by Brian DeChesare Comments (249)

How to Tell Your “Story” in Investment Banking Interviews

If you have 2 hours before your interview, and you haven’t done any preparation, what should you do first?

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:

Wait a Minute, Haven’t You Written About This Before? Many Times?

Yes, and much of the advice in previous articles still applies.

However, there are now three major differences:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Sexuality Studies or Astronomy?

The Structure, the Word Count, and the Objectives

We used to recommend a 5-point structure for your Story, but a 4-point structure is better because it encourages brevity.

Here are the 4 points:

  1. The Beginning – A quick sentence or two about your background, such as where you grew up or your university or business school.
  2. Finance “Spark” – The specific person, event, or experience that made you interested in finance or investment banking.
  3. Growing Interest – How you gained relevant skills and work experience over time that prepare you for this job.
  4. 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 feasible to come up with a specific person, event, or experience.

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]

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]

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, become interested 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.”

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.

What to Avoid in Your Story

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.

Take Me to the Templates, Please

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 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.

If you want examples of how to tell your Story for buy-side roles, please see our previous article on that topic.

What’s Your Story?

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 outsized gains.

Whether you’re preparing for interviews at the last minute or months in advance, you must perfect your Story 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 – Interview Prep:

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.


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  1. Hi M&I,

    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)?

    1. Yes, potentially, but you need to give something more specific for that point… name a specific client or opportunity you wanted to pursue.

      1. Thank you. Appreciate the feedback.

  2. Hey Brian,

    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?

    1. 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.

  3. 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?

    1. 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).

  4. Saahil Shah

    Hi Brian,

    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.

    Thanks

    1. 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.

      1. Saahil Shah

        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.

        1. 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…

          1. Saahil Shah

            Hi Brian,

            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.

          2. 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.

          3. 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?

          4. So what about PWM? Would this be better than a financial analyst position? And where do PE/HF stand in this?

          5. 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.

          6. Thanks, Brian. What about commercial banking? Where does that stand in terms of relevance?

            Appreciate all the help.

          7. It is less relevant than everything else above

      2. Saahil Shah

        Thank you for the reply!

  5. Jiangnan

    Hi Brian!
    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!!!

    1. 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.

  6. 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?

    1. Networking, getting additional internships, and preparing for interviews. Please see:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-university-student-high-school-student/

      1. 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?

        1. 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.

  7. 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?

    1. 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://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/transaction-advisory-services-to-investment-banking-mba-level/ 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.

  8. 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.

    1. https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/boutique-middle-market-bulge-bracket/

      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.

  9. Hi M&I,
    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!

    1. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. Brian, thanks for replying. You are very helpful, as always.

  11. Biran,

    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!

    Thanks!

    1. 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).

  12. Overqualified Undergraduate Student

    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!

    1. 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.

      1. Overqualified Undergraduate Student

        Thanks for your quick reply Brian! Really appreciate it.

  13. I appreciate you taking the time to do this for us. I’m prepping for an interview. What do you think, Brian? I would appreciate your feedback.

