Why can't I break into Investment Banking? Failed all my interviews!

Hi guys,

This is the first time that I write a message like that but I hope that I will have your advice.
First sorry if my english is not perfect, I am not a native english speaker.
I come from a target school in Europe in Finance (Top 3) and graduated with a master 2 in Finance last year. It makes 2 years that I try to join Investment banking or M&A boutiques and never succeeded to have an offer even from the smallest one!
The thing is the recruiters always hire people from my school and my classmates all managed to join Investment Banking or leading advisory boutiques except me.

  • I had more than 15 interviews for internships in Investment banking (in the last 2 years) for almost all the banks and always got rejected : 4 times for summer internships in bulge bracket banks, 2 times for a full time job in M&A and 10 times for internships...
    -I did an internship in internal M&A in a top 5 European company, my internship went very well and got a very good recommendation letter! However at the end, the head of M&A who was a previous director in one of the world's top bank in NYC told me that I will never get a job in Investment banking because my personality just doesn't fit. According to him "I am immature, like a 15 year old girl who wants to join IB", "I am too nice", "I care too much about the people" and I am not "shark" enough.
  • After this internship, I accepted a full time job in audit despite the fact that I hate it and I will resign soon (after less than a year).
  • I networked a lot and I also became friend with an associate in a big bank in London (whom I worked with). He tried to help me get in but there was no vacancy. It seems like this guy likes me for who I am and as a friend but doesn't see me as a "potential candidate".

I am quite desperate. It makes two years that I work A LOT to join Investment banking (did a prep school for investment banking interviews that was very expensive + paid for mock interviews, gonna meet soon associates for coffees), work a lot on my technical skills but I am still rejected..
It is still a dream for me to join IB and this is not for the money. I am sure I will enjoy the work and I have the endurance.

Do you think that I should give up?

Thanks guys for your answers.

Comments (22)

Aug 1, 2017

Dont give up Claudia, not everyone will break into investment banking, but use defeat as your fuel to become stronger in your future interviews. Personality is a big thing in the work place. Dont act like a girl in high school, act like a finance professional, you have to be strong and stern with confidence, dont be afraid to assert your opinion, etc. In banking people will use you like meat if you're weak or take you as a fuel. If you do think you're great in the interviewing process just work on your personality. Dont smile to much that's really weird.

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Aug 1, 2017

Thank you very much.. Do you think that some people just CANT break into investment banking? Because of personality fit? I usually never give up but got so many rejections from all big companies (UBS, GS, CS, HSBC, Societe Generale, HSBC, Barclays, Evercore, BAML, Citi, BNP P, DB...). Maybe does it mean that I should give up?
It would be great if someone could share his experience if you've been through the same things!

Aug 1, 2017

Yes, some people ABSOLUTELY cannot break in due to fit. However, you dont seem like one of those people. They're usually arrogant, entitled, rude, or just not personable. Asking the firms who rejected you if it was based solely on fit would be wise, then they can answer without putting themselves in too much hot water. It is risky for firms to provide info on why a candidate wasnt selected, so tread lightly here.

Aug 1, 2017

Yes, no you should not give up I suggest you should start applying to Lower Middle Market firms and or boutiques so you can slowly build up and hone your skillset. Only applying to Bulge Bracket banks is not a smart choice you should diversify where your applying to because BBs are very competitive.

Aug 1, 2017

It would be hard to do, but I would reccomend reaching out to all the places you were rejected from, and asking politely why they chose to go with another candidate. You sound beyond qualified, and have done a ton of work in preparation. Look for a mentor within the industry, do not stop reaching out to people. I typically state that I am just looking for advice when cold emailing people, and then I go through my background and my plans for the future. At this point, they either offer general cliche advice, or they go out of their way to help me and will connect me with someone or give me honest feedback (not the same generic BS people spew when they dont want to talk to you further). I think you are plenty qualified, maybe it could be your english holding you back? Have you looked into banks operating in the country of your native tongue? Im sorry your situation is difficult and challenging

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Aug 1, 2017

Thank you very much for your answer! I asked for feedbacks to all the firms which rejected me and most of them didn't answer... The others just said that "I should be more structured in my answers" or "be more professional" or that "They preferred another candidate". I worked on that afterwards.. As I am stressed during interviews, I also take a pill against stress before the interview!
I have a mentor in the industry who gives me advice but I don't want to disturb him and I got advices from many professionals in more than 2 years so for the moment I don't need more.
I studied in english so my english is quite good orally. My classmates all got a job in IB in London and some of them have a worse english than mine.. I did not have many interviews in France (my country) as it is easier to have a full time job as an analyst in the UK. But I will apply in France too.

Aug 1, 2017

Uh, what kind of pill are you taking against stress? That may have something to do with it

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Aug 1, 2017

Candidly, the fact that they are saying be more professional and structured is concerning. However, it means youre almost there. I would try and practice interview questions with friends and family, really anyone who will listen. Over preparation will help alleviate some of the stress. I understand how you feel going into each interview, and how nerve-racking it can be. Sometimes, I just remind myself that even if my mind goes blank or I say the absolute wrong thing, its just an interview. There were more before, and there will be more after. Sometimes this helps, sometimes it doesn't. Happy to help or address other issues if you like.

