Only an elite few make it into the front office of an investment bank and increasingly the route in is through an internship. This is the safest option, but if you’ve not spent your summer networking with senior finance professionals, getting your foot in the door can be tough.
As someone who has worked in multiple investment banks, conducted interviews with graduates and ultimately signed off on junior hires, these are my leftfield tips to impress.
1. Show your worth from the outset
One graduate due to be interviewed for an equity research role used his initiative in advance of the actual interview day. Under his own initiative, he analysed our flagship European equity fund and then popped me an email sharing his detailed thoughts on some of our biggest holdings and some other opportunities he saw.
This showed me how driven he was and that he would be up and running with only a minimum amount of training and hand-holding.
99% of people who work in investment banking have too much work on – or at least they think they do – so being able to create some unexpected value for them will grab their attention and open doors for you.
2. Socially stalk people
So, that sounds a little horrible – you can call it networking if it makes you feel better. If you’re targeting a particular bank, the chances are they’ll go for drinks in the closest pub or bar to them. Hang out there with a few of your friends and try to network. You’ll find it so much easier to meet the right people and build relationships that matter.
The key is to be natural, confident and not force things. In this setting, it’s about having fun first and then finding out more about someone’s profession. I’ve networked with some very important contacts this way and it’s a massively under-utilised strategy.
3. Know what everyone is trying to get out of the situation
One of the most fundamental rules of investment banking, despite the focus on teamwork, is that everyone has their own agenda. Know what everyone is aiming to do and exploit it – some of our smartest candidates have used this strategy and I’ve seen it work.
Everyone you meet during the interview process has two main goals. 1: They want to do less work, usually just less of the boring stuff. 2: They want to look good in front of their colleagues and seniors.
For example, the HR rep will be thinking, subconsciously or not: “If I refer this person to the next interview up the chain, will it make me look good?” This is where you really need to excel in your professionalism and soft skills.
A banker will be thinking: “How will hiring John or Jane make my job easier?” Beyond the regular duties, you need to know the grunt work that these guys have to do so you can promise to alleviate them of it. For example, here was a great answer that got my colleague thinking about all the things he could do in his newfound free time:
John: “In addition to working on basic research, I know you guys spend a lot of time running data reports on FactSet (an analytics tool). I’ve been reading a lot about it and that’s also something that I’d love to start working with ASAP.”
By understanding people’s basic tendencies, preferences, likes and dislikes you stand a much better chance at securing an investment banking job. Combine all this with technical knowledge and interview skills and you’ll be hired in no time.
Sandip Sekhon is co-founder of online mentoring website Wiseround and CEO of online estate agents Castlesmart. He used to work in equity research.