“Walk Me Through Your Resume” in Investment Banking Interviews: How to Answer
And if you have 3 weeks, 3 months, or 6 months to prepare, what should you do first?
My answer would be the same in all those scenarios: perfect your Story.
Your “Story” is your response to the first question in any interview:
- “Tell me about yourself.”
- “Walk me through your resume.”
- “Why are you here today?”
Even though your Story is the most important part of any interview, no interview guide – except for ours – devotes more than a few pages to it.
Authors act like it’s “just another qualitative question” – as unimportant as describing your favorite TV show.
They’re all wrong: if you do nothing else, you MUST get your Story right.
The good news is that you can greatly improve your Story with less than 1 hour of effort.
It’s 100x easier than mastering accounting, valuation, and financial modeling, and it’s the highest ROI task in the entire interview prep process – if you follow our step-by-step guide and templates:
Walk Me Through Your Resume: The Definitive Guide
We’ve covered this topic before, and much of the previous advice still applies. You can get this entire tutorial in video format below:
However, there are now three major differences with the “walk me through your resume” question:
- You Must Have Previous Experience – Whether you’re an undergrad or a career changer at the MBA level, you need previous finance experience (i.e., a sequence of internships) to have any chance of getting into IB.
- You Must Be More Concise – We recommend a 100-150-word outline and a 200-300-word full version for a maximum length of 1-2 minutes. I’ve seen some suggestions for “3-5 minutes.” Ignore these suggestions! Bankers have ADD and will cut you off quickly.
- Your Goals Must Be More Specific – Any idiot can walk into an interview and say that he/she “wants to work on deals” and “advise companies.” Far fewer people can point to a specific industry or geography, cite a related deal the bank has worked on, and explain how that ties into their long-term plans.
Your Story is not a recitation of your resume; it’s a narrative that relates your experience to this role, and this role to your future.
It highlights your most relevant skills and experience, and it answers the main objections that interviewers will have:
- Can you work long hours?
- Can you talk to humans?
- Did you suddenly “get interested” in finance, or have you made a long-term commitment to the field?
- Do you know about finance even though you majored in Gender Studies or Astronomy?
“Walk Me Through Your Resume”: The Structure, the Word Count, and the Objectives
We used to recommend a 5-point structure, but a 4-point structure is better because it encourages brevity.
Here are the 4 points:
- The Beginning – A quick sentence or two about your background, such as where you grew up or your university or business school.
- Finance “Spark” – The specific person, event, or experience that drew you to finance or investment banking.
- Growing Interest – How you gained relevant skills and work experience over time that prepare you for this job.
- Why You’re Here Today and Your Future – Why this firm and group fit your long-term plans perfectly.
You don’t have to follow this structure 100%.
It works well for undergrads and recent grads, but you may have trouble with your “Spark” if you’ve already had significant work experience.
So, you could make your “Spark” more of a gradual change over time if it’s not realistic to come up with a specific person, event, or experience.
Walk Me Through Your Resume, Point 1: The Beginning
This part is most important for undergrads and recent grads because you have nothing else to set yourself apart.
It’s your chance to say something memorable that the interviewer hasn’t heard 67,232 times.
An “OK” Beginning might be:
“I’m from China originally, but I went to high school in the U.S. and attended Georgetown, where I majored in Math and Economics and joined the Student Investment Fund.” [Word Count: 29]
But it’s boring because there are tons of international students from China, and the school, major, and activities are all standard.
It’s better to cite more unusual activities, sports, or experiences if you can do so:
“I’m from China originally, but I went to high school in the U.S. and attended Georgetown, where I majored in Math and Economics and studied abroad in Bhutan to research culture and politics.” [Word Count: 33]
If you have full-time work experience, don’t kill yourself coming up with a unique angle.
A Beginning like the following is fine if you’ve worked in banking and you’re moving into a new group:
“I grew up outside Chicago, went to Northwestern for undergrad, and majored in Economics and Finance. I did a summer internship in equity capital markets at JP Morgan, and then came back full-time after graduation.” [Word Count: 35]
Walk Me Through Your Resume, Point 2: Finance “Spark”
Have you noticed that many action movies start with an explosion?
They do that to grab your attention and set the story in motion.
You can copy this strategy and use your Spark to grab the interviewer’s attention and set your Story in motion.
Specificity is the key to a great Spark.
Here is an example of an “OK” Spark:
“I first got interested in finance when I interned at a consulting group and researched and analyzed clients’ financial statements. I spoke with an MD at an investment bank, Woodstone Partners, and he made me very interested in the industry.” [Word Count: 40]
This Spark is generic; many people work in consulting and analyze financial statements.
