Non-Target with Great Experience and 4.0 GPA - How do I get people to talk to me when Networking or turn HR's head when I apply?

youngling's picture
Rank: Monkey | 62

Hello everyone:

I am on the cusp of sending cold emails to various analysts, associates, and VP's at Boutique and Middle Market Investment Banks in specifically the Boston area. I recognize the importance of networking for a non-target; however, I want to make sure before I start networking with the relatively limited number of Investment Bankers in Boston that I get it right the first time.

I come from a non-target, state school (couldn't stomach the student loans at far better schools) but I sport a 4.0 GPA in my 2nd semester of Junior Year. My resume includes these internships: Quantitative Analyst in Corporate Finance at a F200 firm (constant interaction with MDs due to the scale of projects I took upon myself), Corporate Strategy at another public company (interaction with C level executives due to great projects), and Computer Science projects that include using Neural Networks to project future line items on the financial statements and sentiment analysis for small tech companies to determine riskiness (fun). In addition, I hold various leadership positions: at the Investment Club in School, Youth Director for religious institution (tons of hours here, should I include this, too sensitive?), and even wrote a 30+ page book on leadership in Finance.

My problem is: I have a feeling from the information on WSO that it's going to be hard to get people to talk to me because of my school - they won't be interested in me. But then, I take a look at my resume and see that I have great experiences that, in my opinion, heavily overcompensate. If only there was a way to show my resume and experience!

I was wondering how to best approach the topic i've outlined. I know some of you advocate for attaching a resume to cold-emails but many others do not recommend it even in special circumstances. The goal of networking is supposed to first establish a connection not pitch yourself for a job, or at least that's how its supposed to look like.

Some solutions various people have given me:
- Include LinkedIn in signature, and attach resume to Linkedin.
- Include an overview of my experience in the cold email.
- Connect on LinkedIn rather than cold-email so people can see the resume you attached on LinkedIn.
- Ask them to check out my LinkedIn on the cold-email.

I also wanted to extrapolate this topic to other Financial Analyst jobs (non-IB) and Consulting - how do I get people to not turn me down just from my school, especially when networking pre-job applications, etc.

United States - Northeast

Comments (30)

Feb 5, 2019

You can have the best cold-email ever sent and still not get a reply, just definitely do not ask for them to check out your LinkedIn. If I were you, I would send a few networking emails to banks you're not targeting just to test out your response rate/approach/etc.

Ultimately you're going to have to spray and pray

    • 2
Feb 5, 2019

Maybe I don't mention my school and just mention my relevant IB projects and experience to garner interest in me?

Feb 6, 2019

Mention something along the lines of " I have previous experience as a Quantitave analyst at ____ and corporate strategy at ____" then tie that in with how that makes you interested in IB.

The key is to be concise and signal that you are someone worth helping. You may have a greater response rate from people who also went to non-targets. Also, if you feel like you really want to include your resume along with the email (I've done it before with mixed results) just say at the end "I have included my resume for your reference"

Hope this helps and good luck

    • 2
Feb 6, 2019

@LinkedInPremium can maybe shed some light from his experiences.

As I said in your other post, there's no point in excluding your school. Would approach what others have said and highlight your prior relevant experiences.

    • 1
Most Helpful
Feb 6, 2019

Your background is strikingly similar to my own - strong GPA, lots of diverse work experience and extracurriculars, state school (affordability). As such, I was in the exact same position at the exact same time as you are only a year ago. I also felt the same concerns as you and faced the same obstacles. After essentially 6-8 months of hard networking, practicing technicals, and studying interview guides, I was fortunate to end up in 6 interview processes at desirable firms, obviously with the help and support of some great people I met along the way, and accepted a SA'19 offer in IB that I'm extremely satisfied with. Below are some anecdotal recommendations:


As a 2nd semester Junior not having worked in IB, I opted to extend my graduation to allow myself the chance for another summer internship. This greatly increased my chances of breaking in because it's obviously easier to nab a summer spot and transition into full-time than to receive a full-time offer outright. I had also managed to secure two solid internships in the winter and summer of 2018 that established a lot of credibility when reaching out to professionals - front office roles in accounting and finance.

Reaching Out

I came to realize throughout the networking process that LinkedIn was far more effective for me than emailing. I read many times that emailing is the way to go; I had a different experience. By connecting on LinkedIn, I essentially established a baseline for my experience and qualifications prior to reaching out to them and put a face to the name. Since we don't go to target schools, shooting a cold-message from a "" email was not effective for me, even for more local firms. Using LinkedIn allowed the recipient of the cold-messages to review my background and experience in seconds and decide whether I'm worth talking to, which, according to those qualifications, I believe I was.