    I. My “Roots” or Beginning
    a. I was from South Central, LA. Both of my parents are immigrants & I attended Catholic School growing up.
    b. Growing up, I fell in love with math and science I was also diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome in third grade.
    c. Around that time my parent’s had bought me my first desktop computer and I fell in love with the ability to use the internet, use software, and research anything I wanted. I began learning about Tourette’s mainly because I wanted to be able to explain it to anyone who asked me about my tic movements. I took pleasure in being able to explain something unusual to someone who had no idea these anomalies existed.
    d. Being very interested in Science and Math and research, I decided to attend University of Southern California to study Industrial Engineering because of its focus on the technical aspects of how large Business decisions are made
    II. My Finance “Spark”
    a. I broke into the financial industry by landing an internship with JMP Securities in technology equity research.
    b. At JMP Securities, I learned how to work with tools like Excel, PowerPoint, Capital IQ, and Gardner research.
    c. I also observed how the managing director interacted with his clients during his meetings since he would occasionally bring me along.
    III. My Growing Interest
    a. One of the things I loved about the research I was involved in was that the data had direct influence on the direction a particular stock was moving & that was very satisfying for me.
    b. Back on campus I took every opportunity to network and connect with students with similar interests. I joined the USC Investing club and enrolled in several finance classes including a valuation class where I learned financial modeling, accounting, and financial statement analysis.
    c. After I graduated I took on a Technology sales role at Oracle
    IV. Why I’m Here Today
    a. I’m here today interviewing with J.P. Morgan because I believe my ability to grow a customer base and analyze numbers will enable me to add value to the firm working as an investment banker.
    b. At Oracle, I build my book by cold calling and working with warm leads. I exceeded my opportunity quota my first quarter on the job and attained $28k in closed revenue, and I want to bring my new growing skills to investment banking.
    V. My Future
    a. This bank will lead me to success because it will provide me with the resources and skills I need to invest in software and emerging technology, and I believe J.P. Morgan is going to get me there.

    Tell me about a time…

    One of my group projects I worked on my senior year involved valuing Match Group’s IPO spinoff.
    I worked with 4 other peers from my class who had a business or finance background.

    I remember we were sitting together discussing growth rate assumptions for the various revenue streams. Since I knew my finance knowledge was limited, I sat quietly for most of the periods in order for me to listen and learn from other people’s opinions. After gaining some insight on a particular topic of discussion, I would feel comfortable enough to start asking questions and sharing my opinion.

    After most of the model was done, I volunteered to work on the number sensitivity analysis since I had a lot of classroom experience working with statistics and mathematics. We all split the PowerPoint presentation content evenly and practiced together.

    On the final day of class, we presented our PowerPoint to our classroom and a small guest audience from Duff & Phelps and ended up scoring an A on the project.

    1. Your story is way too long, first off (max should be 300 words, ideally 200 words – yours is 617). We don’t provide detailed feedback on your story unless you are a coaching client or BIWS customer because of the amount of time it takes to read it, learn your background, and then rewrite your story. Please ask in one of those forums if you are a member of the site.

  14. Hi Brian, been reading your site for over 2 years now. Big fans of yours. I have a corporate banking analyst interview with a Big 5 Canadian bank soon, and I hope you could give me some feedback on my story.

    I recently completed an internship at a boutique fund with a defensive investment strategy. As an analyst I built financial models and summarized earnings calls, and I came across many companies that are also ideal lending targets: recurring revenue, stable margins, and low leverage ratios. I also witnessed how over leveraging drove the once largest Canadian pharma company, Valeant, to the brink of bankruptcy. That is what sparked my interest in the debt business. After the internship, I had coffee with an alumni who recently moved into corporate banking at bank of Mitsubishi. This talk consolidated my interest in corporate banking because just like in prior role, corporate banking is a fast moving environment that also demands great attention to details. Deals, the economy, and regulations evolve rapidly, so learning is always required. While I thoroughly enjoyed the analytical aspect of my last role, I prefer a large and structured environment that provides more formal training to its analysts. That is what brings me here today.

    Thank you for your time!

    1. I think that sounds reasonable, but you probably want to include a unique / more personal point in the beginning so you stand out more effectively.

  15. Shubham Agarwal

    How long should the “Walk me through your resume/tell me about yourself” should be? 2-3 mins?

  16. If given the “walk me through your resume” question to kick off your interview, is it still appropriate to go from “your growing interest” (which has resume-related content) into “why you’re here today” and “your future” despite these last two point not being directly related to describing your resume? Or should I wait for another question prompting a response about my interest in the firm/where I see myself in the future?

    1. Yes. You need to spell out explicitly why you want to work at this firm/in this group, or they may not realize it or they may not think you’re interested.

  17. I am a pharmacist, who is currently completing an Equity research internship. I have also worked as a compliance auditor and consultant within my family’s Consulting firm. I am looking to ultimately move into I.B.- could you please help me understand, how I could marry my experiences into a story across healthcare, consulting and now, ER to make me attractive to an I.B. recruiter?

