You have recently graduated from a university with a Finance degree and now decided to get a job at an investment bank (also referred as IB). You send your CV to banks and apply to all entry-level positions available. But you do not get an interview invitation although you meet all the criteria. Sounds familiar? If it does, then this article would help you excel at getting a job at an investment bank.

There are less than 20,000 entry-level positions a year available in investment banking globally. Most of them are in London and New York.  Two of my classmates who started their careers in the Moscow office of Suisse Credit Bank had to move to England and US due to the closure of its IB office in Moscow. The good thing is if you already work in IB, bank will always try to relocate you to another office rather than to lose the employee at all.

Are you a student?

Banks have a strong preference for undergraduates and business school students at the top universities. Banks assume that if you’re already working full-time, you would never sacrifice your social life and sanity to start working 80+ hours a week – they want students who don’t know any better.

Meet Dan. He got a position in IB based on 40 hours contract after 2 years working experience. He started his first working day at 9 a.m., didn’t go to lunch and worked non-stop throughout the day. When his work was done at 10 p.m., he wished his colleagues a nice evening and went home. The second day was looking exactly the same: Dan finished the project at 9.30 p.m., asked colleagues if they need his help. After getting the answer “No”, he decided to leave the office. On the third day Dan was invited to the talk with his Manager. The Manager made it clear that he doesn’t work enough hours for this position and this can lead to misunderstanding in the future.

Now it is apparent that there will be a lot of overworking. It is not surprising that the vast majority of people in IB department are men. Banks assume that men are more stress-resistant, but in each rule there are exceptions. Money and “fat” bonuses should not be the drive of motivation to get into IB.

You should be able to participate in several projects at the same time. People will be expecting you to be always available. Even on holidays and weekends.

If it is not a big deal, then let’s have a look at other aspects.

Entry positions: what are they?

Aside from the internship there are 2 entry-level positions in IB: Analysts and Associates.

You can get the Analyst position after getting your Master degree or after having 1-2 years of full-time work elsewhere. At this level 70% of employees are moving after 2-3 years to another field like private equity, venture capital etc.

Associate is considered a more experienced role which you can get after the MBA school or after getting a promotion as an Analyst. Associates are supposed to stay with an IB for a long term.

Networking is very important aspect in reaching your career goal. Spend 6 months networking with alumni, professional referrals, organizations like the CFA Society and anyone else you can find and focus on boutique banks – if you don’t get any tangible results after 6 months of consistent and exhaustive efforts, apply to top business schools.

Want to get noticed? Pimp your CV

You need to literally spend 20+ hours working on your resume for investment banking.  It needs to be tailor made for bankers.  Instead of describing your responsibilities mention your achievements.

Bankers rarely read cover letters and you’re lucky if they give them more than a quick glance.  However, short cover letters with only the vitals do get read and do reduce your chances of making mistakes.

There are two important aspects for your successful start in IB:

  • Choosing the right bank. “The right” means that from morning till 6-9 p.m. you will have meetings and dinners with clients. After 9 p.m. your work will consist of formatting presentations.
  • Your personal qualities. If during your university study you sat only in front of the computer, read books and didn’t have any social networking – you will be formatting the presentations all day long from morning till night. If you developed strong communication skills, can “feel” and interact with a client, the formatting part of work will be significantly reduced.

Tips for an interview

  1. Understand the industry. Follow financial, business and/or trading press and read books on IB.
  2. Indicate to work hard. There won’t be exceptions. Otherwise, you won’t even pass your probation period.
  3. Look presentable and well-dressed. You’re going to become a banker – there is nothing better than a well-tailored suit.
  4. Raise your strong points and show motivation. This is your opportunity to prove that you deserve to get into an IB – you have to present yourself from the best side.
  5. Ask good questions. Spend some time preparing questions in advance. For example, questions like “Why did your IB conduct this [BLANK] M&A deal?” or “What were the most challenging aspects in closing the merger of [BLANK] in the past years?” could help you show you did your homework.

Lending a job at an investment bank

Finally you got a long-awaited job confirmation, so you signed a contract with IB and started your first day. However, this is where the real grind starts. For the next 2 years as a new entrant, you might consider yourself on a probationary period. You will have to prove that you have what it takes to be eligible for bonuses. How to survive through this period? This is a topic for another discussion.

The floor is yours…

What were your experiences with getting a job in IB? Did you live through the same “grind” as described above? Or was it different? What other tips for an interview and to get better prepared would you recommend? Let us know in the comment section below!


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