Importance of Pre-MBA experience in Post-MBA associate recruiting

financedude's picture
Rank: Chimp | banana points 3

I missed the boat on banking out of undergrad and joined an FLDP program and now work in FP&A at a Fortune 100. I'll be applying to MBA programs this year, and I'm interested in associate positions post-MBA.

How hard is it to get into a good firm from a Top 15 (but probably not Top 5) MBA without banking experience?

I know there are old posts on this, but I'm looking for the current environment. Some of the old posts seem to suggest this is easy, but from casual perusal of LinkedIn, it looks like many post-MBA associates have pre-MBA banking (or at least transactional) experience, which I lack.

Are top firms (BB or elite boutique) feasible with my background, or would it be more middle market, etc?

Also, I'm particularly interested in restructuring, but I realize this is a more specialized skillset. Could someone with my background have much hope of breaking into a firm like Houlihan restructuring or Blackstone as a post-MBA associate or is this totally unrealistic?

Any input / advice would be much appreciated.

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Comments (56)

Aug 27, 2015

Not in IB, but I am in business school (top 5 program) and getting IB associate offers is definitely do-able from a top 15 school. I looked at number of schools in that range, and if you look at the employment reports plenty of folks go to IB (many from non-traditional backgrounds). To sum up, very doable with your background, especially if you have a decent GMAT / GPA and prep for the interviews. This includes BB firms and some of the EB's that take post MBA associates - certain EB's (such as Greenhill, Evercore) do not recruit from business school heavily so unlikely you will end up there.

Re the second part of your question, I don't have much advice - based on my anecdotal experience, RX is possible but doesn't require a ton of associates given the niche skill set / deal flow. For firms, Houlihan is more likely and definitely possible - Blackstone (even advisory side) is a tougher nut to crack.

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Aug 27, 2015

This is also something i've been pondering and I did notice on Linkedin that incombing post-mba associates had pre mba transactional experience of some sort.

Aug 27, 2015

A banking associate role is definitely within reach from a top-15 school. All the BB firms maintain healthy relationships with the career services office at each program. Obviously a school like Wharton is going to get more attention and receive more internship offers vs. Darden or Fuqua, but you're still going to see a bunch of summer associates from the latter.

Where it won't help you is the 'EB' firms that are known to be very technical and selective in their associate hiring. Blackstone, for instance, only hires associates with prior banking experience (in some cases a combination of banking to PE). Moelis is similar.

Aug 28, 2015

Really appreciate the replies - this is encouraging.

Would love to hear any other input/experiences on this, particularly if anyone has insights into restructuring.

Aug 28, 2015

You'll be fine. At my program (top 15) we send 10-15% to IB each year and Id say only 5% of those have previous banking experience of any sort. Almost all are career switchers. Id actually say youre probably in better shape w your background; plenty of career switchers were in non-finance roles prior to school.

Aug 28, 2015

Maybe I am not reading your post right, but are you applying to these programs without a year of work experience? Seems like you graduated>started at FLDP>will apply soon.

Aug 29, 2015

No, sorry should have clarified. I've been out of undergrad ~four years. I graduated > started FLDP > now work in FP&A > will soon apply to business schools.

Aug 29, 2015

A lot of people at my top business school got into banking with zero finance experience, and top BBs and EBs at that.

Aug 29, 2015

I think you overestimate how popular IB is.. at my school, most people target management consulting / tech jobs post MBA. It's self selection bias because my school is only a target for O&G IBD in Houston. Most people who are set on IBD in Houston end up with summer offers and end up converting to FT. Since you already have a finance background, you'll probably be in the top 10% of those targeting IB roles

Aug 29, 2015
Communist:

I think you overestimate how popular IB is.. at my school, most people target management consulting / tech jobs post MBA. It's self selection bias because my school is only a target for O&G IBD in Houston. Most people who are set on IBD in Houston end up with summer offers and end up converting to FT. Since you already have a finance background, you'll probably be in the top 10% of those targeting IB roles

That is absolutely right. The most impressive kids at my school went for MBB and tech. Banking has lost it's luster for majority of kids coming in to top 5-10 MBA programs. It's still quite popular with internationals and bros though.