    Thank you for your time and assistance, it sincerely means a lot to me.

    1. I would probably make the story something like: You started out as a pharmacist because of your interest in medicine, but you wanted to do something more business-oriented and faster-paced, so you worked in consulting next. While you liked the analysis and the team environment there, you became more interested in investing and the public markets over time, and you wanted to apply your industry background there, so you entered equity research (analyzing pharmaceutical companies I assume?). But while there, you became more interested in major transactions since some of the companies you followed were acquired, and you want to contribute to major transactions in the future.

      Honestly, this one is pretty hard and doesn’t sound too convincing because of the number of hops you’ve had – maybe think about simplifying it and making it 1-2 hops at most or it will be quite tough to explain.

  18. For the future plans question, do I tell the banker that I want do investment banking for only a few years and then move to the buy side? Or is that viewed as negative that I already have plans to leave before I start?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d just say that you plan to be in IB and be an advisor to corporates in the long term. I’d leave out moving to the buy side.

  19. Hello Brain,

    Great article. I am a junior economics student. I am an international student from Asia. I am looking for IB summer internships in Hong Kong. I am wondering if I could get some feedback on parts of my own story.

    I am from a small town in the central part of my country. Studying in US is very expensive. My family could not afford me to school through their job, but my dad invested well so that I can have this great opportunity to see the entire world. I am always grateful to my parents, and I also got inspired that I want to try finance.

    Last summer, I had my internship in a small bank as a corporate treasury. Through that experience, it was very quantitative, and there was few chance to work with people. After that internship, I found that I want to work both with people and numbers. As I know more about the industry, go to more info session and talk with more professionals. I think IBD is a good fit for me. Three reasons: 1. As investment banker, I have an opportunity to see different industries. This is a great deal for me, because I have that curiosity to know more about the business world. 2. Right after college, this job can give me an opportunity to make impacts. 3. As I know, for investment banker, every day is different. I am excited that I can work on different things ever day.

    I think my story is not that strong because I dont have much relevant banking experience. I am struggling with my story. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again.

    szz

    1. Nicole Lee

      While we don’t usually comment on readers’ stories on this forum, I’d say 1) having relevant experience will strengthen your story. 2) It’s also best if you can talk about why banking in the short term and long term https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/why-investment-banking/

  20. I’m still quite intrigued that they would be open to hearing that you’re using investment banking as a stepping stone to eventually get where you want to go. I would have thought that would harm your chances. “I am applying to your bank because in a few years I want to do X”? Is there not a fine line you must walk between that while still showing that you will be committed to the bank?

    Thanks,

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d probably just say that you see yourself as a deal-maker and advisor to firms in the long run, and you believe that investment banking is the best path for you to achieve such goal.

  21. Hi,

    So I have an IBD interview coming up and I am confused as to how to show that the skills I have acquired from my research internships are transferable to banking/how they make me a good candidate?

    My experience has been in 1) researching public policy problems in India, specifically financial inclusion and rural credit markets.
    2) analyzing property trends in an Indian city and making projections about their future trajectory. (the modeling wasn’t too fancy, very basic Excel)

    What key skills can I demonstrate from these experiences? I would appreciate any input, thanks!!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Your ability to analyze numbers and conduct research. You can also demonstrate your knowledge in Indian property and credit markets.

  22. I am an Engineering undergrad applying for ER, PWM, Risk Management divisions in banks through the placement process (IBD Doesn’t come for hiring)

    How to sell your story for these divisions? How will my ‘ Why am I here today’ and ‘your future’ be different.. ?

