by Brian DeChesare Comments (129)

The Non-Target School Sales & Trading Recruiting Process: How it Works from Beginning to End

nontarget school sales recruiting

This is a guest post from a reader who broke into Sales & Trading (S&T) coming from a non-target school. In Part 1 of this series, you’ll get an overview of the entire process and what you need to break in.

If you make it into sales & trading coming from a non-target school, congratulations: you’re part of The 1%.

No, not that 1% – at least, not right when you start working.

I’m talking about the 1% of job seekers from unknown schools who actually manage to break into the field.

It’s a daunting and challenging process, and it’s arguably more difficult than breaking into investment banking from a non-target school:

  • Unlike IB or PE, there are no true “sales & trading boutiques” (unless you count prop trading firms)…
  • …so there are fewer positions, and they’re concentrated at large banks.
  • Plus, networking with traders can be more difficult due to time constraints (you can only do it after the market closes) and interviews are much more random.

Should you give up and stop wasting your time applying?

Not at all.

For me, that difficulty was the fuel.

I was determined to prove everyone wrong, and I didn’t care what people said – it was the job of my dreams, and I was determined to break into sales & trading at a bulge bracket bank no matter what it took.

In this series, I’m going to explain exactly what it takes to break in if you’re coming from a non-target school like I did.

As the first step, you need to understand the recruiting process from beginning to end – and where you can “bend the rules” to gain an advantage.

Step 1: Getting on their Radar

Since bulge bracket banks do not recruit at non-target schools, you need to apply online to even have a chance at winning interviews.

At the minimum, these applications require a resume and cover letter, although many specialized S&T programs (e.g. diversity recruiting programs) require essays.

All large banks have minimum GPA requirements as well – if you don’t have at least a 3.5 / 4.0 (or 2:1 in the UK) you don’t have much of a shot. When the economy worsens, that minimum may increase.

If you’re at a non-target school, the minimum arguably goes up because they expect better academic performance out of you.

Technically all majors can apply, but for many trading positions they favor technical majors (math, science, engineering) since you use math quite a bit.

Often times, students apply with one of these ‘’mathy’’ majors in addition to finance as their second or third majors. Coming from a non-target school, a minor in math, at the very least, is a good idea.

The deadlines might be anywhere from October to February depending on the bank and region you’re in – to increase your odds of success, you need to track everything in an Excel spreadsheet and use columns for the deadlines and application requirements (resumes, cover letters, essays, etc.).

Recruiting is always a numbers game, but if you’re at a non-target school it’s truly a numbers game.

I recommend applying everywhere even if you have no interest in working there – you can’t afford to be picky. Just make sure that during the interview, you articulate why you want to work at that specific firm over others.

In your online application, you usually apply for Sales & Trading as opposed to a specific desk. During your interviews they will ask you the “Why S&T question?” and what desk you want to work on.

For the actual desk you will be working on – sales vs. trading, equity vs. fixed income trading – you must keep a very open mind.

I usually said something like, “I want to trade mortgages, but I will be happy on any desk where I can learn the most.” Once you’ve won an offer, you’ll be placed based on where they have a need and what you’re interested.

For full-time jobs, you almost always do a two-year rotation on two different desks. The rotation varies from bank to bank, and in some cases if you’re on a desk for a year and you absolutely love it there, you can stay.

For internships, the process varies by bank; some firms have 3 rotations across different desks (Barclays), while others have none (J.P. Morgan).

Step 2: Really Getting on Their Radar

As Brian has mentioned before, submitting your application online is often like throwing it into a black hole.

If, by some chance, it makes through the automated system it will get 30 seconds of attention from a human recruiter (at best).

So you need to network if you want to have even a 1% chance of landing interviews, and much of the investment banking networking advice on this site applies.

My best sources for networking:

  • Family, friends, and school alumni.
  • Professors.
  • Attending recruiting events at target schools (yes, going to events even when you’re not invited) and getting business cards there.

We’re going to go more in-depth into networking in a future article, but a few points to keep in mind when doing this on the sales & trading side:

Always email traders – they are on their computers from 7AM – 5PM, and can usually get back to you quickly. Unlike bankers, they don’t have meetings or client presentations during the day so they’re always at their desks.

