by Brian DeChesare Comments (89)

From International Student at Non-Target School to Bulge Bracket Investment Banking: How to Beat the Odds and Break In

International Student Non-Target Networking Success

You might say that it’s “pretty tough” to break into investment banking in the U.S. – even if you have perfect grades, an Ivy League degree, great work experience, and you’ve networked so much you never want to “meet someone for coffee” again.

Now imagine that you come from a… slightly different background:

  • You go to an unknown school that no banks recruit at.
  • You just moved from China to the US 3 years ago with a limited command of English.
  • You’re not a US citizen and you don’t have that all-important work visa.
  • Your family has no connections in the US, and so you can’t rely on that uncle who’s Head of Investment Banking to help you out.

Impossible to break in?

Not at all.

Our interviewee today broke into the industry in under a year, even with all those handicaps working against him.

Here’s how he did it, and how you can do the same – including how to deal with visa issues, how to stand out as an international student, and how to overcome cultural differences when networking.

Let’s get started.

In the Beginning…

Q: Can you tell us how you arrived in the US and picked a school there?

A: Sure. I moved from China to the US a few years ago, and could barely communicate at the time – I spoke minimal English and had trouble holding real conversations.

I couldn’t get a very good SAT score as a result, so I started looking at cheaper, public schools that had solid business and finance programs.

I found a “non-target” school that offered me a scholarship, and took the offer since I couldn’t get in anywhere else and couldn’t afford expensive schools.

Q: You mentioned before we spoke that you had performed well academically in China – why didn’t you just go back there and attend a top university?

A: I did have the chance to attend one of the top universities in China – my family is involved with several businesses there, which is how I originally got interested in finance.

But in Asia, higher education in Western countries is still better-respected; many of the top students want to study in the US or UK even if they intend to move back to their own countries one day.

Q: OK, so you wanted the respect and so you decided to move to the US for college.

What was your next step?

A: From day 1, I knew I had to get real internship experience and upgrade my English level if I wanted to work in the country.

So I started talking more with my roommates and striking up random conversations with people, and that helped with learning the language and getting adjusted to the culture.

The bigger problem was getting a work visa. I went through a couple interviews for firms after I enrolled in school, but I kept losing out because companies were not able to sponsor me.

Q: I think that happens to a lot of international students – so what was your solution?

A: I started offering to complete unpaid internships at smaller firms since no work visa was required for that.

Just like you’ve recommended here, I networked aggressively, cold-called lots of banks, and even went back to China to complete an internship there when nothing worked out after my first year in the US.

That internship in China was unpaid, and then I completed another unpaid internship at a boutique in the US after that.

After I got  that experience, I started networking like crazy and used LinkedIn to contact over 1,000 bankers, also taking weekend trips to New York (5 times) and to Chicago (3 times).

I ended up winning a bulge bracket internship offer, which I accepted immediately.

Always Be… Networking

Q: So your strategy for dealing with the visa issue: do unpaid internships, go back to your home country and do an internship there, and then leverage that experience when you return to the US.

That’s a great story – but I want to go into more detail on a few parts.

How did you get this unpaid internship at the bank in China, and how is the culture there different in terms of networking?

A: It was a bit easier in China because I had more connections and I could go through family and friends, so I didn’t have to rely on cold calling quite as much.

Getting internships in China can be easier because you talk to HR people and they decide what to do with you – it’s not like the US where HR has little decision-making power and it all comes down to the senior bankers.

And it’s more common to get unpaid or low-paying internships there because of the corporate culture. So it doesn’t take as much work to convince local firms, or even international firms with offices there, to take you on as an unpaid intern.

Q: I see – any other differences with networking besides the people you reach out to?

A: Other than that, you can use many of the same strategies: cold calling, informational interviews, and so on. But the way you apply them is different.

It’s extremely difficult to get in touch with senior bankers here – you need to go through the right channels, make sure you ask the right people, and so on.

So it’s not even worth your time to find their information. Just worry about HR and maybe entry-level analysts if you can get in touch.

The way you reach out is also very different. You need to be very polite, you can’t use peoples’ first names, and “having a casual chat” is not as common as it is in Western countries.

So you need to take a more formal approach, and sometimes you spend more time asking about business and work rather than personal questions.

Q: What other mistakes have you seen people make when they’ve networked in China?

A: Sometimes people returning from other countries like to say that they’re going to college abroad or that they come from a wealthy background – but people in China may interpret that as “bragging” and it could easily backfire on you.

So you don’t want to mention any of those points by themselves.

Focus on the difficulties you overcame and what you had to do to get where you are. Complaining about life in another country would just sound silly.