But we could add 6 full words to make it better:
“I first got interested in finance when I interned at a non-profit consulting group and analyzed the financial statements of two clients that wanted to merge. I spoke with an MD at an investment bank, Woodstone Partners, and he made me very interested in the industry.” [Word Count: 46]
If you’re struggling, think about information sessions, case competitions, activities, clubs, professors, family members, summer programs, and your networking efforts.
You could also come up with a retroactive Spark by going back to a textbook in an accounting or finance class, pointing to an example there, and then saying that your class discussion of that example made you interested in the industry.
If you are not an undergrad or recent grad, your Spark can be more low-key:
“I’ve enjoyed my time in ECM, but at the same time, I’ve also gotten interested in working on more complex and varied deals. Since M&A deals tend to be more strategic, they’re often more interesting and challenging to work on. One example is the follow-on offering I worked on for Warbucks, where the company issued shares as part of its plan to consolidate the industry with acquisitions.” [Word Count: 67]
Walk Me Through Your Resume, Point 3: Growing Interest
The third part of your Story doesn’t just explain “how your interest grew,” but also how you gained the specific skills that are required for the job.
You should explain what you liked about each experience, but also what you wanted to change.
The part you liked should be a skill required for IB, and the part you wanted to change should be another required skill.
Limit yourself to 3 experiences, and group entries together to streamline your pitch.
Many students complete on-campus jobs or activities, take an interest in finance, and then become interested in IB.
You could use this walk-through for that path:
Point 1: “I started out with a few on-campus jobs tutoring younger students in math and accounting, which I enjoyed, but I wanted to gain more real-world experience…”
Point 2: “…so I went to [Local Company Name] and did marketing there for the summer. I did well, liked the business, and helped them generate 20% more leads over two months, but I also wanted to do something that was more quantitative and closer to finance…”
Point 3: “…so the next summer I did private wealth management at [Bank Name], analyzed clients’ portfolios, and made investment recommendations. I enjoyed the analysis a lot more, but I also wanted to work with larger-scale clients…”
[Total Word Count: 106]
In each point, this person cites a skill required for IB – math/accounting, working with clients, and investment analysis – but also what she wanted to change in each case – real-world exposure, quantitative skills, and bigger clients.
And she does this without introducing negativity.
Many Stories have sentences such as: “There was no room for me to advance, so I left.”
That point would play much better as: “I liked working with my team, but I wanted more formal mentoring and advancement opportunities.”
Walk Me Through Your Resume, Point 4: Why You’re Here Today and Your Future
A long time ago, you could get away with saying that you weren’t sure of your long-term plans.
But it is not a good idea to express that much uncertainty today.
Even if you intend to hop into private equity ASAP, you should pretend you’re committed to IB regardless of your level (Intern, Analyst, Lateral Hire, Associate, etc.).
The template for this last point is as follows:
“In the long-term, I want to do [FUTURE GOALS], and I see [FIRM/GROUP NAME] as the best way to get there because of [DEALS, CLIENTS, OPPORTUNITIES, ETC.].”
Two examples of this point might be:
Example 1: “So I’m here today because I want to combine my telecom background with finance, and eventually become an adviser to companies in the industry. Your group has a great reputation for that, with deals such as [Name a Deal], so joining your firm is the best way for me to get there.” [Word Count: 52]
Example 2: “I’m here today because I want to leverage my wealth management experience and advise larger-scale clients on M&A deals, going back to the [Deal Name] deal that first interested me. Your group is strong in [Geography / Industry], which I follow, and so joining your team is the best way for me to work on those types of deals.” [Word Count: 59]
Yes, you need to know something about the bank or group before you interview there, such as the types of deals they work on.
But I don’t think that’s a shocking revelation.
How to Avoid Falling Off the Path with “Walk Me Through Your Resume”
First, do NOT spend too much time on the Beginning: do not explain your family history, why you picked all your classes, why you took a medical leave in your second year, etc.
Second, avoid excessive “plot twists.” Don’t say that you went from being a novelist to a lawyer to a hockey player to a male escort to a banker – simplify it!
Third, don’t forget to give a reason for each transition and move in rough chronological order.
If you’re jumping forward and backward, you need to group together and simplify your experiences.
For example, if you interned at a boutique investment bank, then did a PE internship, and now you want to work at a large bank, the interviewer will trip you up if you try to use strict chronological order:
- “So… why, exactly, would anyone ever want to leave PE and go back to banking?”
- “If you liked banking so much, why did you move to another industry afterward?”
- “How do I know you won’t just move back into PE a few months after you start here?”
Group together the first two internships and say, “I did private equity and boutique investment banking internships, liked working on deals, and want to focus on [Industry/Geography/Deal Type X], which your group specializes in.”
Finally, do not include information that doesn’t help your case.
