Investment Banking Weekend Trips: Pathway to Interviews, or an Outdated Recruiting Strategy?
A long time ago, the investment banking weekend trip was a rite of passage.
You would schedule a few days in a major financial center, such as New York, London, or Hong Kong, and you’d aim to meet a dozen or two bankers in that short period.
Ideally, you would have spoken with these bankers on the phone first to get better response rates.
If you came across as personable and knowledgeable in these meetings, you would gain an advantage in winning interviews and job offers – and you might even get to visit the bank’s office briefly.
I am using words like “was” and “would” and “would have” in this description because weekend trips have become less useful over time.
You can still get results with them, but they represent a more specialized networking strategy that works well mostly for certain types of candidates:
Why Are Weekend Trips Useful? And What Are They?
Investment Banking Weekend Trip Definition: In an IB weekend trip, you visit a major city and meet in-person with many bankers within a few days to build stronger connections, get referrals to colleagues, and gain an advantage in winning interviews.
Despite the name, a “weekend trip” does not necessarily take place on the weekend.
For example, you could visit a big city on Wednesday – Friday and meet with bankers on those days.
In practice, though, it’s often best to include one weekend day in your trip because you’ll need to step away from work/school for only 1-2 days in that case.
Weekend trips are useful because you can build stronger connections in real life than through email, the phone, or even Zoom.
Also, since you’ll meet many bankers within a short period, you could potentially get interviews on the spot – depending on the timing of your trip.
Weekend trips tend to be the most helpful for candidates who do not look good “on paper” but are enthusiastic, driven, and outgoing:
- Students at non-target schools.
- Anyone trying to win a job offer at the last minute (example).
- Anyone with an unconventional background (example).
Why Are Weekend Trips NOT That Useful?
On the other hand, there are many reasons why we recommend networking strategies such as informational interviews, cold emails, LinkedIn, and even cold calls over weekend trips.
Here are some of the problems:
- Weekend Trips Require a Good Amount of Networking Before You Arrive – For example, if you haven’t conducted ~15-20 informational interviews with bankers or gotten a good number of referrals, it’s pointless to visit in-person.
- Recruiting Has Moved Up and Become More Automated – So, it’s tricky to time these trips correctly, and they may not give you an advantage in getting past a HireVue, online tests, headhunters, etc.
- Remote and Hybrid Work Have Become More Common – Depending on the city, you might not even be able to find that many bankers in their offices during the day.
- Traveling is Expensive, and the Logistics Are Difficult – You must be able to take 2-3 days away from school/work, you have to pay for the transportation, and you might have to pay for a hotel or Airbnb if you can’t stay with a friend.
Because of these issues, weekend trips work best for undergraduates and recent graduates looking for summer internships, off-cycle internships, or full-time roles.
The MBA-level recruiting process is highly structured at the top schools, so independent trips won’t necessarily work.
And for lateral hiring, you’re better off sticking to email, the phone, and LinkedIn.
When Should You Schedule a Weekend Trip? And What Are the Requirements?
If you want to make at least one weekend trip, you need to decide on the timing before doing anything else.
If you’re a university student, it’s best to do the trip 2-6 weeks before internship applications open.
Unfortunately, the start date seems to change each year, and different banks and regions do it differently, so you’ll have to pay attention to the announcements.
For example, in the U.S., with banks launching summer internship recruiting over a year before internships start, you might aim for a weekend trip in the first quarter of the calendar year.
But in London, the entire process starts later, so a trip over the summer or early fall might be better.
You do not want to schedule your trip on major holidays, such as Thanksgiving in the U.S. or Christmas anywhere in the world.
Beyond the timing, weekend trips also work much better if you have already done a good amount of networking via informational interviews.
For example, if you’ve already spoken with 20+ bankers in one city over the past few months, you should get a decent response rate if you email them to let them know about your trip and ask about meeting up.
You could contact bankers you’ve never interacted with and ask them about meeting in-person, but the response rate will be very low.
(Exceptions might be for referrals or cases where you have a strong, specific connection with the person despite never speaking.)
The Step-by-Step Process for Investment Banking Weekend Trips
If you decide that a weekend trip is in your best interest, you can follow this process to set one up:
- Email Your Contacts to Request Meetings 3-4 Weeks Before Your Trip – And be very specific about the dates and times. The location should always be “at or near their office” so it’s as easy as possible.
- Book The Trip (If You Get Enough “Yes” Responses) – For example, if you plan to be there from Thursday to Saturday, you want at least ~5 potential meetings per day with several bankers on your “reserve list” (because cancellations are guaranteed).
