AMA - Analyst at top BB from non-target background

Hey guys - long time reader / occasional poster, made a new account for purposes of this AMA. Learned a lot from WSO as I was navigating the recruiting process, so hope to pay it back. Happy to answer any questions about the process / networking / the job / anything else that I can be helpful with.

My background:
Graduated from a non-target school (though there are typically 2-3 kids that go on to do banking each year) in May. Interned at a boutique (not elite boutique) bank during the school year and as a summer analyst. Went through FT recruiting, and landed a spot at a BB through extensive networking efforts.

Comments (24)

Nov 1, 2015

Given that accelerated recruiting is now, for target and core schools, when should non-core applicants expect to be hear back about interviews, if applying through the online application?

What are the best people to try to reach out to through networking to actually make a difference on the application? It seems like every analyst I've spoken with is a dead-end or can't do anything for me given my non-core status. Thanks! :)

Nov 1, 2015

Unfortunately don't have a great answer for you on the timing question, from what I have seen, target/core process is underway with some people being given SA spots already. To my knowledge there are a few superdays spanning Mid/late november - early december, and I imagine non-target applicants will participate in. Keep in mind, this is just what I have seen in my group at my firm.

I generally think everyone can help your application. The process is run by Associates who are the sponsor for summer intern programs - they are ultimately responsible choosing the best candidates. So speaking directly to the summer analyst sponsor in each group is helpful. For my process, I connected with a VP he introduced me to others in the group and continued the conversation, which ultimately led to an offer. Analysts, in my experience, can at least get your resume in the right pile to set you up for a first round interview, and they can always connect you to others in the group that you can speak to and make your case.

If you are getting a dead-end response frequently from analysts, you can always ask, "is there anyone else you recommend I speak with to learn more about the group / firm?" - especially if they referenced one of their colleagues during the call. I used to do this in thank you emails, so as to not put them on the spot at the end of the call, and it proved to be a good strategy and helped me gain a lot of traction as I started to get warmer introductions and speak with 3-4 people in the group. I found that if I could manage to have 3 or more good conversations on the phone with people in a particular group, I would often be invited in to the formal interview process.

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Nov 1, 2015

Thanks for the reply - two more questions. What was the most difficult question you've ever been asked in an interview? Lastly, are you working in NYC? Appreciate it!

Nov 15, 2015

So you were saying you never asked "can you refer my resume to the HR" type of question? How did you make sure you got your resume in the pile?

Nov 1, 2015

I've been hearing from current juniors in college that some firms are really focusing on technicals during accelerated interviews.

If you were to start from scratch and wanted to learn technicals well, how would you go about studying?


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Nov 1, 2015

Technicals, especially from a non-target background, are incredibly important. You want to leave no doubt in the interviewers mind that you are capable of doing the job and are dedicated, because from the firm's perspective, they are taking on a bit more risk by hiring someone from a non target. Think this was a key way I differentiated myself.

The most important questions are: walk me through a DCF and how does 100 dollars of depreciation impact the financial statements. These are check the box questions and you need to be crisp on answering them confidently and understanding them.

I used the WSO guides which I found to be pretty helpful, and also an interview guide on WallStreetPlayboys. The WSO guides are more comprehensive and help you attain a deeper understanding, but the WallStreetPlayboys overview is a good place to start when you are just beginning to learn all of the material.

In terms of actual study methods, I first read each of the guides and wrote out the answers to questions in my own words, and practiced answering them out-loud to myself. Then once I felt good about this I worked with one of my friends who was going through recruiting and we would take turns interviewing each other. Then finally, I had one mentor who was an associate at another BB who gave me a full mock interview before I had a superday at his firm. That ended up being a very effective process for me to understand and effectively explain all of the technicals. Everyone has a different study style though, so would just find what works for you but would definitely recommend the guides as an excellent place to start.

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Nov 1, 2015

Hey thanks for the post.

I am a freshman at a non-target and have struggled to network with BB banks. I have made some connections with EB and top MM PE firms but that is it.

Just wondering what strategies you used when networking and what you did on campus to differentiate yourself.

Congrats! It is impossible to for targets to understand what non-targets have to go through.

Best Response
Nov 1, 2015

Looking back, networking was a 3 stage process for me.

1) develop a good story and a background that makes you a solid candidate in every way except for the fact that you are from a non-target school. This means high GPA (not just 3.5, more like 3.8+), on-campus involvement in meaningful activities (student government, founded/ran an investment banking club, community service), and previous relevant internships (boutique investment bank internship as early as possible.

