You Didn’t Get Any Full-Time Investment Banking Offers. Now What Do You Do?

171 Comments | Investment Banking - "Plan B" Options

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no_full_time_offers“Don’t Panic.”

Or not.

If full-time recruiting season is over and you don’t have any offers, you should be panicking at least a little.

While summer interns who don’t get return offers have a few months to fix the situation, your options are more limited.

But that doesn’t mean you have no chance of getting full-time offers – so here’s what to do.

Worst-Case Scenario

You might think the worst case scenario is not getting a full-time job, but that’s not true – there are two scenarios that are worse:

  1. Putting yourself in a position where it’s nearly impossible to break into finance in the future.
  2. Moving into a job that’s difficult to leverage for business school or eventually breaking into finance.

#1 happens most often when you get the brilliant idea to go to business school straight out of undergrad… oops.

#2 is not the end of the world, but you still want to avoid it unless you absolutely, desperately need the income in the short-term.

If those are the 2 worst-case scenarios, then the best-case scenario is simple: whatever maximizes your chances of breaking in without limiting your options or wasting time on things that won’t help you in the long-term.

What Went Wrong?

The next question you need to ask: what went wrong?

There are only 2 reasons why you didn’t win any full-time offers:

1) You didn’t get any interviews / enough interviews.

Your problem was your resume, your networking efforts, or both.

If you’ve been submitting applications online, please stop immediately. It doesn’t work, and you’ll never get a critical mass of interviews like that.

You need to get on the phone ASAP and start talking to real people and then meeting them in-person – if you’re coming from a non-target school and you haven’t done that, you stand a 0.0000000000001% chance of breaking into investment banking.

If you’re at a better-known school, networking is still essential but your resume / lack of solid work experience is more likely the culprit.

Diagnosis: Make sure you’re using this investment banking resume template.

Then, take a look at your resume and your experiences – if you haven’t had impressive-looking internships then you need to get them if you want any chance of getting interviews.

Finally, take an honest look at your networking efforts – have you contacted at least 100 alumni? Cold-called 100 local boutiques? Talked to at least 20 people on the phone and hopefully met most of them in-person?

If not, then you need to put your nose to the grindstone and keep at it until you ninja your way into interviews.

2) You got a lot of interviews but didn’t do well or didn’t connect with the interviewers.

Winning offers from interviews is very, very random.

Yes, knowing the key fit and technical questions is essential, but a lot of people know those – especially in bulge bracket interviews.

You need a “hook” to actually win offers, and unless you’ve had dozens of interviews the “randomness” factor is too high for you to say anything concrete.

Diagnosis: If you didn’t have dozens of interviews, you need to get them (see above). If you did, and you still didn’t get any offers then you need to figure out what went wrong.

The best way to do this: go through a few mock interviews with friends in the industry.

90% of interview problems can be reduced to:

  1. Your “story”
  2. You don’t have a good answer for “why investment banking
  3. Your enthusiasm is low and you aren’t as polished as other interviewees

The good news is that “fixing” your interview skills takes less time than networking with hundreds of industry contacts and getting more impressive work experience.

But the bad news is that it’s very difficult to “teach” someone how to be more likable, which is what tips the scale in interviews.

How Much Time and Money Do You Have?

Next: how much time and money do you have to fix whatever mistakes you made?

If you didn’t win full-time offers, you need to fix your resume, interview skills, or networking skills, or maybe all of those… but how you do that depends on the resources at your disposal.

First, let’s go through a couple examples of what you shouldn’t do when you don’t have any full-time offers lined up, and then a couple examples of strategies that make more sense.

What NOT To Do

I thought about adding the CFA here just for fun, but I’ll resist the urge to do that – just this once.

1) Business School

It’s a big mistake to go to business school with minimal full-time work experience.

How much do you need?

At least 3-5 years. We basically threw out resumes of Associate candidates who had less experience.

Yes, there are plenty of good reasons to go to business school if you want to use it for something else, but going immediately after undergraduate is a recipe for disaster if you want to get into banking from your program.

And be careful that your work experience is actually “full-time” – a bunch of side projects or travel combined with teaching English and intermittent work won’t stack up to the guy who managed a $1 billion product line for 4 years.

The other big problem with going to business school right after undergrad is that if you don’t get into finance when you’re there, your future chances also drop dramatically.

2) Back Office

For the last time, back office to front office moves – at least for investment banking – are rare and very difficult to pull off.

Yes, it may work slightly better in other fields and some people pull it off successfully, but you need to think about the probability.

What will give you a higher probability of eventually moving to a large bank’s investment banking division – starting in the back office, or going to a boutique first and then making a lateral move?

Please, stop the insanity and go for front office roles at smaller firms rather than “taking what you can get” and making the back office your backup.

3) Normal Job

By “normal” I mean not related to finance at all – marketing, engineering, medicine, etc. Corporate development, wealth management, consulting, and the like don’t qualify.

I would only “settle” for this if you’ve been out of school for months, have networked extensively, are doing all the right things, but still have no offers and you really need income in the short-term.

4) Nothing At All

I’m not referring to whether or not you have something lined up by the time you graduate – I’m talking about what you DO between now and when you graduate.

I had a reader last year who only started her full-time job search 2 months before graduation. Whoops.

No matter what you’re “busy” with, figuring out what you’re doing afterward comes before everything else – so move grades, classes, and activities lower on your priority list.

Possible Plan B’s

Here are 5 viable options. They’re not mutually exclusive, and there’s no “best” option – everything depends on your own situation.

1) Delaying Graduation

“Help! I have no offers. Should I delay my graduation and go for summer internships again this year, then do full-time recruiting before I graduate in December next year?”

It’s most helpful if:

  1. You got some interviews but had trouble convincing them you could do the work since you didn’t have substantial internships.
  2. You go to a well-known school that banks recruit at – otherwise it’s a huge gamble to bet on summer internships.
  3. Your problem was your resume or interview skills, as opposed to your networking efforts.

The main problem: if you’ve had impressive internships, done a lot of interviewing, but simply didn’t make it through any final rounds, then it will come across as an obvious Plan B to anyone interviewing you – and they’ll ask the questions you don’t want to answer.

2) Master’s Program

Another common plan, and also not a bad move. It’s good if:

  1. You’re using it to move to a better-known school where banks recruit.
  2. You didn’t do enough networking and need more time and better access to recruiters.
  3. You could also use some more impressive-looking internships.

This is not the best plan if the main issue was your interview skills – it’s a big commitment just to have another shot at recruiting.

The focus of your program is almost irrelevant beyond being related to finance/business/economics in some way – if you’re trying to re-brand yourself, don’t go for a Master’s Degree in English Literature.

3) Keep At It

This one gets overlooked, probably because it’s not as “exciting” as the other options.

If you keep cold-calling and networking, you’ll eventually get something – the only way to fail is if you give up first. Even if you graduate without a firm plan in place, that’s still better than taking the wrong job.

You should think about this option if:

  1. You don’t have the resources to delay graduation or to stay in school even longer.
  2. You have a decent amount of work experience but you lack a good network and need time to build it.
  3. You don’t mind going for smaller banks at first and then making a lateral move.

If you’re at a non-target school and cannot move elsewhere or stay in school longer, this is your best option: set a target of making 10 calls per day, sending 10 emails per day, and so on, and never take “no” for an answer.

4) Mini-Retirement

I’m referring to my suggestions on what to do with time off before you start working full-time: moving to another country for a few months and doing something interesting.

This one can work but it’s more risky than the others since it puts you out of the game for quite awhile – if you do this for an entire year after graduation, for example, it’s tough to jump back into recruiting.

It’s more viable if you combine this with the other options above – so maybe you apply to grad school, but take 1-2 months in between to go on an adventure.

That way you get a big boost to your networking and interview skills because you appear more interesting, plus you might get some solid leads if you go to a country with a major financial center.

5) Something Leverageable

If all else fails, none of these options is viable, and you can’t afford to spend more time recruiting, then you might have to take what you can get.

But still think about something that can be spun into sounding relevant to finance – corporate finance at a large company, helping governments manage all the financial services companies they now own, or even an economics/business-related fellowship.

Your Plan of Attack

If full-time recruiting season is over and you don’t have any offers, your plan of attack is simple: figure out what went wrong, decide what you’ll do after graduation to give yourself another shot at recruiting, and then spend your time between now and then fixing the mistakes you made.

Now, get to it.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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171 Comments to “You Didn’t Get Any Full-Time Investment Banking Offers. Now What Do You Do?”

Comments

  1. Maria says

    Hi, I was at GS IBD – liability management and didnt get a return offer. I reapplied for another country (HK) and got an interview there again with GS IBD. For the interview, should I just tell them that I didn’t want to work in liability management and so I told off everyone I didnt want it and wanted IBD product groups instead? If they ask why I didnt get an offer, do you have any better suggestions? Thanks!

  2. Tristan says

    Hey Brian,

    I’m currently completing my degree in broadcasting (took an extra year) and was recently offered a spring internship position at CNBC as an analyst.

    Should I accept the offer at CNBC for the Spring and start networking and requesting informational interviews with firms in New York for a possible summer investment banking internship? I personally thought working at CNBC would make a great story during my interviews. What is your thought on that? Is this just another “normal” job. And if I start networking intensively from February, will it be possible to find an internship position for the summer?

    My plan is to transfer to a second-level entry target business school (another undergrad which I’d be entering as a 3rd year student) and network with bulge bracket banks that recruit from that school. Do you think 5 years of broadcasting and another 2 years of business will be disadvantageous?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes unless you have a better offer I’d go with CNBC.

      I don’t think it would “put you at a disadvantage” but I don’t quite understand why you’d want to get into banking after 5 years of broadcasting?

      • Tristan says

        I’m career changing. But instead of working full-time and going to top tier MBA to rebrand myself, I am choosing to goto a second-entry level program top-tier undergrad business program for 2 years. (Think Wharton).

  3. A says

    My application has been put on hold after the final round interviews. I am really keen on this job and didn’t hedge by applying to other firms as well… so I am anxious now. What should I do? I had some really good conversations with some of my interviewers, should I email them updating them of my status? what else should I say? this is for S&T if that matters.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes, you can follow up with your interviewers expressing to them how much you want this role and how you can help them. Maybe you can let them know of any recent developments you have in your career/work.

  4. Cathy says

    Dear Nicole:

    I have an summer internship offer in Hong Kong this summer. I am doing the internship in Hong Kong due to some family reasons, but I really want to work in New York for full time. Do you know if I could leverage my re-offer (if i get one) and apply to BAML or another firm in NY?

    Thank you very much!!

    Best Regards,
    Kathy

    • says

      You could, but sometimes it’s difficult logistically to do that because accelerated recruiting takes place right as internships are finishing up… so you’d have to convince them to let you do the interviews remotely, which can sometimes work, but it’s more difficult than if you were in NY.

  5. Khan says

    Hi,
    Im a junior and majoring in Economics and Statistics. I have applied to around 70 summer internships but didnot get a return call from even one of them. Its making me anxious and scared. What should I do to land an internship even in a small firm.Thanks

  6. Eric Z says

    I interned in capital markets at a top tier IB and was not made a return offer. I went through full time recruiting and was not able to close any interviews as I didn’t have more relevant IBD experience ie M&A, coverage.
    It is worth mentioning that the IB community is extremely small in my city where everyone works in the same building and everyone knows each other. My former employer is unlikely to take me back as an intern again. Now that these banks have seen me come through recruiting, do you think it would be wise to try and intern in IB again? I figure that if I am not made a return offer again, it would shatter my chances of full time hiring next year. And although recruiting was think for the banks this year, the bankers will all know that I couldn’t close any interviews and think I’m inadequate.
    What would you advise me to do?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Applying for an internship again may help you in your situation. Re. you not having a return offer, you’ll just have to have a solid pitch and good explanation as to why you didn’t get the return offer (i.e. little/no headcount). I’d also look for roles at smaller/less established banks in your city if this option is available.

  7. Jason says

    Would someone who went to a prestigious school, but not an ivy league (Duke, UVA, Middlebury, Amherst, etc.), and got a high gpa studying economics or finance struggle at finding a “normal”job if banking didn’t work out immediately?

  8. William says

    I am William Liu currently having more than 6 years of experience in banking , insurance , food and beverages and print media industry with a MBA in finance from ITM Business School Kharghar tier 2 B-schools India and graduate in accountancy from St Xavier’s college.

    My areas of expertise has been in business development and marketing and entrepreneurial venture.

    I want to start my career rather build my career in IB ,, can you please suggest me How to get into one….I am ready for any courses too.

  9. Cecelia says

    Hi,
    I am a senior pursuing a BS in Business Admin at a school that is heavily recruited for many finance positions.

    I only entered the business school as a junior, and have not had internship experience in investment banking (and so I do not feel sufficiently prepared to apply for full time analyst positions). I am planning to apply for and complete a Master of Finance program following my graduation year to better prepare me for an analyst position.

    I want to apply for a summer internship with a bulge bracket for next summer before the program begins, but most of the banks say that they want students that are “undergraduates” or “juniors” to apply for their internships. Can I still apply as a summer analyst even though I will not be an undergraduate? How should I go about doing this?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      It depends on the firm but I think for some of the bulge brackets they only want juniors and that is their requirement. You may want to speak with the HR/recruiters of each bank and let them know of your situation. They maybe able to make an exception. Some firms have roles for “pre-master” students so I’d be applying to such roles.

      • Claire says

        Thanks Nicole.
        Do you think that doing a one year masters program and trying to get an IB internship over next summer is the best way to pursue an IB analyst position? Or would you suggest just trying to network and study this year in the hopes of securing a position without previous experience and skipping the masters program

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Yes getting into a top tier masters program may potentially increase your chances though I’d suggest you to network this year first and see if you get in. I’d also apply to masters program as a backup

  10. Jim says

    Hey,

    I am a Senior, applying to full time positions in IB and Equity Research. I am realizing that I have missed most of the deadlines for online applications. I have done some solid networking and have gotten my resume in the hands of several people in both areas, who said they would be happy to push it through to HR. So, my issue becomes that HR won’t have an application to go along with that resume and I won’t be in their system. Any advice?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If HR and the team like you, I don’t think its a big problem. As long as you’re not too far behind the process, you can submit your application separately via email I believe though I am not 100% sure

  11. Kahel says

    Hey M&A Team,

    Great topic, again, that fits a lot of my concerns.

    Still I don’t get that kind of link between career paths in finance that seems critical to plan one’s career and Plan B options. ie, assuming there’s a pyramidal hierarchy of financial careers in terms of responsibilities/salary/interest, working one’s way through the top career should leverage one’s chances to land in all the lower jobs in the “pyramidal hierarchy”. (The same way two correlated assets of the same portfolio will increase when one of them increase)
    I know you don’t like to rank, for many relevant reasons, but this is not the main point.

    So here’s my concern: Does a basic IB career path fits with financial jobs less important (responsibilities/salary/interest) in this hierarchy?
    1)If I work my way and follow a step-by-step career path aiming IB,will it be easier then to exit toward a good job in finance?
    2) And above all, if I have to use my Plan B options BEFORE starting in IB because I failed, will it be easier to consider other GOOD banking jobs or even corporate finance ones? Or does those activities imply career paths too much different?

  12. Syrym says

    Hello M&I,
    Amazing article !
    I have a question on normal job. Currently, I am in my senior year and simultanously working as an analyst in journalism, economic newspaper. At my job, I cover almost all economic fields and events, do DCFs and things alike, prepare rankings and research, interview brokers, etc.
    Will this count as a normal job ? Finance related ? Or maybe semi-finance related?
    Thank you so much!
    I really appreciate what M&I is doing for prospective bankers like me.

  13. Hendrix says

    I think I know what your answer is going to be, but just to reiterate. I have an offer from a tiny (500mm) PE shop in Baltimore for an investment analyst position and a back office offer from a top 3 bulge bracket bank in NY.

    Based on this, I am certain you are going to say go with the PE offer. My biggest issues with the offer are that it is in Baltimore, which I feel will make it really hard to network with a bigger bank to transition into. Additionally, even if I stick with the PE position for lets say 2 to 3 years, do I even stand a chance at a top 20 B school? It’s not at all a well known firm. Wouldn’t it be easier to network and go from a top 3 bulge bracket back office position in NY to a front office position or top 20 B school?

    Please let me know what you think.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes you can say that, especially if you want to hang out in NY and are confident that you can network and transition into a front office role. I think the PE offer can potentially be attractive though its location as well as reputation can be a minus, and the BB’s name and location may make up for the fact that it is a back office role. So if you want to go back to b-school, maybe the BB is a better option, especially since you can leverage your b-school network and get into PE, and the key now is to focus on getting into a top b-school http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-recruiting/ maybe useful

  14. Carlos says

    Hi Brian,

    Love your website. I find myself in the situation that you mentioned in this article. I will be graduating in May and have no full time offers. This makes sense since I have no banking internship experience. I have done internships related to finance but not banking directly.

    I did managed\ to land a summer internship at a boutique investment bank. The problem is that it is unpaid (although they will give me a bonus in the end based on my performance) and the hiring manager said that I should not have the expectation that I would be hired when I finished the internship. He said that they are a small and that their hiring depends on their needs. I know this situation sucks but I prefer this than taking a random, low-paying job.

    My question for you is how do I make the most out of this situation? Is it possible to make this internship into a full time position? Can you please give some advice. I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

  15. says

    Hi, I received my first degree in political science in 2013 from a top UK university and went straight into pursuing a masters in finance from a good European business school.

    About to graduate soon but no internship or job offers. Obviously no prior experience in finance before, mostly just startups/public policy/journalism. Admittedly, I had no idea how it worked and mostly only applied for jobs which is really stupid of me in hindsight.

    I have networked a little bit but since I do not have the right to work in Europe or the US, it has been quite futile. I am honestly not sure where to go from here. Any advice is much appreciated.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d approach alums and see if they have any opportunities for you, especially those who were in your similar situation (i.e. they needed a visa). I’d also approach your school’s career centre and see if they have any opportunities for you – as long as you can extend your stay in Europe you can use the time to look for a job that can sponsor you. You just need to buy time.

  16. Serena says

    Hi M&I Team,

    I interned at GS IBD during the summer 2013 and got no full-time offer. I have just finished my BSc in a finance unrelated field (non-target school) and I am now going for a one-year MSc in Management at a top UK university. I am starting to apply for IB jobs in order to start working in 2015. Assuming I get any interviews, how should I go about explaining why I did not get a full-time offer at GS? The truth is, my first rotation was not great as I clashed with the team a lot. The second one (M&A) was good but apparently the feedback from the first one dragged me down and thus no offer. Quite a few interns did not get full-time offers, and a VP I know said the number of people sent away was quite high. Should I just use the ‘headcount’ as an explanation (how believable is it?) or mention in some diplomatic way that I did not fit in with the first team and their culture while also emphasising that during the second rotation I became sure M&A was a better fit for me? Any alternative ideas would also be really appreciated!

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