How to Navigate FT Recruiting: Learn from My Successes/Failures
Hey all, going to be a slow morning on the desk and waiting on comments from my associate.
With ample time on my hands, I wanted to give back to the community and share my full-time recruiting experiences, and hopefully provide insight for those unsure or confused about how the process works and how to best be prepared. To be clear, my takes are reflections of my own opinions and experiences. I am in no way saying universal truths that will apply to everyone. I just want to provide more data points for the community.
High-level background on me: I did my SA at a smaller bank (not EB but not a 10 man shop either) and knew I wanted to recruit FT well in advance before my internship started as I knew that I didn't want to remain in the location I was doing my SA in. I interviewed with 9 different groups (assorted EBs/BBs) across a few geographies for FT and came out with three offers.
I will break down this post into four parts 1) Two Ways of Targeting the Right Banks, 2) Navigating the Networking Process, 3) SA Conduct, 4) Preparing for the Interviews
1) Two Different Ways of Targeting the "Right Banks"
Similar to the recent "My PE recruiting process" write-up, in March of my junior year (3 months before my SA started), I created a select list of groups that I knew I would take an offer from over my SA bank. I only targeted groups/offices that were clearly better and a material step above my current bank. Now, I was in a solid position already where I knew the probability of getting a FT offer was high due to the culture of my group.
However, on the other hand, if you are afraid you may not get a FT offer, you foresee potential problems regarding a return offer, or you're at a bank that is poorly regarded/non-IB internship, then spread your net as far as possible. Those are the two ways to consider your options, it just depends on where you're starting from.
Regarding my personal experience, I wasn't one for the hair-splitting dynamic that happens on WSO where one compares CS vs.. , for example. In my opinion, if you already are at a solid IB and you have a reasonable assumption that you'll get a return offer, you should only be targeting places that give you a tangible/material difference in exit ops and experience.
There are a few reasons why the FT hair splitting can be problematic for those already in a solid spot:
1) As you will read later, FT networking can be a major hassle and if you're targeting a million places, it could distract you from your current SA- where you should be giving 100% of your energy. Opportunity cost plays a major role in FT recruiting, especially if you're already at a quality place. If you pick a short list of banks that you are dead-set on, it is much easier to concentrate your resources on a few places, and not have your networking/email efforts distract you from your work.
2) Interviewers may question why you are making a similar tier lateral move (ex. Citi to Barc) in the same city. I'm not saying that it will ding you, but it could raise some eyebrows.
3) Low possibility yet still possible: the bankers you're networking with may know the bankers in your group if you are looking to make a lateral move. The more banks you speak with, the higher the probability someone may say something to someone else. My advice is the more detached the two places are, the better (ex. you'and is much more relatable/understanding than to MS).
Some acceptable examples (again, this is my opinion):
SA at coverage group of Mid Tier BB --> considering EB M&A, or top BB
SA at an MM --> considering BB/EB
SA at a low tier bank/non-IB internship --> any MM/BB/EB
EB --> considering BB (due to desire for more "holistic" BB experience"
All of the examples I provided above have material differences for why one would want to move to the other place.
Examples where I advise against (really just comes down to same tier/prestige level)
SA at mid tier BB --> considering other mid-tier BB opportunities in the same city
EB --> Same level EB (ex. MOL to LAZ)
2) Navigating FT Networking
Before the Internship (3-9 weeks before)
I'm aware that a lot of WSO users frown upon those who decide to network with other banks even before their SA has begun. In my opinion, I always believe starting early and being the "early bird catching the worm" is the best route to take. I started networking with firms on my list in late March/early April.
