Why do people think it's difficult to break into banking?

banking45's picture
Rank: Monkey | 36

I don't know why people think banking is so difficult to break into and that you should be thankful for having a job at any banking firm.

The interviews are by no means difficult. All you have to do is take a finance class to understand basic concepts and then read the vault guide on banking and ibanking oriented websites like WSO. If you are really worried about technical questions, you can read the scoopbooks on investment banking and you'll be doubly prepared for all the technical questions they usually throw at you. Plus there are a ton of guides out there to help you out. From personal experience, I think fit and having enthusiasm is way more important than being able to answer technical questions.

Landing an interview isn't that hard either. If you're still in college, it's not hard to land an internship interview at a BB as long as you have good grades, decent extracurriculars, and one or two work experiences. Your extracurricular and work experiences don't even need to be anywhere near prestigious, all they want to see is initiative. If you do get a SA internship than it's pretty much smooth sailing, even if you go back and recruit for other firms.

People often point to the state of the economy as a reason, but recruiting this fall was way better than in Fall 2008. Fall 2008 was bad, but this year a good number of BB, MM, and boutique firms were hiring pretty aggressively given improving market conditions and anticipation of an economic turnaround/upswing in activity. Sure they banks are hiring less than before but it really doesn't feel that much harder as in say a depression.

When people say I know of x grad from some good school who couldn't get a job, I'm actually very surprised because all the well qualified people at targets and non-targets that I know of have lined up good gigs. I remember talking to my Wharton friend and he says everyone there who wants a banking job can get one and didn't think it was a big deal getting top tier firms like MS/GS.

Comments (33)

Dec 23, 2009

Most college kids don't go on WSO or pay money for guides or any of that stuff, even at targets. I can't speak for Wharton but many targets and lower Ivies have kids who don't get interviews despite good experirence and good GPA. It not "hard" for those who make it, but a bit random since I had friends who got 0 interviews since the same kids apply to every single IBD job.

Also its comparative. What other job industry straight out of college requires you to research, buy guides, and network as hard? Not even MBB, who hires hundreds and for different roles and the case studies are much easier in my opinion. I guess the only "hard" ones are tech intensive Google programming type of jobs, which are pretty focused already and no Google person I know ever had to buy a "programming guide" in order to land the job, nor network with Google employees by sending emails, meeting over coffee, etc.

Go buy the WSO guide (shameless plug) but read over the stories. The kids are all very smart and talented with 1500/1600 SAT's and high gpa's and target schools and a majority of them started out at boutiques and then lateralled or stayed an extra year to get the offer. Its very easy to understand that the unlucky ones get shut out.

Dec 23, 2009

Not everyone goes to Wharton..

Dec 24, 2009

^zykke
haha Wharton does open alot of doors. But he is still missing the point completely.

Banking is all about the relationships you build, and it is a sales gig in general. They don't hire necessarily the smartest and the brightest, they hire the ones they like the most, which entails a great fit with the firm and a great personality.

They select from these target schools so they can find the smart and hard working ones, but to land the jobs, its easier said than done. you have to fit and be able to build relationships, and this is a skill which is much harder to learn. High GPA will not save you.

Dec 24, 2009

People think it is hard because in general, people go through more interviews, more intense interviews, network more, do more research, and are more prepared for banking interviews than any other industry that recruits undergraduates. While it's true that breaking into banking is not as difficult as winning a nobel peace prize, it is harder to get an entry level job than any other industry that my friends are applying to.

Dec 24, 2009

Ivies like Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale have high ratios at BB's. Wharton just has lots of kids in finance due to sheer numbers. If you look at the number of kids who want to do finance at ivies and those who get interviews / jobs - its higher at the other ivies

Dec 24, 2009

In my experience, people who say banking is difficult to break into aren't necessarily referring to the interview/hiring process; S&T interviews, for example, are known to be infinitely more difficult than banking interviews. The "difficulty" refers more to the fact that there is typically a huge surplus of aspiring undergrad analysts relative to the actual number of offers ultimately given out. Essentially it's only hard on a numbers basis. At least, this was my experience coming from a non-Ivy target business school.

Dec 24, 2009

Banking is difficult to break into since competition is great.

