From Private Equity Internship to Bulge Bracket Investment Banking: How to Cold Email Like a Pro and Win the Offer
You would think that after many years of covering networking tactics across hundreds of articles, videos, and even a full-fledged course on networking, there would be nothing left to say about it.
But you’d be wrong.
I was skeptical when our interviewee today contacted me and offered to share the story of how he went from minimal finance experience to a full-time investment banking offer.
After all, haven’t we already covered that story dozens of times?
It turns out I was wrong: he shared new tips and tactics, and even shed light on a few topics that have generated tons of questions over the years:
- How off-cycle recruiting works in London and the differences in the process
- How to move from a private equity internship to investment banking, the key objections you’ll encounter, and how to answer them
- The truth about how to cold call and cold email effectively… and why even bulge bracket banks might still respond to cold calls and cold emails
- What to do if you just graduated but have no internship or full-time job lined up
Let’s get started:
From No Job Post-Graduation to Bulge Bracket Banking Offer in Less Than 1 Year
Q: So, let’s kick things off by describing what exactly you did in the past year.
A: Sure. I graduated about a year ago (as of the time you’re publishing this) without a clear plan or a full-time job offer.
I did have a consulting internship for a few months after graduation, but that was a temporary thing and they would not be extending it.
So I started applying for full-time jobs in October and November because I didn’t want to end up with a 1-year gap on my CV.
I won a PE internship in January of this year, which I completed in February through May.
It was at a small, lesser-known firm, but it gave me the experience to network and interview at bulge bracket banks – and by the end of the internship, I had won a full-time offer at a bulge bracket bank here in London, all via off-cycle recruiting and aggressive networking.
Q: OK, so we’re going to dig into each part of that… let’s start with what you did in university up until graduation.
A: Sure. So I did have an advantage in that I went to a “target” school in the UK, which definitely helped – but I had also completed 0 relevant internships during my time there.
I was much more focused on extracurricular activities and didn’t even think much about what I wanted to do after graduating.
Really, finance appealed to me because it was a high-pressure environment with a steep learning curve… and I’d walk away with more tangible skills than I would in consulting.
Q: I’ll give you bonus points there for taking another jab at the consultants.
A: Thanks, appreciated.
Anyway, I kept applying to jobs, but due to my lack of work experience all I could get was the consulting internship – and this was not at MBB, but a much smaller firm.
I even went through the recruiting process again after I graduated, but I came away empty-handed yet again because the consulting internship didn’t look that impressive.
Q: So you didn’t have much luck through 2 full recruiting cycles – what made you think you had a shot in private equity recruiting? Isn’t that even harder than IB recruiting?
A: My thought process went like this:
- Relatively few undergrads and recent graduates target PE firms, so the volume of applicants might be lower…
- And many of these firms are so small that they have no formalized recruiting process.
When you apply to bulge bracket banks in London, you’re up against a ridiculous number of applicants from all over the world.
But I figured I might have a better shot at small PE firms since it takes more effort to apply, and since many undergrads / recent grads are uncomfortable with the networking required.
Q: OK, so how’d you find names and start contacting people at these small PE funds?
A: I found a list of PE firms in the UK (partially via online searches and rankings) and focused on the really small ones.
I did not have the names of specific people, but they were simple to find because pretty much all PE firms have websites with a “Team” page.
So I guessed their email addresses by trying combinations like email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org and so on.
- Initially, I narrowed my list down to 100 firms.
- For each firm, I went to its website and focused on the more senior members of the team – Partners and Managing Directors – and tried different combinations for their email addresses.
- I sent each person a very short email introducing myself, saying where I went to school and where I had worked, and expressing interest in interning at the firm.
Q: So what was your response rate like?
A: Out of the 100 firms, I got a positive response from 15 of them, where “positive” means they invited me in for an interview or informal chat.
The private equity interviews were all over the place – some interviewers asked technical questions, some were “fit”-focused, and some seemed to be making up questions randomly.
They did not give me any case studies or modeling tests because:
- I didn’t “market” myself as having technical / modeling experience; and
- Many of these firms wanted interns to source deals (i.e. cold call) or monitor portfolio companies, so technical skills were less important.
Private Equity Internships 101
Q: OK, so it sounds like the recruiting process wasn’t terribly formal.
I’m assuming you just went with the first firm to say “yes”?
A: Pretty much. One place was definitely the most responsive and interested, so I ended up interning with them.
There wasn’t too much technical work and I did not work on any live deals – they had 5-10 portfolio companies to monitor, but none of them were at the “deal” stage.
I did go to lots of meetings because the team was so small, and that definitely helped in future interviews.
