Guide for Investment Banking Full-Time Recruiting

Hi Monkeys, 

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 ( 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,, 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.  

The Interview 

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. 

Comments (41)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Nov 10, 2020 - 11:23pm

Qatalyst is on a completely different level than GCA and Union Squares. Its the difference btwn working on bn+ mandates vs midmarket deals. Based on your info, knocks Qatalyst off the list. Either way congrats on getting through a horrific recruiting season

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Nov 11, 2020 - 7:02am

Mainly Purchase Price Allocation with some work involved with private equity (growth/minority; maybe group dependent as I was meeting people from TMT) and a little audit support. With Big 4, have a good understanding of DCF's nuances and focus more on the behavior side. 

Most Helpful
Nov 11, 2020 - 7:39am

Congrats on your offer(s) and great post. Shows a very real scenario of the effort required. Wanted to comment on the networking aspect and benefits generically as I think they apply to many industries.

Past summer, son secured an internship at a leading AM via a very competitive process. Did a ton of prep on company, industry, etc. Ahead of the Superday, he had networked and spoke with (informational conversation) six employees including some in the specific department. That was important on two levels. 1. He truly got a very good feel for the organization / culture. All had different jobs/ backgrounds but several similarities. That info convinced him of the firm's quality, direction, impact, etc. 2. During Superday interviews was able to reference specific conversations with actual employees (used their names with their approval) to add credibility and emphasis to all the Why AM? Why Firm? fit questions which are more important than you think.

Was told by senior people they were quite pleased he had spoken to so many existing employees and synthesized all that info to create a firmwide viewpoint.

Alone, that won't get you the job, but it's pretty important, especially when you're competing with hundreds or thousands of candidates.

I think of the technical aspect as "table stakes". Everyone has access to information whether it be from classes, clubs, or research. Shame on you if you're not prepared. The EQ part is really important and will likely be the great differentiator. If you really want the opportunity, take the time to network, and do it in a sincere & meaningful manner.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Nov 11, 2020 - 11:36am

Exactly. I spoke to ~10 people in the MM that I interviewed with before I had the first round. Both interviewers were very pleased that I spent time trying to understand the firm's culture/people and was able to speak about it confidently. Even though I have not heard back from the firm (save to assume waitlisted/declined) but the experience for me was much better compared to other banks that I interviewed with. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Nov 11, 2020 - 9:50pm

most OCRs were accounting, consulting, and MO/BO roles; 1 - 2 IB FO

that's... not a semi-target my guy. that's full-on non-target OCR right there bud. no way of sugar coating it.

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Nov 12, 2020 - 10:35am

Thanks for this post, I feel like this is a very difficult process to navigate. Any idea how the FT process would be different at a BB/EB if u were coming from a boutique that you mentioned.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Nov 12, 2020 - 10:42am

Unfortunately I had a little experience with BB and no experience with EB. My school does have alumni in GS/MS/JPM but most of them got SA offers through diversity events/early programs and converted their SA to FT. I have not heard someone who went through FT recruiting and got an offer with IB BB. My school has very very low placement with EB (close to 0), but a buddy (from a target) who went through the process, EB focused more on technical and brain teasers. 

Nov 14, 2020 - 12:53am

I'm not from US (am from canada/uk/australia), but here your experience would probably put you ahead of 90% of applicants (especially going into your junior summer)

I'm following a vaguely similar trajectory (small but semi-well known PE soph year, small boutique Capital Advisoy/M&A place soph summer)

Hoping to crack MM IB over junior summer... tbh here it seems like BBIB etc. prefer you have some big4 accounting internship than actual deals

Nov 15, 2020 - 7:43am

Can't underestimate the importance of networking. That extra connection you make can really make the difference in getting you across the line with an offer. It's certainly a bitch sending out a ton of emails and staying in touch with people at firms you want to work at but it truly pays dividends once it counts

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Nov 21, 2020 - 6:49pm

Thanks for the write-up. You mentioned that you didn't interview for anytime FO roles at BBs, is this because you didn't network much for the large firms, simply your preference or did they just not have spots open for FT? How did you go about finding these open positions in a time-efficient manner other than checking all the job posting sites everyday? Did you network with the same people you did for summer recruiting when you did for FT or reach out to new people? I failed to convert or land interviews at certain firms despite VPs and analysts pushing for me (and I get it, process can become very random, headcount decrease, also international, and etc), but would you say your networks pushing for you in addition to killing everything else obviously played a pivotal role in landing you the offers? 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Nov 22, 2020 - 12:04pm
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