What do you think gave you an edge over the other applicants?

Group Therapy's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 595

I recently received a question from a young monkey looking for a SA position. They asked, "what do you think gave you an edge over the other applicants when you interviewed for your current position?" Below is my response, but I am curious to see what other monkeys would have said. What is your edge?

Persistence in Networking for IBD

Personally, it was my drive that set me apart. You have to want it so bad that you do everything in your power to get the job. This includes contacting people at that company for informational interviews, studying that company (deal flow, big news, management, ect.), knowing as much as you can about the position and simply getting in front of people. It is very likely that you are at least a 3rd degree of separation from someone at that firm. Most people do what I listed above, but where people go wrong is that they don't follow through. Once someone at the company doesn't respond to an email or says sorry there is no position at this time, they quit. If you are serious about working there, don't quit.

Stay in contact with them; ask to talk to other people at the company. That is the drive, that is the hunger. I can't tell you how many times I have been told no at first, but I stayed in contact and people realized that I was genuinely interested in working there. Stay in front of people. If they actually like you, they will help you. If you look like you are just interested in a job and don't care about anything else, they won't care what happens to you...be real, be personable, stay in front of people. I did this and those people pulled for me big time in the interviewing process.

Be Prepared to Explain Why Investment Banking?

Another key factor are great stories, you must have great stories of why ibanking or why their company or why this position. This story has to get the attention of the person interviewing you. They talk to tons of people, find a way to stand out from the crowd. I'll usually mention my story of being a first generation college graduate and that when I was 8 years old I met a finance industry CEO who gave me a financial calculator and became my mentor/reason for getting into finance. People are usually interested in one of those stories and I go into greater detail. You have to make them remember you.

Humility is Key in the Interview Process

Last, but not least, stay humble. No one wants to work with someone that thinks they are god's gift to the world. It always surprises me when I interview someone and they are super cocky/arrogant, they never get the job. You are a first year analyst or a summer analyst, act like one. A lot of kids come walking in the interview like they are the next Jamie Dimon, great if you think that, but if I don't think you will be easy to work with then you won't stand a chance.

Learn more about the importance of networking in the video below.

Read More About Recruiting on WSO

Preparing for Investment Banking Interviews?

The WSO investment banking interview course is designed by countless professionals with real world experience, tailored to people aspiring to break into the industry. This guide will help you learn how to answer these questions and many, many more.

Investment Banking Interview Course Here

Comments (46)

Oct 22, 2014

Nice! SB!

"I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature."

Best Response
Oct 22, 2014

I feel that you don't need to be really special to go through the interview process successfully. It's just a matter of not making mistakes. There are only a few things that you need to do:

-Know some reasonable teamwork stories and a reasonable why IBD and why company x story. Don't use that fast paced/ International exposure crap that everyone uses and could be applicable to so many different industries. It should be very specific to finance and m&a in particular.
-Know your technicals cold, you should be able to answer any technical question that they could give you without having to think for a second. You wouldn't believe how many people can't answer a simple accretion/dilution question or some LBO/DCF/valuation question. If you are set on IBD, it's really not much of an effort to just understand the whole Rosenbaum book and WSO guide PERFECTLY. When you are the only interviewee that could answer the harder questions, your chances of proceeding are very high.
-be normal, polite, professional, not socially awkward.

There really are not many people that tick these three boxes, focus on them and you'll be fine.

    • 5
Oct 22, 2014

Couldn't agree more with you OP

I was asked why you over any other candidates in an interview one time - I told the interviewer that he could rip my resume blank and just leave my name and the words "work ethic". Think that's why I got the job.

    • 3
Oct 22, 2014

Couldn't agree more with you OP

I was asked why you over any other candidates in an interview one time - I told the interviewer that he could rip my resume blank and just leave my name and the words "work ethic". Think that's why I got the job.

Oct 22, 2014

My Irish Catholic sense of guilt that fuels a martyr complex, demonstrated through my taking perverse pleasure in relentless, soul-crushing work above and beyond normal human limits.

    • 3
Oct 22, 2014

Knowing more people

Oct 22, 2014

My last name

    • 1
Oct 24, 2014

Which is?

Oct 22, 2014

Dang that sounds roughly familiar, I'll tell you what I have never given out a SB up to this point. Cheers!

Oct 22, 2014
Banquero:

Dang that sounds roughly familiar, I'll tell you what I have never given out a SB up to this point. Cheers!

