Advice from an ex-IB MD - why aren't you getting those interviews ?

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Mod Note (Andy): Check out Wilowallstreet's AMA here. The AMA is still open and he is actively answering any question that you may have.

My last post "Advice from an ex-IB MD on how to make it to Wall Street" covered how to make sure you get a job offer and make it to Wall Street. Some users wanted more details, so this post will go deeper into that. If you haven't read the initial post, I'd recommend you start there, otherwise this won't make as much sense.

Also check out my other recent post: "Advice from an ex-IB MD - on how to make VP".

So what do you do if you are doing steps 1-5, but aren't getting job offers. Having reviewed many thousands of resumes over 15 years, I'd say this is the first step. Most people trip up on the resume.

Does your resume stand out - this is a fairly standard weakness.

IB's see many hundreds of resumes. Initially all resumes start with the HR department. They make the first cut. Then they give the smaller batch to the businesses, the M&A desks, the trading teams to make their decisions.

Round 1:

Each resume initially gets looked at for about 20-30 seconds. You definitely want to make sure you make this cut. The reviewer will either mark your resume as someone to come back to, or put it in the trash pile. That decision literally happens in 20 seconds. This is the reviewer's thought process in those 20 seconds:

Mistakes - Make sure there are no mistakes, grammatical or typos - if no mistakes proceed to next question, else trash resume.

Interest - Has this person shown any interest in finance, do they have any background in finance, do they care about banking, have they interned at a bank, have they taken any courses ? - if yes, then proceed to the next question, else trash resume.

Grades - Do they have a reasonable GPA from a reasonable school - if yes then proceed to the next question, else trash the resume unless there are other mitigating factors.

Accomplishments - Did this person do something interesting, do they look like a leader, do they have any other accomplishments - if yes, then this can mitigate (c) to some extent.

And that's basically it for the first cut - at this point you will either make it, or not. About 70% of resumes get thrown out here.

Round 2:

The next cut is more competitive and decides whether you get called in for an interview. This cut will narrow the pile down by another 70-80% and it might take 1-2 minutes per resume. People will read your accomplishments more carefully and will try to understand your goals more fully. Here's the thought process here:

Brands - Brand names matter in this cut. They will look for a brand name with respect to your last internship or the school you went to, or other activities you were involved in. If you don't have this, you need to fix it as soon as possible. There are just too many other candidates that have a brand for you to compete with. A brand name is just a badge to say that you were good enough to go through some one else's exclusive process - its like getting 1500 on your SAT's. By the way this isn't that hard. Just find a way to do a short internship during the school year at a large bank, PE firm nearby. Work for free if you need to. That experience will be help, and the name on the resume is priceless.

Grades - Are you smart? You need to make sure you are above 3.0 and ideally above 3.5 to really make the cut. If you aren't then, we need to find another way to show them that you are as smart as the other candidates. If you are below 3.0, we have serious issues, though I had friend with a sub-3.0 get hired by JPM a long time back.

Leadership & People skills - Do you have any experience in difficult interpersonal situations, have you shown any ability to lead people ? Have you done any 'interesting' extra-curricular activities ? Have you achieved something rare ? Have you shown passion for something that wouldn't be expected of an 18 yr old ? Again if you haven't done any of this stuff I would quickly try to figure what you can do. I created an Investment Club in my last year to be able to pass this.

If those all work in your favor, you will get called in for an interview.

Now there are some secrets here. You can short cut this process somewhat by making direct contact with the teams hiring. This will get your resume excluded from the 1st cut, you could even make it to the top of the pile if the MD from your last internship puts in a call to the hiring team. You can also make it easier if you have already interned at the bank before.

Having hired people for 15 years, reviewed thousands of resumes, interviewed hundreds of people, the ones that made it to the interview stage were the candidates that had interesting, memorable resumes. The ones where I felt that this was an interesting, passionate person, who was destined to achieve something. They were not the ones with the best SATs, or the best GPA. That stuff is important, but we know that those scores do not signify 'real world' success.

The question you have to ask yourself is how can you prove to someone reading your resume that you would be a good hire, that you would add value and that you are better than other candidates. Put yourself in the reviewer's shoes and ask 'why should they choose you ?' If you can't answer that question then they can't either.