Dec 24, 2009

I completely agree - breaking into banking is not relatively difficult. In fact, I would estimate that at least 2 times as many banking jobs were offered at my school than consulting/marketing/accounting jobs combined... All of my close friends have full time job offers right now. 3 are to consulting, about 12 or so are to banking.

One thing making a banking job relatively easier to get is that there are a lot of good firms (BB/MM and many boutiques) you can work for as opposed to consulting/acct/mkt where there are relatively fewer "good" firms

I agree with the post above saying that its hard, overall, on a numbers basis (a lot of initial applicants,but not enough spots). But the fact of the matter is 75% of undergraduate applicants have no idea what investment banking is (especially with internship recruiting), of those remaining, very few can explain what WACC is. Seriously.... you just need to know the very basics while being personable and show an interest in finance. This isn't enough to gurantee you a spot, but if you are able to land a few interviews the chances are very good you will end up with something

Dec 24, 2009

As someone who use to screen resumes at a top-tier MM bank, I can tell you that the bar is quite high. I've thrown out resumes of students with 4.0 GPAs before -- not even granting them 1st round phone screens. In fact, out of all the resume I've screened (multiple hundred), I've probably only granted 10-15 phone interviews.

So -- I would argue that it is incredibly difficult to break into banking (on a relative basis). Saying "you and all your friends" got jobs in banking is really a poor sample of applicants. People tend to associate themselves with similar folks that share the same common interests. So if your friends are all the kids you met the 1st week at your campus's honors student meet and greet, i'd say you need to expand your test group.

It is true that a lot of people brought into interviews don't know the first thing about investment banking. Unfortunately, at that point it is too late for those who didn't make it past the resume cut. They may have memorized all the finance books in the world, but if they can't land the interview, tough luck.

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Dec 24, 2009

Its because these kids live in a vacuum.

To the OP and kids agreeing with him, you're absolutely right. If you're graduating in the top 10% from one of the hardest schools in the country to get into, are well versed in the financial markets, know how to play the interview game, have interned on wall street and have a semi-sociable personality, with all those things being a given, you're absolutely correct, banking isn't that hard to get into.

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Dec 24, 2009

Right, if you are perfect and have the exact credentials, nothing is really too hard...

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Dec 24, 2009

Y'all are stupid. banking and PE are very easy to get into. My friend at morgan stanley m&a says all his colleagues working there very easily got into blackstone, etc. i don't know what the big fuss is about

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Apr 24, 2019

HAHAHAHAHA MAN

Dec 24, 2009

You do know people pay 100k-150k to attend top MBAs for the possibility of switching into banking, right? And not even all of them get in? It says a lot that people are willing to shell out that kind of money for the possibility to change directions in their career.

Dec 24, 2009

banking is hard to get into compared to other jobs except teach for america, consulting and PE, but it pales in comparison to getting a marshall/truman scholar, a good med school, a good law school, or a good grad school period. The average GPA for harvard med or yale law is probably a 3.8-3.9 and most who apply dont get in; not even goldman has requirements like that

Dec 24, 2009
gimmeshelter43:

banking is hard to get into compared to other jobs except teach for america, consulting and PE, but it pales in comparison to getting a marshall/truman scholar, a good med school, a good law school, or a good grad school period. The average GPA for harvard med or yale law is probably a 3.8-3.9 and most who apply dont get in; not even goldman has requirements like that

Tough to compare things like TFA / Law School / Etc...TFA's minimum GPA requirement is 2.50. Tons of kids who have no idea what they want to do / can't get other jobs / can't get into "good" Law or Med Schools apply to the program, inflating the #s a bit. The OP is obviously a troll, I'm not sure why everyone above is letting him win.

Dec 24, 2009

I understand that not everyone can get into banking because of competition and that the subset of people that I interact with might all have great credentials, so I could be very wrong about this.

I just feel the whole recruiting process is a crapshoot and to a certain degree your credentials matter, but networking and just having a good personality helps a ton more in landing the interview and moving on to the next round. As mentioned by posters above, those with the "best" credentials like 4.0 GPAs don't always get interviews.