To launch an honest effort in terms of finding professionals to connect with, LinkedIn Premium was absolutely necessary and worth every penny. Without it, your search results and contacting capabilities are very limited. I would send connection requests throughout the day and send introductory messages/requests to chat in the morning and at night.

All in all, I probably reached out to somewhere around 1,000+ investment bankers of different levels in cities across the country (super rough estimate). In peak recruiting season, I was able to schedule 2-3 networking calls a day during the week, often staying up past midnight to talk to bankers on the West Coast as they got off work. My hit rate for cold-messages was probably 10-15%.

Targeted Search

My efforts yielded far better results when I searched for bankers with whom I had things in common - whether it was my fraternity, former company, similar former role, location, etc. In doing so, I customized my introductory message to those commonalities, expressed my interest in their background, and asked to chat. I'm sure you've read that people can tell when you're sending them a cookie-cutter universal template message - this is correct. I found much more success targeting specific people and sending tailored messages.


Although staying close to home is ideal for many, as non-target students we can't afford to be picky. I made no discernment on the basis of location whatsoever and it served me well. A lot of the time, bankers in other cities will be able to connect you to an office they have in a more desirable location. If not, what's more important to you: breaking into banking or staying in Boston?

Phone Calls / Informational Interviews

These varied and there was no real way to tell which direction they were going to take the conversation. Some bankers let you take the reins, meaning you need to be able to ask intelligent questions, tell your story, relate to them, etc. Others would steer the conversation more towards an informal interview, asking pointed questions or even trying to catch you off-guard with a technical question. So, be prepared for anything. Obviously, at the end of the call, be sure to thank them for their time and express your interest in remaining in contact and learning more about their company/recruiting process. Try to strike a balance between asking questions about their job/life/background and questions pertaining to your own search for a job in banking. Sometimes people will offer unsolicited help and other times you need to ask for it. Don't be afraid to be direct. They know why you're reaching out to them and they've already agreed to talk to you.

Managing Contacts

I kept a detailed and color-coded excel file with all the people I had reached out to and/or connected with in person or over the phone with their names, contact info, firm, position, location, date, and some notes from the call (good practice for making buyer lists (; ). I color-coded my contacts green, yellow, and red, to indicate how soon I needed to reconnect with them or reach back out.

If you have any questions, feel free to PM me and I'll try to help as best I can. There's lots of good advice out there. This is just what worked well for me. Best of luck in your search.


    • 9
Feb 6, 2019

Hi LinkedInPremium,

I really appreciate you offering assistance through PM's but I think someone else along the line might find my comments useful so I hope you're alright answering more questions here.

But for some more background:

I decided to take an Internship in Corporate Strategy at a F200 (same firm as the Corp. Fin internship) before I decided to get serious about breaking into IB, and I would be very happen working for them in the future and I don't want to risk the opportunity. So, I think its best if I focus on a FT offer, but I will definitely using "incoming Corporate Strategy intern" as a way to get people to turn heads. The position has very high visibility as well, so that will come in handy when discussing my story.

As for questions:


In the reaching out section you mention: "connection requests" and "introductory requests". I'm a little confused and wondering the exact process you found most successful.

For instance: did you use "connect with a note" or "InMail only and ask to connect" or a combination of both or some other method? I think what I'm asking is how did you specifically go about connecting with people on LinkedIn and getting your intro across?


I'm guessing since you can only use so many LinkedIn InMails that you couldn't use it all the time, so when did you use them if you did?


What were some real benefits to using LinkedIn premium other than for more searches? How does it increase my contacting capability?

Lastly, I posted a question on the IB Forums about using a combination of LinkedIn and Cold-Emailing. I would really love your input as well:

Feb 6, 2019

Couple things:

If you think you'll be happy working there full-time, then so be it, but don't settle. Also, I've been strongly advised against any sort of "incoming" title on LinkedIn or resume, although I've been guilty of it. In my interviews and phone calls, it was actually a strong point in the eyes of potential employers that I had turned down two full-time offers at reputable firms because I knew I wanted to commit to pursuing banking.