I spent most of my time on “deal origination work” (cold calling and emailing to find companies) and tried to learn as much of the technical side as I could in my downtime.
Post-banking associates did most of the modeling, so I had to be proactive to get any real work.
Q: Were you getting paid for this internship?
A: The first 3 weeks were unpaid because I offered to do a free “trial” internship so they could assess me first.
After the 3 weeks had passed, they thought I could be useful so they started paying me and kept me there in the months afterward.
Q: And did they know that you wanted to move on and get into banking?
A: Yes, we had a mutual understanding that I would work there for a few months, I would go into banking for “training,” and then I might consider moving back after I had worked in banking for a few years.
If the firm likes you, they’ll support you in making the move – plus, most PE funds have solid connections to banks, which is yet another advantage of doing a private equity internship first.
The office politics side is easier to navigate and the hours aren’t quite as intense – so I also had more time to email people and network after work.
Off-Cycle Recruiting in London
Q: OK, so you were then able to write “private equity” on your CV, you had some networking help from this firm, and you had free time each day to network on your own.
What was your next move? And how does off-cycle recruiting in London work?
A: The off-cycle recruiting process in London isn’t much different from what you do in the normal process – bigger banks still have online tests and assessment centers, whereas smaller ones are more spontaneous and informal.
I spoke with quite a few boutique investment banks and middle market firms here that gave me interviews after chatting informally.
A few places said they would give me an online test or group exercise, but it never seemed to come together.
The entire process was more disorganized since off-cycle recruiting often comes down to: “We need someone ASAP to replace this guy who just left!”
Q: And what was your networking strategy?
A: I know you’ve written a lot about networking before, so here’s what I did differently:
- I focused on Group Heads at each bank. You’ve recommended focusing on senior bankers and MDs before, but I went a level higher and focused on Group Heads because I figured they would have a better sense of vacancies in each office – plus, more “voting power” on offers.
- I always made it about individual teams rather than “the bank.” So if one team turned me down, I did not give up – I would just move onto the next industry or product group.
Sooner or later, you’re bound to find a group where someone just left and where they really need a replacement because the turnover rate in finance is so high.
I did other things such as alumni networking and focusing on teams that fit my background – for example, the Financial Sponsors Group – but you’ve covered those before.
Q: So you went after very senior people and targeted multiple teams at each bank – but how did you decide who to contact in each of these teams?
A: Here’s what I did:
- With alumni, I focused on those with similar degrees or another connection such as a shared club or activity.
- I focused on people with difficult-to-find email addresses. All else being equal, you get a higher response rate from people whose contact information is difficult to find – I consistently got better responses when I had to try several guesses for the person’s email.
- Sometimes I focused more on women – I got better responses from them when I had no connections to anyone else on the team. I can’t explain that one logically, but that’s what I observed.
Q: OK, so let’s take this a level deeper… are you willing to share the email you wrote to contact Group Heads and other senior people at banks?
A: I’ll share an example email and then explain each part of it:
“Dear Mr. [Last Name],
I am writing to you to see if [Bank Name] might be interested in taking an intern in its [Industry Name] team. I am available to start immediately.
I am a [Year] [University] graduate ([Grades and GMAT score]) with six months’ consulting experience at [Firm Name], fluent in [European Language] and technical skills which I have developed in my current private equity internship at [PE Firm Name]. My CV is attached.
I understand that [Bank Name] has a formalized recruitment process, but if the [Industry Name] team is currently experiencing high deal flow then I could be of assistance.
Would it be possible to arrange a call? I would be very grateful for an opportunity to discuss this with you.
A couple things to note:
- Language Skills – Even if you’re not “native speaker”-level, knowledge of another European language is super-helpful in London.
- “Formalized Recruiting Process” – I wrote this because I did NOT want them to respond with: “Oh, sure, I’ll forward this to HR.” That means nothing – that just means they’re forgetting about you. In some email I actually wrote, “I know you might normally forward this to HR, but if you know of anything personally, please let me know directly.”
- Aggressive Phrasing – I was very direct and I didn’t even bother asking for informational interviews. I figured there was no point since this was off-cycle recruiting anyway.
- GMAT and Grades – I had high GMAT scores and grades, which helped my story since I had not worked at well-known firms.
Q: What was the process like after your initial email?
A: Sure, I’ll walk you through exactly what happened at one bank:
- One Week After Initial Email (Day #7): I hadn’t heard back, so I sent a 2-sentence follow-up email to the Group Head (“I’m following up to see if you have internships… if you are experiencing heavy deal flow then I could be of immediate assistance given my PE background.”).