Aug 29, 2015

Pre-MBA experience helps a ton, however the majority of my classmates (Top 10 MBA) didn't have the experience and still got strong BB gigs. Here's what they had in common:

1) very sociable/fratty - able to connect well and suck up to bankers. They were mostly white dudes (with a few american born Asian/Indian dudes) who came from well to do backgrounds
2) somewhat relevant pre-mba jobs - big 4, corp fin, pwm, something to do with finance, etc..

The internationals (ie Indians and Fobs) did poorly due to not fitting in with the banker bros. Very few of them got IB jobs. The only ones who did were superstars who went to IIT and had pre-mba consulting or blue chip experience.

Ironically the hardest firms to recruit for are the MMs and Boutiques since they only want people with IB experience and only hire a few kids per year. Personally I don't understand the appeal of a non-elite boutiques after business school as it takes away from the brand you built in b-school. IMO if you cant do BB or decent MM after MBA, go for a strong F500 corp dev/strat group where you will be exposed to interesting deals from the inside.

Aug 29, 2015

Many people make the career change. In fact, it's probably one of the most common reasons to attend business school (for a career change). I think it's quite normal.

Aug 29, 2015

Assuming you get into a top program and IB still exists the career change shouldnt be an issue...just make sure you secure a decent summer internship

Aug 29, 2015

To answer your question... yes and no. what matters is how you tell the story of your past and how you make it clear when you realized that you wanted to do banking and why. then you need to explain why you're a good fit and when you have demonstrated (key word here is demonstrated) in your past, the skills they are looking for in associates.

thats how your past matters...its all about how you spin it... it doesn't matter what you did to be honest... its all about how you present it... yes it would be better if you have one certain background over the other... but in the end... its all about you selling yourself.

Aug 29, 2015

I went to a top-tier MBA (HSW) and did my summer in banking and the answer is generally no.......what IBnutz said is spot on: it's all in how you sell yourself. There were people from all sorts of pre-MBA backgrounds (military, public interest, etc) who got i-banking jobs/internships.

The only exception to this is for some of the name brand boutiques. I think it was either Greenhill or Evercore that seemed to only take people who had previous financial services backgrounds (e.g. equity research) though it certainly wasn't a formalized requirement; just something that was talked about/rumoured among those recruiting for IB.

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Aug 29, 2015

It depends on the bank, but many, if not the majority, of post-MBA associates I know from my class and friends do not have banking or even finance backgrounds.

The MBA is the opportunity to switch careers and HELP learn the finance (but you will still probably want to learn some finance on your own, because by the time interviews roll around you might not have had many finance classes or they weren't specific to what you might be interviewing for).

That being said, 2 years of experience, regardless of what it was, is very thin. Many banks in most cases won't consider you for an Associate position without at least 3 and very often 4 years of experience. (please don't post the one kid you know exception stuff, I'm talking on average).

As an Associate, you definitely need quantitative and analytical skills, but they also want you to be able to manage people and be good in front of clients. These two things often come with time and experience, thus they are seeking people in that 4-6 years of experience range.

But if you come from the right MBA, you can still pull it off. I do know quite a few people with 2-3 years of experience who are kind of stuck in the middle because they are too-experienced (or want more money) to be an Analyst, and don't have enough experience to be an Associate.

If you are not in your MBA program yet, I would wait a year or two, personally.

What type of work is not that important as long as you are smart. Since you are an engineer, they will assume you can handle the math, so that is good already. In my Associate class, there was nobody with BB analyst experience. We had a couple people from company internal business development/M&A group, but we also had a guy who worked for a mining company, a doctor, a few consultants, Fortune 500 firms...you see everything.

Aug 29, 2015
Alexey Kirilov:

It depends on the bank, but many, if not the majority, of post-MBA associates I know from my class and friends do not have banking or even finance backgrounds.

The MBA is the opportunity to switch careers and HELP learn the finance (but you will still probably want to learn some finance on your own, because by the time interviews roll around you might not have had many finance classes or they weren't specific to what you might be interviewing for).

That being said, 2 years of experience, regardless of what it was, is very thin. Many banks in most cases won't consider you for an Associate position without at least 3 and very often 4 years of experience. (please don't post the one kid you know exception stuff, I'm talking on average).

