My Story: Extreme non-target to top BB

I can't believe I am finally writing this but it is time to really reflect on what has happened in the past month.


Parents divorced, grew up in poverty in the middle of nowhere, etc. Chose to go to my extreme non-target because it was a full-ride and had no clue about job prospects from the school. Found out they were dogshit (our job board site is literally like monster and we're a non-target for big4 accounting), Stumbled into finance after the company where my dad worked was bought by a MF PE shop and wondered wtf was private equity.

How I got into finance:

After finding out about finance I decided to give it a herculean effort and googled for hours how to get in and was initially discouraged because my school had ZERO alumni who could help, finance dean basically said it was impossible, and I was very far away from any finance hub. I thought about it for a week and said fuck everyone and decided I was going to work at a good firm or die trying.

I started by going on linkedin, here, M&I etc. and started blowing up emails of anyone I could find. I narrowed my list to about 20 of the top firms and sent probably 2,000 emails of which around 150 responded, 70-80 had a phone call, and not sure how many pulled for me for job applications. I received many of the typical entitled responses from bankers and traders who told me I had no shot in hell but some were impressed with my persistence. I also made 2 networking trips to NYC and the contacts pulled for me because they knew I was coming from a long distance and was serious about getting a job in IB.

I did a few finance internships (nothing crazy) and got lucky to get a semi-decent (10 Billion AUM) AM internship that finally gave me a name and experience because I struck out for IB SA (only a few first rounds, no superdays). After this summer I knew it was now or never and that I had to really try hard to get something from FT recruiting because the firm I was at doesn't hire FT. I cleaned up my resume, applied to 10 jobs a day, followed up with past contacts, and sent a good 15-20 emails to anyone I could find.

I received 3 superdays at BBs and managed to get EXTREMELY lucky to get an offer at a top BB before attending the other 2 final rounds. I had your typical questions in the interviews (fit, technical, stress testing questions) and was really gutsy because I knew everyone else would try to play it safe.

Final words:

I think I received an offer because I was pragmatic, worked hard, tried to be confident in the interview, and had a massive amount of luck go my way. My contact there said I was hired because I was much different than the other candidates and was someone he'd have a beer with. At the end of the day these people want to hire someone who isn't a finance hardo without any personality. Did I take a massive risk? Yes. I spent a few thousand dollars of my own money for suits, networking trips, etc. when it all could have been a huge failure.

Advice for others:

Just do what you can. If you're a non-target junior who missed the SA recruiting cycle all you can do is raise your gpa, get some sort of internship, and network like it is a full-time job. You may or may not get an offer but will at least be miles ahead of not trying. There's nothing wrong with starting in MM or boutique IB, Valuation, etc.

I know I am super lucky but man does it feel good to no longer have to go through the bloodbath of FT recruiting.

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Comments (22)

Sep 25, 2018 - 2:43pm

Congrats, many success stories to follow for people who are at non-targets!

No pain no game.

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Sep 25, 2018 - 4:18pm


What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

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Sep 28, 2018 - 2:22pm

This is absolutely amazing. Just goes to show that with hard work literally anything is possible. Goddamn.

I'm still gunning for IB SA after having gone through over 10 first rounds and 1 superday, and hope to soon have a success story of my own... however I realized I haven't received offers because I'm not letting my personality shine through in interviews.

Would you mind elaborating on being "gutsy" in your interview? How did you balance being yourself while staying professional?

Sep 29, 2018 - 1:42am

You have to be gutsy in the sense of not being afraid in the interview. Think "quiet confidence" and someone who is able to command their interviews. Drilling down your story and why you're interviewing for IB is the best way to start and can leave a lasting impression. Bankers interview "Todd from Penn" all the fucking time that they get a bit bored. The perk of being from a non-target is that you get to tell people how the fuck you got into the building of an elite investment bank. You have to be willing to show your personality.

Specifically for me: Did the M&I interview course, researched a few deals that I knew like the back of my hand, and was prepped by doing mock interviews with my friends who already accepted FT offers at other banks.

Sep 28, 2018 - 2:53pm

First of all, congrats man - love to see it. I actually have a story that is strikingly similar and played out within the same time frame. Reading this, I thought I was reading my own story. I do have one question though: how did you manage to drum up several thousand dollars for suits/networking/etc.? I wanted to do those same things for networking trips and worked most semesters during school, even taking one semester off to work, and was never able to retain enough money for new suits and networking trips, so I'm just curious.


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Sep 29, 2018 - 1:55am

Lol I completely understand the struggle. I ride a bike to school and don't even have a car in a suburban area. I mostly used whatever money I had leftover from scholarships/loans/etc. to buy what I needed. I have 3 suits that I bough from Macy's for around $1,200 or so, spent another $1,400 on 2 networking trips to NY, and around $1,700 for WSO resume review services, mentor advice, interview courses (BIWS/WSO), financial modelling shit (R&P/BIWS/WSP), etc.

I'll probably have around 7-8k in student debt by the time I graduate but it is a hell of a lot cheaper than going to an elite school and I can say that I did it without any real help from parents/family/family friends/etc.

Sep 29, 2018 - 6:58am

Nice one man.

It's really interesting how for finance careers you either start on an expected "track" (good school/good resume/SA->FT, lateral from relevant job, top MBA) or you knock on doors until one opens.

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Sep 29, 2018 - 11:20am

Yeah it is really sad that these firms have moved up the recruiting cycles so much that Non-Targets have almost no shot of getting a BB SA. A non-target basically has to have a freshman internship in PE/Boutique IB to have a shot and that is very hard to get unless you have family connections.

Sep 29, 2018 - 12:29pm

First of all, great job on getting that internship!!

I'm a third-year BSc student at a non-target and was wondering how you got the interviews in the first place coming from a non-target.
I try to network all the time with bankers, but usually still fail to get to those first rounds considering referrals/etc.

Any opinions on this? How was your process of getting first-rounds?

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Sep 29, 2018 - 2:17pm

Looks like you're in Europe so that is probably why it hasn't been as fruitful. I'd go through the WSO networking guide and don't be afraid to be more upfront with bankers and say that you'd like to work there and ask for a referral.

Networking into BB IB from a non target is a lot like getting a date with a 9 or 10 when you're an average joe. You have to be creative and a persistent motherfucker if you want pull it off.

Sep 29, 2018 - 2:45pm

Best advice I ever received about networking is "no one knows or cares about what you want unless you tell/make them." Like RealDeal said, you have to be up front. They'll appreciate that you're not masking your intentions with small talk and wasting their time. If they got on the phone with you, they know exactly why you're calling them. However, it goes without saying that connecting with them on something and getting to know them/demonstrating curiosity and capability are crucial.


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Sep 29, 2018 - 5:57pm

Luck is definitely the word for it, that email response rate is freakishly high.

Jokes my dude, love these stories, you're the type of person I wanna see win. Respect.

Absolute truths don't exist... celebrated opinions do.
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Oct 1, 2018 - 10:25pm

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