- The Next Day (Day #8): He responded and CC’d another team member, who said they had filled all their internship slots.
- The Next Day After That (Day #9): I responded and asked if there were any openings on other teams at the bank and I cited a specific group (Oil & Gas) that I knew recruited for off-cycle internships.
- That Same Day (Day #9): He responded and CC’d someone in another coverage team at the bank (an SVP) and forwarded my CV to the O&G team.
- The Next Day After That (Day #10): Instead of waiting for the SVP to contact me, I reached out to him and set up a call, also offering to come into the office if it was more convenient (hint, hint).
- Monday the Next Week (Day #14): I spoke with the SVP, and then they invited me in to speak with 4 bankers on Thursday that week.
- Thursday (Day #17): I went in for the interviews and spoke with 2 SVPs and 2 VPs.
- Thursday the Next Week (Day #24): I hadn’t heard back, so I followed up with the original SVP again, mentioned that they were my top choice but I had another offer to respond to and asked about the time frame for making a hiring decision, reiterating that I liked everyone on the team.
And it went on like that at various banks – lots of emailing, following up, trying different teams, and always aiming for the Group Heads initially.
I always waited a week before following up.
I could have started attaching models or sending reports or presentations at that point, but I kept my emails short and avoided bells and whistles.
Q: OK, so you sent a lot of emails and it worked well since you got at least a few interviews.
What were the most common interview questions you received?
A: I got the most questions, by far, on my story – consulting to PE to banking is a difficult one to tell.
My basic story went something like (this is an example of what I used in one Leveraged Finance interview):
“I wanted to work in ‘professional services,’ but consulting wasn’t technical enough for me – so I started thinking about banking, but recruiting had passed so I took the PE opportunity when I found it. In PE, I became more interested in Leveraged Finance and in what types of debt terms make a deal work or not work, as I gained more exposure to investment banking. I’m interested in the LevFin group because, in my view, it’s the one group where you can add the most value as a banker by getting better terms for clients and getting deals done, and that’s what I see myself doing in the future.”
Of course, some firms were not persuaded no matter what I said.
One well-known elite boutique, for example, prides itself on having everyone stay for multiple years, and they were convinced I would leap back into PE after 1 or 2 years on the job.
Other places were more relaxed and didn’t care about analysts leaving after 2 years.
I definitely got more technical questions than the average person – but I didn’t shy away from them, and sometimes I even encouraged interviewers to ask me about LBO models, for example.
Many questions just concerned simple LBO models, but they wanted to ensure I understood the mechanics.
Q: So what did you cite as reasons for the PE to banking move?
A: I said:
- You spend a lot of time monitoring portfolio companies in PE, which is less interesting to me than doing deals – so IB would give me greater exposure to transactions.
- Performance is less correlated to short-term results in PE, in the sense that you have to stick around there for years or decades to see investments pay off. With banking, it’s easier to correlate your work in a given year to your performance in that year.
- The technical and modeling side appealed to me more than sourcing potential investments, and I would gain better exposure to a variety of modeling in IB.
Final Thoughts & Last Minute Improvements
Q: Awesome. I guess this strategy worked well since you won the offer.
With off-cycle recruiting, often you need to improve your profile quickly at the last minute to have a good shot.
What’s the best way to do that?
A: First off, look at your CV and see what experience you already have that they might find impressive.
I had a good GMAT score, which I knew might impress people who had attended business school.
Even if you have only 3-4 months to improve your profile, you can think about:
- Classes – accounting, financial modeling, etc.
- A part-time internship
- The FSA exam in the UK
- Language classes
While they care most about business-level proficiency in languages, even a lower level of proficiency can help in borderline cases.
Q: All good points. Any final thoughts?
A: Let’s see… you’ve mentioned this one before, but you really never know who will be helpful so don’t “write off” anyone prematurely – always stay in touch.
For me, the most important strategy was attacking from multiple angles – I’d go after clients of the group, the team itself, the Group Head, and even alumni that were loosely connected.
You do not want to contact 10 people in the same team repeatedly, but this type of “multiple angles” approach works quite well.
Q: Great, thanks for sharing all that! And good luck as you start your new full-time role.
A: My pleasure.
You might be interested in this post that shows you How to Cold Email for an Internship.
Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews
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I’ve been contacting Group Heads for some weeks and keep getting foisted onto HR – despite including ‘I know you may normally … to HR’
I have a very similar profile to the interviewee here (location, target uni, relevant experience etc.) – is it possible the big banks simply aren’t allowed to hire people via this more casual route any longer?
Do you have any insight as to wether this approach has worked in recent years?