Students love to go on tangents and “explain” 2-week internships at the local library, prizes from high school activities, and all 12,731 of their activities.
Mentioning all that information to the interviewer is like telling someone that you have herpes on a first date: it ensures that there will be no second date.
Templates and Example Answers for “Walk Me Through Your Resume”
Templates are nice, but you also need to know how to apply them to real-life situations.
For each resume walk-through template in our Investment Banking Interview Guide, you get:
- The key differences when telling your Story from this background (e.g., Law, Big 4, Engineering, Consulting, Corporate Finance, etc.).
- A 150-word outline.
- A 300-word template.
- Executed examples of the outline and template with company and school names and other details included.
Here’s one template for an Engineer or Technical Major who’s moving into investment banking at the Analyst level:
And here’s another one for an experienced professional who’s moving into investment banking from a Big 4/Accounting background:
These templates have many similarities:
- Objections: From either background, key objections will include: “Can you work long hours?” and “Can you talk to people / Are you boring?” We address these objections in the walk-throughs.
- Previous Experience: You probably won’t be able to move from an engineering or accounting role directly into investment banking. You’ll almost always need finance-related experience in between, whether it’s an off-cycle or pre-MBA internship, a stint in the TAS team, or a business development role.
- Specificity: The engineer ties his background to the firm he’s interviewing with (Qatalyst), while the accountant links the firm’s deals to the M&A transaction that originally made him interested in banking.
But there are also some subtle differences, and the way you apply our template differs a bit for different backgrounds.
IB Interview Guide
Land investment banking offers with 578+ pages of detailed tutorials, templates and sample answers, quizzes, and 17 Excel-based case studies.learn more
Walk Me Though Your Resume: An Undervalued Stock
Your Story is like an undervalued stock: the rest of the market doesn’t put in the required time or effort, so they consistently miss or misunderstand it.
But if you do put in the time and effort, you can realize out-sized gains.
Whether you’re preparing for interviews at the last minute or months in advance, you must perfect your answer to the “walk me through your resume” question as the first step in the process.
Get that wrong, and the interview will be over after ~2 minutes as the banker loses interest and writes you off.
Get it right, and the rest of the interview will be smooth sailing.
Series – Investment Banking Interview Prep:
- Week 1: How to Answer the “Walk Me Through Your Resume” Question in Investment Banking Interviews
- Week 2: Equity Value and Enterprise Value: The Definitive Guide
- Week 3: Investment Banking Fit Questions: How to Prepare Efficiently
- Week 4: 3-Statement Modeling Test and Putting It All Together
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
Read below or Add a comment
Can you say that you attended an alumni guest speaker series event at a finance club as your spark?
You can use almost anything as your “spark”; whether or not it’s a good spark is a different story. An alumni guest speaker series event at your finance club is decent but not the best one I’ve heard because it’s a bit generic (couldn’t any other student attending the event also use this story?). But if you have nothing better, sure, use it.
Thank you for all the replies on questions.
I worked in the Energy industry – Investment/Strategy roles, then did my MBA. Got into boutique IB bank (Industrials focused) but decided not to full time and went with big tech. It’s been only 4 month and I want to reapply to bulge banks Industrials. I am having a bit of trouble with structuring my story, I want to start my university, where I am now and how I was fitting more to IB, why im here, my boutique internship + pre-MBA relevant experience. However, I feel like it is not chronological and my finance spark seems too recent, as well as this is the bank I applied for summer internships before and went to interviews. I wanted to ask your view how would you structure it best to sound reasonable and to the point. Thank you very much.
I think you need to make it sound like your goal all along was to get into IB, but then made a mistake going into tech for [Insert convincing reasons X and Y], but now you realize that the issue wasn’t so much IB itself but rather the specific bank/group you were at. So you want to continue on in the industry and exit tech, but do so at a larger or more different bank.
Your story is very dependent on explaining the mistaken reasons why you went into tech rather than accepting the IB offer, and I can’t really say more without knowing those reasons or the possible reasons.
Thank you so much Brian. I will structure my story as you advised.
Thank you for the great article!
I had background in engineering where my bachelor and did a couple of internships. But managed to study masters in finance after graduating from my bachelor. I had 3 internships that are related to the IB (where i want to get into), 1st Treasury Analyst at a commercial bank, 2nd Business Analyst for a organization basically researching market & companies to come up with a start-up idea, I did a education online platform app and researching the potential market. 3rd Investment analyst, helped with clients on deal advisory.
Please could you advise me on which points should I focus on? Do you think I should even still elaborate from engineering or just straight from my masters and all the finance-related experience?
Thank you so much!!
You can still start with your engineering degree and then explain why you wanted to switch to finance and how each internship brought you closer. But you shouldn’t go into too much detail on the first 2 internships because they matter much less than the investment analyst one. I would not skip the engineering part because it will help to explain *why* you switched and did a Master’s in Finance (for your spark).