Comments (19)

Sep 19, 2015

Good post. Since you were talking about the interesting details of a resume I was wondering what you would think if someone had already passed the series 63 and/or 65 before applying?

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Sep 19, 2015

I don't think it changes things much, it's much more interesting to have a CFA level 1 for example or even better real life experience. Any kind of real life banking experience adds more credibility.

Sep 19, 2015

ok. Thanks!

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Sep 21, 2015

Thank you so much for all of your contributions!

Sep 21, 2015

You describe the importance of branding and how it is paramount to have internships at name brand firms. What if you graduated college several years ago (with no internships; you worked full-time in say the restaurant industry), work as an accountant, and are trying to lateral into finance?

What can 30+ year olds with non-finance experience do to follow your advice? Assume someone is not in a position to begin an MBA program.

Sep 23, 2015
Filthydelphia:

You describe the importance of branding and how it is paramount to have internships at name brand firms. What if you graduated college several years ago (with no internships; you worked full-time in say the restaurant industry), work as an accountant, and are trying to lateral into finance?

What can 30+ year olds with non-finance experience do to follow your advice? Assume someone is not in a position to begin an MBA program.

You can still get into PE firms that invest in hotels and restaurant, Sun Capital Partners is an example.

Sep 23, 2015

I assume your goal is to go into an investment bank. In that case I would figure it say you have accounting experience, in that case there is a IB office somewhere in the US looking to hire an accountant. Basically banks like hiring subject matter experts, so you can start as an accountant at a bank and then move internally. The question you need to answer is what and where can you add value to a bank based on your current skill set.

Sep 23, 2015

Thank you for this.

Do cover letters generally get looked at pretty closely along with the resume or is it mostly the resume?
My resume had 0 mistakes but I went back to my cover letter and realized the words "financial ratios" was spelled as "financial rations." That is going to screw me isn't it..

Sep 23, 2015

Not helpful, but they may have overlooked it, and / or the rest of your resume may have been stellar. But yes cover letters aren't really reviewed heavily.

Sep 23, 2015
wilowallstreet:

Not helpful, but they may have overlooked it, and / or the rest of your resume may have been stellar. But yes cover letters aren't really reviewed heavily.

That makes me feel better.
The VP of the company did look at my linkedin profile after I sent a recruiter an email.
I created a thread about sending him a short message and upon the recommendation of other WSO members I'm going to send an email and ask him to have a chat with me about his experience at the bank (and subtly try to earn an interview this way).
Any thoughts on doing that, from your expert experience? I'm just not sure if my resume got thrown out yet or not and if it has, I hope to bring it back from the dead so to speak..

Nov 6, 2017

They generally do not get looked at, at all. But they do get looked at many a times, and in some of those instances - closely.

Really, it is about luck here. There is no way to tell for sure.
So, hope your wait ends with a good news.

All the best.

Sep 25, 2015

I am sending you a pm I have something specific to ask you I hope you don't mind.

Oct 22, 2015

Networking can give an otherwise "average" candidate more leverage and opportunities.

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Oct 23, 2015

Thank you for this thread I just read it from the last time you replied to my comment, going to carry on reading your posts

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Oct 24, 2015

If I've been networking with people already (talked to them, or met them at coffee chats/info sessions), how should I ask them to push my resume through?

Also, what is the process like? Does the person who works there send an email to HR to look out for someone with my name, or should I give them my resume to send through? What if I haven't submitted my application yet?

Oct 25, 2015

The way to work this through is to firstly help these people as much as possible. Add value. So far they have given you information, what have you done to help. Think about ways to help them. Once they like you and want to help you, just ask them for advice.
Tell them you are looking to break into Wall St, get a job, find something new.
You have helped them, and now they will want to help you. Thats it.

Run the process in parallel. Go through the normal process, and then your contacts can also help highlight your name.

Nov 5, 2017

What would be a good way to show interest in the banking industry?
My major is Economics, but my experience was as an legislative intern.
Should i do a interests section?

Nov 5, 2017
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