Thanks for the articles btw, all very useful!
This strategy still works, but the biggest issue is that it’s very dependent on the hiring market and the overall state of the economy/financial markets. The problem now is that everything is crashing, banks are firing people, deal activity is way down, etc., so it is more difficult to get in via informal means like this. If deal flow picks up and banks suddenly start needing people again, it will become easier.
If you are really making progress this way, my advice would be to aim for different roles outside of IB for the time being, such as corporate or commercial banking or Big 4 and use one of those to move into IB when the market picks up in the future.
Do you have any tips on finding the names of MDs SVPs in London (outside of LinkedIn and the odd namedrop in news articles)?
No, not really. LinkedIn, news, and the alumni network are your best sources.
I’m thinking of using this strategy to land an off-cycle position at a BB / EB in London later on this year
I was thinking of sending a letter by post with a message like the email template directed to the MD’s / Partner with a CV attached instead of emailing tho, thinking it might trigger more of an interest and not be as overlooked as the usual email they would get?
do you think this would be a decent strategy, or something worth trying
Thanks in advance
You could try it, but sometimes it’s tricky to find the right address data and make sure it gets to the right person. Whereas with email, you can usually guess the person’s address if you have the email format.
I’m in the UK
I was wondering when would be the best point to start cold-emailing for off-cycle positions starting in August time (that’s when I finish my master’s)
I’m thinking now is too early as it’s 3/4 months away?
Or is that the wrong way of thinking about it and I should be starting ASAP?
Also is it too late to start networking for graduate positions for next year, or is anytime as good as ever
Thanks in advance
Start maybe 1-2 months in advance. If you do it right now, you won’t even get great responses because hiring is frozen at most firms due to the pandemic. You can always start networking for graduate positions, but you normally need at least 1-2 solid internships first to have a good shot.
And yeah I’ve done an Actuary internship and a Big4 Rx/M&A internship, hopefully it’s good enough to land some decent interviews
I’ll keep you updated
I am currently on the same boat. Recently came back to London from the American university. Currently going through the recruitment process looking to join the real estate bayside at a family office. Would you say it’s better to just do cold email to inquire about openings or reach out for a coffee and then ask about the opportunity? Would you also say expanding to the broader REPE/PE side rather than family offices?
I’m not sure why you would focus on family offices if your goal is real estate because family offices represent a tiny fraction of all real estate roles. You should go broader and look at more than just family offices. See:
And yes, just send outreach emails to ask about openings if your goal is to win an off-cycle internship or other informal internship.
Does it make sense to reach out to alumni not involved in hiring decision making (e.g. senior analyst/associate)? That’s my only option at certain places. What should be approach then?
Sure, you can. But when you do that, you should always ask for a referral to someone else at the firm so you can move up the ladder to more senior people. Senior Analysts/Associates will not be able to tell you about hiring and open positions directly in most cases.
Thank you Brian, that’s very helpful.
Hi thanks for the article. I am a similar situation but was wondering should I use this strategy for PE only? how about IB or even buy-side firms? (assets management). I graduated from non-target (B.L.A) and no real finance work/internship experience. So out of these three(PE, IB, and AM) which one would I have a better chance to break into?
btw, just to clarify, BLA means Bachelor of Liberal Arts, and my gpa is around 3.0-3.2. also, I’m based in NYC.
You can use cold emailing for any industry, but it tends to work better for PE for the reasons described here (relatively few students target them, many are small and don’t have formal recruiting processes). The larger the firm, the less effective this strategy will be. With banks, sometimes there’s just less work for untrained interns to do, so they can be more reluctant to hire you for off-cycle internships.
Hi Brian, Thank you for your prompt response.
I have a follow-up question: how would you define “small” PE firms? how small should they be? (like less than 20+ employees or under 5M revenue or under 1B total fundraised?) Thanks
Under $1 billion AUM, arguably under $500 million.
Hi Brian and M&I Team,
Thanks for your insight. Bought your classes and they are incredibly helpful.
I’m a finance major at a target school with “wired” internship path – ER at large regional IB -> IBD at BB JV -> (now) large PE, and no offer extended solely because these are all off-cycle-without-return. And my only goal is to earn IBD SA offer at another BB (the BB JV I interned at are not recruiting).
The reason I joined the PE is when my IBD internship concluded, I believed it’d be good to gain more experience before SA recruitment. I just started my PE job and I’ll only have one-month experience when I interview with other banks. I have talked to alumni from all BB.
Having difficulty telling a convincing Story as I believe I’ll be question on my IBD-PE-IBD transition for sure. How can I frame it?
Thanks, glad to hear it.