Q: So did you find people there to be more or less responsive compared to those in the US?

A: They were more responsive and helpful to me in China.

It might just be a cultural thing, but the difference is that in the US people often act nice to you even when they don’t or can’t help you.

But in China, people are often direct, bordering on rude and bossy, even if they actually want to help you out – or at least they’re straightforward about what they can do for you.

If you’re a foreigner there without connections and you don’t know the language or culture, of course, you’ll probably have the opposite experience (some exceptions apply…).

Q: Right, those are some interesting differences to note and that should be helpful for anyone who needs to network in Asia.

Can you talk about your approach to networking when you were back in the US? What types of strategies worked well, and what did not work well?

A: At first, I tried sending very long emails detailing my background, strengths, and weaknesses, and so on.

Q: Bankers stop reading emails after sentence #5.

A: Yeah, that’s what I realized after a while. No one has time to read through your entire email, so my response rate was horrible.

I switched to using very, very short emails that just stated my name, what university I was at, the internship(s) I had completed, and then asked for a few minutes of their time to tell me about their experiences.

Like you’ve said before, investment banking networking really is a numbers game. You can craft the best email in the world and be incredibly interesting, but if people are in a bad mood, they won’t reply. And if they’re in a good mood, they will reply.

Q: Can you give us a sense of those numbers?

How many bankers did you contact, and what was your success rate?

A: I emailed over 1,000 people through a combination of Internet searches and LinkedIn. I also became friendly with a few professors who had industry connections, and I had lists of the largest banks in the US and regional boutiques.

Every day, I sent out around 20 emails, all to different banks. I realized that sending out multiple emails to people at the same bank each day could hurt me if they got to talking, so I spread out my networking among more firms.

Of those 1,000 people, I got responses from around 200, and of those 200, 100 were actually interested in speaking with me while the other 100 were just being polite.

And then of those, around 50 helped me get ahead, referred me to other people in the industry, and even pushed for me in interviews.

I exchanged emails, set up times to chat, and spoke to those 50 most helpful contacts for around 15-20 minutes each; eventually I also set up multiple weekend trips for New York and Chicago.

Overcoming Obstacles

Q: Those actually sound like good numbers – and the percentages match what some of our previous interviewees have reported.

Besides the work visa, what other obstacles did you encounter when recruiting?

A: Language was still the #1 problem for me at first.

Some people were nice, but others were more direct and told me I needed to improve my English skills.

Sometimes the culture could cause issues – lots of bankers would talk about American sports, which I knew nothing about at first.

So I started learning about it, reading up on news, and learning about key players and using their language to talk about what they were interested in.

Coming from a non-target school hurt me, but I was able to explain why I did it: I went there for financial reasons, even though I had the opportunity to go to a top-tier school in China.

Be careful not to deprecate yourself too much; always talk about how you’ve improved over time and what you can bring to the table (languages, knowledge of a region, expertise in an industry) that others won’t have.

Q: Right. We skipped over it at first, but I’m also curious about the work visa issues and exactly how you overcame them.

What was your experience with getting banks to sponsor you?

A: For summer internships this past year, I just focused on bulge bracket banks and they were much better about sponsorship than smaller firms.

It will still be a problem if you’re international because you need to be better than the US citizens who are applying.

If you’re up against someone from Harvard who’s a citizen and has perfect grades, you need something to set yourself apart – otherwise they’re paying extra and completing more paperwork for the same person.

One of the best ways to differentiate yourself: network with people from your own country at banks.

Since you have a common background, they’ll help you out just like alumni will.

And if you can’t find anyone from your own country, find other foreigners who faced similar challenges and have been in your situation before. They’ll be much more sympathetic than people who were born and raised in the US.

Inspirational Interviews

Q: You mentioned just now how you need to be better than candidates with brand-name schools and top grades – but how do you actually do that?

At the junior levels, how can you really set yourself apart, especially if you haven’t had much work experience yet?

A: Besides the point above about networking with other foreigners, I would suggest extreme preparation for technical questions.

These days, even liberal arts people know basic technical questions so you need to go beyond the basics and learn more advanced material on M&A, LBO models, and even how specific industries differ on the technical side.

But you can’t be cocky about it; lead them into technical topics and surprise them with your knowledge (assuming you know your stuff very well).

As an example, in one first round interview I got the standard question about which valuation methodology generates the highest value – a DCF or comps.

Rather than giving a straightforward answer, I re-phrased the question instead and said, “Did you say comps, DCF, or LBO?”

That led them into knowing that I knew something about LBOs, and that led to a discussion of more advanced topics where I proved my knowledge.