Tell them that you’re interested in S&T and wanted to ask a few questions about their jobs/firms. Then ask them if there’s a good time to chat.

Here are some good things to ask:

  • How they got to where they are, personal background, etc.
  • Why sales and trading, sales vs. trading, equity vs. fixed income.
  • Why that specific firm over any other.
  • Always ask advice for the recruiting process (application/interviews).

Depending on who they are and how you approached them, they might offer to pass your resume to HR, or you can ask them to do it for you.

Use your best judgment to feel out the situation, but always make sure you follow up with them and ask if HR said anything about your application because they often “forget” to submit it unless you keep asking about it.

Step 3: The Phone Interview – Round 1

If your application passes the first round of screening, you’ll be offered a 30-minute phone interview.

Just like with investment banking interviews, the first round interviewer will most likely be a junior analyst, and you’ll have to answer the “Walk me through your resume” question and behavioral questions…

…but your opinions on the market are much more important in S&T and they’ll ask you about different asset classes, indices, and so on.

They’ll focus heavily on why S&T over fields in finance, and why you’re interested in their firm over others.

When walking through your resume, don’t take longer then 1-2 minutes, and focus on the things that are S&T related (anything that is quantitative, and that has to do with the market).

Actual interviews are not tremendously different from target school interviews. Once you make it in the door, everyone goes through the same questions, and the fact that you come from a non-target is not necessarily held against you.

And just as with normal interviews, you’ll get the chance to ask 2-3 questions at the end where you want to convey your enthusiasm for sales & trading and for their firm.

Definitely send a thank-you email after the interview to everyone that interviewed you. Sure, it may not always make a difference but if it takes 5-10 minutes, why not take the time to do it?

Afterwards, you will most likely hear back with the results of each round within 2 weeks.

Step 4: Phone Interview #2… or Superday

If you advance to the next round after the phone interview, you’ll either have another phone interview, or you’ll be invited to a Superday interview.

A second phone interview will be the same format as above, except the interviewer will be more senior.

For Superday interviews, the firm will invite you to their headquarters and put you through several rounds of 30-45 minute interviews.

The interviews themselves vary quite a bit and different banks do things very differently – but here’s generally what you can expect:

  • Interviewers tend to be more senior-level employees…
  • …from different divisions, ranging from equity sales & trading to fixed income sales & trading to credit risk to research and anything else on the S&T side.
  • You’ll get at least 4 interviews, and each one might be with anywhere from 1-4 people (yes, you might actually have interviews with four people).
  • Almost every interview will start with “Tell me about yourself” and “Why Sales & Trading?” and “Why our firm?”
  • They will focus heavily on market-related questions – you need to know about all asset classes, what the important indices in your region (e.g. the S&P and DJI in the US) are trading at, and what oil prices, treasury yields, and currency exchange rates are.
  • Oh yeah, and then there are the mental math and brainteaser questions that don’t come up nearly as much in IB/PE interviews.

Forget about using a pen and paper or calculator – you need to get really good at thinking in multiples of 5 and 10, or you’ll be at a severe disadvantage.

Practice is the key to success in brain teasers – I highly recommend getting a book of sample questions (You can usually get the Vault S&T Guide for free through your school – also search for questions on Google) and also practicing your thought process out-loud.

People get hung up on getting the “right” answer, but your thought process is actually more important.

Once the questions end, you’ll get the chance to ask your own questions and then make your “closing arguments” for why they should hire you.

In your arguments, enthusiasm and attitude are the keys to success. You might talk about how there’s no candidate who wants this job or this firm as badly as you do and that no task is beneath you, as you are willing to do whatever it takes to add value to their team.

So that’s an overview of what to expect – we’re going to do a deep-dive on interviews soon, but you need to understand the entire process first.

Step 5: Final Decisions

Within two weeks of the Superday, you’ll receive either a phone call congratulating you and letting you know that you were offered a position, or an email letting you know that you have been rejected.

If you did get the offer, congratulations! You’ll be given about two weeks to accept or reject it.

If you need more time to get back to a firm, tell them that you’re still waiting to hear from a few places, and that you need more time so that you can really figure out what your best option is.

Don’t be surprised if they don’t grant you an extension, and don’t ask for a second extension.

As a trader you need to minimize risk and the same applies when you’re recruiting for trading: don’t screw up a really good offer, or even any offer at all, in hopes of getting a marginally better one.