Previously, I worked one year in retail banking customer service, and 1.5 years in banking and finance research. Currently, I work in financial advisory for fund raising firms for two years. When I was a consumer banker, I completed my MBA in finance and banking., and want break into investment banking. Do I need to mention all these experience at beginning or only the recent one?
Also, does it make sense to insert “virtual investment banking experience” such as J.P. Morgan Investment Banking Virtual Experience, in my resume?
I would appreciate your feedback and advice
No, start from the beginning and go through your story logically. Virtual IB experience matters 0 if you have full-time work experience already. That type of thing is “useful” (if you want to call it that, which is a stretch) only for students without any real work experience yet.
Thank you Brian for your valuable advice
I’ll be interning in Big 4 Tax Consulting this summer, then doing an Acquisitions REPE placement year while applying to IB summer internships in London. I’m struggling to come up with a good story (including spark and ‘why I’m here today’). Any ideas?
I can’t say because I don’t know your full background, previous internships, university, outside interests/hobbies, etc.
thank you so much for this article, it was very helpful !
I’m a French finance student within my last year of studies.
I am applying to summer internships in London for next summer.
I interned at Société Générale as a Securitization Assistant, and at ING in Sales Fixed Income.
I’m having trouble combining these two experiences to explain my growing interest in IB. I indeed developed analytical skills at SG CIB and teamworking/communication skills at ING.
Do you think I could say something like : I’m here today because I want to combine my client exposure experience with the analytical skills I developed in order to avise large scale clients on M&A deals and other types of financial advisory projects. and then mention a specific deal of the bank in question ?
Hope you can answer me,
Yes, maybe also say that Sales at ING was closer to IB because you work with clients and make recommendations to them, but now you want to do it at a larger scale on more than just individual securities. Yes, you can cite a specific deal the bank has worked on.
I completed a Big 4 Audit internship this summer, however I did not really like it. I will be applying to IB SA 2021 when UK applications open in September. I was wondering what the best way to spin this experience would be in terms of my story.
As it is an internship rather than full-time experience, I am not sure whether it would be more appropriate to use the “career changer” story, or the “growing interest in finance” story. For reference, I am a Finance major at a semi-target school.
Just say you interned there to get some initial work experience, but found that you were more interested in IB / deal work because it’s forward-looking and uses accounting/finance knowledge in more interesting ways. Better to say this was part of your growing interest in finance.
I am currently entering Northeastern’s Damore Mckim School of Business as a freshman in the fall, double majoring in Finance and Accounting. I was curious to hear your opinion on the school, and if there are legit chnaces of, with hard work, an IB role. Thank you in advance.
My opinion of the school doesn’t really matter – if you want to get into IB, it’s possible, but you’re going to have to start very early and network like a fiend to get in because Northeastern is not a target school. Unfortunately, brand/”prestige” still matters a lot in finance.
Great read here. I’m from Nigeria, and due to the lack of investment banking firms here, I’m currently applying for global firms.
I don’t have much experience in the industry but I have a finance background and I’m a recent graduate. Do you think I have a chance with any of these companies, and even winning in a potential interview that gets me the job and the opportunity to leave my country?
How do I express myself in a way that would compensate for my lack of exposure in the industry in my country?
Finance recruiting generally comes down to university/GPA, internship experience, and networking. If you don’t have 2 out of 3 of those, your chances aren’t great. Since Nigeria is an emerging market, though, you might have a shot at positions there at global firms even if you don’t have much experience.
I don’t think it’s realistic to win roles in, say, London or New York if you do not have any internship experience because then you have to overcome the visa hurdle and your lack of work experience.
If you don’t have internships, you’ll have to rely on student groups, activities, or hobbies to demonstrate your interest in the field.
Really liked the article and found it really helpful. I have a question regarding the finance spark. If you have a family member who is in finance and you got interested because them, how can you articulate your answer and what areas should you focus on?
Just say what, specifically, this family member did, and how you learned about it through them. This part of your story should be 1-2 sentences, so it should not require much time or effort.
Thank you so much for the article, it is super helpful!
I’m going into a graduate school for quantitative management, another phrase for business analysis, a one year program. I came from a design field background, I already had another master degree in design, but I find myself more interested in getting into investment banking and banking fields. I don’t have any full-time work experiences and my internships were design bases. I wonder during this pandemic time, what can I do to help me get experience or possibly internships next summer to get into the big companies like BlackRock and such? Or maybe it’s too far of a reach and I should aim for something lower? My long term goal would like to work in a PE or VC. Any suggestions would be helpful.
Thank you very much!