You can’t be too blatant about showing off your skills, but you want to lead the interviewer as much as possible and show that you’ve gone above and beyond with your preparation.

Finally, you can also stand out by talking about what you’ve done to get here and the difficulties you’ve faced compared to other candidates.

It’s just like the Rocky story: show that you’re hungrier than candidates from privileged backgrounds, and you have a huge advantage.

Q: You get bonus points for referring back to that article – it was one of the most fun ones to write on the entire site.

What about interviews themselves? Did any questions come up repeatedly given your background?

A: I did not go through a huge number of interviews because I won an offer early on. I had interviews lined up elsewhere, but I turned them down because I didn’t want to risk losing this offer for a slightly better one.

Mostly, they were just curious why I decided to come to the US and whether I made decisions according to a plan, or if I decide to do things just because I’m passionate about them.

The last thing they want is for half-motivated people to join and then leave after 6 months – so they assessed how committed I was by asking more about my own personal story and how well I had thought out my move to the US.

I never thought of the interview as a way to just get a job – it was a way to learn more about each other and exchange stories.

So I always acted like a real person and not some random job seeker, even when I was under a lot of pressure to win offers.

Q: That’s great advice. It’s similar to how some people think “Walk me through your resume” means to walk the interviewer through your resume, when in reality it means “Tell me your story.”

Speaking of your story, what’s yours? What are your future plans? Are you thinking of staying in banking, or even in the US?

A: I’m not sure yet since I just recently landed this internship. I’m most interested in Leveraged Finance right now, and if I can get into the group I want to stay there for a few years.

I do want to return to China at some point, or at least go back to somewhere in Asia, such as Hong Kong, to move closer to home.

So I might end up doing one of those or moving into PE after working in banking for a while.

And it might be fun to start my own firm one day in China or somewhere else in Asia, but that’s obviously a long ways off.

Q: I’m sure you’ll end up owning half the country one day (at least, if the government doesn’t claim ownership first).

Thanks for your time – really enjoyed hearing your story!

A: Sure, happy to share it with everyone.

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. Thank you so much for the article, very inspirational!
    Would you know which banks are known for being willing to sponsor visas? I’d expect them not to bother since plenty of good candidates do not need sponsorship but any of them has a stronger track record?
    Many thanks!

    1. I don’t know specifically, sorry. You can find lists online on forums – I believe most of the BB banks do it, but the elite boutiques are a bit iffy since they hire fewer people in general and have less resources.

  2. Hey, Brian. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. I have couple questions to ask you. I am a MBA student in non-target right now. I do not have a lot of working experience about finance industry. I have a huge interested in real estate investing and buying and selling businesses. I would like to explore the wall street and get more professional experience. Do you think that I am possible to get an offer? Should I just focus on REIT, HF or IB?

    1. It’s impossible to say without knowing your full work experience/background, but in general, it’s extremely difficult to get into IB coming from a non-target MBA program. If you’re interested in real estate, you’re better off focusing on RE PE firms, REITs, and even CRE-type firms to get your foot in the door.

  3. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for such an inspiring article! I’m just here to seek out some career advice. I’m a top “international” student (4.0 GPA) at a non-target university in the US majoring in finance and economics. I have a couple of finance internships from previous summers. I’m going into my senior year and having a problem deciding what to do next. I have a strong passion for the public markets and wanted to research and generate investment ideas for a living. Currently, I’m considering going into fields like S&T, prop trading, hedge funds, and private equity. My top choice would be going into the hedge fund industry. However, after reading your articles, I realized that I might not be able to break into the HF industry right after undergrad which is why I’m also considering IB just because of the opportunities it present for me to get into HF. As an international student from a non-target school, I believe that getting a job at a BB bank in the US would be close to impossible let alone in the HF industry. As a result, should I instead focus my efforts on trying to apply to a top masters’ program right after graduating or trying to get a job in other parts of the world such as the UK? If so, what field would you recommend I go into (IB, S&T, etc.) to finally land a job in the HF industry. Your insights would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    1. I would recommend a top Master’s program and then aiming for IB and then using that to win a HF role. See this article for a more recent story:

      1. Thank you very much for your insight. Currently, I don’t know whether to putting my efforts in studying for the GMAT and preparing my MSF application or to apply for a job/off-cycle internship. I’m also thinking to take a gap year after my graduation to really prepare my application for a top program along with studying financial modeling. However, I read your article about taking a gap year and I fear I might waste a lot of time doing so. Right now, I just don’t know where I should focus my efforts on, getting a job or getting a top MSF. Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

        1. If your goal is to work at a large bank, then you should apply to MSF programs, get into the best one you can, and focus on that for now. I don’t think more work experience or a gap year will help you at this point – the issue is that you need to win an internship at a large bank that you can convert into a full-time offer. Otherwise, it’s very difficult since internship recruiting now begins over a year in advance.