2) Set up a ton of informational interviews with professionals at boutiques / places that are no your top choice firm. You are going to use these to refine your story / why banking / build confidence on the phone talking to bankers. Completely fine if you mess some of the first phone calls up, I certainly did. Just put yourself out there, deliver your story, explain your interest in banking, ask them some questions / for advice.

3) Once you are confident in your ability to successfully get results from informational interviews (introductions to others at the firm / asked for your resume), reach out to professionals at the firms you are more interested in and focus your efforts on gaining traction firm by firm.

Additionally, keep in mind that networking is a numbers game. I sent out probably close to 1,000 emails, spoke on the phone to 100+ bankers, met with many in person, and ultimately ended up with interviews at places I thought I would never get, and several offers to choose from.

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Nov 1, 2015

How did find an internship during the school year? Did you work part time or did you take a semester off? Thanks!

Nov 1, 2015

I interned part-time at a boutique while I was in school. I worked 20-30 hours per week.

Once I decided I wanted to work in banking, I made a list of all of the boutiques in the city that I went to college in. Got my resume in shape, and started cold calling all of the boutiques that I found to see if they needed an intern (actually calling on the phone seemed to work pretty well at these small shops). Their usual response was either 1) no thanks, or 2) email your resume to a specific analyst / associate and they will get back to you.

I did this enough and eventually lined up several interviews at boutiques for internships during the school year. I made it clear that the internship would be a priority for me and was willing to commit 20-30 hours/week (think you need to work at least 20 to be helpful), and that I was just looking for a chance to get started in banking, would work really hard, etc.

It ended up being a great experience, and a real differentiator during my FT interviews, because I could say that I had worked at a boutique bank for more than a year while going to school full-time, and could walk them through 3 transactions I worked on in detail.

Think this is a huge part of being successful from a non-target background. If you can land a boutique internship and hold it for a while and take on some meaningful work, it will help you a lot once SA/FT interviews come around.

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Nov 2, 2015

Could you run me through the typical resume pile -> first round -> super-day -> offers per school? I understand its gonna vary by school, but let's say a school with on campus recruiting vs no on campus recruiting but just phone interviews for first rounds.

ie: 100 resumes -> 15 people get first rounds -> 5 get super-days -> 1 gets offer

You speak in in varying levels of verbosity.You often adopt the typing quirks of others as you find it boring to settle on styles.

Nov 2, 2015

Don't have a great answer for you on this from a target school prospective, as the alumni from the particular target tend to run the process for their alma mater, so I haven't really been looped in to the target recruiting process except for when their is a superday in our office and they need people to interview the candidates.

From a non-target perspective, this is also hard to say because due to the nature of it being a non-target school, there is no quota of kids we are looking to take. From what I have seen, non-target students just get added to the process on a one-of basis. This means that if an analyst/associate/ whomever gives a resume to the recruiting team with a recommendation and says that the candidate it good (and the resume demonstrates that too), it is very likely that someone else on the team will at least give them a call and have an additional conversation that will sometimes serve as a first round interview.

Keep in mind - I am referring to when you actually have someone going to bat for you, telling the recruiting team you are good, and they should take a look at your resume and connect with you. NOT just when someone says, "ok I will forward your resume to HR" - because in that case it largely means (at least in my experience) they might put it in a pile to get looked at, but don't count on getting an interview.

So if you submit a non-target resume without connecting with the team, it is very unlikely you will be contacted for an interview. If you do get in contact with the team, and someone is supporting your application and going to bat for you, you will likely get an interview. So to quantify, lets just say there are 40 people from non-targets that have team members going to bat for them. 35 of them have passable resumes, and these 35 get phone screens. Maybe 10 get superday invites and 1-3 get offers for the summer.

Would not get hung up on the numbers / your odds at all. People like to focus on the stat that something like .05% of applicants get investment banking jobs at BB banks, but thats just irrelevant, and something people say once they get an offer to stroke their own ego. If you want it badly enough that you do dedicate all of your energy to learning about the industry / learning technicals / networking / keeping your GPA up / developing relevant work experience, you will find a spot somewhere. There are plenty of examples of this, just look around LinkedIn - there are plenty of guys from much worse schools than wherever you are that made it to banking. If they did it, why shouldn't you be able to. That was my mindset at least, and I still believe it is possible from virtually any background if you start preparing early enough.

