I recently secured an offer with a well-regarded tech boutique (think GCA/Union Square etc.) and I decided to write about my journey and share it with those who are still searching for job opportunities. Things were tough and WSO helped me a lot, and I figured it is time to give back to the community.
My background: top 10% at an East Coast semi-target school (most OCRs were accounting, consulting, and MO/BO roles; 1 - 2 IB FO). I had 3 internships (1 in PE, 1 in IB, and 1 in research), didn't get anything through SA recruiting last year, and went through the FT recruiting this year.
Things could be tough
When I started summer recruiting last year, I was able to get a few interviews for FO roles from well-regarded boutiques & MM firms, as well as a few private equity firms focusing on buyout/infra, and MO roles from BBs. Unfortunately, I failed all of them and had nothing on my hand by Christmas. After that, I started to look for regional boutiques/smaller investment banking firms, but my attitudes were pretty negative, and once again, I got nothing.
Over the winter, I cleared up my mind and decided to not worry about things that I could not control. Right after the March stock crash, I was able to get a research role with a tech firm for my junior SA, and I decided to take it. At this point, I was pretty sure that I was gonna say goodbye to banking, but family & friends (WSO of course) helped me tremendously.
FT Recruiting Overview
I started to apply for Full-Time positions around early July and started to receive interviews on August. Throughout the summer, I started to pick up technical (IBVine.io) and design different stories for common behavior questions (400 Guide, Youtube). For applications, I knew that my background was pretty weak on a relative basis and the market was pretty bad, so I wasn't picky at all - I applied everything that I saw on Handshake, LinkedIn, etc. By everything, I mean besides IB, any roles that can lead you to the door one day (valuation advisory, consulting, and research, etc.).
As I started different interviews (first wave with 1 MM and 2 no-name boutiques), I realized the technical portion was much emphasized compared to SA recruiting. Accounting, Valuation, LBO, M&A, and many other questions that I have never seen in a guide. For preparation, 400 Guide, IBVine.io, and Youtube are 3 sources that I used. At the same time, do your research and tailor your behavior answers to those specific firms. I failed all those 3 interviews, 1 of them was technical and 2 of them were fit.
In this section, I will mainly focus on IB FO and valuation advisory (backup). I did not interview with any BBs so I will only talk about MMs and boutiques.
MMs: interviewed with 4 MMs. Processes were different for each bank. I had 4 phone interviews before the Superday with one firm and 1 video round before the Superday with another firm. In general, the technical portion is really emphasized, as the cliché states that you need to understand why instead of memorizing everything. The process was slow but structured. Network definitely helped but to some extent.
Boutiques: a few regional boutiques + 1 well-regarded boutique. Technicals from regional boutiques were pretty standardized, but they really have headcount/internal issues. The well-regarded boutique emphasized a lot on technicals, industry trends, deals, etc. The process was fairly fast but unstructured.
Valuation advisory: back-up plan. Interviewed with 2 Big 4, D&P, and one Vault 10 accounting firm and ended up an offer with the V10 firm. The technical portion was much easier (SA level) compared to banking, and of course, they want to know whether you can be a great fit to the team. The process was fast and structured. Best interviews I've had so far.
Others: unfortunately I did not receive any private equity/hedge fund opportunities. I do have a credit fund Superday coming up but I plan to decline it or just chat casually with interviewers.
If I can do it, you can do it
A few things I want to emphasize here.
1. Networking: I am not a big networking fan but it not only helped me land an interview with a MM but also helped me to speak confidently about the firm's culture, people, and why I wanted to join the firm. However, networking can only get you to the door, and the rest in on you (I failed to get the MM offer).
2. Write a good resume: I spent a good amount of my time writing my resume. Ask a friend, a mentor, and a connection for advice. I had a lot of interviews that did not come through networking but simply with a good resume (may not be true with BBs). My background is pretty weak, so if I can get interviews with MMs, boutiques, and Big 4, I am sure you can as well.
3. Prepare for the interview: do your research about recent trends, deals, as well as deals that closed by the firm you are interviewing with. I was literally asked by one of my interviewers to tell him a deal that the firm was doing, and I think that was an auto ding for me if I was not able to answer that. With technicals, all accounting and 3 valuations are fair game. For M&A and LBO, be sure to understand the rationale, and ask questions if you are stuck. With behaviors, I use STAR method. Cliché but works.
Also, tailor your answers back to the topic (why this makes you a great fit to the firm/why this will help you to survive the banking environment). Be concise, write your stories down, and familiarize them by letting your friends to ask questions in different ways. Keywords: curiosity, driven, detail-oriented, teamwork, time management, etc. Be sure to hide those key concepts/words in your story and deliver the story to the interviewer in a concise way.
4. Choices: if you have multiple offers on hand, make a list of pros & cons and ask yourself what do you want to do.
Good luck to those who are still looking for a job. Feel free to leave any questions and I will answer them when I can.