  4. Hi Brian, thanks for all your articles!
    I’m currently a freshman at a double degree program between The London School of Economics and a top Russian university (Economics and Finance major). So I’m studying in Russia and I want to work in IB in NY in the future. Do you think I can try to get an IB internship in the summer after my junior year in NY or London considering the fact that I rank first in the class (4.0 gpa) and have an incoming finance internship this summer? Or it is completely not feasible and I should focus on getting an IB internship in Moscow and doing Master’s in the US. Personally I think that getting an internship in NY or London for me would be extremely difficult for 3 reasons:
    1. I would probably have to travel to the States to go on interviews which is obviously impossible during the school year (and it also costs a lot). Or may be they would let me do video interviews?
    2. Why would American banks ever bother hiring me considering the difficulties of getting a visa?
    3. Relationships between America / England and Russia are very strained.

    I would really appreciate your advice since there are not so many people I can talk to about this issue here in Russia.

    1. OK, so you really do not want to work in IB in Russia for any reason unless you have no other options. See all our previous coverage of the topic on this site to understand why.

      If you’re at the LSE, apply to roles in London and work there. If you are not a US citizen and do not attend university there, it will be difficult to win a work visa in the US. So, your best option is the UK.

  5. Hi Brian, thanks for the post. I’m also an F-1 International pursuing Investment Banking in NYC. I’m currently enrolled in a “target school” loaded with OCRs, heavily involved in prestigious Investment Clubs on campus, fluent in English, and networked hard; however, I’m still getting rejected for the interviews from the banks, even the ones with a strong track record of International sponsorship. I’m frustrated by keep getting rejected even before I try to prove my interest in banking and strong technicals. Do you have any suggestion on what to do? Should I reduce the number of banks I network with and instead increase the number of analysts I should talk to for each bank? (I’m currently talking to 2-3 analysts per bank who came for the OCR events.

    1. Yes, it would probably help to focus on fewer contacts but speak with them in more depth. But it’s tough to say why you’re not getting traction based on that description. Maybe something on your resume is making them concerned? It might be something you’re not even aware of because you sound like a good candidate otherwise.

  6. Hi! I just discover this page! Awesome! I would like some advice, if you have time. I am an MBA graduate from INCAE Business School, #1 in LATAM (Financial Times): I have banking experience, but want to move to US, recently I contacted some banking recruiter in New Jersey, but they don’t wanted to move ahead with the interview, because I am not able to work there. What do you recommend? Thanks

    1. Work at an international bank in LatAm and then ask to transfer to the US later on. It’s almost impossible to move to the US without a bank or other firm sponsoring your visa and supporting the move.

  7. Hi Brian,

    This is a really helpful article, thank you for that.
    I have similar stories but with a slight twist. I am 100% Taiwan born and educated, I went to a well known medical university in Taiwan but I hated it so much I decided to drop out.

    Without a degree I still managed to land a well paying project manager job in China. I am really interested in finance and want to live in NYC ever since I first step foot on it. I have made a trip there on February and stayed for 2 months just so I could make some connections.

    I am slowly self teaching financial knowledge here and would like to resume studying again later this year in New York, would my stories of how I left university and worked in a factory a helpful story to differentiate me from other candidate who had top grades and all that? If yes, how do you think I should describe it?


    1. Potentially, yes, but you need more of a bridge between medical school and finance. Please see this story for some ideas:

  8. Hi Brian, as a Chinese international student studying in the US who is interested in IB, this article definitely clears a lot of things for me, thanks! However, I still do have one question that I hope you could answer. I am currently in the summer after my sophomore year, and I am interning at a Chinese Investment Bank in Beijing. I want to get an internship offer from US IBs (preferably in NYC) in my Junior year summer. I just want to know if my IB experience in China is going to help or hinder my chances of getting an offer from US IBs since I was once told it is better to have work experience in the US (which I don’t currently have) if I want to break into Wall Street. Thanks.

    1. It will help, but not as much as an internship in the US would help. An IB internship anywhere is better than nothing.

      1. Thanks, Brian.

  9. Lots of friends who landed BB internships have similar experience like this one. But now I am in a target grad-school, is there much difference to utilize this strategy as a grad-school international student?

