Q&A: Incoming IB analyst – international student, survived FT recruiting twice…

dotcross's picture
Rank: Baboon | 106

I've been a long-time browser on WSO and it's definitely helped me out as I recruited for IBD out of college. I just landed my FT offer at a NY boutique - yes, I'm not even a lowly analyst yet - but my route into banking was pretty unique, and I hope I can be helpful to some of you monkeys recruiting off-campus :)

Here's my story: humanities major at a liberal arts college (with absolutely no idea what finance was) -> junior year internship at a small PE firm -> FT recruiting ending with a BB FT offer -> offer retracted three months before the job started due to "visa issues" (humanities major wasn't related enough to the IB offer for a visa to be approved) -> stuck back home halfway across the world racking my brains and trying to get back to the NYC IB path -> last-minute GMAT tests and applications to MS Finance programs -> trying to squeeze the 2-yr program into 1-yr (taking twice the credits) so I could recruit again for 2015 -> FT recruiting with the Class of 2015 -> signing with a top boutique in NY that I'm completely happy with.

I know this is an AMA, but wanted to throw in some TL;DR FT/non-target networking tips if you're not following the whole thread. Especially relevant to cases where on-campus info sessions are not an option:

  1. Face-to-face meetings are infinitely more useful than chatting over the phone. Skip classes (if you can) and invest in networking trips to New York or to whichever city you are recruiting for. Line up coffee chats to fill your day. People remember you much better when you've met them in person.
  2. FT hiring is mostly ad hoc, and HR can be very opaque. Banks need to hear back from their Summer interns before doing any hiring, so nobody really knows how many kids they're hiring. This means one bank could conduct multiple superdays on a rolling basis, even for the same group. There is often no formal "process" where you attend an info session, drop your resume, and wait a couple of weeks - spots open and close from day to day.
  3. Most BBs tend to hire group-specific. Because most of the class is recruited from interns, headcount for each group is different. This means you should be in touch with not just HR but also analysts within all the groups you would be interested in.
  4. Some places have accelerated recruiting.These are for kids with exploding offers elsewhere, and happens around August/early September. Even if you don't have an exploding offer, try to get into this pool.
  5. Ping constantly. Don't harass your contacts, but given the opaque FT timeline you need the latest intel from the right people. Does your contact know which analysts/associates are most involved in recruiting? Which staffer is in charge this year? Has anyone heard internally of any spots opening up?
  6. Don't give up. Pep talk time guys - if you want to do the college-to-analyst route for sure, FT is your last shot. Yes, the odds are against you. Yes, recruiting sucks and it can be very, very taxing, but banks do recruit ad hoc all the way until May/June before their analyst class starts.

Happy to answer any questions, fire away guys.

Comments (44)

Oct 1, 2014

Awesome post. I'm a non-immigrant as well, so I'm in the same boat. I am working currently as an analyst at a BB regional office with a corp fin role. Been in touch with several recruiters but not exactly sure which team/group they are hiring for. Do you think it's okay to ask about that kind of info from HR? Or is it better to get in touch with the analysts? Thx

The only reason that they all get to continue living like kings is cause we got our fingers on the scales in their favor. I take my hand off and then the whole world gets really fuckin' fair really fuckin' quickly and nobody actually wants that.

Oct 1, 2014

Hi waistcoat! It doesn't hurt to reach out on both fronts. There's no reason HR would withhold that information from you, but you'd need to check in with them every now and then (and they may not be the most responsive). They also have no incentive to push your resume through. At the same time, your banker contacts may not have visibility on firm-wide hiring, but if you let them know you're interested there's a high chance you'll pop into their minds when they do hear any news internally.

Additionally, there are certain headhunters that work with laterals - I don't have personal experience though, so check out some of the articles over at M&I or lateral-focused threads here on WSO :) Best of luck!

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Oct 1, 2014

That's awesome, congrats dotcross. I'm a fellow international student too, also trying to get in the 2015 analyst class in NYC. I'm from a non-target school, and thus have few alumnis that have been responsive. I noticed that you said that in-person meet is the best, so what was your approach to making new contacts? And how did you make these contacts meet with you in person?

Oct 1, 2014

Hi Jbutts9! Firstly, make sure you follow up on your initial e-mails, because they may be caught in the spam folder or your contacts may just have missed them the first time round. If you get to talk to even one alum on the phone, you can ask them for their own connects - not necessarily from the same school or even from the same bank, since most people would understand that you'll be casting a wide net. Or, if you're in Greek life, look for brothers on LinkedIn - establish whatever common ground you have. Once you're in touch with a couple of people, ask them when they'd be free - and voila, you can start buying plane tickets.