- Email Each Person for a Confirmation Right Before – In the 1-2 days before you arrive, send each person a reminder email and confirm they can still meet at the time and place you suggested.
- Meet Each Person for 15-20 Minutes – You can go into more depth on certain topics, ask more about their story or background, or ask for more specific advice about the challenges you’re facing.
- Make Your End-of-Meeting or Post-Meeting Request – This one depends completely on the mood and how receptive they seem, but you could casually ask to see their office for a few minutes, or you could just send them a quick email afterward to thank them and ask about interviews.
I won’t go into detail on each step because there’s a lot of overlap with informational interviews and other networking strategies, but here are answers to a few of the most common questions:
Which Type of Bankers Should You Target?
In general, you’ll get higher response rates from Analysts and Associates.
Senior bankers such as VPs and MDs often travel, or they might be “working from home,” usually far outside the city.
If you’ve spoken with senior bankers in previous informational interviews, sure, you could request meetings, but don’t bet too heavily on responses.
You also want a good mix of different banks; with a schedule of 15 meetings, it’s best to target 1-2 meetings per firm.
How Should You Request These Meetings?
Assuming you’ve already spoken with the person, an email request template might look like this:
SUBJECT: [University/MBA Name Student] / [Company Name Position] – Trip to [City Name] on [Dates]
Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me about [Describe the main topics in your first conversation] [a few days/weeks/months ago] (as a reminder, I’m the [Give 1-2 relevant facts about yourself to jog their memory]).
With recruiting season starting soon, I wanted to let you know that I’ll be in [City Name] in [Give approximate time frame and then the exact dates]. I know you’re extremely busy, but if you have a few minutes to spare, it would be great to meet up in-person so I could learn more about [Their firm, a recruiting strategy, or anything else they mentioned in your first chat].
I’ll be in your area, right near the office on [Firm Street Address], between [Time 1] and [Time 2] on [Dates]. Please let me know what works best for you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
What Should Your Meeting Schedule Look Like?
The main points are:
- Clustering – For example, if you’re visiting New York, you don’t want to run between Downtown and Midtown in between meetings. Aim to spend the morning in one area and the afternoon in another.
- Times – You should request meetings during the day, as it might send the wrong signal if you ask about dinner or meeting up at night (especially if you’re female). One meeting every 1-2 hours is fine. If you try to cram in too many meetings, you’ll run into problems because of cancellations, delays, and people showing up late.
- Devices – You will be using your phone, tablet, or other devices a lot, so bring a portable battery pack and be on the lookout for coffee shops or places that allow you to charge.
A time/location list for an upcoming weekend trip might look like this:
What Should You Wear?
Business casual is fine, but you could bring a jacket if you need to look more formal for specific meetings.
It might look a little weird if you go to coffee shops dressed formally, especially since most bankers will also be wearing business casual.
What Should You Talk About?
These in-person meetings are extended informational interviews.
You might feel that you’ve already asked all your questions in the initial call, but there’s always room to ask more.
You can follow four main strategies:
- Strategy #1: Ask more in-depth questions about topics you previously discussed.
- Strategy #2: Report back on their advice, explain how you implemented it, and ask follow-up questions.
- Strategy #3: Ask about new/different topics, such as their experience at their current firm or what it’s like working there as a [Insert Person Type].
- Strategy #4: Pivot to non-work topics, such as hobbies, interests, or plans for an upcoming trip, holiday, or other time off.
You have to be a bit careful with Strategies #3 and #4 because they can backfire if you don’t ask the questions delicately.
What to Do After a Weekend Trip
After your weekend trip, send follow-up emails thanking each person and directly asking for recruiting help, an interview, or internal recommendations/referrals.
You should follow up quickly – within 24 hours of meeting the person – because this trip should be close to the start of recruiting season.
It’s usually not worthwhile to send typical “staying in touch” emails because you should aim to convert these trips into interviews ASAP.
Are Investment Banking Weekend Trips Worth the Effort?
Investment banking weekend trips are firmly in the “high-risk, high-potential-reward” category of networking.
Depending on your timing and profile, they might work very well for you.
But let’s be honest: if you’re seriously considering investment banking roles, you probably have good “qualifications,” and you’re probably not that outgoing.
If that’s you, you’d be better served by following other networking strategies and, if you have the time, money, and inclination, making a single weekend trip later in the process.
On the other hand, if you’re more of a “diamond in the rough” candidate – due to a lesser-known school, a lower GPA, a late start, or an unusual background – the IB weekend trip might be a critical part of breaking in.
Just make sure you visit a city where humans still interact with other humans in real life rather than through screens.
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