How tf do referrals *ACTUALLY* work?

Something that's been itching at me for a while - after you talk to an analyst, what actually happens when they "push your resume". Specifically for banks where there is a decent alumni presence and a structured process for your school (firm presentation, etc). Recently I had two conversations with alumni analysts at an MM that I felt went really well. Both offered to refer me to coworkers, etc...

But I still got passed up for a first-round interview. now granted, the second convo was the day that selections were going to made according to Handshake, and they didn't seem to know much about the interview timeline when I mentioned it.

In contrast, I also got an email the same day from an EB that I did ZERO networking with (reached out to probably 5 or 6 bankers and got no responses) notifying me that somehow I DID get a first round interview.

So for people who currently work at shops that actively recruit at your undergrad - how does the process actually work? Do all the alumni of that school sit around in a room and go thru the pile like "nope", "yup, that kid was cool", "yea that dudes a dick fuck him". Or do the analysts just email HR if they feel like it and say "yo i talked to this kid, i like him" and then they decide who gets 1st rounds on how many bankers mention you/how hard they pushed?

Sorry if this question sounds stupid or uninformed but any insight into what generally goes on behind the scenes would be a big help. thanks!

WSO Elite Modeling Package

  • 6 courses to mastery: Excel, Financial Statement, LBO, M&A, Valuation and DCF
  • Elite instructors from top BB investment banks and private equity megafunds
  • Includes Company DB + Video Library Access (1 year)

Comments (11)

Apr 11, 2021 - 8:29pm

Analyst recommendations have limited utility, especially during COVID. They'd have to reach out to an HR person but there are a significant amount of referrals during an on-cycle interview process so the candidates that are recommended by mid-level and senior bankers will take priority. My sense is that a strong MD referral will get someone into an interview process and HR will typically tell the interviewers that it's x's candidate (so you'd have to interview poorly to get cut) but outside of those situations, you won't get an interview because of a referral unless a school team is choosing which candidates to move forward and you're in the right pile.

Learn More

300+ video lessons across 6 modeling courses taught by elite practitioners at the top investment banks and private equity funds -- Excel Modeling -- Financial Statement Modeling -- M&A Modeling -- LBO Modeling -- DCF and Valuation Modeling -- ALL INCLUDED + 2 Huge Bonuses.

Learn more
Apr 11, 2021 - 10:58pm

This right here sums it up quite well. For an average position on the company website, there are about 200-300 applications on average. About 20-40 of those have referrals from cold/warm connections. What that guarantees is the application is looked at/reviewed by an analyst/associate. What then happens is the analysts or associates each take a stash of applications and grade them numerically with points for education, leadership, work experience, technical skills/certifications, and other things based on the firm. Of the 200-300, about 100 applications pass the HR ATS screen. Of those, 20-40 are given preferential treatment. Of the 100, 5-10 people are given interviews and eventually 1-2 are given offers.

The point of the referral is to at least get you a fair shot at being reviewed and at worst, you won't make it past HR, at best, you get an offer. I've networked a lot and have had both ends happen. There are a lot of external factors that contribute as well (how senior is the person recommending, is the position just a formality for an internal hire, etc.).

Most Helpful
Apr 11, 2021 - 11:07pm

If this is a super target school for that bank and there is a culture of networking, then instead of being a distinguishing factor for you, it may almost become a pre-requisite. Like I went to a target school, but not for my bank, so I actually didn't get that may emails from students meaning I would pay attn to who I actually talked to and try to prioritize those resumes. But with some other schools, they really emphasize reaching out so everyone does it and it becomes less of a way to stand out. Like I'm pretty sure I talked to more kids from IU than from my school, because IU does a really good job of emphasizing this through their IB track program. 

This is also assuming you didn't somehow do something off putting to a banker. Sometimes you won't even realize it. Like I had a director call me into his office once and shit on this kid for a couple minor grammar mistakes in his email... he still talked to him but guess who didn't get an interview.

Apr 12, 2021 - 1:12am

So lets take it right from the end of a networking call with me, assuming I like you. If you ask to speak to someone higher up on my team, I know the people who are willing to do this and am happy to make the connection. This usually is a big benefit if I'm not the only person you spoke to (I will mention everyone involved). If I really like you and you don't ask, I will try to initiate this connection myself to boost your cred. Stressing what the guy above said about analyst recs having limited utility. It is always a positive to speak to a senior team member.