    1. Hi Brain,

      Did you have any suggestions for a target school grad school student? Lots of peers just go straight into full time recruiting. Do you think summer internship is still a better choice to get into ER, IB or ST field? Thanks a lot.

        1. Thanks a lot.

  10. Hi Brian!
    I am from Romania and I will apply for college in the USA. Do you have any advice on which universities are the best bet ( besides top 20 universities) for breaking into Wall Street? Those on the east coast or maybe a good public university (“public ivy”) ? Does it worth to get a loan for a fine university or I should go with one that it is more affordable(how would that count in bankers opinion?) ?
    I want to mention that I would apply after Jan 15, so after the deadline of a lot of good universities, and my national grades are 9 out of 10.
    Thank you!

    1. The top Ivy League schools, Stanford, MIT, and a handful of other good private and public schools (UChicago, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UMichigan Ross, UVA, etc.) are your best bets for finance roles. If you want something more affordable, go to a good state school.

  11. Avatar
    Jessica Tran

    Really helpful read. I started networking Spring of sophomore year and didn’t really go all the way as the guy in the article did. Looking back, I should have been more aggressive in reaching out to non-alumni contacts in different banks. However I was meticulous in choosing who to reach out to, and the response rate was great (around 80% respond and 50% agreed to talk on the phone). The strategy worked well for my university application so I intend to follow through with that, however it’s a bit discouraging seeing how other people are so much more dedicated. Best of luck to the interviewee with his future career!

    1. Thanks! Yes, networking definitely takes some serious dedication if you go this far.

  12. Excellent article–thanks for all the amazing information on the site. One thing I’m a little confused about is what exactly am I asking for when I cold-call or cold-email people? Am I being direct and asking for an internship? Or am I just asking for referrals or to meet up with someone? If I do meet up with someone, what exactly is the goal? Am I just asking about their story and then possibly asking for referrals or internship info at the end? Any answers or links to somewhere you guys answered this would be great! Thank you!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No you can be direct. I think it is hard to ask for referrals without having established a rapport first. When you meet with the person the goal is to maintain the connection and see what comes up. Again networking is not a sprint, but a marathon – so I wouldn’t be short sighted. I’d focus on building a solid connection first, and yes you can be direct and ask for an internship. I think that’s more useful than asking for referrals.

  13. Really inspirational story!
    I’m also an International student from China. I’m doing a master program from a target school. Is there any chance to talk with this Chinese banker? :)))
    btw. Does U.S. law firms usually sponsor H1B and green card? Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I am not sure if the banker is available to converse with readers. Yes some US law firms sponsor H1B visas I believe but I’d leave this question to readers who are familiar with this area.

  14. What isn’t this article in the front page? I find it extremely helpful, and I bet it’s the same for other international students. I only got it when a friend forwarded the url to me.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Great question. We include the most recent articles on the front page to engage readers. If you are interested in our article database, you can do a search on the top right hand corner of our site. You may find more articles useful for you in our database! Enjoy!

  15. As an international student, I find this very inspirational. I would love to connect with the interviewee. Can I add you on LinkedIn?
    Would love to hear back

  16. What are some things a person with a non-US degree from can do to break into US IB? I’m going to be graduating from a top Korean university. I actually used to attend a top target school in the US, but for personal reasons I decided to transfer back to my own country.

    Any advice? :)

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you don’t have a US visa it can be challenging. You may find it easier to break into IB locally and transfer internationally, or go to a top MBA in US and transition into IB then

  17. Avatar
    A.kareem Khuzai

    Thanks for the always great articles .. but I cant find an article similar to my story which simply is that am in my 4th year of Industrial eng. at my university in the middle east and I have already done two internships at local Investment groups plus am planning to sit my 1st CFA in 2015 june .. is that enough at this stage to break into IB later on outside the MENA region ? I have done some networking localy as well
    Thanks in advance

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Breaking into IB outside of your region may require a visa, which can be more challenging. You may want to break into IB at your region first and then transfer within your firm

  18. Excellent. You guys have a guide for everything. I want to thank you all for such a great website. One thing that is always hard to find is that type of personal and practical advice you get from friends or even from family that give you insight into the industry and to the overall lifestyle. The information I find here is just as good!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks Otto!