My subject lines are something along the lines of "2015 full-time recruiting - coffee chat availability?" Tell them that you're planning to come to New York, and you'd like to chat in person.

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Oct 2, 2014

Thank you dotcross. Very helpful. I think I need to do more networking.

Oct 1, 2014

Congratulations man, thats quite an achievement. I have a few questions:

1. Did you do your MS Finance at a target?
2. Did the firm offer to sponsor you for H1b?
3. Did you network while you were out of the country as well? If so any tips would be much appreciated.

Thanks for doing this.

Oct 1, 2014
nappy:

1. Did you do your MS Finance at a target?

2. Did the firm offer to sponsor you for H1b?

3. Did you network while you were out of the country as well? If so any tips would be much appreciated.

Second to all these questions!

Thanks for the time!

Oct 1, 2014

Hey nappy (and Dom Cobb)!

1. Just to clarify, I'm in my MSF program now. I started Aug 2014 and will graduate in May 2015, so when I recruited last month, my most relevant education was still my BA. My college was a semi-target; my Masters b-school is a non-target but I never used the career resources here since I had only just started classes. I'm only doing the MSF to fulfill Visa requirements, and the banks I talked to knew this as well - when I had to leverage alumni contacts, I leveraged my college network.
2. Yep, both my ex-employer and future employer do sponsor. Most banks across the street - if you do get an offer - will sponsor.
3. I was back home for a couple of months between college graduation and my MSF starting. Fortunately, I didn't need to start networking from scratch, since I'd done FT recruiting once already and my network was already there. I did ping people while I was overseas and spoke to them over the phone (at 3am or 4am, thanks to time differences), but these were to check in with them. I'd met them before in person, and I was back in NY anyway by August.

Depending how far away you are from the States, it could be close to impossible to make a last-minute trip here - the next closest thing is to make those phone calls, and pound the pavement even harder in order to stay on top of recruiting. Ultimately, you've GOT to be in the city when interview season kicks off - there is no way you'd be offered a superday over Skype, and there's no way you could expense that plane ticket.

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Oct 1, 2014

Awesome, congrats!

Could you share some experience about how to develop new contacts and ask for a face-to-face talk with them? Do you have some good cold email template for reaching to non-alumni contacts? Thank you!

Oct 1, 2014

EDIT: sorry I replied to the wrong comment haha. hi stattitude!

Whenever you meet with someone, make sure to ask them to refer you to someone else. This is the best way to build up your network. It's not hard to meet up with people in person - most are open to grabbing coffee! (and escaping the bullpen for a while)

I don't have a email template, but do keep it short and to-the-point. Say who you are, what college you go to, and how you found their contact (LinkedIn, for example). You don't have to call attention to the fact that you share nothing in common with them - just say you're interested in his/her particular bank/office/group, and you'd like to meet whenever is convenient. If you're doing this during recruiting season, make it explicit that you're looking for full-time opportunities. If not, just word it along the lines of "interest in recruiting next year, wanted to learn more about your experience".

Oct 1, 2014

Did doubling up on the credits hurt your grades? Do MSF grades matter for FT recruiting, or mostly networking?

My posts will be fraught with grammatical errors since I post from my phone. I will try my best not to post an incoherent babble.

Oct 1, 2014

Hi One2Three! So a clarification on the MSF: I'm in the program now. I started Aug 2014 and will graduate in May 2015, so when I recruited last month, my most relevant education was still my BA. Which also means my grades shouldn't matter much because I already have the offer, and I don't even have any grades yet to put on my resume :)

MS programs - in general - do not funnel towards investment banking, so as opposed to MBA programs there are few people doing the program with the explicit intent of recruiting.

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Oct 1, 2014

What's your Visa strategy going forward?

Oct 2, 2014

snakeoil - I'm currently on a student Visa. When I graduate, I'll be on the OPT (Optional Practical Training) for one year, after which the bank will be sponsoring my work Visa.

Oct 3, 2014
dotcross:

snakeoil - I'm currently on a student Visa. When I graduate, I'll be on the OPT (Optional Practical Training) for one year, after which the bank will be sponsoring my work Visa.

I hope you are not assuming that you will definitely get the Visa. You know about the H1B lottery right?