In my case whenever it is time to do interviews for internships or whatever, the same couple people from HR generally would email me about who I needed to have a call with after they passed the screen (if they even do one, I really don't know). I obviously know these people (I've been here for a while and plan to stay) and am on their good side since I'm such a fucking ray of sunshine, so whenever someone networks with me, potentially talks to someone else on my team (and it goes well), and I like them/want to give them a shot, I'll email them his or her resume and just be like "Hey, this person seems cool, smart, genuinely interested in the role/sector, knows what they're talking about etc, blah blah felt the same way (I'll cc them if they end up actually giving a fuck). When it comes time to interview people for SA/FT, they could be a good candidate."

If one networks with me during recruiting szn and I/someone from my team follows through, HR will set it up most likely. If it isn't during recruiting, we will all forget, which is why it is often a pretty good idea to know recruiting schedules for banks that you are interested in and shoot your contact a follow up when it gets close. My school is not a target, so I have not been involved with OCR processes and have no clue about how my firm handles that. All I know is they usually lead to the majority of our interns. Hope this helps, this is just my experience as a non-target helping pretty much people from my school and other random non-targets.

  • 5
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Apr 12, 2021 - 2:27pm

ex-BB analyst, now in PE, was very involved in campus recruiting for my school at my bank and wanted to share my experience as well in case helpful

NOTE: every school team at every bank does it a very different way, which can be pretty frustrating - if you're ambitious then try to understand how each team works at each firm since that can meaningfully impact how you approach recruiting at each firm / bank

For us, we had a school team, basically anyone in banking (markets + coverage) who went to that school was automatically "on" the school team and had the potential to influence recruiting, so no one was shut out from the process if they wanted to participate. However, only a handful of people cared to be actively involved, so from a targeting perspective, you want to try to get in front of those people as much as possible. In my own experience with my school team at my bank, a 1st year analyst's opinion of someone was just as valuable as a VP. Of course, we also had a junior (usually associate / VP) and senior captain (MD) that were the ultimately "point-people".

What we did was keep a tracker of all the candidates personally as we were inbounded and have thoughts / feedback prepared for the sit-down discussion sessions. Towards the end of the recruiting period before interview invites were given out, we would literally all convene in some conference room (whoever wanted to join from the school team could show up but again usually it was the same people that cared to be involved) and go through the candidates one by one. At that point for us, we kept the stack of resumes broad enough. I'm assuming (uncertain though) that the pile discarded people with a 3.0 GPA or had something very ridiculous on their resume but for the most part, if you were a decent student and etc., you made the cut into that pile. At that point we would go pretty quickly, and just tab through the stack. At each person, people who were there could chime in, generally the feedback was pretty generic and achieve the effect of giving them a thumbs up, maybe or thumbs down. Only when people disagreed on candidates would people then give more personal / anecdotal evidence to support / deny the candidate. Note, there were a few times when the team lead liked someone that everyone else didn't like for whatever reason, and usually no one junior pushes back at all obviously. So a tip is that if you're having trouble vibing with the junior people, maybe try to go after someone senior although that may be difficult.

And then towards the end, we have a small list of people. At that point, we go through and see if we have more candidates on the list than we have slots. And usually, we're only over the limit by a small few, and then we bump the people who were maybes to the alternates list. And then interviews go out!

So after all answer the OP's question on how referrals opinion is that a "referral" is just a junior (or potentially senior person) pushing your resume around and saying something to the effect of "hey i had a good conversation with someone, will you chat with them too?" and the person might push for you a bit more during the round-table discussion. would note that even this is incredibly helpful in boosting someone's candidacy, so someone doesn't need to literally go to bat for you in order for it to be an effective referral. also one more note...people are definitely susceptible to group think and etc. in these jobs, so no one is ever really motivated to go out on a limb aggressively for anyone. for the people I would aim to push for, I would usually proactively start a positive conversation tone about the certain candidate. but if for whatever reason everyone else really dislikes this person, I wouldn't start pounding the get what I mean

hope this helps

Aug 14, 2021 - 9:57pm

Facilis sapiente enim ut hic consectetur ipsa. Veritatis non ipsam et rerum ea aut repudiandae.

Ut qui dignissimos natus ipsum temporibus modi voluptate. Dolor ut laborum quia quasi. Minus perferendis aut ad voluptatem dicta qui. Qui ex ex tenetur ut est.

Start Discussion

Total Avg Compensation

November 2021 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (10) $853
  • Vice President (40) $360
  • Associates (234) $234
  • 2nd Year Analyst (144) $156
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (34) $154
  • Intern/Summer Associate (107) $146
  • 1st Year Analyst (513) $136
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (394) $84