by Brian DeChesare Comments (484)

Investment Banking Informational Interviews: How to Use Them to Break into the Industry

Investment Banking Informational Interviews
Investment banking informational interviews are also known as “investment banking coffee chats” or “investment banking networking events,” but the purpose is always the same: to get to know bankers before recruiting, and to use your relationships to win interviews.

In this article, I’ll answer the most common questions on informational interviews. (For a more comprehensive guide to networking your way into investment banking, you may want to consider investing in our full Investment Banking Networking Toolkit.)

Why Do Investment Banking Informational Interviews Matter?

Imagine that a banker is looking through a stack of 200 resumes.

It’s 3 AM and he’s also working on a last-minute pitch book for his crazy MD who only sleeps 2 hours a night.

At 3:23 AM his eyes begin to close and everyone’s resume starts looking the same…

PWM internship, 3.7 GPA from target school… F500 internship, 3.5 GPA from non-target school…

As he’s dozing off, he comes across your resume.

He sees your name written at the top and remembers meeting you at an information session a few months ago, then meeting up with you 2 weeks ago and how you got into a discussion about the World Cup.

Rather than reading the rest of your resume and analyzing your experience, he says, “You’re cool” and puts you in the “Interview” pile.

That’s why you do informational interviews: they’re one of the best ways to set yourself apart in a sea of boring and identical-looking candidates.

Predictably Irrational?

In case you think the story above is an anomaly, think again: the interview selection process is not rational at all.

But the good news is that it’s predictably irrational.

And, unlike other events, with informational interviews you can easily tip the scales in your favor with a small amount of effort.

If you know people at the office you’re applying to, you stand a 10x better chance of getting interviews there.

Do Investment Banking Informational Interviews Really Work?

I’ve seen a couple common objections to “networking,” so let’s address them head-on:

  • Objection #1: Even if I meet someone, how do I know that he’ll actually see my resume and select me for an interview?
  • Objection #2: Won’t the bankers I approach think I’m using them?
  • Objection #3: Does this work at all levels? What if I’m applying for Associate positions?
  • Objection #4: I’m outside the U.S. – I heard networking doesn’t work as well in other countries.

For objection #1, I’ll admit it: there are no guarantees that the same exact bankers you meet will review your resume and make an interview / no interview decision.

To get an idea of specific numbers and what it will take to get noticed, check out this interview with an engineer who broke into investment banking via informational interviews.

Also note that even if your contact doesn’t pick you for an interview directly, he can tell other bankers about you, get you referrals, and help in other ways.

On objection #2, yes, bankers will know that you’re contacting them to win interviews at their firm…

…and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Bankers don’t do this for love – they won’t care that you’re “using” them if hiring you means less work for them.

Bankers are willing to speak with you because it might make them look good in the future if you turn out to be a good candidate.

On objection #3, informational interviews work at both the Analyst and Associate levels – you almost have to do them at the Associate level because your competition certainly will be.

Outside the U.S.

This objection has more truth to it than the others – networking into finance and going around the formal processes is not as common in regions like the U.K. and Australia.

Banks there are more focused on traditional recruiting – interviews, online tests, assessment centers and case studies, and so on.

But it’s not that networking “doesn’t work” – it just doesn’t work as well.

You may not want to spend as much time on networking in other countries, but you still need to do more than earn high grades and hope that’s enough to get you in.

The ROI of Investment Banking Coffee Chats

The bottom-line is that there are no guarantees that any strategy will “work,” but it’s hard to beat the ROI of informational interviews:

  • Informational Interviews: 10-20 hours of work might result in multiple interviews.
  • CFA: 500 hours of study will result in… an additional bullet point on your resume.
  • Cold Calling: 10-20 hours of calling boutiques… may result in nothing or maybe a few potential leads.

So think like a banker and invest in the area with the highest ROI.

What is an Investment Banking Informational Interview?

Wow, we made it all the way here without even defining what an investment banking informational interview is.

First, you find the contact information of a banker from your alumni database, from a referral, from student or professional groups, and so on.

Next, you email the person, introduce yourself, say where you found them, and ask if they can chat for 10-15 minutes on the phone or in-person.

If they don’t get back to you, try a few more times.

Then, go in and ask the questions you have about them, make a good impression, stay in touch afterward, and then ask for explicit help with recruiting when the time comes.

Investment Banking Informational Interviews: When to Set Them Up

You should begin 3-6 months in advance of recruiting – that gives you time to get to know them without feeling pressured to follow-up 24/7.

So if you’re a summer intern preparing for full-time recruiting, start just before your internship or as your internship is beginning.

You can start earlier, but setting up interviews too far in advance – say, 2 years before you recruit – is not a good idea because:

  1. It’s harder to stay in touch over that length of time and people may forget who you are.
  2. Finance has extremely high turnover and hardly anyone sticks around for 2 years in the same group at the same bank.

At the MBA-level, you should start before you even arrive at school – just conduct your interviews over the phone in your spare time if necessary.

Your competition is also thinking about networking, so starting even further in advance may be helpful – alumni at top schools get contacted by lots of students.