If you were rejected, you have two options.

The first is to respond to the email thanking the recruiter for their time and move onto the next bank.

Alternatively, you can email all the people that you interviewed with and ask them if you can come back in for another interview.

Tell them that you feel you were not judged fairly, and that you know you’re the right candidate for the position. You should also email all of your contacts, and try the same thing.

And if that doesn’t work at first, you could give up and move on or keep trying.

Think this sounds desperate or overly aggressive?

I know someone who won a job at Goldman Sachs Sales & Trading after being rejected 5 times – he kept going back and back again, and his resilience paid off.

You don’t want rack up 1500 rejections like Sylvester Stallone did before the first Rocky movie, but you don’t necessarily want to give up after just 1 rejection, either – especially if you answered all the questions well and really were misjudged.

Stay confident in your own abilities, and success will come.

Coming Up Next

Now that you know how the recruiting process works from beginning to end, the next step is to prepare for each part of the recruiting process, as they are all critical to your success.

We’re going to do a deep-dive into everything from networking to resumes and interviews and show you how to succeed at each stage – even if, like me, you’re coming from an unknown school.

The competition is tough and the odds of success aren’t great. But if you apply everything here, you’ll gain a big advantage over everyone else.

And you might just make the leap from The 99% to The 1%.

This is a guest post from a reader who broke into Sales & Trading (S&T) coming from a non-target school. In the upcoming parts in this series, we’ll do deep-dives on networking, resumes, interviews, and more.

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. Hello, good afternoon!

    I come from a non-targeted BSc in accounting and finance with major in accounting, while also taking 7/13 exemptions of ACCA certification. I have also acquired some internships in accounting offices and an audit firm. But, I have a great interest in finance and mostly asset management/ PE, or even S&T. I look for an MSc in Finance right now in a well-known university in London or Switzerland in order to get into the financial sector.

    What would you recommend me to concentrate on to pursue a career in asset management/ PE, or even S&T?

    1. Get relevant internships and then apply to work at a large bank. Also, narrow your career choices because asset management, PE, and S&T are completely different fields and have very different requirements. There’s a description of the S&T internship process here:

      Networking, networking, networking, relevant experience, and then avoid messing up the online applications and assessment centers.

  2. How is UT Austin viewed as for S&T recruiting? I know it’s not a target-school, but what are the chances of getting in to S&T from UT?

    1. I think you would have a shot for NY-based roles if you do a lot of networking, but you’re right that it is not a target school for S&T. Your chances aren’t great, but if you’re willing to put in the time networking, it is possible.

  3. Hi, I’m currently studying maths and economics at LSE and am thinking of applying for internships in trading. I’ve never really been that interested in the markets before university so have very little trading expereince, howvever I am aware of the news and have completed work experience at large asset management firms and accountancy firms. Is it worth applying given this and what can I do to try and bring my application ”up to speed”?

    1. It depends on where you are in university… applications tend to open in August or September for internships the next calendar year, so you have to decide based on that. The best thing you can do is join a student club/activity related to trading, prepare for interviews, and try to spin your asset management experience into sounding more relevant for trading.

      1. I’ve just finished my 1st year so will be applying in the next few months. In terms of likeilhood of getting an internship would I be better off focusing my time and effort on asset management internships then rather than trading? Thanks.

        1. It is still easier to get trading internships because all the large banks offer them, while AM internships are not as common and require more work on your part.

  4. Hi Brian & Nicole,

    Hong Kong here.

    Although I’m from a non-target school in Hong Kong, I’ve recently received a sales and trading interview invitation from a BB. I am curious about how you define ‘ability to sell’, as I’m interested in equities sales roles, so my interviewers will probably ask me to pitch them a stock or an asset. I had one of my first-round interviews before and my interviewer found my sales pitch too long. I am not quite sure about how to structure a speech which can show my knowledge, as well as my ability to sell.

    Many thanks.

    1. Ask questions to find out what the person wants first (no point in selling if you don’t have something that matches), then keep your pitch very short (no more than 60 seconds). Take a look at some of the tips for “stock pitches” on this site (there’s a short example later in this series on S&T recruiting).