    Can i still speak that I want to advise certain companies and maybe become an Investor one day

    Thanks

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes these three divisions are different. But if you’re looking for asset management roles yes your future plans of being an investor is useful to say. For ER you may want to talk about how you want to contribute to investors investment decisions. For PWM talk about your interest in helping your clients manage their wealth

  23. Hi, I’m currently an undergrad junior. If I have 5 work experiences on my resume, but only 3 would fit in best with my story, is it okay if I leave out the other 2? I still want them on my resume because the experience is relevant to banking, but it would mean that I would have too many “hops”. I currently have 3 hops, and if I want to cover all the experience on my resume, it would not only take a lot longer (1 minute longer), but also require 2 more hops which may overwhelm the interviewer. What are your thoughts?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes I may only talk about the 3 experiences to keep your story coherent unless the 2 really adds value to your case. And if you decide to do that, I’d leave out the other 2 from your resume.

      1. Thanks for the great feedback, Nicole. My only concern is that completely removing those two experiences (which are very relevant to banking, but again would complicate my story) would substantially hurt my candidacy when one looks at my resume. Would it really be that bad if I leave them there, don’t mention them in my story, and if asked about it I can then discuss the work experience?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Not necessarily, but they are likely going to ask you about the two experience so you may want to back them up and prepare for that in interviews.

  24. Hi, if i had an internship where I was exposed to an M&A transaction, then did a internship in wealth management after, then two internships in banking, is it ok to skip over the wealth management internship in my story even tho its stated on my resume?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      No, if you don’t want to talk about the wealth management experience, I may omit it on your resume.

  25. Brian you’re Da bomb

  26. 12th man

    For an undergraduate applying for full-time IB at a BB, is 2-3 min appropriate for for a phone interview, or should it be cut down to something like 1-1.5 minutes? I worry that by the time I finish my 3 minutes of talking, they will have stopped listening and reverted to typing emails. Thanks for all y’all do, this is an great site.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It depends on how much time and patience the other person on the line has. I’d keep it to below 2 minutes to be safe if you’re just introducing yourself

  27. So my finance spark is that I was at Goldman Sachs info session at my school and David Solomon basically told his story about going to a liberal arts school, then breaking into I-banking, then rising up the ranks to where he is today, and how that was really the first in-depth description I had heard about I-banking, but how it got me really interesting in I-banking so from then on, I started doing lots of research on the topic, joining relevant clubs, and taking relevant classes. My question is: Obviously if I’m interviewing at Goldman Sachs, I would not hesitate to tell that story, because it would allow me to name drop lots of specifics about the firm and a high ranking individual there, but how what should I do when interviewing at other firms, especially other bulge brackets that are rivals with Goldman? Would it look bad if I told Morgan Stanley that a Goldman Sachs info session was what got me into I-banking? Especially if the interviewer knew that Morgan Stanley also had an info session at my school that year? I know this is a really long question, So I’d be super appreciative of any feedback.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You can just say that you were at MS’ info session and met XYZ banker who inspired you to join IBD. I wouldn’t really mention GS or David Solomon, because they’d then ask “Why don’t you join GS instead?”

  28. Hi, I’m am sophomore and will be interviewing for Capital Markets this coming week. I have done S&T in a BB last summer as a freshman (but it was mainly research and data collecting). How can I tailor this summer experience towards why I want to work for Capital Markets? To be honest, I chose the division only because I wanted to try something new as a sophomore.

    Thank you!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Say that you were exposed to the public markets in S&T and loved that. However, through your conversations with XX you’ve came to learn more about how companies obtain financing through the public markets (IPO etc) best if you have had exposure to capital markets work in S&T so you can briefly mention that. You became more interested in capital markets because you would still love to be close to the markets, though rather than trading/selling stocks, you would love to link companies with financing, learn about how IPOs and FOs work, and serve as a bridge between investors and corporates (best of both worlds – you get exposure to public markets and corporate)

  29. Hello,

    If i had an accounting internship before college, is it ok to say in my beginning that I first started off in accounting b/c i had an accounting internship in hs that i really enjoyed? Is this too vague? or should i go into more detail?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      This is fine. You can also add that you were originally interested in Accounting because it is the foundation of most businesses

  30. Hiya. I’ve been called for an interview at GS for a summer internship. The reason I want to be there is because I know that I will learn a lot from them… Tbh, I don’t know a great deal about finance since I am from the technology side. So how am I suppose to answer the ‘finance spark and growing interest’ question?

