NON-TARGET TO BANKING FORMULA: 100% SUCCESS RATE (so far)

Ok so I just got into a MM from a non target and helped my friend do the same. Wanted to pass along the formula that worked for me. This is going be a long one so here goes.

The first thing to know about banking is that it's meant to be an exclusive club with barriers to entry ranging from schools and recruiting, all the way down to jargon which includes fancy words and acronyms just to confuse people. It's a close knit club that they only allow similar members into. It's a hard door to push open unless your uncle got you in, you tip off the bouncer, or you push really hard and get lucky.

That last spot is where most non target kids are-pushing as hard as they can and praying for dear life that one of their 200 applications gets them a HR screen-so that hopefully they get an interview-so that hopefully they make it to Superday-so hopefully they get a SA offer-so that hopefully they get a FT offer and make it into the club.

So if you're not at a target you're at a serious disadvantage in getting in the door. BUT….YOU CAN USE THAT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. FOLLOW THIS FORMULA:

START EARLY

By the time you decide that banking is everything you want in this world and you have absolute conviction, you're already on the clock and probably too late. Deciding and starting early is key because you have a lot of ground to make up as you'll see. Start the process by mid sophomore year and you'll be fine. Some people get lucky and do it in less, but I wouldn't risk it.

BE PROACTIVE

Nobody and no job is coming to you in banking, BEFORE you even type a networking email, you have to show commitment by doing EVERYTHING POSSIBLE in your situation

HIRE A PROFESSIONAL TO MAKE YOUR RESUME

This is the packaging that gets you in the door. It's the single most important piece of paper you'll ever have so don't be cheap and spend the money to have someone who knows what they're doing make it. The banking world is rigid from key words to formatting, and no-you're school career counselor doesn't know what she's talking about so just stop right there

HAVE A 3.8 OR HIGHER

(no it's not a 3.5, you're not a Harvard) best way to do this is load on the easy classes earlier on and spend a bunch of time creating your class schedule to ensure you get an A. I would spend a week on ratemyprofessor crafting my class schedule to make sure I had the easiest teachers. One bad teacher who "doesn't give A's" and your GPA is trash early on. No thank you.

JOIN The SCHOOL FINANCE CLUB

It's free, easy, and gives you a great network and education.

HAVE SOME WORK EXPERIENCE

Doesn't matter what it is just have it. For a freshman year internship that means a waiter or data entry and sophomore year that means (at least ) a family friends' somewhat legit company doing something you can relate to analyst stuff. (the more finance related the better)

GET ON THE WSO GRIND

Take WSO excel, PowerPoint, and Financial statement modeling courses and know the behavioral and technical guides cold. WSO is your bible for the recruiting process and you should treat it like another class, YES, that means spend two hours every day learning this stuff and practicing it (and then networking later on). Read the forums, get to know the jargon and the expectations. Live in this world.

TAKE THE SIE & 63

These are easy exams and you don't need to be sponsored to take them. Looks great on your resume and will save you a headache later on so you don't have to take them while working

Towards the end of sophomore year you should be firing off applications for any bank in the cosmos. At least 200 should go out ranging from Goldman Sachs New York to Corn Valley M&A in Oklahoma. People don't understand that this is a pure statistics game. You're up against THOUSANDS of candidates and many of them have the schools and code words that your resume doesn't. So you can't even get past the automated screening. Applying online is a black hole. So why do it? Great question. That leads me to the next step

BE SCRAPPY, BE RESOURCEFUL

Once you have an internship or two and you resume looks tight, it's time to LinkedIn your brains out. You'll be on LinkedIn 3x the amount of time teenage girls are on tiktok so build yours up and start reaching out ASAP
-every alumnus that you can find who works in any of the places you applied to should be LinkedIn messaged or cold emailed or both. Assuming they have some sort of finance job in the bank and they went to your school, you figure out how to get them on the phone or in person. More senior the better. (Senior associate and up can actually push a resume, not an analyst)

I can't stress this enough- IF NOBODY PUSHES YOUR RESUME YOU WILL NOT GET THIS JOB,

The statistics are stacked against you. And the 20 spots for 5,000 applicants are usually given to an MD's friends son who has a 3.9 at Harvard on the rowing team (yes, think the Winklevos twins in the social network)

So be scrappy and find their email (figure out the email format online or something) and cold email. Keep it short and sweet, no one has time for your sob stories. MDs and analysts have a trillion things going on, so reading a long email from a sophomore at Baruch is already annoying. (see cold email and networking posts for more on this)

During the call or meet, be interesting and exude humble confidence. (Check all the other posts about networking calls or chats about how to get it done and make the ask)

You can also use this tactic on non alumni. Try and find some personal connection snd you may get lucky.