How to Set Up Investment Banking Informational Interviews

So you’ve found contact information for 5 alumni and you have 4 months until recruiting begins. What now?

Send a 5-sentence email to your contacts that proposes specific dates and times to speak:

  • Sentence 1: Who you are
  • Sentence 2: How you found them
  • Sentence 3: What you want to ask them about
  • Sentence 4: Propose 3-4 dates and times (and places if you want to meet in-person) to speak with them
  • Sentence 5: Thank them for their help in advance

Do not attach your resume / CV, as that annoys bankers by creating extra work.

Resist the urge to write your life story – normal people don’t even have time for that, and bankers certainly don’t.

Think, “Can he/she read this on a phone without scrolling?”

If you want more guidance on the types of emails to write, check out our Investment Banking Networking Toolkit, which has dozens of templates:


IB Networking Toolkit

Break into investment banking – like a pro. Dominate your cold calls, informational interviews, and weekend trips.

learn more

Phone vs. In-Person

Should you go for informational interviews on the phone? Or in-person?

In-person is the way to go if you’re local or you can make a weekend trip to consolidate your visits; the phone is better if you’re new and want to “warm up.”

Overall, in-person is more effective for all the reasons that meeting your friends in-person is more fun than calling them: the subtleties and non-verbal communication that you don’t get on the phone.

Plus, in-person meetings sometimes lead to in-person tours of the office and meeting even more bankers there.

Questions to Ask and Questions Not to Ask in Investment Banking Coffee Chats

So, now you’re set to speak with a banker at JP Morgan next Tuesday at 2 PM – what questions do you ask?

First, do a few minutes of research on him beforehand (Google and LinkedIn are fine, Capital IQ / Bloomberg are better if you have access) and figure out where he went to school and where he worked (geography / company / group) before.

Once you’ve done that, you can plan out the questions you want to ask.

Personal questions work the best, but if you’re wondering about the sales & trading vs investment banking distinction, markets-related questions may work better with traders.

Good Questions:

  • Can you tell me about how you got started at [Bank Name]?
  • I noticed that you studied abroad in [Place Name] according to our alumni database – what was that like?
  • I saw that you worked in [Industry 1] before switching to [Industry 2] – can you tell me how you did that?
  • I noticed that your group was involved with [Announced Deal Name] – did you work on that?

People, and especially bankers, love to talk about themselves, so the questions above are much better than the “What does an investment banker do?” / “How do you break in?” variety.

Bad questions consist of anything that you can find out in 5 seconds elsewhere or “questions” that are really attempts to brag about yourself.

Bad Questions:

  • What’s it like being an investment banker?
  • How many hours per week do you work?
  • Where can I read more about the industry?
  • By the way, I have a 4.0 GPA in my Finance classes – do you think I should mention that on my resume?

Your new banker friend could also test you by asking technical or fit questions in the beginning, just like in a normal interview – so be prepared with your story and accounting/finance knowledge.

As your 10 – 15 minutes are drawing to a close and you’ve asked your questions, make a mini-request.

People are just like dogs: we need to be trained.

If you don’t ask for something small – a suggestion to meet on a weekend trip in the future, a referral, or even if it’s OK to send follow-up questions – the banker will assume you just want to be “friends.”

As with dating, you need to avoid the “friend zone” from the very beginning.

Banker Having a Bad Hair Day?

Don’t expect that everyone will respond favorably – they won’t.

The banker might be having a bad hair day, might have just lost a client, might have broken up with his significant other, or might be suffering from dozens of other calamities.

You can’t take it personally because this has nothing to do with you 99% of the time.

Put the ones who don’t want to speak with you lower on your priority list and focus on the ones who seem more helpful.

What to Do After Investment Banking Informational Interviews

The biggest mistake you can make: following up repeatedly for no reason.

Sure, it’s good to stay on bankers’ radar every 2-3 months if you’re networking far in advance, but don’t go crazy sending 2 articles every every day because that will annoy them.

You should follow-up with specific questions, requests for referrals, or to ask for help getting an interview.

Some networking “experts” advise you to constantly ping everyone you know, but that is a mistake because:

  1. Bankers are 10x busier than the average person.
  2. You’re on a short time frame – months rather than years.

And yes, when it’s recruiting season you really can just say:

“With recruiting approaching, I wanted to see how I could best position myself for an interview at your firm.”

Next Steps

First, go to your alumni database, or ask your friends, family, or organizations you’re in for bankers’ contact information.

Email 5 of them to set up informational interviews, use the guidelines above, get referrals from those 5 to expand your list, and keep doing that until you’ve met a few dozen bankers.

Then when recruiting begins, ask for their help directly and persist if you don’t hear back.

When you’re done, post a comment below telling us how many interviews and offers you’ve won via networking.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.


Read below or Add a comment

  1. Hey Brian,

    Amazing website. Thanks for everything. I had my first informational interview. Nothing spectacular but wasn’t terrible. I tried asking for people he could point me to to talk to at the end so I could help learn what type of product or industry group I could develop an interest for and see how I “fit” into that. I got more of a generic answer like going on Linkedin and reaching out to people whose product and industry groups I’m interested in and reaching out to them (I’m interning at the same firm as him). To you, at face value, does this signify the person’s disinterest (he said he’d be happy for follow up questions and updates during the summer). To me, at least, I would assume if someone thought the conversation went well or likes you they’d be happy to refer you to people.