In response to your questions:

  1. Allow me to clarify: I sent connection requests with no introductory message. When they accepted the request and we were now connected, I sent them a private message on LinkedIn introducing myself, expressing interest in their background, and asking to chat. Most people will accept a connection request - it's just the click of a button.
  2. I didn't use InMails all that often. I did, however, use them in cases where I would be visiting a city to network and required a fast response. I would say something in the InMail message and/or connection request "add a note" box along the lines of "Hi John, I'm a xx student at xx university. I'm visiting xx city from this date to that date and would love to meet up, get coffee/lunch, whatever..."
  3. I don't mean to understate the value of unlimited searches. When it comes to finding people that have things in common with you and people you think are most likely to be receptive to a message, a lot of searching goes into it. The way I was going, I would have reached my "commercial use search limit" in a matter of days, if that. Also, obviously InMail was useful at times. Being able to see what types of views your profile attracted was useful. Having the freedom to dive as deep as you need when finding potential contacts was useful. Being able to look at other people's profiles with backgrounds similar or different to yours and explore the different pathways people have taken to break in was useful.


    • 1
Feb 6, 2019

Non-target or not, you have a strong enough profile that you will get some hits applying cold. Good luck.

    • 1
Feb 6, 2019

Thanks man it helps to get some re-assurance!

Feb 6, 2019

Agree. Helps a lot when your resume speaks for itself, which is why LinkedIn was so good for establishing a baseline of qualification/credibility prior to cold-messaging.


    • 1
Feb 6, 2019

Small piece of advice that helped me a bit: List your experience first instead of your education on your resume, this forces people to at least skim your internships before seeing your school name. This isn't gonna make or break you but it helps more than you think. Good luck

    • 1
Feb 6, 2019

I really really want to do this but it seems so out of the ordinary. Every time I read IB templates and "Resume etiquette" it always says to put that stuff first, but I will try this.

Thanks for the help!

Feb 6, 2019

I would also suggest attaching your resume in your cold emails after you do this. That way you avoid trying to fit too much into a cold email people won't read while getting more information across to them. I've heard from several analysts that they are more likely to respond if they see a resume and can glance at it for 30 seconds and be impressed than just a cold email.

Feb 6, 2019

I've tried this and actually been scolded by a few professors (and even professionals) for it. I've never met someone that recommends this for internships. I've always heard the only acceptable time to flip experience with education is after a few years in a FT role... I'm not going to pretend like I know anything since I'm still undergrad, but I'm curious to see how successful you were in this tactic.

Don't @ me

Feb 7, 2019

Every banker that has ever asked me about it said they thought it was a good idea when I told them why. I got the advice to do it myself from a BB analyst who reviewed my resume for me. I don't see why anyone would think of it as a negative, its not as if you're removing your school or gpa its just a matter of arrangement. I have been told by some professors/career counselors at my school I shouldn't but I'll take the advice from industry professionals over that from the school that can't get anyone into the industry.

Feb 7, 2019

Youre competing against two challenges when cold emailing:

  1. I work 9:30-midnight and beyond. I have no time for my friends and family, let alone charity.
  2. You're not the only one cold emailing me. If I were even to answer, why should it be you and not the other two kids that hit me up on LinkedIn?

Being perfectly honest, I haven't responded to a cold email yet despite receiving several. I'm not fundamentally opposed to it, but whenever I get one, I am not "in the mood".

What can be done to put me in the mood?

  1. Nothing (Luck) - do I have time that day? Do I feel curious? Am I feeling generous? Things that have nothing to do with you.
  2. Be likeable. I don't mean send an email that is WSO-approved, or say "please and thank you" (though you should do these things too). I mean that from your first message, you need to strike me as:

i. Capable of passing screens and getting hired
ii. Earnest, humble and hardworking
iii. Looking for mentorship (even if that doesn't lead to a job)

I understand that you're operating in a compressed timeframe. But having myself been hired at an absolutely top-notch bank despite a VERY non-traditional path, I would say the following. If you are known to be hardworking, capable, and perhaps above all else, likeable in a friendship sort of way, and if these qualities are known to the analyst and associate level rockstars of a given group, people will likely never look at your GPA, your school, etc. and will interview you seriously.

This is a trust business. The client trusts the MD to deliver the firm. The MD trusts the VPs to marshall their forces effectively. The VPs trust the associates and analysts to create the grist around which our meetings and conference calls revolve from thin air. If the people that the VPs and MDs entrust their pitchbooks to have faith in you, doors will open in a way that surprises you.

The question is how to build trust - but that takes time, especially if you are just getting coffee with them and not doing work for them. So if I were you, I'd try to nurture friendly mentorship relationships with junior level bankers that have the trust of their leadership and are seeking upward promotion within their banks.

