For Those of You Unable to Secure Investment Banking Internships - Keep Your Head Up

kinginthenorth's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 673

I know summer recruiting is winding down and a few of you are probably freaking out. There was another thread a few weeks ago called On Losing & Failure that I would recommend reading if you haven't already.

Like you, I was in precisely the same situation last year, and through persistence, networking, self-reflection and improvement (probably the most important), practice, and studying, I secured an offer at a BB through full-time recruiting. I'll provide my advice to you guys as the bulk of this post, and then my personal story will follow in the comments section.


-You may not have secured that coveted BB/EB banking internship, but now is not the time to sit around and feel sorry for yourself. I know it sucks - I can completely relate - but you need to refocus your recruiting efforts on securing the next best option. Are there any strategy/corporate development listings available? Drop your investment banking resume for that. Do you live in a city where there are boutique investment banks? Contact them, and ask if they have any possible summer internships. Can't get any of those? Then try a corporate finance job, or even a Big 4 Valuation Services internship. Getting good experience on your resume is the most important thing at this point.

-While you shouldn't sit around moping, it is important that you take a day of self-reflection to determine precisely where you're coming up short. As well, I would recommend taking a night off, going out with your friends and getting drunk and just having a blast. It absolutely sucks getting rejected, and it only takes so many "No's" before you begin to question yourself. Just remember that getting a rejection is in no way an indication of your self-worth, and that many people fail. It is how you rebound from these adverse circumstances that is truly more telling about your character, your drive, your determination and your desire to succeed.

-In the same vein, were you coming up short because you missed your technical questions? Was it because your story and your why banking? answers weren't good enough? I know for me, my "Tell me about yourself" answer was unnecessarily long-winded, boring, and altogether uninteresting. I basically cut it in half, focused on the key points, and it paid dividends in my full-time recruiting. Unless you were born into slavery in Mauritania, snuck your way onto an Atlantic tanker, and came to America and have worked your ass off since, your interviewer likely doesn't care THAT much about your background. Keep it short and simple.

-In addition, this semester is going to be huge for you. Work your ass off to get the best GPA you can. You want to make yourself as attractive as possible for FT recruiting. Yeah, I get it, you ARE trying. But unless you're going to get a 4.0 this semester, you're not trying hard enough. I buckled down, studied a ton, had to pass up a couple of parties (note: not all of them!) and ended up with a 3.95 that semester. It felt good, and it made me look good for my resume.

-If you want to get interviews for fulltime, you're going to need to network, network, network. Create an excel spreadsheet of all the banks you're targeting, find alumni at each one, and reach out to them. If you didn't do that yesterday, then you're already behind. Contact them and begin forming relationships. There will be a ton of people who ignore your emails altogether - who cares? Move on to the next person, because there are some alumni who are absolutely wonderful. There was one woman I contacted who was a VP at one of the EBs. She was immeasurably helpful. I sent her my resume, we talked on the phone, and then she set me up for interviews at her bank and put me in contact with a friend of hers at another EB (that one didn't pan out, but it's the thought that count). Getting that first interview - at one of the best banks in the world no less (think EVR/LAZ/Centerview) - did wonders for my confidence.

-If you are working at a Fortune 500 company in Corp. Fin for your internship, reach out to some of your coworkers in Corp. Dev/Strat and ask to set up informational interviews with them when you start working. A lot of them come from banking/top-tier consulting backgrounds. Let them know you are an intern looking to hear more about the background, listen to their story, and if you guys connect, ask them to put you in contact with some of their banking friends. This helped me a ton over the summer. Just be careful to not burn any bridges, as you'll want to get a return offer at your internship.

-Which brings me to my next point - GET THAT RETURN OFFER!! Even though you likely can't leverage it into getting you interviews, it'll at least make you look competent. It demonstrates that people like working with you enough that they'll extend you an opportunity to come aboard full time. A lot of the people you'll be competing against for full-time recruiting DIDN'T get the return offer from their BB banking internship. You'll want as many advantages as you can get because these people certainly have a leg up both in terms of brand name and experience.

Lastly, know that it's an uphill battle but that attitude is everything. You HAVE TO stay positive. Seriously, take some time to self-reflect on both your story and what's going wrong in your interviews. Learn from your mistakes. You are fallible, and you are not entitled to anything. It's a bitter pill to swallow, and I was in the same position as you, but the sooner you learn this the better. I'm sure you've seen classmates who you KNOW are inferior walk away with amazing internship offers this summer. Ignore it. Louis CK's got some great advice that he gives to his kids, believe it or not. "You're never gonna get the same things as other people, it'll never be equal. It's not gonna happen in your life, so you must learn that now, ok?" He also says "Listen. The only time you should look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them."

Take this time to become a better person, work hard, play hard, and become more interesting. If I can do it, then you can too.