    Thanks and sorry for the length.

    1. He sounds slightly uninterested based on that. Still worth following up with, but maybe not a top priority. I think the problem is that your request was too open-ended, and usually when that happens, people don’t feel like making the effort to narrow down your request and give you a more specific answer. It would be better to ask something like, “I wanted to know if you know of anyone else who had Issue X but still got into IB, or people in Group Y, who would be willing to speak with me.”

  2. Hello,
    Im working in IT as an eFX business analyst, I took the job because of the financial crisis and always thinking of moving to S&T at some point. It is true to say that I really love to work in S&T but I see this is becoming almost imposible.
    I do my best at my job and I have a very good relation with ppl in S&T at all levels Traders, Sales, Support ..(MD, D,VP,etc). Furthermore, I have an extensive educational background in finance, always worked in CIB and I recently certified in the FRM (I took it because my bank offered me and also payed for it). The think here is that I have seen the only way to get into the trading floor is networking as you say. And although I achieve informal chats and interviews, it never turns into a real offer and I keep trying forever…
    Can you please advise? I think Im doing something wrong during interviews… otherwise I do not think what is the REAL problem.

    Thanks for your time,

    1. Hard to say without knowing more specifics – maybe see this article for tips: or

      Most likely, you are not being aggressive enough with your “asks” – you need to ask for opportunities to work on the desk rather than just casually finding out more about it.

  3. Avatar
    Nimish Garg

    Hi Brian, thanks for this article. I haven’t networked much, but I am at a semi-target/target school. Since banks are beginning to close their applications, how much would it hurt for me to first apply, and contact my alumni afterwards? Or would you really recommend that we reach out to alumni first?

    1. Applying early almost always beats networking and then applying late, so apply before the applications close. It’s better to start networking long before you apply, of course, but if the application is about to close, you need to submit something while you still have a chance.

  4. Hi Brian,

    Should I follow up with a thank you email after informational interviews just like actual interviews?

    1. Yes, but it doesn’t need to be right away… you can wait a bit and ask for advice about something else, a referral, or mention an upcoming weekend trip.

  5. Hey Brian,
    Thanks for all the info! I was wondering what to do if I want an internship for the summer. I have had a few informational calls in and have several more scheduled with small firms. Since I am a freshman, I cannot apply for most positions but am hoping to get an interview with a small firm through info calls. Should I just be straight up and ask for one at the end of the calls if they go well?


    1. You can, but maybe just mention it casually and say it would be great to know of any internship opportunities in the future and then follow up later to ask again.

  6. Should I also do this when I’m looking for an internship?

    1. ??? Of course, networking is helpful to essential when you’re looking for internships.

  7. Does it make sense to contact bankers that I have no mutual connection with? Considering contact information is easily accessible on bank websites.

    1. You should ideally have something in common with the bankers you contact, but it doesn’t need to be a mutual connection. It could just be a similar university, activities, interests, hometown, classes, etc., as you will get the best results when you can point to something like that.

  8. How high up should you go during your initial reach? MD? Associate?


    1. Start with Analysts or Associates at first and then get referrals up the ladder, ideally reaching MDs eventually. If you have a compressed time frame, you will have to do this more quickly or maybe go for VPs or MDs right away.

      1. How do you get referrals up the ladder? I have met with several analysts and associates but can’t seem to get any referrals especially the ones higher on the corporate ladder. Any help would be appreciated.

        1. Ask for it directly. “Is there anyone else in your group who might be willing to speak with me?” “Would you mind putting me in touch with anyone else in your group?”

          If the person is unresponsive or doesn’t want to help, move on and ask someone else.

  9. Hey Brian, what do you mean by a mini ask for a referral? Like a referral for the interview? I thought that was what the big ask was for.

    Thanks for any insight you can provide.

    1. Just a casual comment like, “By the way, if I’m in your area in the next few months, would you have a few minutes to meet up?” or “Thanks for speaking with me. If I have any questions in the future, would you mind if I email you?”

  10. Hi Brian,

    First of all, thank you so much for great articles on M&I, and great courses on BIWS. I really appreciate them and am learning a lot.

    I have one question about this informational interview or coffee chat because it seems like what I am facing right now is little different from typical situations I read in your article, and was wondering if I could apply the same approach.

    To let you understand the context a bit, I am talking about the structured recruiting for MBA Summer Associate at the GS London office. They made it clear at their presentation that they do not want the informal (cold-calling/emailing I assume) coffee chats, and that they will actually provide us with a chance to apply for the official coffee chat with their employees. But, they said they would limit this coffee chat to just once to everyone (for probably 20 mins or max 30mins).

    In this situation, would you still say that asking them about personal questions is the best approach? rather than trying to impress them? (I am not really sure about how, but still.) If you could follow-up and meet more before I apply, it would be great, but officially this is the only chance to sit down with the employee 1:1; and I feel like I am under pressure to leave an impact on him/her in that one sitting and have a fear that talking only about personal stuff might not be enough. What would you advise on this?