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Aug 1, 2017

Completely different background but I can understand your frustration.

You can only focus on improving the things under your control.

I once got an interview at a megafund everyone seems to obsess over; the same week I got rejected without interviews at places where people dream of a move to this same megafund.

Ultimately I didn't get an offer there but it was a tremendous motivation that someone saw my background and chanced me for an interview at such a venerable firm.

If you are getting these interviews just know that most groups' first year analyst classes each get around 15,000 applications nationwide in the U.S. alone, the success rate is around 2% for most firms. If you look at the numbers, the success rate for new associates isn't always better, it tends to be between 2-3.5% for most years.

As an MSF candidate you have only had 2 FT interviews, and an unclear number of internship interviews for unclear levels of seniority. Unless these were all masters internships that tells me you need to focus on FT applications more because your approach there is the problem.

If these were masters level internship interviews maybe your problem lies in you as a candidate and not your approach. If you think this is the case I think the path of least resistance is to hire a recruitment firm who can coach you on interview mistakes you may be making.

FWIW with your background I would hope the problem isn't in the area of technicals, consider investing your additional time elsewhere.

Aug 1, 2017

Hi guys,

Thank you for you answers
@margin_caller1" , that's only beta blockers it helps against anxiety. I usually do not take it and all the interviews I failed were without this medicine. I took it afterwards and failed only one interview (it helped).
@FinanceBrah I know that it is a chance to get interviews but I also worked a lot to get there and joined one of the top schools in Europe. However getting interviews is not an accompalishment, the most important is to succeed them.
I already hired a recuitment firm 2 times! The first time was with an investment banking prep school and the second time was with a recuitment firm. I still failed interviews after that..

Could you please explain me how do you prepare inteviews? What are your approachs and how long do you prepare it?
I usually prepare A LOT like 20 hours minimum and prepare orally the fit questions and the technical questions.

Aug 1, 2017

If you went to a Top 3 school why haven't you gotten help there?

Unfortunately I can't think of one prep school that is worth it, you can't do anything about that now anyway.

A good recruitment firm should be willing to coach you before your interview because they earn their commission based on successful hires. Look for a better one and be weary of anyone asking for money to get you a job.

You have only had 2 of what I would consider real interviews.

Target your search for FT opportunities and when you fail 13 times there then maybe you have something to think about.

I think you are failing your interviews based on fit, the only way to overcome that is to practice more.

Aug 2, 2017

I am guessing you read like the interview guides? Then maybe it's just how you say the answers? Maybe give us some examples of like...why banking? Why our firm? Most proud achievement?

Aug 2, 2017

Do you still have the drive to keep going? If so keep pushing.

Maybe after interviews take notes and jot down how you answered questions. Maybe your answers aren't concise. Or you ramble on. Or you go off on a tangent.

I hope you get in!

Aug 2, 2017

If you've been preparing for interviews/technicals then knowledge shouldn't be an issue. (Don't lie to yourself)

The issue is probably how you conduct yourself interviews or interactions. Be confident! Confidence emphasizes your knowledge and lets people know that you believe everything you say. Be professional and confident in how you conduct yourself and you'll be fine.

Aug 1, 2017

Hi guys thank you very much for all your answers ! It helps a lot

First questions to all: could you please tell me how you prepare interviews and for how long?

@FinanceBrah I got help in my business school... I practiced many times for mock interviews with my career counsellor but I kept failing interviews afterwards! I think that I am ok technically I worked so much on it but the major problem is the fit. Could you please tell me what do you mean about FT opportunities? What does FT mean?

@GuiltyVeek Yes I read the interview guide and all guides I could find. I watched so many videos and read everything I could find! I will send you a private message with my answers to those questions (don't want to post it online as it is my common answers for interviews). It will help if you could tell me what you think about those answers!
I am 25 now and I still have the drive to push it! I work in audit and I will resign very soon so I need to find a job for next january.

Aug 2, 2017

FT = full time

Aug 1, 2017

Also second question: Could you recommend me a recruiting firm which can help me?

Aug 2, 2017

I mean I prepare more maybe on specifics of why I'm looking at their firm. Firm on tech? Well what area of tech I like or keep up on and one tech stock I would choose. What tech deals has their firm done that's recent.

I don't do a lot of well your firm has done many transactions with this amount this year. What's one transaction your firm did that I was interested in and I read up on?

But I mean this is me. So that may not be you. But clearly I think with you taking stress pills, you're maybe fidgety when you talk. Your answers go off on a tangent in a way. Your answers don't really move in like a straight line of progression so to speak. So that may be one part of structure your answers.

Aug 1, 2017

Thank you very much for your answer @GuiltyVeek
Thank you all guys, I will take all you advices in consideration !

Oct 12, 2017

Let us know how it goes and don't give up!

I have been trying for two years. In the first year, my technicals weren't polished enough. This year, I'm already employed under a Tier 2 Visa and most firms already stopped sponsoring candidates who can easily switch to Tier 2, let alone someone like me who will be very difficult to sponsor. I failed a few interviews already because of lack of practice or just nerves or maybe they realise they can't sponsor me. I don't know. I'm gonna try again next year if I fail this year. You'll get there!

Aug 5, 2017
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Aug 6, 2018