As an Associate, you definitely need quantitative and analytical skills, but they also want you to be able to manage people and be good in front of clients. These two things often come with time and experience, thus they are seeking people in that 4-6 years of experience range.

But if you come from the right MBA, you can still pull it off. I do know quite a few people with 2-3 years of experience who are kind of stuck in the middle because they are too-experienced (or want more money) to be an Analyst, and don't have enough experience to be an Associate.

If you are not in your MBA program yet, I would wait a year or two, personally.

What type of work is not that important as long as you are smart. Since you are an engineer, they will assume you can handle the math, so that is good already. In my Associate class, there was nobody with BB analyst experience. We had a couple people from company internal business development/M&A group, but we also had a guy who worked for a mining company, a doctor, a few consultants, Fortune 500 firms...you see everything.

Hey,

Thanks. That was quite informative.

How would back-end Research and analytics desk of an BB IB go down in gettin an associate role post MBA in a BB.

Aug 29, 2015

From my experience, what kind of experience you have is not as important as how well you did and what type of skills you can transfer.

So did you get promoted? Did you achieve as much as you could? Did you learn skills that would be applicable in banking?

If so, go to a good MBA, and be able to explain why you should be a banker.

Obviously, there is less explaining to do the closer the role is to banking.

As an example, I worked in Supply Chain Management for 4 years both at a Fortune 100 firm internally and as a Consultant.

Nothing I did had anything to do with Finance per se. BUT I made sure my CV showed that I had strong accomplishments and transferable skills within it.

For example, I had never built a financial model, but I built some mega-complex inventory models. Rather than just saying I managed inventory, I phrased it in such a way to emphasize that I managed $40 million in inventory using a complex Excel model.

That is just one example of how to highlight your skills such that a bank might think, "Ok, well this guy wasn't a banker, but he knows Excel." Etc. Etc.

Does that make sense? If I was applying for another Supply Chain job I would write and phrase my CV completely differently...the point is make your experience relevant, whatever it is. Don't freak about not having exactly the right experience.

When your 30-35 with 10 years experience, the game is different, but immediate post-MBA you have your freebie to make a change,so take advantage of it.

Aug 29, 2015

I agree - your pre-mba experience should reflect all the skills you need for IBD.

Aug 29, 2015

thanks alexey, your comments giv me a lot of hope and feelin of security. I used to keep thinking tht not being a front end IB analyst right after graduation would really slow down your career and bring a lag in you IB path.

Aug 29, 2015

My experience is that the a signficant number of incoming associates are career switchers with no finance background at all.

Aug 29, 2015

yeah that sounds good enough

Aug 29, 2015

asian monkey..

i dont understand why so many asians indicate that they are asians?

can someone explain me this?

Aug 29, 2015
animalz:

asian monkey..

i dont understand why so many asians indicate that they are asians?

can someone explain me this?

Maybe I'm not Asian and have it in my username to protect my identity? Hm?

Aug 29, 2015
AsianMonky:
animalz:

asian monkey..

i dont understand why so many asians indicate that they are asians?

can someone explain me this?

Maybe I'm not Asian and have it in my username to protect my identity? Hm?

and maybe, just maybe, you are 100% Asian

and maybe
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zSVu76AX3I

Aug 29, 2015

Usually 3-4 years of experience puts you in the Associate level at MS.

Aug 29, 2015

The fact that you are going to Stern would be the operative designation. They will ask you about your experience prior to b school but they understand that the purpose of attending b school is likely to switch careers, especially if your experience was not in high finance. B school serves as a reset button so your focus should be more on developing a strong network and learning what you can to prepare for banking rather than worrying about your pre-MBA experience. There isn't anything you can do to change the past once you are in the MBA program, but you can get involved in clubs and networking events. Enthusiasm and preparedness matters far more than background. Anyone who didn't previously work in banking prior to b school is going to be next to useless when they first start anyways and will have to develop the skills on the job.

Aug 29, 2015

.

Aug 29, 2015

?

Aug 29, 2015

^ I'm pretty sure he's mocking, but more so flailing his fist in the air as to why you would choose IB over a rather intellectually challenging, and financially rewarding (mostly) engineering gig in SV? Unless of course you like finance...