If you follow this formula you should have a decent shot. It's worked 100% so far!

Go get em!

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Comments (66)

Controversial
  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jul 25, 2021 - 5:35pm

Modeling courses and taking the SIE & 63 is definitely overkill, if I saw that on your resume it would only make me want to grill you harder. 

Everything else is solid advice. 

Most Helpful
Jul 26, 2021 - 10:22am

fellow non-target here, got a BB offer for next summer. I also took the SIE and was told by at least a dozen analysts that they only responded to my email bc they saw it on my resume. think it's a good idea and an opportunity to digest a bunch of relevant info and conversation pieces. shows you're serious about IB if nothing else

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  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jul 25, 2021 - 5:50pm

As a non target who also broke into a top MM, I think a lot of this is way too much and can get pretty overwhelming. While your information is good, the biggest things are your GPA, extracurriculars, and networking. Those three can get you in regardless of how many excel courses you take or the SIE exams.

You should have a 3.8+ (I'd say 3.6 at the minimum but the higher it is the better your odds are), you need to be involved on campus (and preferably show your interest in finance through these campus opportunities), and network like crazy. If you are an accounting or finance major, you probably don't need to do all the exams and online courses. 

Jul 25, 2021 - 8:14pm

A lot of this is super unnecessary in my opinion. People should focus first on a good GPA and then on both developing a good foundation (read finance books, news, m&i 400qs) and making good connections.

I networked with a lot of people that went to different schools than me. You don't need to focus on people that have some personal connection with you (school, location etc) but instead just email some people that have experience in exactly what you are interested in.Breaking in is like 25% gettting a referral to the first round, and 75% being personable and knowledgeable to win the offer at the superday. Nontarget shouldnt play a huge role in either of those if u follow this simple advice.Dont take those exams before a banking interview lol i think people would laugh

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Gen
Jul 26, 2021 - 10:00am

Same position - non-target, to multiple BB's - the key, I always felt, was 1) working hard to learn the basics and follow the markets, 2) doing your homework (what the group/bank is known for), 3) being generally knowledgeable about the markets/finance that aren't in the guides and 4) being genuinely likeable and normal. 

Once you get an interview, that's only the beginning. If the person you're across from used to work in CLO's and you know what those are and how they work, even though it wasn't in your DCF guide - that goes a LONG way. If you're interviewing for IB, but you understand how FX can be important in transactions, and tie that into that day's front cover of the WSJ - that's what separates a freshman from an analyst.

Every time I got an offer (internships or FT), it was by answering the classic questions well, but being able to tie in previous experiences or general knowledge to what the interviewer did at a previous job/firm. That shows you're more than just a kid who is doing what he was told he has to do, and is someone who will be able to think like a real person, have normal conversations about things other than "walk me through a DCF, bro" and add value down the line. 

But solid advice from OP. 

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Gen
Jul 26, 2021 - 4:08pm

1/2 the jobs will go to 5% of the students (targets). That leaves you to rise to the top of the 95% for the remaining 1/2 of the spots. 

What separates you from the other 94% of non-targets, is real understanding, not just memorization of facts. Understanding is what makes phone conversations with you less annoying for networking and what makes you stand out in an interview. Being normal and likable is what allows them to say "so what the kid from Penn knew all the answers, the kid from Fordham did too, and I actually liked talking to them, let's give them the offer." It's what allows you to ask genuine questions about what they do on-the-fly, no just "tell me about the culture". If you understand your stuff, and are well-read, you can ask "oh you mentioned you used to work in the healthcare group, did you work at on that big deal last year?" "you used to work on the trading floor - was that supporting new issuance, or secondary trading, or both?" - that's real conversation, that's what separates you from an annoying applicant to 'hey maybe they're not so bad after all'.