Oct 1, 2014

awesome post. Same background (International student went to a liberal arts college)

Oct 1, 2014

Awesome post, congrats! Just curious did you mention your BB offer was rescinded due to Visa issues and you are doing MSF for 2nd shot at recruiting, did this come up a lot in interviews and how did you handle it and what type of feedback did you receive?

Oct 2, 2014

Hi B2Banker - Yep, it always came up especially since I had interviewed with many of these banks last year! I made it clear that Visa issues shouldn't come up again though, since my new degree was in Finance. I always bring it up myself during interviews, since I have had an offer from a top group at a BB, and that does count for something. Most places were receptive to me re-recruiting, since I'm coming in with a different story this year. However, there were one or two places that worried about office politics - i.e. the individuals who pushed my resume through last year were worried about doing it again this year given I superdayed with them but didn't receive an offer. You just cut your losses and move on to the next bank.

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Oct 2, 2014

Congrats for the FT offer! Great post also. I have couple questions:

- Did you learn all of your modeling and other skills at the regional PE shop? How did you use this experience to get a position at a BB firm?
- If you don't mind sharing, how high up in the companies are your contacts? I guess what employee level should you get to know to best improve the chance of getting an offer?

Many thanks!

Oct 2, 2014

Second this! How high up are your contacts? How influential are analyst, associates, VPs? I met a couple of VPs but they told me they are not very familiar with the recruitment process...

Oct 2, 2014

Hi Simeo - Then ask them if they could connect you with someone who IS familiar, or at least an analyst from their group. (Try to avoid bankers referring you to HR; getting intel from HR is pointless unless you already have a network within the company) Don't let one contact close off the conversation just because he couldn't be directly helpful. Best of luck! :)

Oct 2, 2014

Hi Ding_Dong! Great questions.

1. I had taken some classes at my college's separate b-school and self-studied extensively, but I did pick up most of my modelling on the job. Funny though since I would always walk in to interviews completely fluent in LBOs but slightly less so in DCFs. My associate brought in Training the Street materials back from his banking days, so I had to work through that first before they let me touch any models. As for FT recruiting, 70% of my contacts came from my PE shop - my associates/VPs and even the bankers working on our deals. It was a small shop, but founded by PE veterans and located in New York. This was great for recruiting, as I could go out for coffee chats during the internship when I wasn't on some urgent live deal - they made it clear they wouldn't be hiring me out of undergrad, so they were ridiculously understanding in letting me go do my thing. Can't even begin to express how thankful I am for my mentor there - if you watch Suits, it was pretty Harvey-Mike.

2. My contacts were from my own cold e-mails, my alumni database and my buyside stint, so they were a mix of everything, i.e. analysts to regional heads. I want to say associates are the most useful to know - larger say internally than an analyst, not too high up to respond to recruiting e-mails, and if you find the right associate (most involved in recruiting), you can land yourself a first-round through this one contact. From my personal experience, MDs are fun to chat with but unless you are personally connected, the most you'll get is a first round from them. What's most important, really, is the connection you have with the person and not the title they have.

Oct 2, 2014

Dotcross,I am currently in a similar situation that you had gone through. I had an informal "superday" with a specific group at a BB recently and am waiting to hear back. I wanted to ask if you the interview process for FT more/less difficult?

Oct 2, 2014

Hey h3dgehog - hmm I want to say more difficult (than SA), that's my personal opinion. Firstly, getting a first round is harder because it's dependent on headcount after SAs accept their offers. Secondly, especially during accelerated rounds, your competition all have had finance internships and most have attractive exploding offers. Thirdly, FT interviews in general are much harder on the technicals, because they don't get to test you out for one summer before hiring. (I got grilled on IRR mental math in one superday because I had PE on my resume.) And maybe fourthly - mentally it's harder because there's no other in route after FT - at least SAs have FT to fall back on worst comes to worst.

Hope you hear back soon with good news!!

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Oct 3, 2014

Based on your experience, do BBs typically apply for H1 in April of the year you start work (eg. for someone graduating in May 2014 and starting full-time in July/Aug 2014, they apply in April 2014) or do they want you to work for 1 year on OPT and use cap-gap to let you work until the following October when your H1 kicks in? Was the BB planning on applying for your H1 in April 2014? Is that how they found out that your work had to be related to your field of studies? Otherwise, I assume you would have started working in OPT and later found out about the 'field of studies' issue.