    Thank you.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Congratulations. You can say something along the lines of:

      “I started off being interested in [Engineering / Technical Field] back [Before College / In College If You’ve Graduated], and thought I would do that for a few years. But after getting exposed to [Your Finance “Spark” – Meeting Someone, An Event, Student Group, Internship], I realized that I was much more interested in pursuing business because I want to make an impact and work in something much faster-paced. Since then, I’ve done some research on my own and also [Hopefully Done More Finance-Related Work / Activities], and I’ve realized that starting out in investment banking would be the best fit for me. In the long-term I want to be an investor or trusted advisor to companies, and I see banking as the ideal path to getting there.”

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/getting-a-finance-job-from-engineering/

  31. I just underwent an interview for Goldman Sachs spring internship.how long do I have to wait for a favourable response.???

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I don’t quite understand your question?

  32. Dear Brian and the M&I Team,

    THANK YOU! I just accepted an offer at a very large middle market investment bank for their analyst program. I am from a public non-target school and was up against every single Ivey and private school out there. I used your template for crafting my story and used it in every single one of my interviews – including 1st round and all 6 on super day. Being able succinctly sell myself and, for me, how I worked my way through high school and put myself through college was a winner. Putting in a couple dozen hours into perfecting your story and re-crafting it over and over is totally worth it in retrospect to be able to nail down a six-figure job right out of school. I’m going to make all my friends use this template, regardless of their industry.

    Thank you again!

    Sincerely,
    David P.

    1. Thanks for reading and congrats!

  33. I’m an undergrad that only had a credit risk internship at a bank without any client facing experience. I’m wondering if there’s a better way to connect investment banking to risk in a more graceful way than saying I want to move into the front office because of the recommendations of my colleagues?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      This is a tough one. If you’ve had any experience valuing companies/interacting with corporates outside of your internship or through your personal experience, you may want to cite them as a “spark” that led you to banking

  34. Brian,

    Thanks for the post, it’s very helpful. I have a handful of ft interviews soon and was wondering how the interviews would differ from summer internship recruiting (Received a return offer from a BB and am looking at other BB/Boutiques) . In questions such as “Walk me through your resume”, should I spend more time discussing my summer and why I am interviewing as opposed to starting with my beginning and finance spark?

    Thanks

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes, you can briefly discuss your beginning and finance spark and elaborate on your summer and why you’re interviewing later in your resume.

  35. I am coming from a corporate finance background, aiming to get into IB. I am attending a part-time MBA program at a top 20 school this fall. My question is, will I for certain need to do an internship between my second and third year? I have a fairly advanced position in my current company, so I wasn’t sure if they would take that into account or would still want to see that I completed an IB intership so that I can show some direct industry experience. I am looking forward to securing an internship regardless, but wanted to know what my options might be.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes having an IB internship will help you because it gives you direct industry experience.

  36. Hi Brian, great website, great article, I learnt a lot, especially regarding networking. Thanks a lot.

    Do you think that in my “story”, I could also talk about my passion for sports and what skills it gave me that could be useful for IB ?
    because interviewers may be a bit bored when they hear only people talking about finance, finance, finance ?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes you can talk about that. Make sure you don’t go too off-topic though.

  37. Hi,

    I’m currently a sophomore (rising junior) at HYP. And I’m doing an Equity Research SA stint with a BB right now. So far, I feel that ER is interesting but not what I wanna go into for the long term, so I’m gunning for IBD instead next year.
    Any thoughts on how I should tell my story?
    The reason why I don’t wanna do ER is because you spend your entire life following a few stocks and I can’t imagine that to be interesting, whereas in IBD you get more exposure to a wider skillset (and more technical modeling). Is this a valid reason? Or could I be more eloquent?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You can say that you want to contribute to transactions and work on high-impact deals rather than just generating investment ideas. You still like to analyze company fundamentals. However, rather than helping investors generate trade ideas, you prefer to help corporates make financing decisions and do deals.