    In addition, even if they strictly said no unofficial coffee chats, if I could manage to find some referrals and have a coffee chat through those referrals rather than cold call/emails, it wouldn’t hurt, right? (I know I should have searched and connected even before I came to the school… but at least now I am starting and since the application process is 2-3 months behind US school, I will just do my best from now on)

    Lastly, let me briefly introduce myself, just to give you some information on my background. I am originally from South Korea, but I am actually Canadian who graduated middle/high schools in Vancouver. I did my undergrad at Cornell University with Engineering major, and worked in Korea at the boutique consulting firm, founded by former McKinsey/ATK members, for 6.5 years before I came to LBS for full-time MBA programme. I want to move into finance (IB/PE) post MBA in London, and following your advice on the website, I have done a pre-MBA internship with one of the PE firms in Korea to build a stepping stone to the finance industry. Now I am going through the structured recruiting for IB with the school.

    Along with answers to my questions, I would be grateful if you could give me any other advice/tips for recruiting given my background. Thank you so much in advance and sorry for such a long reply.

    Best regards,

    1. Yes, the process in London is a bit different because MBA-level recruiting there is not as highly developed. I would say:

      1) You can ask a mix of personal and career/bank-specific questions. You should never really “try to impress people” – you should ask good questions about their backgrounds and how they got to where they are today. You want to show that you’re curious and have done your homework.

      2) Yes, if you can find alumni or other connections, you can go for unofficial coffee chats. But some of the large banks won’t go for this in London, so it might be more helpful to focus on the elite boutiques if you use this strategy. If you get push-back from a few GS bankers about this, assuming you try to set up some unofficial networking, then you should stop to avoid issues with the bank.

      3) It sounds like you are pretty well-prepared if you’ve done a pre-MBA internship and are in a top MBA program currently, so I’m not sure what else you can do at this point. My main advice would be to shift your networking to the elite boutiques and other, smaller firms if it seems that bulge-bracket bankers don’t want to go along with informal networking outside the normal channels.

      I think you can probably win IB roles there without necessarily doing that much networking because the process in London is more application-driven and based on your credentials on paper.

  11. Avatar
    Undergraduate Rising Senior


    Any advice on making phone calls while at work? We have conference rooms, but I feel it might be a conflict of interest to take a networking call or interview while in the office. However, I ‘m in the office all day, so there is no other option. Lunches are taken in office as well.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. It’s not a conflict of interest, just go to the conference room to make or take calls. If someone asks why, say that you had a personal issue come up and did not want to disturb your co-workers with the conversation. Another option is to step outside to get coffee for 10-15 minutes and take the call then. The shorter, the better with networking calls in most cases.

  12. Hi Brian,

    I attended an informational/networking event for sophomores for IBD at a BB. We had a networking reception with MDs, Analysts and Associates. However, there were so many students cramming each Banker it was hard to get anything substantial out of it or making that personal connection. I got the business cards of the bankers with whom I spoke with briefly. As applications will open soon and that event basically was the “informational interview/event”, should I just email the people I met with a follow up of reminding them that I met them and it was great or should I ask questions/ ask referrals? Please advise.

    Thank you

    1. You should email the people you met and ask for 5 minutes to speak on the phone so they remember who you are when reading applications. You don’t need to ask complicated questions, just the usual stuff about their careers and any tips for how to present yourself given [Describe your background and the challenges it might present].

  13. Avatar
    Brian Kessler

    Hello Brian,
    I am currently a freshman finance major enrolled at Northeastern University. I aspire to work in investment banking in the future. Would this technique of informational interviews apply for summer internship roles? Northeastern also has a Co-op program where I will work full time for 2, 6 month semesters throughout my undergraduate studies. Would you reccomend a similar strategy when applying for Co-ops?

    Thank you

  14. Hi Brian/Nicole,

    Thank you for posting this valuable article. I have a question on following up with “small requests”. In your article, you mentioned that I can ask specific questions to stay connected with the bankers.

    What are some examples of specific questions that I can ask to build the relationship other than “how do I position myself to have an interview at your firm” / asking for referrals (I’ve read the comments that I should do that after I have built a relationship with them)?

    I mean, it wouldn’t be appropriate if I ask random questions right? After all, they wouldn’t have time to entertain random questions.

    Thank you.

    1. Ask for their input on classes you should take, internships or activities to join, or just ask about the best way to present yourself for the jobs you’re applying to.

      1. On the topics that you’ve mentioned, isn’t it common knowledge and “can be researched online”? For example, take private equity/IB internships, take accounting/finance courses etc.

        Not to find fault with your solutions, but just curious since it is often mentioned that you don’t ask questions whereby you could find the answers through google.

        Thank you.

        1. At a high level, sure, but you have to make it more personalized/specific to you (e.g., “Accounting Class X covers Topics A and B, but Accounting Class Y covers Topics C and D. Which one do you think is more useful?”).

          You will always get better responses by asking for advice and showing some uncertainty/vulnerability, even if some of your questions can be answered online.