  19. I welcome any answer/input/suggestion regarding my question below.
    – How do I excel after breaking into Front Office as an international non-target?
    I thought the biggest challenge was getting a fulltime offer after the internship- well… it’s not. For me, the biggest yet omnipresent barrier comes from within me. Sometimes I still feel like ana outsider, looking over the fence, trying to get on that stage… I follow inspirational speeches, read self-confidence boosting guides,chat with friends whom I met before I even got here, and seek advice from mentors. It seems I still don’t have my answer yet… All these proactive efforts I have been making do boost my confidence… but then I have to “spend” this amount of confidence at work until it runs out. And I’m out there again reading CEO memoirs, listen to successdul people talking on TedTalk…. you get the rest.
    What should I do to feel that I belong on that stage? I once fought so hard to get the entrance ticket… why do I still feel the invisible fence is keep me from trying my best and thrive??

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thank you for sharing. I can understand your situation. We all have self doubts. I don’t think there’s any quick fix to gaining self confidence. Reading books/talking to others definitely helps, but to build the confidence, you’ll have to face your fears and take action pursuing your goals. Go out of your comfort zone and do things that you don’t normally have the guts to do (maybe its speaking publicly, traveling to new places alone, etc); when you do things out of your comfort zone, you will start building confidence and self-trust.

      Regarding your question on excelling in front office, it takes determination, passion in the industry, ability to work in teams and lead, tact & a bit of luck to do so. should help

  20. Avatar
    Deepak Jes

    This article is a goldmine. I’m an international student from Ghana studying at DePaul University in Chicago.

    I did some of the stuff that person spoke about, such as working back home and using that experience to open doors in America. I worked at EY in Ghana and I’m trying to get something in Finance with that professional experience.

    And the idea of travelling to NYC to meet with networks is an amazing idea, I’m thinking of doing that as well sometime soon.

    Its good to know that my plans have been done by another person and that it worked for him! That’s good encouragement right there!

    Any way I can have that persons email so that I can talk to him more and ask what else he did as an international student?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks Deepak! Glad to know you find our site useful. Perhaps you can leave your questions on our comments page and the interviewee might contact you if he is available.

  21. Bria, I find this post really encouraging.I am wondering if there is anyway that I can reach out to the person interviewed?

    1. I’m happy to ask, but no guarantees since this interview was from quite a long time ago – interviewees tend to be most responsive right afterward.

  22. Hi Brian,
    The student said he emailed 1000 people with a combination of linkedin and email. How do you email 1000 people when linkedin doesn’t even provide email addresses?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You can look up and guess these people’s work email addresses when you have their full name

  23. Hello,

    This is Moby from Pakistan.

    I am a student at one of the best universities in Pakistan studying for my BSc (Hons) in Economics & Politics. I am a decent student (above 3.6 CGPA at a top university), have considerable amount of extra curricular achievements and leadership positions under my belt and also had the opportunity to study at the University of Cambridge as a full time undergraduate student in the summer of 2010.

    I already completed a summer internship in investment banking in Pakistan last year, and applied to a number of bulge bracket and other banks in the UK for a summer internship. However, what I didn’t do was any sort of networking. This came with a heavy price as I was rejected from each and every place that I applied to.

    This summer, I am again doing an internship at another investment bank here in Pakistan. I am also about to buy the BIWS Advanced Modelling and Excel and Fundamentals to further hone my skills in the field. I plan to learn as much as I can from the videos to get a competitive advantage by getting adept in modelling.

    I intend to apply for a full time position in IB again this year in the UK. I am quite flexible to move to the Middle East too, if given the opportunity, however as the recruitment is centralized from the London office of most of the banks, I would need to apply for a position in London.

    I am going on an exchange this fall semester to Austria when the recruitment season begins, and would be based in Graz. I am acquainted with a few investment bankers at some bulge bracket banks in the UK, and I hope that I would be able to get a few interviews through them.

    I want to know what else should I do to improve my chances ? I am aware of the fact that I am at a big disadvantage as far as networking goes as there is a great difference between actually being present in London and making contacts VS relying on a few contacts while abroad or networking via email. Can you kindly let me know of how I may cover up that weakness ? Also, what other suggestions would you give to better my application ?

    Hoping to hear from you soon.


    PS: Amazing, Amazing site btw ! Keep up the great work !

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d suggest you to fly down to Dubai and London (if you are serious about your job search efforts) and start networking there. Planting yourself in these two cities and hanging out where bankers frequent will increase your chances of meeting folks who are interested in hiring you.

  24. Hi Brian,

    I was told that after finishing off the book, “Investment Banking” by Joshua Rosenbaum, I would be more than prepared for technical questions. Have you heard of the book? Would you recommend me to look into other resources as well?

    1. It is a good resource and we mentioned it in a previous interview here:

      These days technical questions have become so advanced that I don’t know if the book would cover “everything” necessarily so I would look at as much as you can. The modeling programs offered here are good as well but even other guides and more advanced technical books are worth looking into.