You can solve this problem of how to tell your story by “combining” it and making it sound like you did several internships at around the same time rather than spelling out the exact timing. For example, say that you wanted to try out different fields in finance to gain skills and figure out what you wanted to do in the long term, so you did public markets (ER), sell-side deals (IB), and buy-side deals (PE), and concluded that you liked IB the most because it lets you work on the most deals while spending less time on other areas such as fundraising and portfolio company monitoring that you’d have to do in PE. And you liked aspects of ER, but found that deals were more engaging than just following companies.
So, now you’re aiming for an IB role at this bank to expand on your experience and work on more complex or varied deals.
For the sale of reference, I wonder which “story” template (especially the “Growing Interest” part) in the interview guide would be best fit for my story. Maybe the “Mixed Finance Non-IB to IB” one or I’d better craft a new one according to the 4-part structure?
And given that I almost have one year of full-time internship experience, am I supposed to focus on “Beginning” and “Spark” as much as others do?
I would use the “Mixed Finance and IB to Investment Banking” one here:
You don’t need to emphasize the first few points as heavily if you already have a lot of internship experience. But it still helps because many students these days have significant internship experience, and everyone starts to sound the same after a while (imagine an interviewer after conducting 20-30 of these interviews in a single day).
BTW, just for your guides’ credibility, I was one of less than 10 kids out of 8000+ candidates that entered one BB’s superday (MD told me that). But the economy was so bad last year and the BB only hired ONE kid with IB background for SA role. That being said, I wouldn’t be able to make it there without your guides.
So I took a gap year this year and have been working full-time to best prepare myself (maybe an interesting park in story?)
Glad to hear it! Yes, the gap year could be helpful in telling your story as well.
You had a story where a college student turned down an internship at a major bank name (Goldman maybe). Checked his schools database and linked with someone to work an internship. Afterwards, they let him run a whole floor at this smaller fund. I was hoping you had the link to that story!
I don’t recall it, sorry, and a quick search couldn’t turn up anything.
Hey Brian, a few questions.
Would you say it is too late in the academic year (February) to cold email small PE firms about a potential intern for the summer? Also was your cold email to the PE firms very similar to your cold email to the banks? Thanks.
No, you can contact these smaller firms at any time. Also, to clarify, this was an *interview* with a reader. I did not actually conduct the networking effort described here, a reader did. He contacted PE firms in the fall after he graduated. The messages were similar.
Do you recommend sending out cold emails like in this article during the winter break ? like between now to first week of January. Or better off waiting til the new year starts.
It is never a good idea to send emails when everyone is away from the office, especially senior people… an MD does not want to get questions from students on Christmas, and email alerts over the holidays about non-urgent issues tend to annoy bankers.
From a non-target gotten in touch with some people who I’ve had calls with and when it came to asking for referrals they either don’t response back or decline and told me to keep doing what I am doing and said I am not quite ready yet what I am doing wrong?
It’s impossible to say because I don’t know your background/work experience, what you’re saying, or the types of people you’re contacting. Something in your story may be off, or maybe you’re not speaking with the right people.
Hi sir. I have some first experience as consulting intern and the second internship as corporate finance internship. But both of them are belong to small boutique firm.
I just have some internship experience in small firm and my GPA is not excellent enough (like 3.2 out of 4)
Do you think that I am still eligible to apply to some big firm?
For you information, I am student in year two now. Thanks
I guess? It depends on the university you attended. Your GPA is low, but you have some decent internship experience. So it would come down to your university name/reputation in this case.
keeping the fascination with your articles aside let me tell you:
I’m desperately seeking for an internship in an Investment bank, I’m just doing my 2nd year undergraduate and I have better than decent historical grades. Currently I’m also working as research analyst in a mid-tier consultancy.
What should be my road map if I want to land an internship by next year or so?
(p.s- I’m even ready to mop the floors of GS if that is what it takes to get into IB, such is my desperation)
Please see: https://mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-university-student-high-school-student/
Sir, I would really like to know your opinion on the CFA course.
i’m 20, want to get a IB internship(job later), can you please tell me how CFA can help me getting there?
Would you say that your advice pertains to people only in US?
For example, I’m an Indian looking for an IB internship – how much of your advice is relevant to me?
Having said that, I really enjoy your writing and fell in love with this site a week ago especially your way of writing and humour.
Great read, quick question, when cold emailing results in a response like “We have no available positions but sent your resume to HR” should I thank them and leave it alone or is there a proper follow-up to continue the conversation?
Just thank them and follow up in a few weeks to check your status.