Zi Hao Song
Start cold-emailing local/smaller firms to ask about internships. You’ll usually have a decent shot if you have top schools on your resume and you target small PE/VC firms. There’s an example here:
I am interested in Private Equity, is adding I come from an entrepreneurial background helpful or harmful to my story.
Can’t say because it depends on what the rest of your background consists of. It can help if you have nothing else relevant, but it arguably hurts if you have deal-related experience elsewhere.
Hi Brian. Thank you so much for the tips. I worked in Energy industry in financial reporting and strategy and B&D roles. I haven’t had major M&A experience. Currently doing my MBA and applying for Summer Associate roles in IB. Do you have some recommendation on what should I sell more about transitioning into IB? Thanks
Focus on the strategy and B&D experience and say that you got to make recommendations in those roles, but did not oversee the full implementation via M&A deals, so IB would give you the chance to combine your strategy experience with execution.
To show evidence of “deal experience,” point out how projects at big companies require you to win buy-in from many different parties, work across departments, win approval, etc., which is similar to the requirements in an M&A deal process.
Thank you so much Brian! this is very helpful
Do you think I should bring up the fact I grew up in foster care when telling my story? I’m not going to focus on it, I just want to point out that I can overcome any obstacle thrown my way. I’m currently interviewing for corporate development jobs as a 27 year old with some solid finance experience. Just really want to set myself apart!
I would not recommend mentioning this because it will be very difficult to reference “casually” without drawing too much attention to it or asking for a boost due to your profile. It’s better to go for the “interesting” angle in the beginning and mention a hobby or interest that sets you apart. Also, for corporate development, they may not value the “overcoming obstacles” point quite as much as banks would.
I was going to start off with telling where I went to college and why then mention, “I’m actually from Cape Cod, but my foster mother moved us down to Florida during the recession. Soon enough though, I decided to move back up north to be closer to family and find work related to investing”
I plan on going back to Business school and then using this line to show I can overcome obstacles in order to break into banking
You could say it like that, but I still wouldn’t emphasize it too much because you don’t want to mention weaknesses/obstacles upfront in your story.
Thank you so much for giving this site and blog together (and for apparently maintaining through the years).
I was recently turned down for an entry level position with an investment firm after I had a phone interview with someone their HR dept. Needless to say, I did not like my chances after I got off the phone. I am also 34 and attempting trying to break-in lacking a bachelor’s. I did, however, attend college and have gained some measure ofgeneralized business experience (retail and wholesale warehousing, tennis coarching, cost estimating, etc.). I’ve also been self-educating, reading anything business-oreiented (and beyond) as reccomended by the investment elites of the industrialized age.
I guess I’m trying to gauge whether I should give up on this whole notion of tapping into a high-octane industry “Don Draper-style” like investing , or, just stick with my current career path at this point?
Again, thank you so much for your efforts.
You have a very low chance of winning a “high finance” role (IB, PE, etc.) if you are already 34 and do not have a university degree. You might be able to win less traditional finance-related roles in areas like real estate or business development or sales or anything where they just care about results and not your pedigree. But I don’t think it’s a good use of time to keep pursuing traditional investing or advising roles unless you can somehow go back and complete a university degree at this stage. The industry is too focused on prestige and following a specific path.
I currently have 4.23/4.33 of GPA and I’m first of my master’s program (in a non target university).
Is there a way to correctly say it in an interview ?
Or does it appear like I grant too much importance to it (which is honestly not that important near social skills).
Thanks a lot !
You should never state your GPA upfront in an interview because it’s odd to bring it up like that, and it will make them question your social skills. You should only give your GPA if they directly ask you for it (or about your overall grades).
thanks a lot
I appreciate the feedback
Hey Brian, thanks for the interesting read. I’m in a slightly weird position where I don’t know how to spin my story. I’ve interned the past 3 summers in operations and compliance at one of the big banks (top 5) but they all generally fall under the same function. I go to a decent business school (rising junior) with decent grades but I’m not sure that interviewers will like me only having had experience in the back office even though I can find transferrable skills. I know it’s vague but any recommendations based on colleagues with similar predicaments?
Please ignore my rambling in my original comment if you’d like. I’m guaranteed a superday at this firm for an investment banking analyst internship. I recognize my extreme privilege in this case. How do I not mess this up for myself? Again, sorry for being vague.
First, you should think of this as a process, not a single event. The chances of winning an offer from a single interview are relatively low; you need at least 5-10 good opportunities to have a good shot because the “random” element is quite high. So, think of this as practice for your next IB interview… and the one after that… and the one after that. Come in prepared, but don’t spend time memorizing answers to questions or sounding scripted. Think in outline and main points, not rehearsed answers. Once it’s done, ask for feedback, and repeat.