  25. Hi M&I,

    I am a recent grad and looking to break into investment banking. I graduated from a top Canadian university, and have been looking for internships. Times are obviously tight, and many banks are averse to taking on anyone right now.

    However, I have landed an offer at a business brokerage, where my main tasks would be helping find business for them, and assisting with the transaction (valuation etc…)

    Would this be a suitable replacement if I cannot find an investment banking internships to help position myself for full time hiring in the fall?

    Thanks you very much for your time.

    1. Yes, that’s a good idea if you haven’t been able to find anything else – much better than doing something that’s not related to valuation / transactions.

  26. Is there a way to break into investment banking, without a college degree?

    1. For all practical purposes, no. I’m sure you might be able to find a few exceptions (more on the trading side most likely) but bankers will rarely, if ever, hire someone without a degree full-time.

  27. As an international student, this story is a HUGE help. Thanks for sharing! I’ve got a quick question – if I want to network with people at international banks in China when I go back this summer (whom I have no connections with), should I use English or Chinese in emails or phone calls? I want to show them how proficient my English is (to stand out from others) but, as the same time, I don’t want to give the image of bragging. What’s your opinion on this? Thanks!!

    1. Thanks! I would still use Mandarin because they’ll expect that of you in China – you can bring up casually that you study / studied in the US and let them ask you about your language skills if you want.

  28. Hi Brian,
    I’m a student from Australia who is set to graduate mid 2013. I’ve been offered a scholarship to finish my last semester in 2013 overseas which I’m considering taking.

    I’m trying to land a position (any position I’m desperate) in IB for the summer in 2013. I do have a degree of financial stability, so I am going to ask around boutiques for unpaid summer internships.
    However, if I study overseas for a semester that will still largely eat into my funding (only my flights, tuition and a couple grand spending money are covered), and I’m not sure if I will have enough money to go the whole summer unpaid.

    I’m working through your BIWS program as a rehash and I’m extremely confident on my technicals. I also trade equities for myself and manage my family’s portfolio so my market knowledge is great and I am absolutely confident that I will be able to handle the interviews. I’m going to purchase the networking ninja package also, but is it worth not going on exchange to ensure I have enough money to survive on an unpaid internship next year, in the event I land one?
    If I do get an unpaid internship, is there at least a possibility that the firm will ask me to stay on and sponsor me?


    1. Can you compromise and just spend a shorter amount of time on the exchange? Doing it for an entire semester is very costly but you could still gain a lot of the benefits in terms of standing out etc. if you only did it for a few weeks or even 1-2 months.

      Otherwise, I’d say if you really have to pick between the exchange vs. an unpaid internship it’s still better to do the unpaid internship to get the experience. You can always do the exchange later on, right after graduation but before work or even before business school, another full-time job, and so on depending on the timing.

      There is a chance that they will ask you to stay on and sponsor you but it’s less likely at really small firms.

      1. Thanks for your reply.
        I was looking at going to Hong Kong on exchange, so I thought it would be a fantastic way to make contacts (and perhaps even try get a job while there). I suppose I could do both if I really knuckle down.. I was just concerned about whether or not I would be eligible for a full time position in the US.

        I’m hoping that my hunger and determination from being from such an abnormal position will be an advantage somehow.

        1. Yeah, I think HK is actually quite tough to break into full-time for IB/PE unless you’re a native Mandarin speaker / writer. You could make some good contacts there but I’m not sure if they’d be helpful in AU / US unless they happen to move back (though referrals from them could help).

          The exchange would still make you stand out, but again I don’t think you need a whole semester necessarily to get some of the standing out and networking benefit.

          Full-time positions in the US are tough if you don’t have a work visa already – best bet is to prove yourself with an internship in the US, and then impress them so much that they sponsor you.

          With the way the world economy is going, I think Australia might be a more promising market than the US anyway…

          1. Well because I graduate mid 2013, I have to apply to graduate positions here in Aus in March 2013 or so… I figured I may as well roll the dice and try my luck in the US and if nothing eventuates I am still eligible for the grad programs in Aus.

            Also, have you dealt with many bankers in Indonesia? Indonesia is looking like it’s forming into a high growth prospect… I speak Indonesian (not natively, but near fluent) and my coordinator at school recommended I should consider it for exchange. What are your thoughts on Indonesia?

          2. Not directly, no, but I agree that Indonesia is a high-growth prospect. If you already know the language it’s definitely worth checking out and will set you apart even if you don’t end up working there full-time.