Comments (28)

Best Response
Feb 9, 2014

And as promised, here's my story... Hopefully this helps at least someone because I just wasted an hour when I should've been reading lol


I'll be honest, I essentially tanked summer analyst recruiting last year. I had non-noteworthy stats (3.6 gpa, wealth mgmt. internship) but figured I'd at least get a few interviews through networking at a couple banks. I didn't get an interview with any of them. All told throughout the entire process, I secured 3 interviews (WF, Lincoln and another middle market firm). Of those 3, I landed one superday, thought I did really well and that the people liked me, only to find out one of my good friends got the offer instead.

I remember the day I got the rejection phone call. I was absolutely gutted. It was my last shot at a banking internship (so I thought), and I just felt like a complete failure. It's hard being told 'no', and even harder being rejected after you felt like you nailed the interview. I can empathize with you guys and I get it. After I got off the phone, I just sat on my bed with my head in my hands thinking 'Damn, what am I supposed to do? I've been working so hard for a long time, and now I'm coming up short?'

I called my dad afterwards to explain what had happened. I remember telling him I screwed up and apologizing for being such a failure, which is right where he cut me off. "Ok, first of all, cut this 'woe is me' bullshit attitude. It's not going to get you anywhere. The last person somebody wants to work with is the guy who's always feeling sorry for himself. Secondly, you're not a failure, and if you keep thinking that way then you don't deserve a banking job because your attitude is piss poor." As much as it sucked to hear that, he was right. It was the last thing I wanted to hear, but the most sobering advice I could've received.

I gave myself a single day to recover and drink with my friends, go out and have a good time, and reaffirm my self-worth (sounds lame but it's what I did). But after that, I refocused my recruiting efforts at the next best thing. I dropped my resume for the remaining Corp Fin./Strat. listings, got the interviews, and went into them with a chip on my shoulder and something to prove to all the companies that had passed me up. I got final rounds and offers from almost all of these places, and took one close to my hometown.

I knew that the Fortune 500 CF internship wouldn't allow me to stand out for full time recruiting, so I also tried to find a boutique banking gig for the other part of my summer. I was fortunate in that my CF internship had 3 flexible start dates, so I took the earliest one which allowed me to have 7 weeks left at the end of summer to work. I contacted as many local boutiques as I could, explained that while I would only be able to work for 7 weeks, I would also be the hardest working intern ever, and I was lucky in that one of the banks gave me a chance via an unpaid internship. So I now had two internships lined up for the summer. The remainder of the semester, I worked as hard as I could get my GPA up, got a 3.95 and managed to bring my cumulative GPA up to a 3.7.

Right before my 1st internship started, I tried to get in to the best group possible within Corp. Fin. Since they only took MBAs for strategy/development, I managed to get into the Treasury group which handled M&A financings, equity/debt raisings and recapitalization/restructuring efforts for the company.

I hit the ground running in that first internship, and I worked my ass off outside of work too. I studied technicals, fixed up my resume, polished my story, and did my best to network. As per some advice I found here, I created an excel spreadsheet with all the banks that I could think of, found alumni on LinkedIn and through my school's alumni database from each bank, and put their names/contact date/what we talked about into the excel file so I didn't overlap and could send follow-up emails. During my lunch breaks at work, I would be on networking phone calls. It was hit or miss and I didn't get a lot of responses, but there were also quite a few alumni who were just immensely and unquestionably helpful.

The work at my second internship was great, and while it didn't leave me much room for any of the prepping, I gained a ton of really useful experience, and one of the MDs told me that I could tell any of the people I interviewed with for full-time that I got a return offer and he'd vouch for it, even though they actually didn't have space for me. In mid-August, I emailed my contacts that I had networked with, and got involved in the accelerated process at a few banks. I got two superdays, ended up receiving an offer for FT at a BB, and took it immediately as it was an awesome opportunity. I now had a job, and my senior year hadn't even started. Calling my dad after I got the job offer was one of the greatest feelings. "See? I told you, it was all about keeping the right attitude." That obviously wasn't the only element, but it certainly was key.

"You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are." - Mister Rogers

    • 18
Feb 10, 2014

Really glad you laid this out. Definitely going to apply it to my situation.

Feb 13, 2014


Feb 9, 2014

awesome advice and story. Moved it to the WSO Success Stories forum. Thank you for sharing. :-)

Feb 9, 2014

Always good to read something like this, thanks for sharing. Hitting the ground running with networking is huge. Really can't stress that enough.

Feb 10, 2014

Good read. Thanks

Feb 10, 2014

Good stuff, way to hustle

Feb 10, 2014

Great story, one thing I'd add is this: be grateful for every opportunity you get, and most of all, respect your competition. I personally disagree with the comment about your "inferior" peers getting the offer over you. Most of the time, your peer has done something better than you have, and you will have to respect that. If you know that you can beat your peer in the long-run through hard work, good for you. Go out there and do it.