Don't get me wrong, knowing technicals is a must.  

Read the whole WSJ - but choose 2/3 markets articles and understand them 100% through, every term and phrase, google everything. 

If you have family members in accounting, consulting, corporate law - speak to them about what they're view is like, what they think about companies and the market and their space, it gives you something more to discuss and talk about.   

At the end of the day, I got offers from 2 BB's, first round interviews at a few more (turned down, timeline issue) and didn't even get 1st rounds at others, that's the way it'll be as a non-target. You're not going to get 12 offers from Arizona St. ever.

But if you network, understand what the person across from you wants to hear on a social and technical level, and are able to convey humility and confidence at the same time, you'll have a lot of success converting the opportunities that come your way. 

Jul 26, 2021 - 10:25am

as a non-target at a BB, this is solid advice. I'd really stress getting down technicals cold. You dont want to waste precious interviews not knowing how the financial statement is affected by xyz. A lot of non-targs get caught up in getting interviews and fall flat on their face. I had to complete a 3 hour modeling test to get my foot in door as an A1 (provided I/S and B/S and had to project C/F + build DCF). Know how to do this.

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

  • 2
  • Intern in AM - Equities
Jul 26, 2021 - 10:47am

As a non-target in AM (possibly moving to S&T or IB next year for junior year internship) I really don't think you need a 3.8 to be competitive. A lot of competitive elite liberal arts schools and some non-targets have strong grade deflation now a days. A 3.5-3.6 with a lot of networking will be ok. Sure anything higher will be more helpful but a 3.8 cutoff is not as strict as it may seem.

I agree with everything else. Honestly networking was the only way I ever had a shot at a BB. 5 calls a week, make sure you get more people to talk to from that one convo. Its more about who you know not what you know. 

I hope to see more non target kids in the industry in the future. I think they provide diversity in their thinking and make everyone around them stronger as they weren't trained in a rote-esk way. 

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Jul 26, 2021 - 12:39pm

Jamie Diamond said it above - I've recently taken a larger role in recruiting/interviewing students from schools that don't have a dedicated recruitment team for a firm that is one of the most popular non-bulge bracket targets on here. 

I hate to say it, but I am often disappointed by students who may have originally emailed me with "Non-Target looking for a shot" or something similar. They talk about how long they've wanted this and their passion for finance and then can't do even the most basic of questions you find in the guide.  Maybe their head is way too deep into this website or hearing what their friends at Michigan or Penn are doing, but they focus so much on hard questions that they trip when asked about multiples or financial statements. 

What's more, I literally hear the same answer to "Why Us" that could be applied to every independent (Small deal teams, exposure to clients, etc etc) - tell me about who you spoke with a the firm and what they told you. Show me you've actually thought through this as opposed to read about some high salaries on WSO and your friends were doing this so you did it to. 

All this stuff you've laid out above...sure, maybe it's good to get the interview, but so many of these kids are like the dog chasing the car : they don't know what to do with it when they catch it. 

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jul 26, 2021 - 1:23pm

Given how early recruiting timelines are these days, it'd be smart to front-stack easier classes freshman-sophomore year and take challenging ones junior-senior year when your GPA is no longer relevant for IB SA recruiting. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jul 29, 2021 - 11:19am

>I absolutely hate the advice to avoid difficult classes

guy I literally learned nothing at my shitty ass college, everything I learned was from reading on my own time. OP is doing God's work and spitting truth, never take a class other than an A as a handout. You probably went to a school with half decent teachers so maybe you could actually learn something, not my case as a non-target where every teacher is walking garbage and is super unengaging. 

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 26, 2021 - 3:09pm

Wow so many helpful people on here it really makes me happy to see. I am a rising sophomore and secured a sophomore internship with an investment banking firm, and my humble $.02 is to tailor yourself and your experiences to the role and to the bank. As much as possible link your experiences to the position. I think that is what helped me. 

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jul 30, 2021 - 12:56am

All my efforts came from advice I received from this forum, so really I don't have much to add. I got in through a diversity program also. 

