I received a message on LinkedIn from someone looking to get into IB a couple weeks back, in which the individual explained his situation and couldn't understand why he isn't seeing progress. The general gist (confidentiality in mind) is that he applied to many jobs through LinkedIn as a non-target but has yet to hear from anyone. The first thing I asked him was if he reached out directly to the job poster or individuals within groups before applying. His answer was no.
Fellow non-targets - reach out to someone directly and get them on the phone or in-person
You should see how IB groups go through resumes during recruiting season, and this is assuming you make it past the HR screen. You are going up against analysts (in some cases) being begged to come join their program, with close to perfect GPAs, adequate deal experience, and sharp as nails. They can afford to casually apply and wait for a response.
Although we don't have this luxury, we all have the luxury of taking advantage of the fact most job prospects are willing to do the bare minimum. I initiated my current job with a cold email, expressing my interest. I then directly reached out to the MD asking for a sit down to learn more about his group. This turned into a all day interview setup for the following week. After ultimately landing the job, the MD told me no one had ever expressed as much interest in joining his team as I did. He didn't care so much that my GPA wasn't stellar or my deal experience was basically nonexistent. He cared that I cared to better myself and make a continuous effort to get in the door.
Will interviews/offers happen overnight? Absolutely not. Does it get frustrating? Absolutely. Just as I told the individual who messaged me, you have to get out of your comfort zone and initiate a conversation that shows a person why they should want to hire you.
As unoriginal as it sounds, never give up. Seriously. I don't want to see you guys give up because you're afraid to put yourself out there.
Other note - You'd be surprised how many people in Investment Banking are no smarter than you... Target or not.
Mod Note (Andy): Best of 2016, this post ranks #30 for the past year