Props to Banquero for the question

Oct 22, 2014

Knowing my technicals inside and out, connecting with the interviewers and having rock solid stories for why IB and especially why my bank.

In another (S&T) interview, honesty got me the offer - I was asked some questions about trading and honestly said I didn't know much about it and was more interested in and suited to sales but was willing and eager to learn about trading as well. Interviewers liked my honesty and because the rest of my application was solid (work experience, school, etc) I got that offer.

Oct 22, 2014

You sound like someone who just gave me advice. I think the key thing to stand is be personable and relatable, which you can show through well-thought out stories that are insightful into who you are as person and are entertaining.

Robert Clayton Dean: What is happening?
Brill: I blew up the building.
Robert Clayton Dean: Why?
Brill: Because you made a phone call.

Oct 22, 2014

LUCK.

There is far too much one cannot control in any process. People can really like you and then some MD can drop some kid they know (like a neighbor or some friend's kid) into the process. Guess who often gets the job?

Of course all the other stuff is very important, drive, following up, being hungry, knowing technicals, blah blah blah. One thing we (including I) always do not realize is the critical element of luck in so many things.

To all of you:

Good Luck

    • 1
Oct 23, 2014

Totally agree its all luck.

That said, you have to create you own luck so when the situation happens you are ready to convert. As stated above: knowing your story cold, technicals cold, networking, grades, internships, etc. Position yourself to get lucky.

Most people that "make it" regardless of industry love to think its all on what they did, how hard they worked, etc. Hard work and being smart are baseline. Lots of people do all of the above and still strike out. It's about getting back on path and making sure you are working hard enough so hopefully if lady luck knocks on your door you're ready to answer.

Oct 24, 2014
Jamoldo:

LUCK.

There is far too much one cannot control in any process. People can really like you and then some MD can drop some kid they know (like a neighbor or some friend's kid) into the process. Guess who often gets the job?

Of course all the other stuff is very important, drive, following up, being hungry, knowing technicals, blah blah blah. One thing we (including I) always do not realize is the critical element of luck in so many things.

To all of you:

Good Luck

Exactly!!

Unless you know someone (VP,MD) you are going to have similar drive and the same qualifications of everybody else. So the difference can come down to whether one of the people interviewing you is having a bad day, doesn't like the tie you wore, or they haven't had good interactions with people coming from your school/firm etc. This is just to say it is random in some cases. Do everything you can possibly do to prepare, be likeable in the interview and pray the odds are in your favor.

Oct 23, 2014

I think being generally honest. I always hear guys asking "whats a good answer to xyz." My first round was a phone interview with a recruiter but for second round I had a couple associates and a vp. At that level guys can see through even the thickest pile of bullshit. Being upfront about your intentions, interests, reservations etc. is the best move.

Oct 23, 2014

being Asian.

Oct 23, 2014

During my studies I have always been very active in extracurricular activities (i.e. organising events, parties etc.). Due to this I was always in the position to recruit the NEXT team. As a result, I had interviewed about 50 to 100 people myself before going into interviews for IBD.

Sitting at the other side of the table definitely gave me a great overview: (i) what puts interviewers off (ii) how interviewers feel about doing 10+ of them in a day (note, it sucks) (iii) interviewees always bullshit. Simply put, I took pieces and bits from every great interviews and made a checklist of shit I definitely should not be doing.

In the end I had a 100% offer rate from firms which invited me for first round interviews (including two of GS/MS/JP).

DYEL

Oct 24, 2014
Waving Wind:

During my studies I have always been very active in extracurricular activities (i.e. organising events, parties etc.). Due to this I was always in the position to recruit the NEXT team. As a result, I had interviewed about 50 to 100 people myself before going into interviews for IBD.

Sitting at the other side of the table definitely gave me a great overview: (i) what puts interviewers off (ii) how interviewers feel about doing 10+ of them in a day (note, it sucks) (iii) interviewees always bullshit. Simply put, I took pieces and bits from every great interviews and made a checklist of shit I definitely should not be doing.

In the end I had a 100% offer rate from firms which invited me for first round interviews (including two of GS/MS/JP).

Can you share some of what you learned? Or post that checklist of yours?

Oct 25, 2014

Hi, would you like to share a bit of your interview experience? Thank you!

Oct 23, 2014

I have to echo the OP on drive and persistence, at least getting the first internship which led to my first FT job. I probably reached out to 300+ people with individual, tailored emails trying to build a network and land a summr spot. Although I came from a target, it definitely wasn't my grades (sub 3.0 GPA) that set me apart; at least not for positive reasons...