Jul 26, 2021 - 3:29pm

Heaven has a special place for you if you believe in heaven that is. Thanks for helping and posting great information to help others.

SafariJoe, wins again!
Jul 26, 2021 - 3:55pm

I feel like I need the resume portion bc I have everything but the networking piece, albeit key. I'm working on changing that now. But I have the 3.8, the work experience; and the school club and I haven't even passed the online app. I also took all the hard classes that were supposed to prepare me. I know it's a numbers game but I can't even get a sniff.

Jul 26, 2021 - 4:28pm

I got an FT offer just 3 days ago for Valuation at a top MM. Just wanted to add some more tips. Network with everyone in your Finance club and do some pitches if possible. If your interviewer is from a non-target, use that to your advantage and mention how hard you worked to learn all the Finance stuff. If you can't find a good Finance internship, do an unpaid one at some search fund. They're always looking for free labor. 

Personally, I liked WSP's modeling course but I haven't taken the WSO one. You could also watch BIWS YouTube videos as well or try to convince your university's finance club

If you don't have any alumni send a cold email to anyone in the group that looks interesting. No harm in trying it out. HR is fine too if they have a lot of experience. That's how I got the offer I have right now. Cold apps can be hit or miss. You should be doing both cold apps and networking, don't just do one or the other. People here say cold apps never work but they do sometimes. I've received 3 BB super days, a couple of MM super days through cold apps. Also, take advantage of diversity programs. 

Don't apply to just banking. I've seen a lot of people who say IB or bust and they ended up at really small firms doing grunt work when they were capable of getting something good in corp fin. Apply to everything and spend more time prepping for whatever is more interesting. Keep researching the area that you're more interested in. Build financial models if you like IBD or write some company research report if you like ER/S&T. Ideally, you'll prep for all of them (Markets, Accounting) at a basic level so that you're ready for interviews.

Jul 28, 2021 - 5:38pm

It's kinda similar to PE but search funds seek to take a leadership position in the companies they acquire. There's a primer by Stanford which will explain it a lot better than me. I kinda hated the internship because it was remote even pre-covid but it could be a good experience to add on your resume. I got to put Private Equity Intern as the title so it came up in interviews

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jul 29, 2021 - 11:23am

basically some dude in his thirties with an MBA buys up 1 medium-sized small business, usually between $10mm to $50mm EV and $3mm to $10mm EBITDA, and runs it, afterwards dissolving the fund used to buy said business.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Aug 1, 2021 - 3:40pm

dude my sophomore/junior year I interviewed for a bunch of these and the model was so consistent (down to the background of the MD) that you could compartmentalize it pretty well.

"THERE'S NO BOX, EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT"

not for search funds

  • Summer Associate in PE - LBOs
Jul 26, 2021 - 4:56pm

Somewhat overkill, but great advice nonetheless. Network your balls off, keep that GPA high, and you will get an offer. Get started EARLY learning technicals so you're not cramming how to walk through a DCF in April. 

Source - fellow non-target headed to EB

Jul 26, 2021 - 6:28pm

What about the CFA part 1 exam? Planning to sit it in my 3rd year maybe or 2nd year of uni. And hopefully do the rest whilst working maybe… I was also thinking of doing an LSE Asset Management course ( was stalking a seniors LinkedIn and saw many ppl did this). Wondering what other extra courses I could do?

Also thank you so much mate this was so helpful! Honestly! Currently a first year finance student at Australia. We have no target schools here so this gives me some hope!!!

I have never gotten a job before in my life lol (just came out of high school) and I was to get as much and much finance experience before I pursue internship opportunities. You were talking about different jobs like waiting and data entry, I was wondering what other jobs or volunteer finance experiences I could do?

Jul 26, 2021 - 8:19pm

Non-target here too. Got several banking offers for next summer. My biggest thing for me was my structure of resume. I crafted my resume on outstanding formatting, action verbs, numbers and percentages on accomplishments. All you really need is solid involvement or leadership and you can craft a resume. A resume is the golden key to beating HR systems to get into phone screens/first rounds. What helped me was using AI/algorithm websites that graded my resume. Then like you said, I used bunch of free resources to get skilled at interviews which I think is the easy part if you put in the work for both technical/behavioral.