  5. Avatar
    Jerry Smith

    I just got selected for a first-round interview for an off-cycle S&T with Goldman in Frankfurt (Canadian myself with German parents, grew up speaking it) from a top-tier Canadian university, but not exactly targeted by Goldman (they don’t hold any recruitment events in my city, for example). It’s one of those HireVue pre-recorded video interviews which I’m preparing like hell for, but I don’t know how selective the screening up to this point. What confuses me even more, is the fact I made it past the screening with far below what you’d consider an acceptable GPA to make the screening past Goldman (granted, I have 4 previous internships, all in PWM, banks and market data vendors), transcript and everything attached. Now, I have a solid story to back it up, but does not getting filtered out by it in the initial screening infer little emphasis being placed on that now at this stage of the recruitment process?

    1. Not necessarily. It probably won’t come up in a HireVue interview (since they’re scripted and only ask 4-5 questions), but it could easily come up in subsequent in-person interviews.

  6. Hi,

    I come from a non target undergrad and am considering between LSE MSc accounting and finance and Cass Msc trading and fin math. I did not choose MSc finance as it is way too competitive and I did not want to risk not getting a place at LSE. Besides, I can choose all my electives to be finance related.

    So now the question comes down to LSE, but less relevant coursework for S&T, or Cass, which will definitely be more relevant.


    1. Um, LSE. School reputation matters a lot more than coursework.

  7. London here.

    I’ve done a banking-finance degree from a non target. So far I’ve got back office target driven experience and may get a analytics going sales role in a firm like Bloomberg.

    I do trade in my spare time.

    What would be my chances of jumping to sales and trading? Networking, or would that help my rebranding myself by doing a MSc in finance in a target?

    (Would a full or part time course be better or make no difference?)

    1. I think you’d probably need an MSc in Finance from a good school to have the best chance at moving into S&T. Networking helps, but recruiting in London is still very prestige-driven and the application system there makes it difficult if you’re already working and trying to network in (as opposed to being in school still and applying from there). Full-time might be marginally better, but part-time could also work if it’s from a school with a good track record.

      1. Thanks.

        Would I be right in assuming that the “prestige-driven” part refers to that they’d rather take a student from a target over someone whose currently working that went to a non-target?

        I notice that some schools like LSE have easier entry requirements for their part-time courses as opposed to their full time versions. Though one thing I wonder about this is the spare-time: since MScs don’t tend to have as many classes as BScs, would it be smarter to opt for full time in a scenario where you can cover your living expenses etc so you can network more and what not?

        Initially thought having a name of a FTSE firm (e.g. Bloomberg) in a role liek analytics and then relatively FO role (sales) would help. The whole FO to FO thing.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes, banks do prefer people from target schools and/or people with experience from bulge brackets. Yes I prefer full-time to part-time.

          1. Thank you Brian and Nicole.

            My final question on this matter is this: would I be right in thinking that going to a target with FO experience (like sales) would be easier than doing so with BO/MO experience?
            As far as how much work you have to do to rebrand yourself for these roles is concerned.

          2. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Yes, I’d say so. Its about rebranding your resume, and gaining relevant experience that are useful to FO roles, such as talking to clients, understanding the markets, etc.

  8. Can having inside sales experience help me transition into an investment banking role? I have been considered for a full-time Inside Sales Rep position. The pay rate is $15/hr, with benefits. I am, however, still attending college with 2-3 semesters before I transfer out to a UC. Should I take the job? Or will this limit my chances of one day becoming an investment banker? Any advice will be greatly appreciated, thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think this role will limit your chances, but you may have to devote more energy/time into job search and your GPA, so indirectly this role may not help you transition into banking. If you can afford to not take the role, I may just focus on your GPA and job search instead.

      1. What about acquiring IT experience?

        1. IT experience might help a bit, but would probably be more helpful for S&T roles or anything with coding required… which is rare for most IB roles.

  9. Hi,

    I am from a non target and have an asset mgmt offer at a bulge bracket. I am interested in ST. Have you heard of people moving from AM to ST?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes though I think most try to move from S&T to the buy-side instead. I’d take the offer and see if you can transition into S&T down the line. I think this is possible; you just need the right network and timing

      1. Thank you, this is reassuring! I will try and network and hope for good luck

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          CJ, yes I’m sure you can transition, but you may find that you don’t want to after a stint in AM. Give it a shot first and see how it goes.