  38. Hi Brian,

    I’m getting mixed opinions (after discussing with several former bankers) on whether I should incorporate the “why banking” question into the “walk me through your resume” question? There seems to be a tremendous amount of overlap. Curious what your thoughts are on this topic.

    Thanks,
    Will

    1. Incorporate a very brief version of it but don’t go into the full details.

  39. Dear Brian, very informative and provoking, many thanks for that! yet, may I know your opionion if I spent “my growing interest” part on school stuff like having classes of big-name professors and commnunicating with alumni in banking and PE industry, considering that I change my major from journalism in a non-target school to Finance in a prestigious university? Look forward to hearing from you! 3Q!

    1. It would still be better to at least reference internships, but as I wrote above if they are really not IB/PE-relevant then yes, your approach is fine

  40. Dear Brian,
    how to make it up if the an event (“sparkle”) happens before making into master degree (“beginning”), where simply follow the 5-steps won’t make sense?
    Look forward to hear from you!
    sincerely yours,
    Canxin

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Talk about your spark, then growing interest, and the actions you did to increase your knowledge/experience in the industry.

      1. dear nicole, I have graduated from finance master program, yet “my sparkle” happens in my undergraduate years, so is it proper for me to treat transmajoring to finance as “growing interest”? and how do you think of it, in “growing interest” section, if I talk more of curricular learning with big-name professors,or communication with industry guys, considering that my internship is less related to IBD and PE industry? Many thanks for your precious time and great considerations!

        1. Yes, do that. Yes, the growing interest section sounds fine if your internships were not related to IB/PE.

  41. I’m trying to career switch into real estate private equity after having worked a couple of years in M&A investment banking (currently an associate).

    I’ve got good answers for the RE interest “spark”, why I like real estate, and why I’m leaving M&A, but I’m struggling with coming up with an answer to the question of why I didn’t just work in RE after graduating if I’d had an interest in it for so long instead of banking like I did.

    The truth is that at the time I thought banking was interesting (and potentially lucrative), but don’t feel this way any longer.

    Suggestions on how best to frame a response?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Maybe you’ve had some experience with real estate clients/corporates during your experience in banking. You may want to talk about how you want to work w real estate companies over the long term, and that you want to get exposed to operations of real estate and understand all aspects and how to evaluate whether the real estate can deliver solid returns. Emphasize on your passion in real estate. You can address your last few years by saying you want to gain experience in the sell side in your first few years to hone your valuation skills first

  42. Hi Brian,

    I was curious, how much in depth should one go in the “Why this bank” part of the story? I mean, I don’t know if I should go full-out with the answer I have prepared for the “Why our bank” question (https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/why-our-bank-investment-banking-interviews/), as that would greatly lengthen the time it takes for me to get through my story, but at the same time, I don’t want to talk about “Why this bank” in just a few sentences in my story and regret it later for not coming off as very eager to join the bank. So far I have been leaving out the “Why this bank” part altogether from my story so that the interviewer inevitably asks “Why our bank”, at which point I go full-out.

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Personally I would leave it out or only touch on it very briefly – otherwise, as you said, it makes your story too long. And the interviewer will ask about it anyway.

  43. When the interviewer asks “So tell me about yourself” (or a variation of that), is that the appropriate time to launch your entire story (beginning, spark, interest, why you’re here today)? Or, should the last part of the story (your ask) be placed somewhere else in the interview and if so, where?

    Thanks!

    1. “Tell me about yourself” and “Walk me through your resume” are both the same question. Yes, keep your story short (aim for 60 seconds if you tend to ramble), but still end with why you’re here… otherwise it’s not convincing.

      1. Brian, so you recommend staying to 60 seconds now? Or is 2-3 minutes still acceptable?

        1. 2-3 minutes is acceptable, but I would still aim for 60 seconds because most of the time it will end up being longer… so better to aim for shorter at first.