One option might be to use something from outside your work experience to explain your story… maybe your internships were not that different, but you did some type of class, leadership/activity, or student club that brought you closer to a front-office finance role. Beyond that, I can’t really say much without more details of your story.
I have a video interview with an IB in San Francisco and New York for an early insights program that can potentially lead to an internship next summer if I am extended an offer after a couple of super days next month. I wanted to know what recommendations you had to best be prepared for the initial video interview?
Video interviews are similar to any other interview, but you have to use common sense to avoid doing silly things (e.g., letting your cat/dog play in the background, not wearing clothes, doing the video in front of a messy area, letting your roommate walk in while you’re speaking, etc.). You can follow the tips here: https://mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-interview-questions-and-answers/
Hi Brian, I am a sophomore studying Computer Science and Math in a target school. I will interview for the final round for the summer technology analyst of a large IB soon. I do not have much finance background, except before I had a short term intern at another small(but also global) financial service company’s IT department. What do you think I should highlight when I introduce myself? Thank you very much!
It’s really hard to say without knowing your background/previous experience, but you can set yourself apart the most by finding a good “Spark.” Everyone else will have internships, a good academic background, etc., so your Spark is the best way to make them remember you.
Hey Brian, I think I have two problems with my story, I dont know if my financial spark is strong enough and my long term goals are too generic.
The general outline of my story is that as an economics major I got interested in finance through a macroeconomics course were we modeled an economy’s behavior and its individuals had access to financial instruments, then I began taking finance courses and internships and decided I wanted to work on transactions and become an investor in the future, so I interned at a search fund but now want to move to IB to work on deals more often and with more sophisticated clients to gain more relevant skills to become an investor in the future.
Your opinion is much appreciated.
Your Spark is OK but could be a little more specific (maybe mention the conclusions, the professor, or something else unique).
Same for your long-term goals – try to cite a specific industry or deal type or something like that.
I am heading into an MBA program in fall of 2018 and I am trying to think of a “spark” moment. I have worked in health and economic policy consulting that deals with economics and costs/benefits but nothing overtly finance related. Would an appropriate spark be how I was more excited and motivated about business development and developing new clients (and recurring client revenues)?
Yes, potentially, but you need to give something more specific for that point… name a specific client or opportunity you wanted to pursue.
Thank you. Appreciate the feedback.
My family is full of physicians, my father being one and he being my biggest inspiration and role model. I was always sad that I couldn’t continue his legacy but I grew up surrounded by the healthcare industry. My last internship was in PWM, now I’m an analyst in Corporate Treasury/Liquidity Management and I found the Healthcare group in IB to be a great opportunity. How do I embellish this story for IB?
Say that you’ve always been interested in healthcare due to your family but wanted to approach it from more of the business side because of [name something else]. So, you started out in PWM to gain finance experience, but wanted something more analytical, so you moved to treasury/liquidity management. You’ve enjoyed that more, but now you want to do something that affects companies industry-wide, and you want to focus on healthcare specifically because of your background.
Hey Brian, I got interested in IBD while working in accounting and has a good story about that. Then I did MSc Finance to learn Finance. This sequence worked well in IBD interview until recently when I did FoF PE internship. I don’t know now where to put this PE internship in my story and how I can answer the objection that why doing buy-side internship after MSc when interested in IBD?
Say that you did the PE FoF internship because the firm was willing to hire you part-time / during the school year, but many banks were not, and you figured you could use the deal analysis skills in PE in investment banking. And it was your long-term plan all along to get into IB, so the PE internship along the way was just a way for you to learn. But you prefer PE to IB for reasons X, Y, and Z (see the article on this topic).
I’m a junior at Tulane University with a 3.24 GPA (which I plan to raise) who just got interested in investment banking. While I don’t have any finance experience so far, I do have experience working with a venture capital company in communications, as well as a jewelry company and clinic in similar roles. If I being aggressively networking now, following your guide, do you think there’s any chance that I land an IB internship this summer (given my lack of finance experience)? Or should I work on getting a PWM, PE, or HF internship this summer and then pursue IB during my MBA?
Would really appreciate a reply.
Because of the speed of the recruiting process, you don’t have a good shot at IB internships anymore (especially with a 3.2 GPA). You’re better off getting a related internship and then trying to move into IB as a lateral hire or through another degree.
Makes sense. What field specifically, if any, would you say I should be looking into at the moment, and are there any resources on your site or similar to your site that you suggest I use to secure positions in that field? And, would you suggest that I work for 1-2 years after undergrad in said field and pursue a master’s in finance? My plan is to do IB once I can for a few years, then move onto the buy side, ideally HF.
Big 4 firms, search funds, anything in real estate, independent valuation firms, the list goes on. You only need an MSF if you cannot get into IB via networking or if the role is very far removed. We’ve covered many of these stories before if you go to the Articles page and look under Case Studies there…
I’ve been looking into a lot of the industries you mentioned here and have made some good contacts.