          1. Ok. How do I know if the banker “likes” me?

            Is it appropriate if I ask them the question “how do I best position myself for an interview at your firm” during recruiting season when I’ve only met them once for an informational interview? Will they think that I’m using them just to get an interview?

          2. How do you know if anyone likes you? Listen to their tone, watch facial expressions and body language if you’re in-person, see how responsive they are to emails, etc. Yes, you can still ask about interviews if you’ve only met them once.

  15. Hi M&I,

    I go to a non-target, small liberal arts school. I’m having a quick phone call today with someone at a bulge bracket bank that I was referred to by an alum I spoke with a couple weeks ago. I’m majoring in finance and business admin and have already applied to the firm that this person works at. I don’t know anything about him (he doesn’t have LinkedIn) other than that he’s a broker. I know I’ll only have a short time to make an impression.

    How can I best present myself over the phone to this person in a short conversation?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. You can’t really do anything if you have no information on him and can’t find any. Maybe look up news about his firm and be prepared to ask questions on that. Otherwise just stick to asking about his background and his advice for you.

  16. Hi M&I,

    My alumni database tends to offer office phone numbers only. How would I structure the initial reach-out in terms of proposing 3-4 dates/times and thanking the person in advance?

    By the way, I love this website and all the insight it has to offer. I think i’m on your page at least 2-3 hrs a day.



      1. Hi Brian,

        Thanks so much for this article and your templates! I’m set up for a coffee chat tomorrow thanks to your work. Hoping for more responses from bankers soon.



        1. Thanks. Good luck!

  17. M&I,

    I’ve had success with first round coffee chats, but run into difficulty in the ‘keep me posted’ stage. I am struggling with topics of conversation for follow up calls and discussions. I need to stay in front of these bankers over a period of time Other than asking about specific deals, do you have any advice on how to structure follow-up calls?


    1. Instead of doing follow-up calls, either send short follow-up emails with specific questions or say that you’re going to be in City X and try to meet up with them on weekend trips or during other in-person networking. And keep everything short so you don’t run out of discussion topics (under 10 minutes is best for calls).

  18. Hi Brian,

    I have been networking and some people have asked me to send over my resume to forward to HR. After sending my resume to them I get no response. Do I assume that they have sent it to HR or will they usually CC me in the email to HR or let me know that they have forwarded it? Confused if I should follow up or not.


    1. Follow up, follow up, follow up, follow up, follow up [copy and paste 500 more times] – the most important part of networking.

  19. Avatar
    Sean Lo

    Can someone in the HK/London office refer me to NY or SF ? Thanks!

  20. Hey Brian,

    Love the site and love the courses too!

    If you know that the banker played a part on a deal, do you want to just point that out and go in to talk about that deal specifically? Do you just ask for what he thought about it? Or maybe what I think about the deal from a sort of basic stand point and ask if that was why the deal happened?

    If the informational interview is over the phone but I would also like a chance to maybe meet in person to have an opportunity to tour the bank, how quickly should I ask for it? Or should I just push for maybe interview push to hr since apps are opening soon?

    Thanks! Keep up the good work too, the courses are nicely done.

    1. Say that you noticed he worked on Deal X, and you wanted to learn more about it. For a phone interview, if it’s close to recruiting just ask directly; if you have more time, mention that you’ll be in-town on Dates X – Y and would appreciate the chance to meet in-person if possible.

  21. Hi Brian:
    Thanks for your article! I recently have chat with several bankers over phone, and those calls went very well. I was wondering about your tip that “Then when recruiting begins, ask for their help directly and persist if you don’t hear back.” How can I directly ask for help? Shall I directly email them and ask “I apply for position XX. Is it possible to pass my resume to HR?” or indirectly like “As recruiting season is coming, may I schedule another call with you to learn more about this position?”
    Thanks for your help!


    1. Did you read the article?

      “And yes, when it’s recruiting season you really can just say:

      “With recruiting approaching, I wanted to see how I could best position myself for an interview at your firm.””

  22. Avatar

    Hey Brian thanks for the prompt responses. I had a 20 minute informational interview yesterday and the contact said to email if I had additional questions. I was wondering if I could just email back in 3 months when recruiting starts saying how I could best position for an interview at your firm with just one 20-minute phone call. If not, what kind of excuses could I bring up to have a second informational? Thanks.

    1. Yes, that is fine. You don’t have to follow up multiple times if recruiting starts in a few months.

      1. Get it. Sorry about that.

  23. Avatar

    Hey, I am having an informational interview with someone who works in asset management/ wealth management and was wondering if they would be able to pass my resume on to IBanking HR.

    1. You could ask, but such a request is often perceived negatively. You want to demonstrate interest in the division the person is in, not some other group. And lots of people in AM/WM don’t have a great opinion of bankers.

  24. Avatar
    Alexander Ringelberg

    I am looking to get an interview from an investment banker in the industry for an assignment. I was wondering if you could put me in contact with someone that would be willing to be interviewed. It is something that I would like to look deeper into and I feel that this could help shape my career path.


    1. We can’t help with homework assignments here, but we recommend reaching out to alumni or finding bankers via LinkedIn.

