Investment banks are one of the most competitive places in the world. Getting into Goldman Sachs (NYSE:) is even harder than getting into an elite university: the acceptance rate is just 4%, compared to 5.2% at Harvard University and around 20 % in Cambridge.
However, with determination and the good skills, you will be able to break into the field and launch your career. Here are some key steps you will need to follow:
STEP 1: CREATE A BANKER-FRIENDLY CV
According to research, it takes recruiters 6 seconds to sift through a resume before selecting or rejecting a resume. So take your time to create a resume that will help you stand out in the crowd.
Be sure to answer this question in your resume – “Why are you the best person for a role in investment banking?”
Your resume should be tailor-made for bankers. Here are some tips to follow:
- Check spelling and grammar. Grammatical errors and misspellings will end your role in the process with 100% certainty.
- Ask at least one other person to proofread it carefully.
- Use a professional font like Times New Roman, Arial, etc., and nothing too complicated.
- Make sure your resume isn’t too long (no more than two pages and even 1 page if you’re in the US) and use bullet points to make your resume easier to scan.
- Your CV is there to advertise and promote what you have personally achieved. It is not there to describe the accomplishments of the teams you have been part of. Mention your personal achievements and not those of your team.
- Highlight scholarships, awards or academic prizes – banks like to know you’re a hard worker.
- Highlight any experience related to investment banking. Focus on highlighting transferable skills and anything in your career that might fit your application.
- If you don’t have relevant work experience, add extracurricular activities that involve relevant skills such as financial modeling, investing, case competitions, etc.
- And, whatever you do, don’t bluff!
STEP 2: NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Many people say they want to get into investment banking but don’t put in the effort. Don’t just go to LinkedIn or Indeed and click through a bunch of random job applications.
When you apply online, you are defined by just one piece of paper. And that’s why you need to network. This will help you build connections that will benefit you in the long run.
Tips for networking:
- Find the right people to network with in finance. It could be a friend of your family or an elder.
- Network with senior employees via email and have a dedicated work email to use when contacting these people.
- Keep your message/email short and sweet. People working in investment banking, asset management, etc. are busy, so it is necessary to value their time as well.
- Never again openly ask for an internship or a job. This will only reduce your chances of receiving help from them. So make a phone call or a meeting, and focus on them first.
- Never attach your resume in an email when networking with someone unless they ask you to.
- While networking, make sure you don’t keep talking. Instead, be a good listener. If you ask good questions, they’ll be that much more interested in answering them, which will make them feel good and like you more.
- Always remember to say thank you, for taking the time to talk to you. And then ask them if everything is going well with their work.
- Some questions you can ask the person during a conversation:
– What is one of the best deals you have ever worked on?
– Who are the most interesting people you have met at work?
– What type of training did you need for this position?
– If you had to give a first-year student one piece of advice, what would it be?
STEP 3: UNDERSTAND THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS
The recruitment process varies slightly by institution, but for graduate jobs, it consists of these steps:
1. Initial aptitude test: Banks have always emphasized psychometric testing. Our advice? Practice, practice and just practice. You can search for free samples of these tests online.
2. Video interview (tagged by AI, not a real person): When registering, be sure to look directly at the webcam and remember to mention the company name. Also talk about its competitors and work culture.
3. Telephone interview (with a real person): Do lots of research on the company, its customers, etc. Have a real conversation with the person and don’t try to desperately look for a job.
4. Assessment center (with other candidates): You engage in group work, presentations, etc. It can be overwhelming for some, but if you are prepared and get along well with others, you will find it enjoyable.
5. Final interview: Don’t think of this as an uphill battle where you have to actively convince someone. Think of it as a conversation you have with someone you will be working with. Tell your stories, associate yourself with them and be confident!
STEP 4: PREPARE FOR YOUR INTERVIEW BEFORE YOUR “GREAT DAY”
You can’t leave interviews to chance or expect to “handle” the same day. Most bankers ask tough questions and expect perfect answers.
Learn everything you need to know and more, practice mock interviews, and read everything finance-related you can get your hands on.
Tips for a successful interview:
1. Know the business
- Explore the highlights of its history and foundation.
- Know how it performs against its competitors and what sets it apart from others.
2. Know yourself
- Know your resume backwards, forwards, inside, out, upside down, right side up. Don’t even dare to trip over this part.
- Find something unique for the following:
– Why do you want to work for this company?
– Why do you want to be in investment banking?
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. Try to find good answers about where you want to be in a year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years.
- Start making a habit of reading financial news. The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times are excellent places to start.
- Know the basic macroeconomic theories. Learn financial statements, how they connect, and how X changes when Y changes.
- Read and practice puzzles and analytical questions.
STEP 5: MASTER THE TECHNICAL SKILLS
The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert in technical skills from day one. Everything you need will be taught or learned on the job. But you need to know the basics and the essentials.
However, exposing these skills will still give you an added advantage:
- Analysis of financial statements – Try to be proficient in vertical analysis, horizontal analysis, ratio analysis, ROCE, etc.
- Become Awesome in Excel – Investment banking analysts spend hours in Excel working on financial models, valuations, creating presentation books and analyzing financial statements. Be sure to become an Excel Jedi over time.
STEP 6: ACADEMIC COURSES
Getting a college degree from a top school, with a major in finance, economics, or business is preferred in an investment bank.
Also, you could have all the extracurriculars in the world but no bank will be interested if you miss the cut-off. You must therefore have a minimum GPA of 3.3 and in some banks, above 3.5.
And then try to become an expert in investment banking. Make a habit of reading the Wall Street Journal at least once a week, the Vault Guide to Investment Banking, and browse a handful of banking blogs, especially this one. (insert link to blogs)
But above all, don’t forget the basics. Wikipedia is always there to help!
STEP 7: INTERNSHIPS
Any internship in finance will help, even if it’s not in the investment banking department, especially in a brand name company.
But you’ll need to flesh out your resume so you can write about what you’ve accomplished and put yourself in a good position to impress.
These experiences will only set you apart if you describe them meaningfully on your CV, so be sure to learn as much as you can in the internship you join.
So now you have an internship? Perfect. Alternatively, offer to work for free. Look for unpaid internships if you must. Most bulge support banks will still think this is valuable!
Finally, develop your action plan. Figure out what you will “do” now, tomorrow, and throughout your internship to break into an investment bank.
There’s no need to resort to complicated GANT charts, but get your plan organized as soon as possible. Internships can be a great gateway into investment banking!
THE BOTTOM LINE
The above steps are not a formula for landing a prestigious job, but a kind of guideline to help you break into investment banking. Opportunity knocks only on the door of those who are prepared, and preparation takes hard work. Good luck!