Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

It’s tough to get an investment banking interview

Dear Andy,

I have been trying to help Steve, a college friend of my son.  He has been pleased with the support he has been given by the career services office. However, he seems frustrated as a Math Econ major because he feels excluded from i-banking and private equity interviews that the business school students are getting.  He is not negative and has gotten some good interviews and is just trying like crazy.  Is there something he should do to be able to get more of these types of interviews?

A Helpful Dad

Dear Helpful Dad,

Sam has a nice resume, but to be honest, it’s not quite at the level that the i-bankers are looking for.  Most i-banks require students to have at least 3.5 or higher; and the top tier banks want students above 3.7.  This is the primary reason why he can’t get those interviews.  The banks will look at any student with those grades (so it’s not only about being just a business school student – although it can appear that way because so many apply and get interviews relative to the number of non-business school students).

I am sorry that the i-banks are so rigid, but that’s the world he’s trying to get into.  The main strategy at this point is that he has to network – a lot.  And then, perhaps, an alum or friend will ‘sponsor’ him by saying “He’s worth your interviewing, so please give him a shot.”

He should not rely on just applying for jobs by sending his resume into a HR mailbox with thousands of other resumes in which at least a hundred of them have above a 3.5.

He is doing the directionally correct thing by talking to you, but he really should speak with alumni 2-10 years out of college.  They are the folks who will give him the most relevant information on the career path and advice on how to get in the door (as they did or as they are seeing it currently happen in their firm).  We are training students to use LinkedIn to find these alums, so he should go to one of these workshops or make an appointment with a career counselor who can teach him how to use it.

I am guessing that this isn’t exactly what he wants to hear, but hopefully it will help him decide if he wants to do the very hard work of “networking” for it or look for other types of opportunities (which the career services office can help him with).  The window to get a full-time job for next fall in i-banking is almost closed because they do their interviews between September and November – unless it’s a smaller, boutique i-bank.

Also, private equity is not an option right out of college except for a select few people… in the world.  These few students who have that option typically had private equity internships and are returning to the same firm, interned at places like Goldman or Blackstone last summer (very rare), and/or have a parent who runs a PE firm or who has personal or family connections.  They also likely have above a 3.7 from an Ivy League-type school – since many PE firms are run by Ivy League alums.

These firms are incredibly selective and hire very few people each year (sometimes none), so it’s best for every student to develop alternative options.  To help set students expectations in the job search, I frequently tell students to “hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst” given the inherent uncertainty in the process.  I say this not to be discouraging, but to motivate students to work diligently to create multiple options.

Category: Job/Internship Search, Networking