  25. Hi Brian / Nicole,

    I’m in a MO role, and been networking with I-bankers for the past ~ two months. I have gotten pretty good results with the group that I am targeting (thank you for all the advice here in M&I). A specific MD that I had a conversation with, said he would like to help me out (he even invited me to grab some drinks), so he put me in touch with his “right hand” VP. I also talked to the VP and I think I made a pretty good impression. However, these guys are super busy and I couldn’t get any more references from either of them. So I started networking with other MDs, VPs, and Associates in the same group (with very positive results, I think). Then, the end-of-the-year and the holidays got in the way and everyone got even busier or went on vacations.

    I don’t want to give up on that specific MD for a number of reasons, so I was wondering if you had any advice on how to re-connect with this guy after ~1.5 months, without sounding like an idiot? Any thoughts are very much welcome.

    Thank you,

    1. Just say you hope he had a good holiday/New Year and wanted to follow up on your conversation with him from last year and see if he can refer you to anyone who [meets specific criteria.]

  26. Avatar
    John CArroll


    Thank you for posting this article! One quick question: as a sophomore at a non-target liberal arts school, is it better for me to wait a few months when banks are looking for last-minute help for the summer and reach out then? Or should I just reach out for informational interviews now even though recruiting for the most part has ended? Thank you in advance!

    1. Just start reaching out now, explain that you understand that recruiting has ended, and ask if they can refer you to anyone at smaller banks that might still be hiring.

  27. Hi Brian,

    Thanks again for your help. You probably don’t realize it but your website has become the plateau for apps so congratulations
    Quick one, I have managed to secure an informational interview with a VP at a US BB in London, being at the associate level and having read your previous posts around the subject, I was wondering if there was anything else that I could do to convert into a serious interview and to make myself a prospect please?

    1. Thanks, glad to hear it. The biggest point is to research the VP’s background and the group very well so that you can speak to / ask about specific deals they’ve worked on. At the Associate level, you have to treat IB deals as if you were a sports fan talking about the details of football / basketball / etc. games. So deal knowledge and lots of information on the VP’s background so you can ask more detailed questions really helps.

      1. Hi Brian,

        Thanks again for that.
        After pushing like crazy, I have been invited by a VP of a BB for a networking meeting in their offices for about 2 hours.
        I think it is a proper view but I wanted to have your opinion on this?
        Have you ever saw that type of invitations? What should i expect please?
        Thanks again

        1. Any interaction with anyone at a bank is an interview. If you come into the office, yes, it is most definitely a real interview. So expect the usual questions, be prepared with your story, and so on.

  28. Avatar
    Zoher Thanvi

    Hey M&I.

    I just learned about this term ‘informational interviewing’. I still don’t quite get the concept. Why would a 70 hour a week working, six figure a year making professional want to take a half hour out of their time to talk to some 19/20 year old kid with no experience (although i am studying finance right now ((completely non-target school)) in working in finance.

    By the way, because I go to a down the ranks school, I don’t think I have the alumni database or the resources to get in contact with these people. I’m in the UK. What should I do?

    1. No one actually does 70 hours per week of “real work” – there’s a ton of down time and waiting around in banking, which is why bankers can afford to talk to you. Plus, if they make a good referral and you get hired, they’ll look good to their superiors.

      If you don’t have an alumni database, meet people through events or just take a trip to London and meet people like that:

  29. Avatar

    A banker on my first email said he is interesting in viewing my resume, what should I do after speaking with him over the phone?

    1. Send your resume to him. Then, follow up to make sure he’s reviewed it and passed it along… and then follow up again. Follow up is essential.

  30. Hey guys,

    Super interesting article.
    I have a small question for you;

    I got an informational talk with a very senior person in instituional business at an asset manager.
    Talk went well, got discussing my passion for car racing. Person said he would put my cv forward personally to HR with his notes.

    Followed up 1-2 weeks later and was told he would follow up with recruitment. (United Kingdom) . Now been a week and not sure what to think or what to do to be honest.

    Any tips or thoughts would be immesensely appreciated.

    1. Follow up again. Keep following up. If he doesn’t respond after 4-5 attempts, move on.

  31. I would like to stress this part of the article:

    “Sentence 5: Thank them for their help in advance”

    I am currently a college senior headed to a BB. I have gotten asked to 1-3 informational interviews each month since last summer. About 1/4 to 1/3 of the students that I have met with have failed to say the words “thank you,” in any form, either before or after our chat. This really annoys me. I have begun ignoring all emails that do not thank me for my time. It is common courtesy.

    1. Yes, completely agreed. Students also have a tendency to not show up, “forget” to call, fail to ever follow-up or do anything useful…

  32. Avatar
    Chunwei Wang

    Hi Brian,

    I have a question about asking for referrals. One of my alumni refers me to his colleague and I have a phone call with him tonight. Is it OK to ask referrals from him? I was just wondering if it was appropriate to ask referrals from people who my alumnus refer me to. What if his colleague refers me to another colleague in his group? Can I ask for referrals from that colleague?

    I know it’s a stupid question but any help would be much appreciated.