Jul 27, 2021 - 8:15am

Thanks for the post. Appreciate the "grinder" mentality. It will take you far. As a senior person (non banking but all things business), I would say this is a great path for a certain personality (type A). Clearly if you're thinking/obsessing about it early on, put in the effort. That's probably the biggest thing. Do something to move the peanut forward every day. However, there will be other personalities that take a different path and do just fine.

Regardless, networking is king. Learning how to network is crucial. Not just about having tons of conversations. Important to learn how to make those conversations useful which is why it's important to start early and stay in touch. Networking is essentially a sales job. It's all about moving things forward, closing for the next meeting, referral, suggestion, etc. Way too many just have a conversation. The influencer will move forward the few that  handle it well and ask to be moved properly. You don't start there but you need to get there for the networking to have any influence. It's the difference between having years of experience vs. one yr several times. You have to make progress or you are spinning your wheels.

Before every call, write down your goal (for the call). After every call, do a debrief. Ask yourself, "Did I accomplish ? What should I have done differently or better? What's my next step?" Be honest with yourself. Sales is a process. You have to go through certain steps. (Build rapport/factfind/present/close). Networking is no different. Ask yourself are you skipping steps? Which are you good at it? Where do you need a lot of work?  It gets better with practice. It doesn't improve itself! 

In addition to getting opportunities, the practice will make you far better at actual interviews. You'll be way more comfortable which goes a long way!

Good luck to all!

  • Prospect in IB - Cov
Jul 27, 2021 - 9:59pm

while the guide is certainly good the problem is you have to to know all this minimum start of soph year and even then you would have to be absolutely laser focused (if end goal is top firm/group). 

Jul 28, 2021 - 10:00am

I can back up this formula. I am from a non-target, and I followed these steps (except for a few differences in my modeling training- I did Adventis), and I landed multiple offers. I am now finishing up my summer analyst stint at a EB in NY. The most important step is to start early, and don't get discouraged. Don't let anyone rattle you- stay the course. I do want to add that you should look for mentor undergrads. within your school. Not only will they help you along the way throughout this marathon process, but they will also challenge you to push on. 

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Gen
Jul 28, 2021 - 1:20pm

Something I think is really important to remember for a non-target student is that people do apply for IB after 1/2 years in other roles, and if you show you're hard working and know your stuff you can find that job. You can do your 2 years in S&T, Middle office at a BB, or other finance related roles, even Big4 TAS or Accounting, and from there try to apply to the IBD at the firm you're at, or a lower tiered firm, and yes you're 2 years behind, but in your whole 40 year career that's nothing. Don't assume it will happen, but it can.

It is very possible to see someone work in commercial lending, credit ratings, or risk for 2 years, to go to a BNP or SMBC or HSBC in IB or even in Credit, and from there to a MM or low tiered BB in IB - you'll be a few years behind, but in the long scheme of things, don't give up just because PJT didn't come calling during junior year

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jul 28, 2021 - 2:38pm

This is a formula I heard when I networked heavily. Sound advice except that subtle shade to Baruch kids trying to grind but its kinda true with the long paragraphs lmao. We all at one point sent a long paragraph hoping people had time to read all that 😂. Gotta respect the hustle though. 

  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
Jul 28, 2021 - 9:17pm

If you are taking the SIE or the 63 as a sophomore, junior, or senior in college you have much bigger issues (lack of social skills/a life) that are hindering your interview success

Jul 29, 2021 - 10:20am

Can someone please clarify for me if the SIE and Series 63 are applicable in the UK? I understand that the FINRA examination is recognized within FINRA recognized companies, but given that the legal side of things you learn in these examinations is US-centric, would it make sense for me as an English student to take it? 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jul 29, 2021 - 11:16am

oi m8 a bit difficult innit? hard possibly? maybe grab a bevvy after work at tha pub? God save the queen yeah? maybe we volley a bit after the fish and chips no? perhaps we fiddle a bit m8? quite stunning, simple as

Jul 29, 2021 - 11:18am

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jul 29, 2021 - 11:14am

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