Now, during this phase, I never crafted my emails to include the words "FT Recruiting," rather I was focused on developing quality connections with analysts/associates in groups that I had not recruited with previously. The concept of "picking one's brain" and being a curious college student will most likely not be a point of annoyance/contempt for a current analyst/associate, and 95% of the time I had no problems doing it. I also advise to downplay where you are going for that summer, and when I was networking with groups before my internship, I didn't even include my bank on my resume. Now, while conventional SA networking advice is to send a ton of emails to as many groups as people, I believe pre-internship FT recruiting merits a calculated approach. While, yes, you are just harmlessly talking with people at other groups, you still want to maintain a "low-key" approach with networking. I advise a limited outreach of maybe 10-20 emails per week in the weeks before your internship begins. The goal in this phase is to make quality contacts, connect with at-least 1-2 bankers per group you are targeting, etc. Try not to focus on outreach to second year analysts, as by the time FT recruiting rolls around, they may be leaving/already left. I was burned a couple times when very close second year analyst contacts of mine had left for PE before the FT interviews. Focus on first year analysts and associates primarily.
During the Internship (Weeks 1-3)
As your internship begins, you should be pumping your email numbers up, as other bankers can be more warm to your more direct "FT recruiting" related networking request. Make sure to update your resume as frequently as possible with any "deal experience" related work and any other tasks in general. Your emails during this phase should be a little more direct in expressing FT interest in that bank, but still, don't be tacky or too aggressive with interview-related inquiries. For your previous warm contacts you made back in the spring, updating them is crucial. Each one of your contacts should be sent an update during Weeks 2-3 just to explain any work you've been up to, and asking them about any updates on their end (not about FT recruiting, but about their work/outside life). I advise using Schedule Send especially when you're working late at night and can pump out 40 emails, as opposed to typing them out during the busy hours of the morning/early afternoon.
During the Internship (Weeks 4-6)
During this phase, you should focus on being more aggressive with outreach and keeping your contacts in order. Another round of update emails to your warm contacts you've previously made is imperative, and of course you should be expanding your contacts per group that you have your eye on. The conversations should start to gear towards the FT recruiting climate for that specific group, as the bankers will have a better idea of whether or not their group foresees a hiring need. Ideally, (I understand many will not be able to do this), you can grab coffee with your warm contacts and/or hop on a zoom to put a face to a name. I did this with several groups and it made a massive difference when they were evaluating candidates for interviews.
During the Internship (Weeks 7-10)
This is really when the "final push" becomes active. Here, you really have nothing to lose by being aggressive with emails and updating your contacts as you want to ensure that they remember you and that you are in their pipeline. The interview process moves extremely fast for most top groups, and you want your name to be remembered. Now, this may sound a bit over the top, but you have little downside by doing this strategy. If you're not persistent with your contacts, you may lose the ability to get an interview, so you might as well "go for broke." I advise sending another round of update emails to your contacts + new emails to other bankers in groups that you may have had less success with. You should be hopping back on the phone with your contacts just to catch up and discuss their FT hiring needs. When you're competing with 50+ other qualified candidates, you have to be persistent and hungry with the networking.
3) SA Conduct
It may seem obvious for some, and more opaque for others. Before diving any deeper, any incoming SA considering FT recruiting needs to understand that the return offer from your SA bank is the golden ticket to open doors elsewhere. Now, I'm not saying you can't land a FT offer without a return, but it certainly makes the process an uphill battle. Interviewers will certainly ask you about your status with a return offer, and you better have a good reason for why you didn't get one if you didn't receive one. When you work at your SA, if you are planning on recruiting FT, you tell no one and make it seem like you are die hard crazy about the group you're in. Nothing related to the FT recruiting process (outside of physical interviews themselves) should have priority over your work/intern schedule. Now, there are ways to be clandestine regarding networking and exploring FT opportunities that I will discuss later, but as far as your co-workers (includes co-interns) are concerned, they should have no idea you want to leave the group. Theis a 10-week long interview. Maintain the same bright and positive energy like you did for your SA interviews and make sure everyone is convinced you're a lifer at your current bank.