    Thank you very much!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes I think it is appropriate to ask for referrals if you establish strong rapport with them, even if it is in the initial interaction. Yes I’d ask for as many referrals as you can. The worst that can happen is that they say no.

  33. Hello Brian and M&I Staff:

    It would be great if you could publish a more in-depth article about how to craft the perfect (or at least useful) ask for a networking connection. I find that I end up making connections with people who should be in positions to help me land interviews, but after edging to help nothing comes through. Obviously the networking effort continues and I continue to try bankers to meet who may help, but what do you do – or is there anything more you can expect from a situation where – when your contact doesn’t seem to be going anywhere? It’s so frustrating because some of these people should really be helpful to me so I’ve still been putting in the time to maintain the relationship.

    My “mini-ask” is normally to ask to be put in touch with someone from HR as well as asking for any team members or people in the bank my contact thinks I should speak with. I follow up asking for information on recruiting and clearly express my interest in the role. Am I asking the wrong questions? Not being forceful enough? Just not talking to the right people?


    1. Thanks for your suggestion. I think you might be over-thinking this point – getting people to respond and actually help you comes down to how much the person likes you more than how you frame the request.

      I think you might just not be taking an aggressive enough approach – you have to literally tell them you want to work there and ask how you can position yourself for an interview. Asking for referrals can work, but after a point you have to do more than that. You may want to see:

  34. Hi M&I, I need advice please

    I have an alumni I’m interviewing and she’s in a different division than IB within the target bank. I’m interviewing her because she’s wise (can learn from her) and because she has many contacts. How can I ask her in the interview if she can tell me who to speak to (who she knows) If I’m interested in IB (which I am) without sounding like I’m using her as a stepping stone? For the record, no one in my school is in the IB division.

    Advice is needed please

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you develop rapport with her, I’d just ask if she can refer you to anyone whom you can speak with. I don’t think this sounds like you’re using her, as long as you take the time to get to know her, her background, and develop rapport with her.

  35. Hi I have a few of these coming up for FT recruiting. Would you recommend wearing a suit to these “coffee interviews”?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say business casual works, since you are meeting them for coffee only.

  36. Avatar
    MM Analyst


    So I just started working FT at a MM bank in NYC and even though I really enjoy the culture in group, I ultimately want to move over eventually to a BB. My question is, given free time I have during a given day, what you recommend in terms of networking strategy ? I’ve started setting up informational interviews already, but given that I went to a non-target school and there are only a couple alum that are working in IB(and some of them don’t even want to help people from my school) should I try taking to other people within my bank about getting refferals ?

    Any tips/advice you can provide is thoroughly appreciated !

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes I’d talk to other people within your bank about getting referrals.

  37. Avatar
    Bob Jenson

    Here’s a question that will cause some controversy.

    Conventional wisdom says that if you go to a non-target, applying online is a waste of time. My question is simply….are there exceptions to this rule?

    1: I am a non-target with a summer internship with a top VC firm (Sequoia/Andreessen Horowitz/ First Round Capital).

    2: My friend is a non-target with an SA position at a middle market bank on his resume.

    We are both about to be juniors. For junior SA positions, are we wasting our time if we just apply online to large banks?

    Obviously, we will still network with as many people at as many firms as possible….but for those firms we don’t have university alumni at….should we bother to apply online?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes applying online can work. While its not the most effective way, I’d still apply online and focus on networking if you can.

  38. Brian,

    A quick question on networking etiquette – If I arrive earlier than my contact at a coffee shop, is it preferable for me to purchase first so that I could secure a table and wait, or should I wait until he arrives? Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d wait till he arrives.

  39. I have always carried a notepad with me when doing informational interviews, insight weeks etc and take notes on the answers I get from questions asked. This serves a two folded purpose: not only do I have the information stored for future reference but I also think it conveys my interest, diligence etc.

    My fear is that note-taking may make me appear unsociable and lacking in personality outside of career aspirations. Also, the extent to which a notepad detracts from eye contact may be prohibiting connection with the person thereby diminishing the tendency for my CV to be put into the interview pile.

    Are my fears warranted or ridiculous?

    1. I think it could come across as a little odd if you are taking notes the entire time. They wouldn’t decide against interviewing you based on something like that, but you might not appear as sociable for the reasons you mentioned.

      So it’s probably better to take notes afterward, as long as you can remember what just transpired and quickly write it down. And if something really important comes up during the conversation, maybe you can ask them quickly if you could take a second to write it down since it’s important.

      You do generally want to maintain eye contact during the conversation.

  40. Avatar
    Tanushree Gupta

    So I go to a non target school. Im a rising senior and I’m spending this summer interning at a small PE firm. I traditionally want to go into PE straight out of undergrad but being aware of how tough that is, I’m keeping my options for IBanking open. I plan to spend this summer cold emailing alumni and LinkedIn contacts both in the PE and IBanking industry. I plan to set up phone calls with them (since I’m not in NYC). I have done this before. However, how doi close the call? Do I ask them for a referral straight away? What if I dont know anyone they can refer me to? What can i possibly say during my phone call or in my follow up email? Like what is that one key thing I will say that will dramatically increase my chances of getting another contact or of convincing my current contact to help me with the interview process. Last question, when you say ask them for help in the recruiting process – does this mean I explicitly ask them to forward my resume to the recruiter at their firm?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes I’d ask them for a referral if the conversation goes well. There isn’t one *key* thing because this depends on the contact. I’d be thankful for his/her time, and be assertive – if his/her firm isn’t hiring I’d ask for referrals and be as specific as you can. Yes, you can ask them to forward your resume to recruiter at their firm.