I think- therefore I fuck

Aug 29, 2015

I think I'm better at finance naturally. Have researched IB quite a bit and am just inquiring as to how I'd go about it if I do choose to go this route. Right now I'm riding it out but keeping my options open in the future, IB doesn't sound too bad considering the pay.

Aug 29, 2015

I am curious as well.

Aug 29, 2015

Bump. Anyone any ideas?

Aug 29, 2015

1) Seven years may put you on the older side, but I haven't noticed any specific trend in preferred pre-MBA careers. Some of the boutiques do prefer IB backgrounds, but this would be more of an exception.

2) It depends. If you're in at a top 10, and dead-set on IB, you shouldn't have trouble getting a few interviews..

Aug 29, 2015

Bump, would appreciate some advice

Aug 29, 2015

Many post MBA BB associates are career changers (I hope to be one myself someday) who did nothing related to banking. The tough (see: impossible) thing is breaking into a mega PE firm with no analyst PE stint in your background. The key is to network both from your undergrad school alum and your MBA program.

A few years ago after I graduated the USAF Academy I was attending "Nowhere University" in Butt-fuck City, OH getting a nighttime MBA thinking that would help me in my career as a program manager. I knew nothing about top MBAs or wall street. Then one night in a layover in O'Hare airport I met a guy who worked as a banker for JP Morgan and told me what he did. After a little more homework I knew that banking was what I wanted to do someday when my 5 years in the military were over. After speaking to numerous people, the steps you need to take are this:

1) Kick ass in your current job and take names doing it (literally--for recommendation letters)
2) If you can do something to differentiate yourself, such as work on a graduate degree (not an MBA) or start a charity for eskimo orphans, do it.
3) Kill the GMAT. I thought I had no chance at this. I went from a 480 to a 680 to a 720. Just study every day really hard for 6 months. Easy, right?
4) Can't do much about it now, but get good grades in your undergrad, or at least have a good story to help the adcom understand why you had such a low GPA (if you did).
5) This economy really sucks. I don't plan to start my MBA until Fall 2011. I think you are wise to wait like you say you plan to.

I don't mean to tell you my life story (I guess I am practicing for the HBS apps) but this is the advice my friends and colleagues in banking have told me. I have been chasing after this dream for 3 years now, but the difficult part is to enjoy your time before the MBA and take pride in your current job; not just wait for the one you really want. PM me if you have any more questions.

GG

Aug 29, 2015

You can easily transition to BB S&T as a career switcher at a top 15 MBA. Assuming things are booming in 3 years when you graduate.

Aug 29, 2015

Sales is probably a more typical thing to get into as an MBA associate. But both are definitely possible. The only caveat is that banks aren't hiring a whole lot S&T associates these days due the economy.

Aug 29, 2015

Hey get your own logo.

Aug 29, 2015

Thanks for advice everybody. I am currently finishing my undergrad (non/semi target) with a decent gpa (>3.6) and I start trading for a boutique in August, so I certainly have some time before applying to bschools. I just want to make sure getting an mba will help me transition into the role I want so I can plan accordingly. Gordon, your list really puts things into perspective so I can begin to do my homework. Thanks again.

Aug 29, 2015

BUMP,

Can anybody provide more insight into this question?

Do you know anybody that has landed an Associate Trading role at BB with boutique trading experience? or without prior BB S&T Analyst experience?

Before I start planning on what MBA programs to apply to, I want to see if I even have a shot at landing such a role.

BTW, I'm talking about market making, flow trading, maybe even structured trading, Not necessarily prop.

Aug 29, 2015

I know 4 people who have made this move. All did something non trading related and intern during MBA in a s&t gig and now are associates. It is quite common.

Aug 29, 2015

i am curious as too. can mba be thought of just like undergrad? basically the best school ensures top placement just like target schools for i banking?

Aug 29, 2015

Wow, i was wondring the same thing...I posted this also in the thread labeled mba?

Don't kill me for this stupid question. I will graduate w/ an undergrad biz degree. I think I would like to start as a financial analyst. In order to move up the ladder, do I still need an MBA? Can I get this MBA maybe after 1 year of working while I work and finish my 3 years of being an analyst?

also, do many firms help pay for mba tuition?

Aug 29, 2015
Aug 29, 2015
Aug 29, 2015