    • 4
Feb 7, 2019

This is too heavy handed. I've had perfectly fine success with cold emailing or linkedin. You're implying that bankers are working the entire time they are at the office. The flip side is that taking a cold call and letting someone network is often a pleasant aside to desk work. I've taken many cold calls in the last few years, mentored at my university, and have been generally helpful to people who show interest in my work. Perhaps its because I'm from non-target as well and enjoy seeing people's eyes open to the great opportunities around them.

    • 1
Feb 7, 2019

Buddy, I don't know about you, but I am busting my ass from the moment I hit the desk in the AM to the moment I get in my black car the next AM.

I'd probably have a different perspective if I had the time you do. I'm about as non-target as they come, and about as successful as one can be by this forum's prestige-obsessed standards. I'd love to be able to share that with those still trying to break in.

That said, I'm trying to be real with OP about things that he can do to break through the thick barrier of exhaustion and busyness that he will bump up against when contacting the limited number of bankers in Boston. Most people are altruistically inclined - that is not what's lacking. What op needs is something that inspires me to sacrifice one of my few free hours in a given weekday to help him out.

    • 1
Feb 7, 2019

Your outlook it much better than mine was.
You will get into banking do not worry about it.
Those who really want to work in banking end up working in banking. Just depends on what age.
It is a choice if you want to work in banking. Plenty of sub 3.5s get into banking from non-targets. But they network like hell.
The hard part is transitioning into PE from a non-target school. Especially if you are targeting mega funds. They like their name brand schools.

But with a 4.0 and decent job outlook you have a M7 MBA profile. So PE is definitely possible.

Best of luck. In your recruitment process.

Feb 7, 2019

On behalf of all non-targets everywhere I hope you get your shot and that you knock it out of the park! Good luck!

    • 8
Feb 7, 2019

Focus on your F200 CF and Corp Strat experience. Nobody cares about neural networks, investment clubs or church stuff as an attention-grabber. Those things are fine for the full resume of course, and could come up in the interview. But to your point, you're trying to stand out in a short intro email. Stick to the good stuff.

Keep your email short. Don't go into all the details of why the experience is relevant. It's CF at a known company, no need to explain.

I would suggest something like "Dear ____, I am a junior at _____ looking to intern at your bank this summer. I just finished an internship in the Corporate Finance Department of _____ and previously interned in the strategy department of another public company, _____. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak to you further".

Something like that. You're probably better at the exact wording but the point is, it can be that short. I know you feel pressured to put your best foot forward and dazzle them, but if they open that email and see a lot of text, you're already starting on the wrong foot. If they see that it's very short, they'll actually read it, and a small part of them will appreciate that you were the only undergrad who realized the value of brevity.

    • 1
Feb 7, 2019

The biggest thing I did that bumped my cold e-mail response rate up was get interested in the people I was e-mailing. It takes more time when there are a lot of people you want to touch base with, but if you can find an interview or talk they've given, panel they've been on, a deal they've done you admire, a project or a common connection you share, your work is half done.

If you ask me, that's the easiest way to instantly signify that you are worth at least a 15min call - you took the time to find out who they are and what they do one layer deeper than the last person who cold e-mailed them, and sent them a note with an insightful comment on what you found and a request for a brief call to talk further.

You absolutely have experience and background - I'm sure it will come up naturally in conversation in your networking. Ultimately, in my limited experience, what has been most helpful has been making my objective to learn as much as possible from the person across the table (or cell tower) in the time allotted.

    • 2
Feb 7, 2019

Thanks James, I have a couple of follow up questions though:

I will be mainly contacting Analysts and Associates, and I've had a tough time finding deals they've been on, panels they've given, etc. Is there some sort of special way to search for someone's deals because I haven't been able to find anything more in depth than their LinkedIn.

I also wanted to ask you about expressing a hardworking quality in a cold email. During my Quant stint in CF I was working maybe 70 hours a week between studying statistical modeling and on the job programming. As other people have said, showing that you are hardworking makes them more inclined to respond to the email. But how would you word hardworking (for instance working 70 hours a week in Quant CF) without boasting and having it seem totally out of place?

Also, is there a personal connection that you resonate well with? A lot of people grew up in towns near mine as shown on their LinkedIn but I wanted someone's take on whether or not its creepy to bring up that we come from close towns? Is that going too far?

Lastly, I was thinking about first cold connecting on LinkedIn with a note and then sending a cold-email if they didn't respond but some people have said it would piss them off to see that they purposefully ignored their LinkedIn request only to have the kid bug them again on their personal email. It does seem a little stalkery fishing for someone's email as well. What's your take on LinkedIn Cold connect with a note? Is a regular cold-email that much superior?


Feb 8, 2019
    • 1
Feb 7, 2019