing points 2-3, however, had a query on the length/detail of the report.

I have read a couple of threads where people have gone in with initiating coverage where their reports were 20-30+ pages long. I don't imagine any of the analysts would read a report that long and I have spoken to an associate from within the firm I am applying for and he suggested just one page, however, a one page report would need to be relatively high level and basically a summary of the actual analysis i am doing.

I just wanted to know for people that had success, how long were your reports and how detailed were your valuation models?

For the vals, I was planning doing a DCF, with most my analysis around future earnings, as well as earnings multiple comparisons with it's top 5 competitors..

The approach i also planned on taking was once i apply (they only let you upload a CV/Resume), i was going to reach out to the senior analyst either through linkedin, or if i could find their email and basically say i am interested in the role, have done some coverage myself on a stock i am looking at and wanted to share some of my work with them, but cant work out an eloquent way of putting it without sounding slightly weird.

If anyone could provide advice on what has worked for them for the above, would be greatly appreciated!

Oct 27, 2017
  • Report should be around 10 pages long. 1-2 pages of a solid investment thesis with maybe a few graphs thrown in. ~3 pages of actual data, upside/downside/base case scenarios, and a snapshot of your model (IS/BS/CF/Val)
  • Have 3-4 key catalysts thoroughly outlined that describe what will move the stock/why it's undervalued, and most importantly, why you differ from consensus.
  • Valuation will vary based on the stock you pitch. For example: no DCF for most financials/homebuilders/oil&gas, but you might use a terminal value multiple. Look and see what other sell-side guys do to get an idea. You might end up doing just EV/EBITDA, P/E, DCF, SOTP, or you might end up doing a blended version to get your PT
  • Analysts won't respond to LinkedIn shit. Find their email, keep it as brief as possible (2-3 sentences and most) and say "I applied online, wanted to express my interest to you directly, here's my work sample and resume". That's it.
  • If they have a very senior associate, it's sometimes good to email them. They'll have more time than the analyst and can pass your info on to them. They have to be very senior though or they may see you as competition
  • I wouldn't even really rely on HR/online apps other than applicant tracking. No one checks that shit, they already have candidates lined up before the job is even posted 90% of the time
    • 2
Nov 10, 2017

thanks mate! very informative.

Dec 12, 2017

.

Oct 28, 2017

In the OP you said "from your industry." How was it your industry? Were you working in the industry that you now cover?

Dec 31, 2017

Remember, Analyst is the senior position in ER. Associate is the entry level.

Dec 31, 2017

understood, thanks for the clear up. Any advice?

Dec 31, 2017

Bump

Dec 31, 2017

I reckon the man understood. Geraint, you in equity research? I read city boy's book a year or two ago (more than once if I'm honest), and in some ways it encouraged me to follow a similar path... and yet does he not warn against pursuing such a meaningless life as he did --- 'pushing bits of paper around' ?
I think the man was somewhat deluded; he accumulated a small fortunate during his relatively short city career, and then preaches to the rest of the population to give up the rat race... easy to say when you have just banked 300k+. Damn it all to hell.

Dec 31, 2017

And as for you Jas86, all I can say is, I am in a similar situation. Judging by your username I'm slightly younger than you, have graduated and likewise passed CFA level 1. Funnily enough I'm trawling google for boutique investment banks to send my speculative cv and cover letter to this very moment. Good luck to you.

Dec 31, 2017

I'm not too concerned on the terminology. The job is entry level for a "junior analyst" that's all I'm concerned about. As for getting "analyst" jobs with 2-3 years exp. I know several recent grads w no experience who have got them. So again, thanks for correcting me, however I am posting for advice. I am aware of the position that is open. I would like so advice on how people have differentiated themselves and good
ideas on how to do so.

Dec 31, 2017

so let me get this right....you think you're qualified to give institutional investors advice right out of college with no experience in the industry that you will be covering?

just trying to make sure i have the facts straight.

Smokey, this is not 'Nam, this is bowling. There are rules.

Dec 31, 2017
roar19:

so let me get this right....you think you're qualified to give institutional investors advice right out of college with no experience in the industry that you will be covering?

just trying to make sure i have the facts straight.

No... I never said I was qualified to give anyone advice. I'm saying I'm qualified to learn an industry under a senior analyst and do research for that analyst. So instead of being a lazy ass I suggest you look up a job discription for an entry level associate instead of mocking what I want to do. Or, as an alternative, if you have advice as to how to eventually become an equity research analyst you can help everyone with that. Otherwise just stfu

Dec 31, 2017

Allow me to also not answer your question but clear up the confusion.

Associate is entry level to equity research. It may still require 2-3 year experience, an MBA or CFA or a good start on it. I would not call it an entry level job, but it is entry level to equity research. The senior position is just referred to as "analyst" however there is an internal hierarchy of Associate-->VP--->MD

The job you are applying to is pretty rare I believe, not many analysts search out a jr. analyst (basically a jr associate) This is a true entry level job--they will start you slower and understand you are right out of undergrad. The hieracrhy for this becomes jr. analyst--associate--vp--md.

So your friends who got the job requiring experience out of udnergrad: Kudos, probably a lot of competition for it.

For you, you are probably competing more with undergrads like yourself.

BTW: it is a good idea to do the report and DCF. Chances are they will want this eventually, and if you jump the gun you may skip the eventual writing & modelling test cause you already showed your skills. My buddy did. And, if they do not like what you show you will probably know quicker because they will show no interest, instead of waiting around.

Dec 31, 2017

Jjp- thank you for the input. I just started customizing a dcf I built earlier this year for the industry the job covers. Do you think it would be good to write a report on a company they cover? Or will that set me up for inevitable embarassment?

Dec 31, 2017

I'll try and clear this up. Again this is entry level (0-2yrs exp) with a cfa level I cannidate being preferred and only above a 3.0 gpa. These are the only qualifications they listed aside from the usual attention to detail, communication etc. I know this is a rare opportunity which is why I am asking for any ways I can differentiate myself among a pool of applicants who all have the same basic qualifications and probably better GPAs. I know passing level I helps but I know I need more ways to catch their attention.

Thanks in advance and I hope this clears up all future questions.

Dec 31, 2017

Could set you up for embarrassment. Try to find someone in the industry to help you. Find a company with morningstar reviews or locate an actual company report within the industry for ideas on what to talk about. Read about all the companies they cover and say things about the competition, etc. If you send the report and DCF, say you know it is a basic DCF and report and that you have a limited knowledge of the industry, but wanted to prove your interest in the job as well as your ability to use excel, write, and be a self starter. DO NOT say anything wrong in the report. DO NOT say something like they are not hedged if they are, profit increase 20% if it really increased 5%, etc.

All of that said, if you want something lighter you can always just try to get them to set anything up with you. Tell them you just love ER and ask if you can take them to breakfast to learn more about the position/industry and what they look for in candidates. Just an idea.

If they continually ignore you remember: you are being ignored, so you have nothing to lose by sending them stuff. Keep this in mind but also, do not bug them too much especially if the job has just been posted or something. These things can take weeks/months.

Oh and spell their name right. Stifel Nicolaus. Attention to detail is a must; if you put this in a cover letter or resume mispelled you are already out.

Dec 31, 2017
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