  41. Hi Brian,

    I am currently a student transferring to a target school that is currently working a PWM internship right now. I am eager to start informational interviews, however my one hour lunch has to start between 11:30-1:30. Will I be wasting my time emailing because bankers have their breaks to? Or should I ask my boss to allocate time for me to have these interviews (although that my be awkward.) Thanks so much for the help.


    Samuel Wang

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No I don’t think you’ll be wasting your time by emailing bankers. Using your lunch break to network is fine. Otherwise coffee break may also work. If you are *very* close to your boss, I may ask your boss to allocate time but I don’t think this is the best idea.

  42. How can i use the same guidlines on linkedin contacts that i have never met but conneted through linkedin?

    will it come accross ok? Any suggestions on setting up informal interview sessions via linkedin?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes. I would make sure you keep your messages short and sweet. Give them a one-line intro of yourself, one-line description of what you’re looking to do, and make the ask (i.e. Are you available for a 5-minute chat? Is your firm hiring?).

  43. Avatar

    This may seem like an absurd question but….

    What is a referral, how do they work, and is it ok to actually use the word ‘referral’ when asking for one?

    “Would you be willing to give me a ‘referral’ to person XXX” ?

    When talking to person XXX, should you say “Your buddy person YYY gave me a ‘referral’ to you” ?

    Thank you as always for your advice.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I wouldn’t use it this way. I’d just say if they’re willing to connect you with XX. And I’d just say XX recommended that I contact you.

  44. Hi Brian,

    I’ve been following your site and articles for some time now. I recently got an Informational Interview with a small sized but bulge bracket investment bank in its field. Four people individually took time from their work (2 analysts and 2 associates) to meet up with me one on one. I’ve never had such an interview before, and it was really helpful. They were really nice people – busy – but took time to meet with me. I loved the environment and people and everything about them! They don’t have an HR department, and only 2 of the guys I interviewed did their “intern” program in the summer. After the interview, I emailed each of them a relatively “short” email thanking them individually. I also requested to add them on LinkedIn.
    But now, how do I get an “in” into the intern position? I didnt want to ask in the “thank you” email I sent them. I didn’t want to come off demanding. Do I wait for them to answer? I feel that they are too busy to answer me back (you can tell by the way they one sentence answer my email). I don’t know if they think of me favorably or particular in any way – but yes, I do want to be remembered. They are such nice people! I love their environment and it makes me happy talking to them.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes I’d ask them over the thank you email. Just thank them for taking the time to speak with you, and tell them why you love their environment/place. Then just say that you’re very interested in working/interning at the firm, and ask them if they’d have some time in the next few weeks to discuss the potential opportunity of working there.

  45. Hello M&I,

    Recently I am in a pretty unique situation, and I want to ask for your opinion. I have read M&I website through, and I do not find my situation mentioned, so I want to email directly to ask.

    I am from a non-target school, and I already graduated two months ago. I found out about M&I website too late, and by the time I had the opportunity to read through the website and gain basic knowledge of the investment banking industry and how to break in, I realized that I am in a very difficult position to break into IB. I understand my situation and have been focusing on boutique and middle market banks only, trying to cold call and cold email my way to interviews. But recently, an opportunity came up, and I want to ask for you guys’ opinion.

    My father has a connection to a very big boss (higher than MD) at a BB bank, and the BB boss told my father that he offers to help me. I emailed the boss my resume, and he forwarded to his colleagues. Today, an associate from the BB bank contacted me, and set me up me for have a phone call of informational interview with him. In my case do you have any advice for me? Since I got to him through his boss (and a very big one), should I be more direct to him? And what should I expect from the informational interview with the associate? How do you think I should approach the phone call interview? How much do you think the BB boss can help me?

    Any advice or direction would be much appreciated. Thank you very much for your time.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think you need to be more direct because of the connection. The BB boss can help you quite a bit, only if you perform well in interviews too (unless you’re the firm’s major client, that’s a different story) Link below should answer the rest of your questions:

      1. Thank you very much for your response Nicole.

        I have another small question. Before the interview, should I email the BB boss to ask him what product group/industry group are there in their Chicago office (I’m in Chicago)? So that I can do more research of those groups and have more to talk about.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Sure if you have established a strong relationship with him, you can do that.

  46. M&I

    I want to get into ER and have just switched my undergrad major to Finance. I have only completed general studies so have little finance knowledge and I am feeling unprepared for test questions. How should I prepare? Also, I currently live in FL, should I focus my efforts on smaller firms in the area?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Did you mean interview questions? should help you

      If you want to stay in FL yes this may be a good idea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *