by Brian DeChesare Comments (7)

Book Review: The Recruiting Guide To Investment Banking

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This month’s review arrives today with one book I’ve been hearing a lot about lately: the Scoopbooks Recruiting Guide to Investment Banking.

Why Now?

Why review this one now?  A couple reasons:

1) Many people recommended it as a superior alternative to the Vault Guide (does anyone actually use that thing anymore?).

2) I’ve been getting lots of questions on recommended reading and ways to learn more about banking.  And as any true banker would, I wanted to explore all strategic alternatives.

3) I like to do my homework.  As I develop my own products, I like to compare notes, see what others have done and check if there’s anything I’ve missed.

Plus it’s tax-deductible for me, so I can’t go wrong.

The Structure

The book is split into 3 sections – The Recruiting Season, Life For A Junior Banker and Preparing For The Interviews.

These names, however, are misleading – “Preparing For The Interviews” is actually a few chapters on accounting and valuation basics and “The Recruiting Season” covers the bulk of the information on interview questions – as well as on resumes and recruiting.

I probably would have split the guide into chapters on Networking, Resumes, Interviews, Lifestyle and Accounting/Valuation, but the information is there nevertheless.

The Good

To start with, this book is definitely better than the antiquated Vault Guide.  The information is more recent and relevant, and it gives you much better insight into what bankers do and especially what to expect as a junior banker.

The chapters on accounting and valuation are particularly good, and much better than some of the other resources and textbooks I’ve seen.

The organization is still a little haphazard (for example, they start discussing GAAP on page 2 of the section – I would start with the very basics of accounting and not even get into GAAP vs. non-GAAP until much later) but all the relevant information is there.

The section on junior banker lifestyle is also well-done and something I haven’t seen in many existing resources.  If you’ve been reading this site all along, of course, you already know all about the investment banking lifestyle, but the information here is still helpful.

The best parts of the recruiting chapters include 1) their a critique of a sample resume and 2) a chapter on the qualities banks look for when interviewing candidates.

The resume critique misses a few of the major points I would have made if I had edited the resume in question (for example, if you have banking experience you better highlight the specific deals you worked on…), but it does capture the basics.

And the “interview qualities” section is good preparation for “fit” questions in investment banking interviews, though they don’t focus enough on the single most important and most poorly-answered question (“Walk me through your resume”).

The Bad

There are a few puzzling aspects of the book.  One that immediately struck me was the lack of any answers in the Interview section.  They give some good questions, but they don’t provide answers to anything.

I understand the reasoning – they don’t want everyone to copy the answers and use them in interviews.

However, they could have gotten around this by giving sample interview transcripts with commentary on what the interviewee did right or wrong.  That would have been helpful without tempting readers to “copy” answers.

As I mentioned, the overall organization is a bit puzzling and I would have structured the chapters differently; there are also a few odd bits throughout.

In the Valuation chapter, for example, they list “Breakup Analysis” as a major methodology.  I had to read this a few times to realize they meant a Sum of the Parts Analysis – where you value each business line in the company separately – and not a Liquidation Analysis, where you value a company’s assets and liabilities separately and assume the assets are sold off, with assets less liabilities as your proceeds.

However, you rarely use Sum of the Parts in valuations since you usually lack the necessary information – expenses by division – to do so.  It seems odd to list this next to Comparable Companies/Transactions as a major valuation methodology.

The Ugly

My biggest frustration with the book, though, is that it is heavily slanted toward those at “target” schools.

There is almost no information on how to break in if you don’t fit the standard profile of an economics major with a 4.0 at Harvard or Princeton.  There are about 2 pages devoted to networking, so don’t expect to be enlightened on the topic by reading this.

Much of the email I receive contains questions on breaking in from non-standard backgrounds, so it’s disappointing that they don’t address these issues in the book.

Despite the name The Recruiting Guide To Investment Banking is actually much better as a guide to accounting/valuation basics.

So, Should You Buy It?

Make no mistake – it’s significantly better than the Vault Guide, and if you’re looking to learn accounting/valuation basics this book is a good place to start.  However, if you need help breaking into banking from a non-target school or from another field, you should not expect too much.

In short, it’s better than the existing publications but there’s still lots of room for improvement. didn’t seem to have any in stock when I looked, but you can refer to Abebooks, which still had them as of this review.

And before you ask, this was more “accurate” than Damn, It Feels Good To Be A Banker (to the guy who thought he should transfer from Yale to Harvard to improve his chances of getting into banking), though it loses hands-down in entertainment value.
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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. What advise to you have for the walk me through your resume question?

    Also, I am currently a mortgage broker looking to get into investment banking. Does the mortgage industry prepare you much for what you will be doing as an analyst?

    I returned to school and I am graduating in spring of ’09. Should I go for an internship or just try straight for full time? I am leaning toward full time as I just turned 30 and want to get started as soon as possible.

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Keep your answer extremely brief (3 minutes or less) and focus on how each of your work experience has made you into a better potential banker.

      Mortgage is tangentially related but not that close to banking.

      At your age I would go for MBA/Associate positions rather than the Analyst role – it gets very tough to get in once you get older. An internship would be helpful but realistically you’ll probably need business school first.

  2. […] & Inquisitions reviews “Recruiting Guide to Investment […]

  3. in line with what you said above, could you recommend any other resources for people looking to learn accounting/valuation? basically, I’m a liberal arts major and want to be able to handle technical interview questions. Appreciate your advice.

    1. To be honest, if you’re a liberal arts major I don’t think you need to know much more than what’s in this guide. Most of the books I’ve come across have been terrible but I’ll post on the site if I find anything good… overall though, if you don’t have a finance background you shouldn’t expect extremely technical questions.

  4. hey inq;

    just a sidenote, i’ve come across this book before and read a little bit of it. there’s good previews on googlebooks, specifically:

    by the way, i’m the e/r guy from the titanic resume post. i was hoping you could comment on a question i had really quick: im considering about staying a 5th year (current rising senior) after doing a bb banking internship next summer, which I hopefully can manage. is this a good idea or should I try and get a small boutique and work as soon as possible? what do you think?

    1. Personally I would pursue both, because BB internships are not that easy to get… try to find something at a boutique between now and winter and pursue a summer BB internship as well and hopefully you get one of them.

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