  29. Very interesting.
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for reading!

  30. So, I guess I’m currently same boat as the person interviewed here. However, I am currently attending a non-Ivy target (UC Berkeley, Northwestern, Emory, etc.) and I am an Econ major. Also, I am currently a sophomore with previous experience at Big 4 advisory but have yet to land an IB offe. I have been trying hard but nothing has worked out for me.

    Is there anyway that I might be able to talk to the person interviewed?

    1. I can pass on the request but he’s very busy at the moment so no guarantees – he might be open to some questions via email.

      I would say at this point you want to think of options outside of IB and focus on getting into it next summer or maybe even the year beyond during full-time recruiting. If you’ve already done that much networking, you can always keep in touch with your best contacts, get some good experience in the meantime, and then return to them later.

      1. Could you pass my request on too? I am looking for full time ER and will be graduating in Apr 2013. I have some questions on interview and networking for him. I am an international student at non/semi- target school in Utah.

          1. Are you able to also pass me along? I would like to learn a bit about his networking tricks as we are in similar kind of positions.. Thanks

          2. Sure, still waiting on his reply – with email it takes awhile but I’ve let him know that many readers want to ask questions directly.

          3. Can I join the qeue? I am studying at a top university in China, and would like to land an internship here. Maybe he can give me some advice.

          4. Could you also pass my request on? The story is really impressive and I hope I can at least connect with him first. Thank you so much!

          5. I can ask, but he did this interview a long time ago so no guarantee that he will respond.

  31. Great (and impressive) story.

    This “you have to be better than Americans” part is indeed quite frustrating – and it’s not very clear how you can actually “set yourself apart”.

    I took a year off school before my last year and worked in investment banking all that time. Is that considered an advantage for recruiting in the US?

    1. Yeah “setting yourself apart” basically means having language skills they need, connections in the country, specialized industry experience, or more extensive contacts at the bank. So it is somewhat random and very dependent on what the bank/group are looking for.

      Taking a year off and doing IB can certainly be an advantage if you spin it the right way – few other people have that experience and most bankers will think it’s impressive that you were able to do that before graduating.

    2. “better than Americans”,you speak a foreign language, and you lived aboard-that’s better than 80% of Americans at least; you know finance and have worked in finance, better than 95% of the folks. Now bridge the knowledge and experience,you have a story to tell. Just stay confident and focused, you’ll be amazed by the great synergies of the two.

      1. I have to agree with you on those – most people in the US don’t live abroad / learn other languages so that’s a really simple yet effective way to set yourself apart.

  32. I was also an international and am currently working at a bank. However, I may want to leave to do PE in a couple of years. Do you know how H1B visa sponsorships work in PE funds? I think bulgr brackets are relativrly open about sponsoring you for visas, but what about PE funds?

    1. PE is tricky because firms tend to be smaller to begin with. At the larger funds you would have a better chance of winning sponsorship – at smaller places with only a few people it might be really tough unless you have a specific skill or quality they’re looking for and which few others have.

      1. I guess if I’m from a BRIC and the PE fund focuses on emerging markets, then my chances increase considerably.

        1. Yes, I would say so, especially if you still have strong ties / connections back home.

    2. since you are currently a h1b holder, once you switch jobs, transfer of h1b won’t be as hard and costly as applying from beginning. Employers who are aware of the status issue would be more concerned about about the years left in your visa rather than the costs associated (suppose you are aiming at a long-term PE career track), which varies case by case. Better act fast when it comes to preparing for career exits as a foreigner in the states.

      1. Thanks for adding that – good point about the H1B transfer.

  33. He mentioned that he prepared very well for the technical question, is there any resource that I might use to get the needed knowledge for such question? (free resources)

    1. Honestly, your best bet is a book or guide that lays out everything in one place (in fact I’m not even going to mention my own programs here because I’m not trying to sell you anything). There are some good free tutorials and so on online, but nothing I know of that goes into extreme depth on possible technical questions in interviews. I would start by looking at YouTube videos (check out Bionic Turtle) on the topics and maybe seeing if you can find a Kindle or public library version of a book on the topic. Free resources aren’t bad, but they are more scattered and and therefore make it more time-consuming to learn the equivalent material.

  34. Great story. How did he prepare for interviews, and stories? How did he ask ppl for referrals. I found it hard for me as an international student. Thanks!

    1. Thanks. I believe he focused on the technical side for interviews from his comments – for ‘fit’ questions the main question was whether or not he was committed and going to stay there for at least a few years, because they’ve seen international students go back / leave early and such before. So having good reasons for that was essential.

      Asking for referrals is no different than it is for anyone else – just casually bring it up at the end and ask if there’s anyone else they know who might be good for you to speak with.

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