  10. Avatar
    Robert Capps


    I participated in S&T Superday interviews at Wells Fargo on Monday but haven’t heard anything back yet (its Wednesday). Im not sure how long I should expect to wait before I hear back but I have seen some articles on the internet that indicated it is usually within a day. Should I email them as a follow up or has not enough time gone by?

    Great stuff on this site!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, I’d call HR to follow-up. Most people usually hear back within a day or two, so following up now is a good time.

  11. Thanks and sorry for the misunderstanding of my message, I was talking about my friend from one of the largest bank group which is now chief of risk management, treasury and alm but wants to quit on the long term and go to consulting or starting his own hedge fund. And I was wondering if that would be a problem for networking from there, but I suggest that his network will still exist and what’s important is his contact agenda.

    Well should I try with the official sites or through LinkedIn or other social media’s?

  12. And for the dilemma I’m confronting with for studying what is the best choice do you think?

    I also heard him lately that he wanted to quit and go for a own hedge fund or consulting. However I think it will not matter really in the 10 years coming because what’s most important is his contact agenda, isn’t it ?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’m not quite sure I understand your question but yes your professor may have a point. I’d suggest you to speak with industry contacts in your country and they maybe able to give you a second opinion.

  13. 56th* first* that auto corrector

  14. Frist of all, Let me thank you for your answer and excuse me for the auto corrector of my phone. The Vlerick business school is 17th of Europe (ft ranking) from the university UGent which is ranked worldwide as Ruth best university. Within one year I’ll graduate forme high school and I’m thinking to study this following programmes: physics and astronomy, civil engineering or Handelsingenieur (special programme initially invented by Ernest Solvay founder of Solvay business: school )

    A professor of Solvay suggested the last one which is following his advice the best option for financial trading and trading floors in General. What do you think?

    I also already have a very good connection with the chief of risk management and alm of a top ten bank of the world. I’m not going to cite his name by respect.
    Discussed iPo s with him and some abs but never talked about my ambitions, is this a good start for networking?

    If I success, I’ll never forget this moments of reading :)

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, and I think you may want to mention your ambitions etc.

  15. How do can you find out if you’re in a target school? Vlerick business school or solvay are they it that categorie?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If many banks recruit at your school, I’d say so. I’ve not heard of the two and I’ll let readers comment.

  16. Hello,
    I am currently studying Computer Science at a non-target school with a relatively low gpa at 3.3. I have a passion for the markets and ultimately would like to work at as a Trader on the buy-side. If I am unable to break into trading out of Undergrad what alternative area of finance would best give me a chance to eventually break into Trading on the buy-side? In the end I’m really just looking for a solid Plan-B option. I have a strong passion for the markets, and I just want to do something centered around that. I’m not really concerned with working at BB Bank. Edward Jones strongly recruits at my school and they have Equity Trading jobs, I am considering focusing on that and eventually try moving to the buy-side. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Sure if that is a firm you’re interested in, yes you can focus on that and take your CFA going forward for buy-side roles

  17. Hello Brian,

    A question from the UK here. I’m a recent graduate from a reputable red brick university and have recently started a full time role as a junior equities and derivatives broker within an independent FCA regulated stockbroker within the City. My main interest is applying to BB in the coming year on the Sales side (i know a few which offer Sales specific schemes) through both analyst programmes and long term internships. I have no previous work experience other than shadowing a senior sales broker for a day at Nomura and a internship at a magic circle law firm (focused on IT, so plenty of quantative analysis and VBA and SQL, and business consultancy). What advise would you offer in terms of approaching my applications and the strengths of my current role compared to more traditional internship roles?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Hard to say because we have not worked with you before. I’d just focus on your markets experience as well as valuation work, if you’ve done any

  18. Hi, is the process for sales positions within S&T similar to what’s outlined above or does it differ? I have heard that there’s a preference for older, experienced candidates and not as many opportunities for grads. I was also wondering if the amount (or type) of existing networks you have matter in the selection process.
    A heads-up on the skills and type of grads fitted for sales would be much appreciated.


