GUEST COMMENT: What do investment banking recruiters look for?

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What makes the difference between a candidate I will talk to, and one whose resume I file away for future reference?

Well, there’s the obvious point that if a candidate for a role in investment banking has the skill set I am looking for in a search assignment I have been given by a client, I am much more likely to see that candidate. That aside, here are the things that will grab my attention.

1. Candidates with excellent educational credentials:

I'll look at where the candidate has gone to school, what degrees the candidate has received, and what GPA the candidate has earned.

We all realize that there is a world beyond the Ivy League/Stanford/MIT – that a group of ten or so fine, private, non-Ivy universities, small liberal arts colleges, and some fine state universities are all tough to get into, and provide the dedicated student with an outstanding education.  As for degrees, undergraduate business degrees don’t provide any particular advantage for an entry level candidate, but degrees that require strong analitical skills are important - math and science, economics, and even something like history, as long as the candidate can demonstrate some numeracy.  Generally, a GPA of 3.8 or above in physics or math gets my attention!  For MBAs I generally prefer students from schools with strong reputations in finance – Harvard, Columbia, Wharton, Chicago, NYU, for example.

2. Candidates with strong extra-curricular/non-work activities: 

I'll look at candidates who show involvement in team sports, for example, particularly those that require dedication and sacrifice, as well as teamwork and precision.  Rowing (crew) and Lacrosse are two examples. Not-for-profit involvement also grabs my attention.  Someone who has committed time and energy to an organization dedicated to helping others, someone who understands the importance of giving back to the community – that’s someone who interests me.  Finally, someone who has a record of world class achievement in any non-financial endeavor – a chess master, a Rhodes Scholar, a concert musician – will always get a call from me.

3. Achievement and length of tenure

For experienced candidates, I look for people who have spent significant periods of time – five-plus years – at firms that are outstanding at what they do.  I will always talk to people who are movers and shakers in their own field – so-called “franchise players.”

None of these rules are hard-and-fast, and of course I may agree to see people who don’t fit this profile if they grab my attention in some other way.  But hitting one of these points above is a good way to ensure I will at least call you for a phone chat.

David Schwartz is CEO at search firm DN Schwarz & Co. He is a former director of recruitment at Goldman Sachs.