Non-Core Series: Landing the Interview

Part 1 of our Non-Core Investment Banking Recruiting Series

Landing the investment banking interview is part 1 of the Non-Core Interview Process and quite possibly the hardest part.  Every year Street of Walls sees Non-Core Undergrads roll through with all the talent in the world but never get the chance to demonstrate it.  Imagine putting in months of preparation to come to find out you were never able to even show off your skills.  This is why it is essential to be as prepared and connected as possible throughout the process.

The first step in the process is to apply online for the position.  This is a prerequisite for every potential candidate, even core recruits. After you apply online you will have your own personal login where you can post your most up to date resume and update information as it changes on the site.  Typically investment bankers are very focused on resumes.  Be assured that they will check your resume for proper formatting and will judge you for how well this is done.  Since bankers format pitchbooks on day-to-day basis, even the slightly formatting error could cause a problem.  So if you haven’t already done so please visit the Street of Walls article on building the perfect investment banking resume.

These days applying online with a great resume, stellar GPA, and good work experience are not enough to ensure an interview.  Generally the best way for a non-core candidate to land a first round interview is by having an employee at the bank refer your resume to the HR department.  The higher up the person, the better your chances are of actually landing an interview.   Now you might be asking yourself “I don’t know anybody in investment banking”.  If this is something you are asking yourself, this next step is extremely important.

Networking is the key to success in being able to land a referral.  Typically university alumni are great people to get in touch with for this.  Work with your schools alumni network to find contacts that currently work in investment banking.   Don’t stop there though; get a hold of every family friend, relative, or friend of friend you know and see if they know anybody that works in investment banking.  As soon as you feel you have a good base of contacts, send out emails to everyone asking if they wouldn’t mind speaking over the phone about their job, experience in investment banking, and how the recruiting process at their bank works.  Most people are more than happy to speak over the phone and this is a very helpful resource in getting a referral for an interview.

A good example of an email to get you in a door with an associate at a bank is below:

Dear John,

My name is Jack and I am currently a Finance major at Penn State University and eager to learn about the investment banking industry.  I received your information from our alumni directory and would love to speak with you regarding the BofA Merrill Lynch Summer Analyst Program.  It would also be a great if I could hear your perspective on the investment banking industry and your experience at the firm.  Would you be available to either have coffee or speak over the phone for 15-20 minutes?  As a fellow Nittany Lion I would really appreciate it.  Thanks and look forward to hearing back from you.



Penn State University

Phone: (XXX) XXX-XXX


This next and final step is the most crucial to receiving a referral.  During your calls with bankers, if you feel like the call is going well, you should politely ask if they wouldn’t mind referring your resume to HR.  This question is greatly dependent on how well the phone call is going.  Most people will not refer just anybody for these positions.  They have to feel you are a strong candidate and that you would fit well for the position.  When an employee refers a potential candidate, it makes them look bad if the candidate gets an interview and ends up doing poorly.   That being said, if you conversation is going great and you feel the banker you are talking to really wants to help you out, you should politely ask for a referral.

I personally received 5 employee referrals at different investment banks and ended up receiving first round interviews at 4 out of the 5 of them.   Employee referrals are a great way to receive a first round interview and if you can follow these steps I have no doubt you will succeed just as I did in landing the first round interview.

If all goes well these steps will lead to a First Round Phone Interview, much of this can be learned and I’m going to show you how.

Non-Core Recruiting Process Series:

Non-Core Series #1: (Currently Reading)

Non-Core Series #2:  First Round Phone Interview

Non-Core Series #3Superday Interview