However, through my networking I also met with some IB analysts and associates at local boutiques that have said they are still hiring interns or that recruiting season does not even begin until January.
Would you say these are good, realistic options for me to look at? I am dead-set on investment banking but don’t want to waste my time if I have no shot. Also, of the industries you mentioned, which is best to break into IB? Are there firms that typically have a lot of employees move on to IB?
I looked at the case studies page but could not find answers to these questions. Any help would be greatly appreciated; I find your articles incredibly helpful and insightful and value your opinion.
If you have the option to recruit at boutique banks, sure, go for that rather than the non-IB options. Search funds and valuation firms are probably the most relevant ones for getting into IB.
Thank you for this. Would you say that any internship in banking is better than any other for getting into IB? I can probably get a financial analyst internship at a big bank this summer through a connection. Would you say this is better than valuation, search funds, or real estate as far as getting into IB after?
So what about PWM? Would this be better than a financial analyst position? And where do PE/HF stand in this?
Any internship in investment banking at a bank of any size is better than any non-IB internship. PWM is OK for your first or second internship in university but not great for the final one before applying for IB roles. Small PE firms and hedge funds are better than PWM but not as good as IB roles.
Thanks, Brian. What about commercial banking? Where does that stand in terms of relevance?
Appreciate all the help.
It is less relevant than everything else above
Thank you for the reply!
Great Ariticles! I wish I had known this website when I was sitll in the college.
I have been working at one of the Big 4 for 1.5 years in China and currently I want to break into IB. I’m not from the target school so I decided to pursue a master degree in one of the target schools in the US.
During the application I have to state my purpose of this transition, but I’m interested in IB just because one of my former classmates got into IB and shared her experience with me and because the most recent engagement I’m working on is an IPO engagement and I had the chance to work with people from IB. But if I simply state that “I’m interested in IB” in my statement of purpose, it will be look like I’m not that committed to this field. So I really don’t know how to “tell my story” in a persuasive way.
Thank you in advance!!!
Um… follow everything above? Say you were interested in client advisory and finance at first, which you got at the Big 4 firm, but then you worked on an IPO and other deals, gained exposure to banking, and want to take a more active role in driving deals forward. The Master’s degree gives you a chance to do that by learning the required skills and recruiting for employers who want candidates like yourself.
Thanks for the great post! I have a few questions on what I should be specifically preparing for going into sophomore year.
I’m a rising sophomore international student at Northwestern University, and I committed to investment banking near the end of my freshman year. I’ve been involved in entrepreneurship on-campus and helped start an event production company, and I was lucky enough to use family connections to get an asset valuation internship at a company of a friend. I do not have a lot of previous finance experience and did not participate in business/finance clubs during my freshman year, but I plan to as soon as school starts next month. Most BB recruitment is for juniors, not sophomores, so I was wondering what type of opportunities, aside from joining clubs, would put me in the best position for future recruitment?
I know basic Excel modeling and valuation techniques are vital to know. I’ve read a lot of current trends in banking and I’ve heard that some proficiency in programming is also good, given the rise of quantitative trading. I’m fairly inexperienced with interviews in general, and seeing the amount of “soft skills” required to make it through them successfully honestly terrifies me, but I want to prepare myself as much as I can going into formal recruitment.
Of all the things possible, i.e. Excel, studying more, interview prep, networking, business clubs, what do you think I should prioritize above all during the rest of my freshman summer and first few months of sophomore year?
Networking, getting additional internships, and preparing for interviews. Please see:
Thanks for the reply! I’ll focus on honing my networking and interviewing skills first then!
So would you say Excel skills and joining business clubs are second-priority, if worth it at all at the stage I’m at?
Those are not as important. You can learn Excel skills right before your internship begins if you spend a few weeks on it. Business clubs are only useful for networking/internship search purposes, but you can do that in other ways as well.
Good write-up, though the information about MBA recruiting doesn’t match what I’ve heard from current business school students, in that it’s not necessary that you have direct finance experience pre-MBA. That’s what business school, the summer associate program, and subsequent new associate training is for: to get you up to speed on how the bank does things, how to model, and how to review analyst work.
Am I wrong in thinking this?
I would say that’s wrong, but it depends on what you mean by “direct finance experience pre-MBA.”
Do you need a previous IB or PE role to get in? No, but you do need something that is relevant to IB, such as a consulting role, business development, Big 4 TAS, etc.
It’s unrealistic in 2017 to walk into MBA-level recruiting with only programming or marketing or non-profit experience pre-MBA, have nothing finance-related, and still win interviews and offers.