Thanks a lot for this article. I used this guy’s strategy to help me get a place on a two-year graduate programme at my country’s biggest bank that will give me eights months work experience in three different divisions: corporate finance, global markets (trading), and corporate banking. I have always followed markets very closely but spent the several years since I graduated working abroad in an industry completely unrelated to finance and was worried that I had missed the boat for getting a front office job. I’m ecstatic to get the opportunity!
I am looking to get into IB as well and I am most interested in the LevFin group. I have an MBA degree but not from a top school and so far 10 months experience doing accounting work at a financial services firm. Would it still be feasible for me to land a PE internship like this guy did in order to move into IB? Or do i have too much experience to get an internship at this point?
Yes I’d try to get an internship at a PE firm if you can. While you have some experience I think you can still qualify as an intern and it maybe easier to go through this route to build trust.
Would getting an internship at a smaller investment bank doing equity research be equivalent to an internship at a PE firm? Or would this be a harder transition into IB then a PE internship?
I’d say they are similar depending on the work you’ll be doing at each one. Both involve intensive financial modelling, though it also depends on how big the PE firm is and the kinds of deals you’ll be exposed to. Either way, you just need to be able to spin why you want to do IB and how the skills you’ve learned are transferrable.
Hi and thank you very much for this fantastic piece. I came across it as I was seated bored at my desk. (I work for a UK based Bulge bracket bank in their back office function) . Being an international student, I graduated 2 years ago and managed to get a six months internship with a London based equity research boutique. I have always been attracted by ER and offered to work for free during those six months hoping to land a full time offer at the end. unfortunetaly this hasn’t been the case and I ended in my current role (back-office) as I couldn’t spend that much time without an income. Nearly two years down the line and I can’t stand my job anymore so I have decided for the past couple of months to try get back to ER. After reading this email I decided to cold-email the group head of research by copying the template used by the interviewer. Although I didn’t land an offer, I was shocked to see that he replied to me the day after copying in a HR officer.
Thank you for your email. I gather you have also emailed the TMT directly. While there are no immediate opportunities available, your details have been passed onto the appropriate areas of HR, and we will keep you posted should our situation change.
Now I am thinking, what should be my next move in the current situation? I have already been in touch with a few members of the TMT team (Associate director and analysts) since this is the area I’m mostly interested. My background is Bachelor Degree in Accounting from India, Master degree in Finance from a non targetted UK university, six month ER internship experience and few other accounting finance role internships.
Apologies for the long comment.
Since you’ve already been in touch with their whole TMT team, I’d just respond and thank him for his time. You may also want to add that you would be able to assist with any tasks they have that are taking up more senior staff members’ time and that you’re capable of helping with [X, Y, and Z – whatever skills you have that overlap with their needs].
I may follow-up with him in 2-weeks/a month to check in and see if their situation has changed. I’d also make sure you stay in contact with the AD and analysts. I’d also branch out to other firms and network with other analysts.
Thank you for your reply Nicole. I will implement it. I had a conversation with one of the AD who I have been networking with for a while now and he recommended that I contact the MD to show my interest about the upcoming university spring week (at least they will get to see my face) and offer to shadow a junior at the bank. As a result, I dropped an email to the MD who replied to me saying that he has passed my details to the graduate team. At this stage I will wait and chase this within a couple of weeks and continue to branch out to other firms.
Yes this is a good idea, I’d follow up in 10 days with the MD if you don’t hear back. Yes branching out to other firms will increase your chances.
Did you hear from them?
would you mind sharing your email-id?
I’m too thinking to go around doing the same process, i hope we can share some info, for our mutual benefit.
I am now a fresh graduate working in a small private equity firm as temporary staff. The contract will probably last 3-6months more. I am wondering should I still opt for i-bank internships (winter/semester) or is it actually possible?
If you’ve graduated already I’m not sure if you’re eligible for internships, though you may want to check out off-cycle roles…
If I’ve graduated already, I might not be eligible for internship at bulge-bank only right ? Do i still have a shot at small/boutique firm ? Hope to hear from you
Yes you can still apply to smaller firms. Large ones typically don’t offer internships if you’ve already graduated, but there are some exceptions in EMEA and other regions where it’s more common.
I have to admit that this is a rather belated but wholehearted “thank you” note to this wonderful interview post of yours. As a loyal reader to your website, I took notice of this article soon after it came out last Sept, and was immediately intrigued by the novel and aggressive top-down strategy. I tried it myself and also introduced it to another friend of mine who was also looking for jobs off-cycle — I’m happy to share that it worked fantastically for both of us! I’m now at a bulge bracket in NYC and my friend at a major non-finance powerhouse in his own field.