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It depends on the role. Skills for sales – love for markets, connections, ability to sell, market, communicate and present oneself. Pedigree maybe useful. Types of grads – go-getters…I’m not sure how you define the “types.” But yes some sales role prefer more experienced candidates because they have the connections and the equity resarch/IB background so they can sell the stock better (after having gained the fundamental knowledge of equity)

  19. Hi Brian

    When exactly does the recruiting season/interviews start and end for Sales/Trading positions at bulge brackets? What about Investment Banking positions? Do you think around Feb/March, right after bonuses have been distributed is a good time to follow up with my contacts at BBs in the hopes of nailing an interview? I have been out of a non-target undergrad for just over 5 years now and am still trying to break into the front office from my current middle office role. I am also studying for the CFA level 1 this coming June in the hopes that will also help me get more interviews. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      For full time first year hires, they usually start in Sept/Oct and end by December. Yes you can follow up with your contacts. I think going to a target school will help you in your case. CFA is useful for buy-side roles but not as much for IB roles

  20. Interesting article. Does the advice: “You can email all the people that you interviewed with and ask them if you can come back in for another interview (…) You don’t necessarily want to give up after just 1 rejection, either – especially if you answered all the questions well and really were misjudged” apply to investment banking summer analyst applications as well?

    Personally, I recently had a non-target superday where my interviewers noted afterwards that I performed well, but was not given an offer based on the number of qualified candidates and the limited number of openings available. This is not an example of being misjudged, but I am confident in my performance and in my ability to deliver if selected as a summer analyst.

    My perception is that traditionally prospective and professional ‘markets people’ are more aggressive than ‘banking people,’ so I am interested in your thoughts.


    1. It can still apply to IB as well, but sometimes it won’t work as well there for the reasons you stated… if you really feel you can do the work and are as good or better than other candidates, I think it is worth another shot to go back to them and mention your enthusiasm for the role again.

      1. Thanks for your input. I would be more likely to follow the original poster’s advice if I wasn’t interested in coming back and interviewing for an analyst position next year. There’s probably risk of turning people off in the present by being too aggressive, and that can impact coming back to them in a year.

        Thanks again for responding so quickly.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Thanks for your input. Good luck!

  21. Avatar
    Thompson and Thomson

    I’m a student at CMU Tepper hoping to get into trading. I’ve seen a lot of prop firms here, but not many BB Trading arms. Is Tepper a target or semi-target for trading at the BBs? How about prop firms?

    Also, I’m considering a second major in math (which is a difficult subject here). Would a math major actually help me break into trading (either BB or prop) if I can get a 3.6+ GPA? Thanks in advance.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say a semi-target. Yes a Math major can potentially help, especially with quant roles

  22. Is S&T similar to Investment Banking in that if you do not hear back the next day from a Superday odds are you were either put on hold or rejected?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You can say so though sometimes firms may take longer to respond

  23. Out of curiosity, what is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign considered in terms of target, semi-target, etc.
    And would a Finance degree from UIUC, with coursework in Financial Engineering be extremely tough to get into Sales and Trading at a bulge bracket?

    Thanks, great article as always.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think it is a target. It can be challenging because you’ll be competing with people who have had some level of experience in the industry and from a target school. Your chances would increase if you have connections and industry experience.

      1. Alright thanks a lot. One more question, would getting an internship at a prop trading firm, the CBOE or CME look good for trying to get an investment banking S&T internship in my junior year (Going into my sophomore year this fall).

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes it will help you with your S&T experience esp since you’ll have exposure to the markets and environment

  24. This is such a great post.
    Just had two S&T interviews (both BB).
    But was not able to get through 1st rounds.
    I have a few connections in HK so I might be able to pull off a S&T internship in HK but I really want to work in US. There is one MD who I got to know pretty well as I was going through the recruitment process. So my plan is to do an internship at HK and maybe try to get back to him during full time recruiting season. I want your input / advice.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes having the internship on your resume will help. I’d also suggest you to keep in contact with the MD (and network a lot with other banks) during the internship. Contact him again during full time recruiting season.

  25. Hi,

    I am a finance student at the University of Melbourne and will be on exchange at Rutgers University for the duration of 2013. I have strong grades (equivalent to a US GPA of around 3.88-3.96/4, depending on some results that will soon be released), some extracurriculars and have solid, “pure” sales work experience but no specific financial work experience. I really want to obtain an internship over the summer (in S&T or investment banking, I haven’t fully decided which but would enjoy both) and understand how important the networking process is in doing so. For Brian, the author of this post or anybody with more experience, could you recommend certain strategies for networking/obtaining an internship while I will be outside the US for the initial application process? I will be in the US in time for interviews and superdays etc. Any information would be much appreciated.