  44. Great article, really informative. I just finished my finance undergrad in Canada, and planning on staying in the country. I’m looking to go more into asset/wealth management as opposed to IB. Was wondering if I could get some feedback on parts of my own story.

    Since I just finished undergrad, I start off by saying where I’m from and where I did my degree. My “spark” would be that I started trading/investing in my 2nd year, and won an investing competition later that year.

    In terms of my growing interest, I haven’t done any internships with any of the Big 5 banks, but I did an investment management internship and last summer I was an analyst for an oil and gas company. I’ve also placed 3rd in two other competitions, one in equity research/valuation and one in portfolio management. Should I include these somewhere?

    I plan to tailor the ‘why I’m here’ to the company/firm I’m interviewing with.

    So that leaves my future. Planning to do the CFA. I know your oppositions about the CFA, but since I am looking to go more into portfolio management and AM than IB, its a necessity. Basically want to have a career in wealth/asset management.
    ——

    Any feedback/advice would greatly be appreciated! Thanks

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think having the CFA will help you. Your chances are decent, though your application can be improved if you gain more relevant experience

  45. Fantastic article!

    In “Why You’re Here Today” part, after I tell my story, does the interviewer usually ask “So why are you interested in firm X”, or should I take charge after the story and immediately say “So, why firm X you’re wondering…” and let them know why?

    Each interview I have had in banking and other industries were different. Sometimes they would ask, where others we were left with a bit of an awkward silence before the interviewer posed the question. It is the awkward silence part that I want to avoid.

    Thanks!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It would be good if you can tell them why you want to join their firm and why their firm specifically without them having to ask you because it shows you’ve done your research and your initiative!

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply! One more question, is it alright to include positions not mentioned on your resume into the story for the sake of completeness?

        1. Yes, it’s fine, but anything major you should list on your resume anyway.

        2. M&I - Nicole

          Sure though not ideal because interviewers might be curious as to why such experience isn’t on your résumé. If it isn’t perhaps it isn’t that important to mention it in the first place!

  46. Hi,

    Just curious – I’m interviewing for a VC analyst post in a bit – but in all truthfulness, the reason my interest/curiousity about VC was sparked off was a off-the-cuff-line in a movie. Since then, I’ve learnt more about the industry, culture, read about startups and love it and I’m generally at a good place for technical knowledge. Does a movie sound too flippant for a spark, though?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think this sounds like a good story!

    2. Hey S, how did the interview go? I’m on the same track.

      Maybe we can chat and share what we have both learned.

  47. I am about to interview on-site for a Sales and Trading interview soon. I am studying both Finance and Computer Science at a top 20 school, but most of my past internships have been engineering related roles at tech firms. The reason I am interested in S&T is because of a few classes I took in school that I found really interesting. I think I come across as someone who wants to try S&T, but is not 100% sure whether this is the right fit for them. From the articles/comments on this website, it seems to me that firms are mainly looking for interns who know for sure that S&T is their thing. How do I spin my story in a way so that I come across as someone in the latter category?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Read up on S&T and know why you want S&T
      Demonstrate your *passion* in markets. Difficult for me to help you spin on this forum because I haven’t personally worked with you.
      This link below should help though:
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/sales-trading-resumes/

  48. grateful

    great post, thank you so much for sharing this!

    But I think “your future” ie career plan should become before why youre here, so you can argue 1) this is what i want next, eg. become an investor 2) and this is why I’m here today because this role..

    Also 2-3min. seems very short if you have already done a few years of IB, isnt 5min. decent for someone experienced?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your question. If you talk straight for 5 mins, it is highly likely that interviewers will be distracted whether you have experience or not. And you want to keep the interviewer as engaged as possible. Don’t forget that interviews are more like a “dialogue” – while you want to present yourself in the best light possible, it isn’t a presentation.

      You can structure the pitch however you want. We just think our suggested structure is probably clearest to interviewers

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