My further takes on the article based on my own personal experience throughout the process:
(1) Since I was just aiming at a junior or generalist position as a fresh graduate, the group head of the bank I eventually landed at didn’t really care about my lack of prior direct IBD experience — actually he told me it might be an advantage for me since his structuring field requires innovative thinking that expands beyond pure corporate finance and my fresh eyes may help discover new ideas. (However, it may or may not come as a surprise, actually very few high-ranking senior people had such visionary mind-set in my job-search experience, so I definitely had extraordinary luck.)
(2) But he did emphasize that my academic track record was what he cared about most — I went to a very top university for both college and a very competitive and prestigious graduate program and achieved very high GPAs. I also took several finance classes outside of my curriculum taught by famous professors and did very well in them.
(3) I had a concrete and specific picture of what I was really looking to do within that group instead of just a broad interest in finance. This helped a lot because the group head knew exactly which MDs below him to recommend to me for further discussions.
(4) The turnaround time was much longer than what may appear in the article — sometimes there might not be openings, or key people were not around to push the process, or banks had their own internal reviews or reorgs to do before they could bring in new people — so being patient and active in keeping in touch and reinforcing my interest throughout a multi-month period is crucial.
(5) Figuring out who the group heads were within a giant banking hierarchy and guessing their correct contact emails took some great creativity in search. I relied on all sorts of news reports, trade notices, public legal docs etc. for that, especially when middle initials were involved. Sometimes people did ask me how I got such info, and I could tell they were positively impressed when I told them my approach.
Right now, I’m crashing through your great Excel course to brush up my Excel skills which I haven’t used for quite a long time :)
Keep up the great work!
Thanks for sharing and I am glad to hear that your efforts paid off. I’m sure many readers will benefit from your story. I agree with 4 and 5 – good on you that you were persistent and creative!
I’m currently doing a PE internship with similar duties (sourcing companies, not much modeling). How should I write about the experience on my resume to make it sound as impressive as it can be?
You may want to focus on the impact you’ve made and relationships you built when you sourced the companies. If you’ve done any modelling, even if it is insignificant work in your eyes, you may want to list it there.
So when trying your luck with emails like email@example.com , how did you respond when the recipient asked where/how you found their contact details, if at all?
Hi OP and Nicole,
Just a few quick question,
When cold-emailing those MD or Partner at local PE firms, how many people should I email to at one firm. In most cases a typical firm will post 10 or more their core team member with contact details, so how many should I reach out to? And if I send many people at one firm email, should I send to them all at once or just one people a day?
And also should I contact people covering different areas or that does not really matter.
Thank you very much indeed!
Good question. I personally may contact a few contacts at the bank a day. However, some people may prefer to only email one or two contacts per bank. I’d cast the net wide. Yes I may email people in 2 different areas I’m interested in.
Thank you so much Nicole!
Regarding background checks talked about in the above posts, which banks usually has the most rigorous background checks? Mainly, would a bulge bracket be more likely to ask for transcripts than say a boutique?
I am not 100% sure which bank has the most rigorous background check; readers may have better insights
I just talked to a friend of mine who is in the midst of full time recruiting and he told me that the career adviser at our school told him to lie about his GPA because most banks don’t even ask for a transcript since his GPA is so low he would have no shot at landing a first round interview. I recently accepted an offer at a MM and they never mentioned anything about a transcript either, and my previous intern firm didn’t do any form of background checks for GPA. My friends who interned/worked at IBs said their firms either ask for an unofficial transcript or they don’t ask for one at all. Seems like even if they ask for an unofficial they could still easily just get a fake one unless they ask for an official. Thoughts? If this is the case can’t everyone just BS their way into an interview with a 2.0?
Good question. I think most banks check and they do ask for a transcript. They also have background checks too after you’re employed. However, your case maybe different and some people may be able to “lie” their way in, though we don’t recommend candidates doing so because it may backfire
Isn’t the only way to get busted is if they ask for an official transcript? Do you know how many/which banks actually ask for an official transcript for full time hires?
That I’d suggest you to check with HR/OCR. I’m not 100% sure.
Hi OP,Brian and Nicole,
Really really informative post! Actually I’m in London right now and pretty much intend to do the same thing – cold email/call the boutique IB/PE firms to ask for internship. It is my last year so I really really need some experience. It’s incredibly great to see such post at this moment!
Just one question: how do you find those small PE firms on the Internet exactly?
Perhaps you can go to certain PE associations like http://evca.eu/ http://www.bvca.co.uk/ and you can check out their website and event details. You should be able to find a few names here and there
I used Brian’s list of Private Equity firms in London from BIWS. I would then try to find out which companies have recently registered in the UK and have just opened offices
Sure I agree with Nicole. 5-10% sounds right.