In fact, persistence and networking also helped me land a lateral at a BB and two buyside gigs since. Never got anything through a headhunter or formal process.

Oct 23, 2014

Your post is clearly above and beyond. Thank you - very informative.

Oct 23, 2014

Your post is clearly above and beyond. Thank you - very informative.

Oct 23, 2014

If you think it's all luck then why even try?

Opstar lifestyle, might not make it

Oct 23, 2014

Position yourself to get lucky. Its not pure luck. You need do check the boxes and then get lucky to top it off.

In my opinion, not acknowledging luck is highly arrogant and insulting to the kids that give it their all and do all the right things and don't get offers.

Oct 23, 2014
Jamin:

If you think it's all luck then why even try?

Luck puts opportunities in front of you. Preparation and hard work enables you to seize them.

Oct 23, 2014

" I am a strong believer in luck and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."

Benjamin Franklin

Oct 24, 2014

Just being down to earth and relatable. I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't the smartest or most qualified applicant, but I was able to hold a conversation and actually connect with my interviewer on a deeper level. At the end of the day, if people can't stand to be around you, they won't hire you - no matter how smart you are.

Next stop: Flavortown!

Oct 24, 2014

Just recently got a BB SA offer from a complete nontarget so I'll shed some light.

Having a great story for tell me about yourself

Have a great story for why IB

Have a great story for why that bank. A good thing to do is look at the bank's values and pick a few that stand out to you and explain why they're important and explain why that bank and not any other bank.

Having a few decent stories that you can plug for the fit questions, such as stories about quantitative work, biggest weakness/greatest strengths/leadership situation, etc.

Make sure you dont just memorize these answers, or any, word for word. It has to be natural. This is CRUCIAL.

Know the markets, be able to explain whats been going on for the past 2 weeks.

Have a stock pitch.

Be able to talk about a recent deal.

Have good followup questions to ask every interviewer.

Know your technicals. It's not rocket science.

Dont be awkward.

Good luck!

    • 1
Oct 25, 2014

Why have a stock pitch for IBD?

Oct 25, 2014

It's a common question I was asked multiple times during my ibd recruiting. If you think about it it kind of makes sense too because it shows you're interested and IBD is a lot more about knowing a company inside/out than S&T, at least from my understanding.

Oct 24, 2014

awesome post!

Feb 7, 2015

delete

Oct 25, 2014

Hey OP and I guess everyone in this thread as well,

Can you give some advice on how you stay in contact and maintain relationships with the people that you have network with? I'm a bit short on ideas when it comes to this apart from sending out greetings during birthdays and Christmas/New Year.

Oct 25, 2014

SB!!

Oct 25, 2014

SB!!

Oct 25, 2014

SB!!

Oct 25, 2014

Instant SB after I read the first paragraph. Thanks for another great post for young monkeys and hope you're doing well in Chi-town.

Oct 27, 2014

During my SA stint (AM fund) I saw the resumes of all 175 applicants who wanted the job, what stood out the most is that they all looked the same on paper. Many had better grades or went to better schools than me but from reading their resumes and cover letters it became apparent very few of them were fluent in what the job necessitated or how to spin their experience. I'm pretty sure only one or two were WSO members if I had to guess... Maybe the MD just liked my face.

Oct 27, 2014

I personally found that my biggest edge was reading every single day. Reading over sources like the WSJ, the economist, seeking alpha really helped to make me fluent on current events and sound informed when answering questions on the market (i.e your discussion on market expectations of the fed sounds a lot more legit if you use a term like "behind the curve")

As someone interviewing for PWM, I understand that ib interviews will have a much larger technical component but I would assume that demonstrating a true passion for markets by being incredibly informed on current market phenomena is a invaluable way to distinguish oneself for any market-facing position in finance. Technical chops are important, but proving you are genuinely interested in the markets is a great way to separate oneself from all the former engineers who realized they could do interview technicals in their sleep and pursued an IB job without truly being interested in the markets!

Oct 27, 2014

The ability to carry on a conversation in a casual interview setting

Oct 28, 2014

this is great to read for me. thanks a lot!

Oct 31, 2014

I think one thing that really helps with getting SA spots is showing genuine dedicated interest. Its funny how everyone says "I want to work here," but nobody says "I want a career here."

Telling a person that you would happily work at a place forever sounds especially differentiating to me. Not this "I really want to work for you, use your training opps, then get out."

Food for thought.

Oct 31, 2014
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Dec 15, 2014