    1. Also, if anybody could offer advice on how to present my education on my applications- the University of Melbourne is the best school in Australia and incredibly competitive both in the Southern hemisphere and globally (I think around high 30’s/low 40’s on most world university rankings), however it is still overseas. Should I highlight that I am at the University of Melbourne and on exchange at Rutgers given that Melbourne is a much better school, or downplay the fact that I am an international student and try get in “from” Rutgers?

      Again, thanks a lot!

    2. I would start by setting up informational interviews when you’re outside the US, and then move to in-person meetings when you arrive there. That is really all you can do when you’re outside the country – find a time that works given the time zone difference and try to speak to a few of your best contacts on the phone, maybe 1-2 months before you get there.

      I would not highlight one school over the other on your resume because the University of Melbourne is not as well-known in the US.

  26. Great Article!
    I have a quesstion about cross-division networking. My school is a non-target, but has been very successful at placing students into BB IB. How effective would it be to network with IB alumnus, hoping that they pass my resume to a trader?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It can be effective. Continue networking and see how it goes. Don’t hope that they pass your resume along, ask that they pass your resume along (in a polite way)

  27. I will be interning during my junior summer at one of the top-tier BB in Tech. My team would do the supporting work and risk calculation/reporting for Fixed Income S&T but we are not even close to the real trading floor. Do I stand a chance of applying for SA position in S&T next summer, given that I will be pursuing a master degree in Fin/MathFin/FE upon graduation?

    1. Any thought is much appreciated!

    2. Sorry for the delay – I think you do have a shot at S&T positions next year as long as you can spin the work into sounding somewhat related. Your degree will also help.

  28. I’ll be starting internship at one of BBs in IBD.
    Im at NYU with 2.9 GPA but I had connection in my relatives and was able to get the internship.
    It is unique however. I’ll be working in Korean office and it will be 1-year long (instead of six months)
    since Ill be having the internship record on my resume, it this going to cover up for my low GPA and non target school status?
    Also, is internship at BB in Korea going to cause problems because of it’s location?
    What do you think about doing the year long internship. The person who connected me suggested I should do so.
    What other recommendation do you have for me given my circimstances?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      NYU is fine. GPA of 2.9 – can you get it up to a 3.0? Firms have a cut off of 3.5, if not 3.6.

      If you want to work in US, its better to have an internship in the States

      Yes, I think the year long internship can be a good idea. Do you have other internships on the table?

      Boost your GPA & network immensely!

      1. Im currently working at a Korean investmentbank IBD as an intern. I will be working at BB next month.
        What can I do to cover my GPA?
        I have two years left at school so I’ll try to boost up my grade. but what else can I do to cover up?
        What are the mertis of 1 year intern compared to 10 week summer intern?
        Thanks for your comment

        1. What would YOU do if you were in my shoes.

          1. Well, it would depend on what you want to do. What is that? If you want to do IBD in Korea then you’re already set: internships at a Korean house and global one. Do well and get another internship next summer and you’ll be more than fine.

            IBD in the US? To be honest unless you can get a work visa by yourself (which you basically can’t) then I don’t think you’ll have that much opportunity no matter what your grades are. Yes you have the 1 year practical training, but that’s not enough to entice a co to take a chance on you when they can easily get many, many people that don’t have work authorization issues.

            Focus more on getting an offer in Korea then trying to get an internal transfer to the US if you want to.

            If you must try for an internship in the US, then the fact that you’ll have done 2 in Korea is a big advantage, bigger than any grades issue. Focus on building relationships in your teams to get personal recommendations to folks in NY.

            This is what I would do were I in your shoes

        2. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          What do you mean by “covering” your GPA?

          I think 10 weeks is sufficient for you to understand the role & requirements etc to be honest.