I'm in a very similar situation right now, and am hoping to break in for Full-Time recruiting. I'd like to wish everyone out there the best of luck.

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Feb 10, 2014


Feb 10, 2014

- In the same vein, were you coming up short because you missed your technical questions? Was it because your story and your why banking? answers weren't good enough? I know for me, my "Tell me about yourself" answer was unnecessarily long-winded, boring, and altogether uninteresting. I basically cut it in half, focused on the key points, and it paid dividends in my full-time recruiting. Unless you were born into slavery in Mauritania, snuck your way onto an Atlantic tanker, and came to America and have worked your ass off since, your interviewer likely doesn't care THAT much about your background. Keep it short and simple.

This is where I usually get a problem. How do you deal with a question "Where are you from?" if you are Russian? I came to US with my parents 10 years ago and I don't have any accent but sometimes people look at my name and start asking questions. Usually when I'm forced to admit I have Russian origin the interviewer's attitude changes - I can just see that if I stand up and leave that won't make it any worse. That's because I always carry nuclear bombs and grenades in my handbag of course. What else can I carry with me? And I'm obviously planning to blow up their office. Why else would I be there?

I go to a non-target university in Chicago, my cumulative GPA is 3.7 and I'm currently looking for any type of internship. You can't change stereotypes but you can avoid saying things people don't want to hear. Any advice on how to go around personal questions?

Thank you for sharing your story! Persistence and ambition can always get you where you want to be!

Feb 10, 2014

sort of the same story here. what I usually do is just laugh it off and use it as an interesting talking point instead of something negative (which it is not).

Feb 12, 2014

I don't think people have an issue where people are from, unless it looks like they are trying to avoid talking about it - this makes people suspicious. People like working with friendly people (usually), so the best strategy in an interview is to be open. If I were you, just answer truthfully:

- I'm from Russia
- My parents and I came to the US 10 years ago, where they pursued XYZ opportunities
- It was definitely a big life change at first but I'm happy it happened because it allowed me to attend ______ University, where I really feel at home now for blah blah reasons
- Currently I'm studying blah blah blah and I find it really interesting for blah blah reasons [reasons that are applicable to the job that you're interviewing for]
- That leads me to where I am today, really interested in [industry where you are interviewing] because XYZ

    • 1
Feb 11, 2014

I totally understand the feeling of rejection. I'm learning from my mistakes and using the informational advantages to keep me better equipped for my future, much like you have. This was the blast of inspiration I needed today. +1.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers

Feb 12, 2014

Does anyone know how difficult it is do get a summer internship at a boutique (e.g. Macquarie) and how the process works?

Feb 15, 2014

Macquarie isn't a boutique. It's one of the biggest bulge brackets in Australia (right up there with GS) and has a pretty significant BB presence in Asia etc...just not huge in the US yet. Still, not a boutique.

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Mar 13, 2014


Feb 15, 2014

Dido. Way to hustle mate, great to here.

Money doesn't change people, it shows you who they really are.

Feb 16, 2014

Great to hear your story. I'm in the same seat and really wondering what the hell I am going to do. It's all about picking yourself up and trying to understand what went wrong. Sometimes it can take 30 minutes and sometimes it can take two weeks. Entitlement is your worst enemy when you have worked your balls off and landed good IB internships and somehow feel that you're entitled to get a full time offer from a BB just because you're from a lowly non-target. This is at least what I discovered. I had very similar experiences last year and just about 3 weeks ago and thought that I absolutely smashed the interviews but then I found out that I god rejected. It was a major let down and I felt sorry for myself and had a bit of a quarter life crisis - questioning what the fuck I am trying to achieve and contemplating going back to where I originally started (S&T).
One thing that I would recommend is to take a personality test ( and carefully read about your personality type. The thing is that HR will never be perfectly honest in their feedback and will often not address the real issue if it is a personal one. When I read about my personality type, I started to understand what was going on and it was something that I had been thinking about for a long type. Apparently my personality type can perceived as self/over-confident and also arrogant by those who don't have this particular personality type. I have no idea how to change this but at least I understand what may have cost me a job with three BBs.
Do yourself a favour and take the test.

Feb 16, 2014

@"nauprillion" are you an INTJ?

Feb 16, 2014

Apparently, yes. However, I wouldn't say that all characteristics of that particular type apply to me.

Mar 1, 2014

Very helpful.

Mar 4, 2014

Good point on the background bit. Thanks!

Mar 4, 2014

How hard is it to transition to IB from a SA internship in Corporate Banking at a BB with previous IB internships on the resume?

Mar 15, 2014

thanks for the advice

Jun 11, 2014

This was fantastic and inspiring. Thanks and congratulations!

Nov 22, 2015

thanks for your post, I needed this.

Observe. Learn. Share.

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