I definitely know students with less than stellar credentials break in because they were an excellent fit for the company and it was like a breeze for them. I know of one student who knew all the technicals down to the last detail, but had a difficult time moving on to Superdays.

I'm just saying it's not as hard as its cracked out to be, maybe even hyped up.

Dec 24, 2009
banking45:

I understand that not everyone can get into banking because of competition and that the subset of people that I interact with might all have great credentials, so I could be very wrong about this.

I just feel the whole recruiting process is a crapshoot and to a certain degree your credentials matter, but networking and just having a good personality helps a ton more in landing the interview and moving on to the next round. As mentioned by posters above, those with the "best" credentials like 4.0 GPAs don't always get interviews.

I definitely know students with less than stellar credentials break in because they were an excellent fit for the company and it was like a breeze for them. I know of one student who knew all the technicals down to the last detail, but had a difficult time moving on to Superdays.

I'm just saying it's not as hard as its cracked out to be, maybe even hyped up.

IMO, that's a fairer assessment of the process. Many of the people with "top" credentials aren't normal human beings. They are either geeky, weird, unsocial, or too pretentious (though some very pretentious people break in!). Just because someone has a stellar resume and is 10x smarter than me, I don't want to sit by them / work with them for 100hrs/week.

Dec 24, 2009

The reason that it is so hard is because a) not everyone goes on WSO like we do, b) interviews are significantly harder/more intense than other job interviews, and c) there are so many factors that you need to be above average (if not stellar at). You really need to show a strong work ethic, knowledge of the industry, and a likable personality.

Dec 24, 2009

I tend to agree with the OP - at my school, people who were interested in finance (much less so consulting) and failed to get an internship/job tended to be the exception. Also, every single one of my pre-med friends had higher GPAs than my friends who went into finance.

Dec 24, 2009

what are we saying. banking is easier than med school?
banker are you even a banker? I tend to think if your at a target, and you work hard, any of these options will be available to you.

Dec 24, 2009

Come on guys...this entire thread rests on the concept that the word "difficult" is obviously relative.

In comparison to some occupations/graduate schools, banking may look easy to get into (Harvard Med, Rhodes Scholar, the NBA), but comparing it to the majority of things people can do with their lives it looks f'in hard.

Most of my friends can't even find a job at The Gap these days and are utterly amazed that I will almost surely be pulling in six figures next year. To them, the possibility of working in banking seems lightyears away.

Even people at top-targets have hard times breaking into banking because they didn't start focusing in on it right away. I, on the other hand, quickly started concentrating on a curriculum that would prepare me well, got internships in finance after my sophomore year, bought interview guides, incessantly read the WSJ/watched CNBC, and spent plenty of time on WSO (which has helped tremendously btw). The average person at a target doesn't event think to do this until a month before OCR begins...and by this time it's usually too late. With other business professions, this isn't necessarily the case.

There is no such thing as an easy investment banking job to get...If I wanted to work in advertising, yes there are the big firms in NYC, but I could also probably find a crappy job at some crappy agency doing who knows what. These types of jobs don't really exist in banking (albeit exceptions made for lean regional firms that rarely hire anyway).

Honestly, let's do an experiment. Find a "random" kid that goes to University of Nevada (who are getting crushed by SMU right now btw) or similar school and tell him that you will give him a quarter of a million dollars if he can work IBD for a BB after he graduates. $250,000 he doesn't get the job.

The end.

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Best Response
Dec 24, 2009

^^ no offense but you spent 1/2 your post tooting your own horn ...

and while its commendable that some people spend so much time focusing of finance, many people choose to focus on a well-rounded liberal arts education and then interview and get IB jobs ... in fact - I know of countless Art History / Government / History / English majors who get IB / HF offers ...