Sorry sort of went on a rant on this one, but you get the point... yes the numbers are against you, but don't focus on them, it s still very much in reach from non-target background

Nov 2, 2015

Ok great answer that was exactly what I was looking for. One more thing, how many first rounds did you personally go through -> superdays -> offers?

ie: I got 10 first rounds -> 5 superdays -> 2 offers

sorry I know it doesn't matter when push comes to shove but I like to put everything in perspective

You speak in in varying levels of verbosity.You often adopt the typing quirks of others as you find it boring to settle on styles.

Nov 2, 2015

Hi I'm a junior from an extremely non-target school (~1 going into IBD each year). Going through SA recruiting process now. Had informational interviews with all BB, got referrals at 5 banks (forwarded resume to HR was all they said). Should I keep networking at these banks or should I move on to other banks? And in terms of information interviews serving as first rounds, I'm going through a series of informational with a BB initiated by a 3rd year Associate who keeps connecting me with analysts in the group for informational interviews. Is that a good sign? Thanks!

Nov 3, 2015

Would prioritize as follows:
1) Be very on top of process at bank where associate is connecting you to others - make sure you kill it in these informationals and are ready if/when you get invited for a formal interview. Yes this is a good sign, they would not waste their team members' time if they were not at least somewhat interested in you as a candidate
2) Continue to network at the banks where you have already spoken with people that have fwd your resume to HR - if you are from a non-target, you likely need a few people pulling for you, not just 1 person that fwds to HR
3) Reach out to alumni/others at others banks - realize that the process has already started and you will need to move quickly
4) Cast a wide net, look at boutiques (not just elite) and reach out - from my experience they dont start thinking about summer hiring until Late Jan / Feb or even later - so you have some time, but want to make sure you lock down an investment banking internship somewhere for this summer

Nov 2, 2015

I'm an incoming sophomore from a non target trying to get an internship next summer. I have a list of 30 alumni I can contact from my school, but they all work in elite boutiques, mm, and bb ibs. Would it be pointless to start networking and seeking informational interviews right now? Right now I'm trying to get an internshipnext summer at a regional boutique; do you think I should start cold calling right now since their recruiting schedule is not as transparent. Thanks!

Nov 3, 2015

If you are a sophomore at a non-target, you are not going to be considered for a SA spot anywhere except for maybe a MM / boutique (non-elite). You can definitely reach out to these contacts, but would frame the conversation so that you are asking for longer term advice because you are interested in banking, do not ask them for internships / about the process at their firms because it is far too early. Here's what you should do:

1) Do your HW, know your story / why banking / have some good questions to ask / know some about valuation & finance

2) Reach out to some of the alumni for advice - tell them you know you want to do banking, you plan to try to secure an internship at a boutique to get some experience, just want to learn about their path / get advice etc.

3) Concurrently, search for / reach out to bankers at boutiques in your city for a spring semester internship / or elsewhere for a summer internship

4) Maintain contact with the alumni at the EB/BB/MM and keep them posted on your progress (landed boutique internship, then after its over saying you confirmed you want to do banking, and then closer to the recruiting process your junior year to let them know you are interested in their firm's SA program) -- this longer term approach and building a relationship where they are genuinely interested in your career development will pay off a lot better than forced networking that a lot of kids do. You have the time to do this, so would highly recommend it since you are starting so early

Nov 15, 2015

Thanks for doing this. Can I ask what were your contributions to deals you've listed in your resume? Also how did you make sure you were as competitive as summer analysts at BBs during FT recruiting?

Dec 23, 2015

Sorry for delay here, has been a busy month.

For deals that I worked on as an intern, I wrote high level bullets to cover all of the deals I worked on, rather than specifics about 1 deal. For example:
+Wrote CIMs, analyzed client data, maintained buyers list, drafted management presentations, performed M&A and DCF analyses
+Transaction experience: $_mm sale of Company A, (brief description); $_mm sale of Company B, (brief description); etc.

Networking made the difference, cant stress that enough. I just got in front of a ton of people and it ultimately worked out that I got a FT offer at a BB. At the group/firm I ultimately got hired in to, I was very vocal about my desire to work in the specific industry at this firm, and supported my statements with very detailed reasons, which I think set me apart from others that had done SA internship at other BBs.

Dec 23, 2015
Jan 20, 2016