See: https://mergersandinquisitions.com/mba-investment-banking-recruiting-process/ under the “Q: How important is it to have a “steppingstone” like the TAS role you held for several years?” question.
You could get in if your experience is more relevant and you have a solid brand name, like MBB consulting or corporate finance at GE.
This article is really helpful! Still I have some questions as someone who’s already in the industry yet wants to get into BB.
I’m in my early career at a boutique IB (relatively small one) with an engineering degree. I’m not from a traditional background and lucky that I somehow managed to break into the industry. Now I’m looking for opportunities to get into BB.
May I know what do BB look for from people from smaller firms? what are the major differences between working for BB and working for small boutiques? what skills or questions would you suggest that I should prepare for?
Thank you very much and look forward to your reply.
You will need to learn about larger/more complex deals and more of the technical side to work at a larger bank. Bulge brackets want people who can join and immediately add value without the need for training.
Thanks for sharing this great, truly valuable content.
I recently had an off cycle ib interview at an European In-Between-a-Banks/ IBAB. The process was not so organised: 2 interviews with Associates, lasting much longer than scheduled (almost 2hrs instead of 1). Neither of them knew what the next steps would be or when should I expect an answer. Five working days have passed, excluding the interview day, so I’m assuming the worst. Then again, I got it through direct e-mailing; not standard recruiting.
I heard that in Europe it isn’t expected to send thank you emails/followups. But I am thinking about emailing for an update, as I haven`t reached out since the interview.
-What’s best: Call or email?
-To both interviewers or one of them? Or directly the MD?
-Should it be a simple follow up? If I e-mail only one of them, I could share something of interest to the interviewer, to make it “richer” than a mere one-liner.
-Would it be wise to say that I read more into a topic where I did not answer well or better leave that out?
Thanks a lot for your time!
I would just email both of them (in separate messages), thank them again for speaking a few days ago, and follow up to see if they know anything about your status so that it’s not just a thank-you email. You could try to add something of interest or add something that you didn’t know much about the first time around, but only if you can make it concise. Don’t write a paragraph explaining one of these points because bankers tend to skip long emails. But if you can make it 3-4 sentences for each person, it’s a good idea.
How do you phrase wanting to move from a mid tier European bank to a top tier BB or EB? Full time role and already have finra licenses.
Say that you want to work on a specific deal type or in a region/industry that your current bank does not cover, but which the other bank does. Or if it is an EB, make it more about wanting to get client interaction and hands-on experience and you staying in banking for the long term, in which case an EB is clearly the best option. I don’t think “larger and more complex deals” is the best angle for either of those moves.
Brian, thanks for replying. You are very helpful, as always.
I think this article is great and very helpful, but the thing is I think this approach doesn’t really give much room for you to reveal your personality thus hook your interviewers in and letting them like you personally by the time you finish your story. Don’t get me wrong, I think this approach is very smart and will def generate great results, but at the same time, I don’t think this approach is personable enough that will let you personality shine through and make people like you? I have noticed from experience that most of my interview success came from the most personalized stories that really touch people. So I was wondering is there a way to combine what you have outlined here with more personal flavor? Would greatly appreciate any insights!
It’s a nice idea, but it would make your story too long in most cases. You don’t want to give a 5-minute-long pitch in the beginning – keep it short, drop 1-2 bits of interesting information related to yourself, and let them ask for more if they want it. You can’t assume that the interviewer wants to know more about your personality. Some do, but some are also in “bad cop” mode or are there to stress-test you. Also, getting to know someone is best done before the interview even takes place (i.e., when networking).
Hi Brian / M&I,
Thanks for your updated article, it was very helpful!
Just one question – what happens if you already had several IB internships under your belt at top bulge bracket firms (GS/JPM/MS), but unfortunately you didn’t receive a return offer over the last summer? I’m planning to apply to elite boutiques next (I’m still an undergraduate student since I decided to extend my degree to have another shot at summer internship recruiting) because I think they would offer a better culture / deal experience for me.
Any tips / advice on tweaking my story? Do I still need to focus on the “spark” / why I’m interested in investment banking, or should I talk about my work experience more? (keeping in mind that I’m still only an undergrad student with approx. 4 months worth of IB internship experience combined + a couple of months at a big 4 valuations / modelling group).
Thanks in advance!
If you have that much work experience already, your story should be more about why you want to work at an elite boutique. You don’t need something crazy/unique for your spark, though it still helps to say something memorable in the beginning since so many students have multiple internships these days. I would group together your internships at large banks and act like they happened around the same time, skip over why you didn’t receive a return offer, and focus on why you want to work at an EB instead. If they ask about your return offer status, you can address it then. But it’s not worth bringing up in your story because there’s no great way to explain it unless no one received a return offer.
Thanks for your quick reply Brian! Really appreciate it.