The core values that IBs look for are similar to everything else, its a dedication to hard work and demonstrated ability to excel in whatever environment which can be demonstrated through multiple mediums

To clear things up

1) I don't think IB is the end of the world as some people here make it out to be
2) I don't think IB is "easy" to break into
3) The difficulty in acquiring a job / position should not reflect on its inherent value (which is why I find the comparision to TFA, Rhodes etc kinda assinine) ... p.s - some of those Rhodes scholars are the most socially awkward kids who will never make it past 1st round ... and some IB interns arn't the brightest bulbs ...
4) This whole talk of target / non-target needs to effing stop. All of you kids need to stop acting like going to a target is some god-given license to look down onothers
a) Not all targets are made equal ... some banks target lots of top 30 schools ... some target top 10 ... some target mostly ivies ... some do no ivies (except wharton)
b) I've met tons of super smart, qualified and great people from non-targets ... I can't say the same for some "target kids"

At the end of the day ... it's a job folks ... and the keys to success are the same. You think it's THAT easy to get a job say as a programmer at google? It just seems harder to us because we have experienced lots of this first hand.

And another thing - alot of this as well as any other job ... is just luck

Before you flame me, full disclosure: Ivy "Target", Top 3 BB

Thanks

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Dec 24, 2009

^you are in ECM and in HK, that alone should prove its hard to break into IBD, not even this ivy target kid can do it.

a lot of top kids i know can't break into IBD and do stuff like sales or capital markets or back office or consulting at monitor and there are a good mix of state school kids and whatnot, or just regular business analyst roles at coca cola or target or walmart or something.

Dec 25, 2009

Really was getting tired of ECM/Sales/HK bashing, but that was funny.

Dec 25, 2009

Even a broken clock is right two times a day. Congrats for a chuckle here, won't toss a banana though but nicely done nevertheless.

Apr 21, 2019

Note: this post is going to sound spiteful and sarcastic- but it really isn't. I'm merely attempting to pose a mental experiment with imaginary examples to prove a point.

Easy?
Sure, if you're generally intelligent and likeable...
And your parents paid 40, 50, whatever amount every year to put you through Exeter/Milton/Hotchkiss...
Which, combined with a decent amount of effort, got you into Columbia...
Where you studied Econ and got free pirated Wall Street prep guides from alumni in your fraternity who also help "mock" you- aka drill you on behaviorals/technicals...
And had easy access to alumni from your school who are in the industry, and can just take the train down to Midtown or FiDi to hold coffee chats with them..
And finally...
Strut in your superday interview in the Armani suit your parents bought you as a graduation gift.
Sounds easy to me.

Now, let's say- you grew up in bumblefuck nowhere in the Midwest to parents who make $20/hr and think "Wall Street" is just a place in New York where evil businessmen rob the entire nation of its wealth...
But you work hard to take the total of 3 offered AP classes in your backwoods high school...
To either get into University of Nebraska-Lincoln on a scholarship or with loans which prompt you to work part time in school to help your personal finances...
Where the only "finance" that people have heard of involves their checking/savings or student loans...
Where you have to cold call/email hundreds if not thousands of professionals that you find randomly off LinkedIn because there are no alumni from your school in the industry...
And you save up what money you can to do a full week of coffee chats during your one week of spring break while everyone else is on vacation...
And finally, scrape together 200 dollars for a decent looking suit from Express, as well as a bit more for a plane ticket to your superday (that will eventually be reimbursed by the company)...
Yeah.. A lot harder now.

I'm very fortunate to say that I don't fall into either category, but I've met people who do.

i.e. I had a friend whose family, due to their financial situation, had to move him out of his private high school and into the public school we attended. Because of this, he would constantly complain about how his parents "ruined" his life, and ruined his "guarantee" of "the Ivy League"- because apparently "more than a third of students" of the graduating class from his private school attended Ivy League universities every year.

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Apr 21, 2019

Aren't you a little late to the party with your mental experiment?

Apr 21, 2019

Haha- I'm aware.. I think this topic is still very relevant today though

Apr 21, 2019

ngl, i relate to your friend.. although it was death rather than unfortunate financial circumstances that was the catalyst.

i've gotten over that attitude now but i will admit that the chip of not being to go to an exeter/hotchkiss/andover due to finances even when i got in still somewhat sits perched on my shoulder.

Apr 21, 2019

Good to hear you've taken ownership... I can't say the same about my friend.

It's easy to sympathize with a situation like yours- you work your ass off to get what you were promised only to have it "taken away" by forces out of your control. Surely, this can really challenge the way a teenager would value their own efforts- but can also work the other way around by building up that individual's mental fortitude...

Apr 21, 2019
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