Now, this was much easier to do during the pandemic with WFH, but you need to be clandestine about networking calls/interactions with other banks. I advise you schedule calls during typical "lunch breaks" or even later in the day as the seniors will have left the office and you have more freedom to "roam around the building." As I said earlier, use Schedule Send as a way to avoid sending emails during the day, and if you are in the office, you should be responding to emails on your phone. Things get a little sus when you pull out your personal PC or move into a conference room a couple times a day to "do work."
4) Preparing for the Interviews
My FT interviews can be dissected in three parts: 1) Internship Experience, 2) Classic Behaviorals, 3) Technicals.
As a quick note before continuing, similar to on-cycle PE recruiting, my FT interviews happened fast and in a very compressed time frame. I started getting first round interview requests during the last week of my internship and was flooded with more requests the week after. Now, I recruited with quite a few distinct groups in certain geographies, so my experience in receiving first rounds may be different from those who recruited for larger banks in NYC for example.
The bottom line is that you need to be technically and behaviorally prepared and ready to go, ideally by week 8-9 of the internship.
Every bank is different, but usually what I saw was one technical screen, one behavioral screen and/modeling test.
FT interviewers want to make sure you can speak intelligently about your time at X bank, why you originally wanted to join, and demonstrate a clear "push factor" for leaving. Be prepared to have answers for why you want to leave your bank, any line items on your resume pertaining to deal experience/admin work, and why you are drawn to their bank (pull factor). Now, while I do recommend to "up-play" your experiences, you should not be embellishing them or flat out lying. The interviewers will know if you are bullshitting about your experiences, especially if it pertains to "deal experience." Tread the waters carefully, and make sure you are humble when describing what you did for the deals. Make sure to have quality answers for any deals you were on, including buyer/seller rationale, sector trends, valuation, your responsibilities, risks, etc.
Very similar to SA interviews. Many situational questions like "walk me through your resume," "tell me about a time when...", "walk me through a deal," etc. Not much else to say for this component, just make sure you come off as chill yet polished and you'll pass this part of the test.
The technicals asked for FT interviews are certainly more advanced/intense than SA recruiting. Now, there is still a level of variance, depending if you're interviewing withvs. Evercore for example. My advice is that you should have the guides mastered, all sections, all topics. On top of that, you should be able to , models. You may not be given a modeling test, but if you are "fluent" in these models through practice, you will come off as more natural/polished when approaching "outside the box" questions. I interviewed with more "prestigious" boutiques/larger banks during FT recruiting, so I was hit with non-guide questions pertaining to the concepts of accretion dilution, merger math, in-depth to /MOIC formulas, , TEV multiples questions, advanced accounting questions like PP&E losses on sale. Now, if you are interviewing with banks that are not EBs, then you may have a more enjoyable/easier technical experience. Bottom line, you need to be well polished on the main types of valuation and accounting, no exceptions. A lot of my technicals were not from the guides and really forced me to think. There is no way around it, but study up on the main types of valuation and you should just walk through models in analyst drives.
Getting the Offer and Signing
If you perform well in your FT interviews, you will hear back quickly. For example, in several processes that I excelled in, I was notified within 72 hours of moving to the next round. Just as you want to get the best offer, banks want the best candidates. They will try to scoop you up as fast as possible if you are good and merit an offer. I understand certain BBs/MMs that recruit in September/October may have more extended timelines, but for the ones where I interviewed in August, the timelines were quick. Certain banks may only give you 5 days - a week to decide on their offer, so this is where its crucial to have a rankings list of banks you're interviewing with. Also, feel free to accelerate timelines with other places if you have exploding offers, it makes you even more of an attractive candidate.
The takeaway from my post is that you need to be proactive about your FT recruiting journey. Networking early, preparing for technicals early, jumping on hairy deals/complex projects can be cumbersome, but I think it's the best way to stand out in a crowd of similar resumes and profiles. Especially if you're competing against 30 equally qualified candidates for 2 spots, you should be focusing on getting any advantage/head start you can get.
Best of luck to all of those who will be interning this summer and for those considering FT recruiting. Feel free to PM me for more info.