Thanks for your input
OP, if the Co-head forwarded your email to a VP and the VP told you there is no open slot. Would you still ask the Co-head to put you in touch with other teams?
Yes, no harm in asking. It is often obvious how willing they are helpful to be with the tone of the email but a personal response I would say is usually a good sign and possibly a foot through the door somehow.
I would ask them who might be good to contact from other teams and which ones they might recommend talking to. Then give some reasoning eg “Bank Y has a very strong TMT franchise”. That way if successful you can write to suggested MDs and say “on the advice of co-head x” which is a more eye catching opening. I think they are more likely to respond to informed requests than circulate your email internally and it shows more initiative. Hope that helps
I was wondering if you also email non-alumni and how is the response rate like. Thanks.
Yes you can. Perhaps 5-10% depending on your pitch and approach.
Great read. What about if you’re in a similar situation but coming from a non-target? Is it still worth contacting private equity firms?
Yes it is.
Yes it is. I think you should expect a lower hit rate but with perseverance you will be successful. Good luck
I focused mainly on PE firms with funds of £100m or less. I think a wide range of PE firms could be receptive to you but it depends on your level of technical skills. Because they only really hire former bankers/strategy consultants there isn’t a ‘bottom layer’ of the pyramid at most places. There are therefore usually tasks for interns to do.
Thanks for your input.
Do you think this cold emailing strategy will apply just as well to other firms in finance that are also outside of the typical undergraduate campus recruiting space? I’m talking about venture capital firms and hedge funds.
I am not familiar with hedge funds or VC but I’m sure they would be receptive to an intern who can add value. I am less sure about their p
I am not that familiar with hedge funds or VC but I’m sure they would be receptive to an intern who can add value. I am less sure about their potential as stepping stones to investment banking.
The OP mentioned that from the list of PE firms in the UK, he focused on the really small ones. More specifically what’s the range of fund size did he focus on? I just wanted to know the type of PE funds that would be receptive to cold emailing.
Quick question regarding transfers in PE. Do you see any transfers from CEE located pe shops (growth/buyout stage) to London based pe firms? We are talking analyst/associate level. Thanks for the answer!
I think you could do that, but it would be pretty tough since a region like CEE tends to get “discounted” since it is often less rigorous technically. To do that you would probably have to find a London-based firm interested in expanding into those markets or one that had portfolio companies interested in expanding into those regions.
Very interesting read…I did the same thing on a smaller scale and turned a degree from a non-target midwest university, one summer internship the summer after my sophomore year at a local company, into a full time job at a PE shop managing $4b+. I can attribute most of it to…you guessed it, networking. Great read!
Thanks! Yeah, it’s a good strategy and something people overlook (going for PE first before IB).
I want to hear this story!!!!
I have a sneaking suspicion that this post just might become one of your most popular ones in recent times. Your life story series excluded, of course.
Very informative post, I loved it. Thanks.
Thanks! I hope so as well, this was definitely one of the best networking stories on the site.
What would you use for the subject line of your networking or internship request emails? I’m never sure what to use to maximize the chance that the email will get looked at.
I went with “Internship & Advice”. I think you should always try to be direct.
Another approach is to use “[University/MBA Program Name] Student – Internships / Advice” or something like that if there’s enough space. Tougher to do with some schools/firms than others.
I also did an off-cycle internship in London (taking a term off from my target school in the process), though for a different reason: to break into finance in Europe as an American WITHOUT a European language. And it worked: now working full-time at a bulge bracket, as the only American FT hire.
So, definitely look into off-cycle’s
Brian, would you want to interview this OP? His/her story sounds really interesting and impressive. :)
I will contact him and see…
Thanks for the tips, that’s a great point to know for US citizens who want to work there.
You said you focused more on extracurricular activities in university. Shouldn’t that have helped you connect with people better and gave you a subprime advantage over others, since you show to be an enthusiastic and outgoing individual?
Activities did help him connect with people and gave an advantage there, but these days you really need a finance internship to have a good shot at a full-time offer at a large bank. No matter how enthusiastic and interesting you are, the odds are stacked against you unless you have at least some type of work experience first. So that was his main obstacle at first.
By “extracurricular activities” he might really mean partying.
A fair point… (Not sure if that’s true or not)
So did you do finance back to uni.? You were working at PE when networking and interviewing. Why are you so confident on your technical and modeling skills? So you plenty of time after work at PE?
No, he did not. He did a consulting internship after graduation, and then learned the technical side before and during the PE internship.