Oct 4, 2014

Hi firstup920 - Correct, when my previous offer fell through the application process was in April. However, because of my nationality I did not need an H-1B, it was a different work Visa. I didn't apply for OPT because (1) there was seemingly no need to, since my bank was willing to sponsor right away, and (2) the OPT also has the same prerequisites when it comes to major. With my current employer, they actually suggested that I work a year on OPT - they gave me the option to get sponsored right away, but being on the OPT means a slightly better tax structure (or so I've heard). Note that almost all banks outsource their Visa services to an immigration company, so I was actually in touch with the same immigration lawyers with my former and current employers.

***IMPORTANT NOTE***: A LOT of these Visa regulations are a VERY, VERY GREY AREA. For example, I've heard consistently that OPT doesn't care about your major, but that's not true and you don't realize it until you get to it. I've even heard of many precedent cases that intl. students in polisci/english/etc. are working in trading and banking, so it doesn't make sense that my own Visa application didn't come through. Furthermore, the only point of contact between you and USCIS is your bank and their legal team - just keep in mind that a lot of noise and fog can come between you and your bank. I was told my termination was a Visa issue, so I took it at face value (you can only take it at face value) and moved on to find whatever solution I could.

Oct 3, 2014

What was your major? Do you think political science would be considered too unrelated to IB?

Oct 4, 2014

Hi Glendale - PM-ing you my major. :) And like I mentioned to firstup920, it's a case-by-case basis when it comes to the student Visa. They look at not just your major, but also any minors/related coursework/work experience you have. There's no formula, and everything will be under the 'jurisdiction' of the employer.

Oct 4, 2014

Edit: nvm lawl

mbavsmfin:

I don't wear watches bro. Because it's always MBA BALLER time!

Oct 3, 2014

1. Were you mainly focused on IB during your interviewing and networking efforts or did you look into other jobs as well (e.g. other areas of finance, strategy consulting, corporate etc)?
2. If you did look into other jobs how much of your efforts were allocated into IB/ other jobs?

Thanks

Oct 4, 2014

Hi ggmanhax! Great question. For my third year summer, I applied everywhere - IB, ER, mgmt consulting, marketing etc. I even practised cases for consulting. By FT recruiting, however, I was 100% focused on IB. You could also apply to/recruit for other places as a back-up, but if you do want to do IB it has to be your clear first priority with networking efforts.

Oct 4, 2014

Congrats again on the position. With one year left in school, what do you think of holding an internship next summer within IB and then looking for positions after that?

Oct 6, 2014

Hi joben! If you have an internship already, that's great but you should only consider taking it if you don't have FT offers in finance (Note: Finance, and not just IB. ER analysts could still get into IB one year in, for example.) If you don't have an internship already, it may not be the wisest decision to put your recruiting efforts in that basket. You will be compared to the juniors vying for the same position, and you would be off-cycle by one whole year. For an SA position they have no special incentive to take you over any of them; your best bet would be finding a FT position with another financial services firm. If you're still interested in IB one year out, you could ping recruiters again for opportunities (though you may have to "lose" one year and start out in IB as a first-year analyst).

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Oct 5, 2014

Congrats on the job...sounds like you worked quite hard to get your foot in the door and it clearly paid off! Must have been a terrible feeling having that job offer retracted. Going back to school in order to achieve your goal is very admirable, as kids these days often choose the lazy route and fail to realize the benefit of continuing their education while keeping their eyes on the prize,

What were some of the more difficult interview questions you received during the recruiting process?

Oct 6, 2014

Hi BIGGUY - Thanks! Hmm, I haven't had any curveball questions, though my hardest technical questions were related to the PE internship I had on the resume - I was grilled at one superday on IRR mental maths. Some other technicals were multi-step, but when broken down they were all pretty straightforward and what you'd expect after reading Vault/the WSO guide. Additionally, though, I had to address during every interview why I was recruiting again, so that was a pretty sensitive topic (I have to tread lightly when I mention my ex-employer). Thankfully people were understanding though!

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Oct 15, 2014

what's top boutique in NY? You mean one of the elite boutiques? What industry or group (M&A vs Restructuring) are you going to join?

Oct 17, 2014

Yep, I meant one of the top-tier boutiques, in their NY office. It's a generalist offer and I don't have to decide on groups until a month in... although I'm leaning towards TMT/LevFin.

Oct 23, 2014

Thanks for answering our questions! For full-time do you usually get a generalist offer or a group specific offer? Do you have any idea on how the offers are at other banks?
Thanks a lot.

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