  29. Hi,

    I am in a similar position, S&T is my dream job but I do not go to a target school. I have accepted a position at a major bank in Operations which I will begin this Summer after I graduate. I was wondering if you could give me any tips on how to approach transitioning into S&T from Ops as a first year employee. I have a solid resume with summer internship in Technology at another major Financial Instituion and I am strongly involved in academic activities with a strong GPA. Thanks

    1. It would depend on which area of ops you are in and how much interaction you have with the front office. If you don’t have any/much FO “face time” it’ll really be uphill. If you have it, use it to show how much you know and how much you can contribute. That means you’ll need to get to know how the FO teams you talk to function and how they do their jobs, what issues they face, and what ideas you have to help.

      Also, be careful in trying to network with them for networking sake: they’ll know what you’re after quickly and you’ll annoy them even quicker. Focus on getting to know what they do and how you can make their jobs easier.

      Best of luck

  30. A quick question regarding online application. I was asked if I have any contact in the bank, and specify my relationship with this contact. I initially got referred to this contact by a good friend. We met and he’s very helpful. He referred me to a few people in the firm as well.

    My question is: what should I say about the relationship with this contact?

    Can I also put people if we just briefly exchanged emails? Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Before you put their names down, I’d suggest you to ask for their permission first.

  31. Hi,

    What would be considered ‘target schools’ for Sales & Trading desks for the major banks operating within Hong Kong?

    Also, to what percentage are S&T staff within HK, educated in America relative to the local Universities?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Target schools – Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, Georgetown, UChicago, NYU Stern, Oxford, Cambridge, etc

      From what I’ve seen, most S&T staff are educated abroad, unless your team and clients are very local

      1. Thanks ‘M&I Nicole’!

        If working at S&T in Hong Kong, will you be asked by your colleagues about your educational background? If you do not come from a ‘target’ school, will this be held against you?

        If you avoid the question, by not answering it directly or giving a BS answer, will this also be held against you?


        1. They won’t ask; they won’t care. They’ll only care about how much you contribute to the team. Education comes up at the interview stage; after that no one cares.

        2. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          No, as long as you make it to the first interview. Then you are fair game with others from targets. Your passion and knowledge of financial markets matter more. They also value trading/investing experience.

          No don’t avoid the answer. As a matter of fact, I’d confidently tell them that I’m from XX school. Who cares. If you sound shady or avoid the question it shows 1. you’re not trustworthy 2. you don’t have the confidence; both of which are killers in interviews, even if you are from Harvard.

          1. Oh No! Nicole, I was referring to how I should answer those questions by my colleagues once I’d start working there! Of course I’d tell my interviewers where I’d gotten my education from- doing otherwise would just be …. awkward. :)

          2. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            I see. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

  32. This is spot on. Came from a non-target to a BB S&T. Alumni helped me get a first round interview and the superday was as described.

  33. Hi, I noticed that Brian really pushed the Anex Advantage program. I am running out of options and recently applied to their program. I noticed that they the firm they want me working at is called Meridian Partners, literally a middle market company with the MD being the Anex program director (a little weird). Given I am from a UC Berkeley – NonHaas, How would that look on my resume for full-time recruiting vs say bulge bracket internships at Sales/Trading or even Asset Management? Thank you!!!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It is not a bad option. Of course, if you have a BB internship or a brand name AM internship on hand I’d take those. Otherwise, go for what you’ve got and see where it takes you

  34. I recently havent heard back from goldman sachs ibd in almost 2 weeks. should i send an email to all the bankers i met saying i wasnt fairly judged? what should my course of action be? Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      No don’t send them that email – I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t leave them a good impression of you

      Send them a nice email to follow-up and express your interest in working for them!

      1. Better yet, if you have business cards with phone numbers, call.

  35. Hi,

    Thanks the article. I am also trying to break into S&T. I will be graduating in April 2012 from a non-target.
    My obstacle is that most of the Canadian BBs are not hiring for S&T right now. In addition, I have no relevant experiences, my work experiences consist of 2 years sales and about 1 year in office administration, I also never had a internship.

    Am I hopeless with thinking of getting into S&T? or are there ways for me to still get in?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Network a lot and see what’s out there. Talk to boutiques, second/third tier banks and even trading firms

      If you can’t get a S&T role, try investment management firms

      Broaden your search

  36. This questions might be stupid, but do headhunters offer services to people seeking summer intern/full-time 1st year analyst? Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Some do. But the top tier ones usually don’t help juniors unless they are working on a mandate for the whole team or a close client specifically requests them to do so because they don’t make much out of a 1st year analyst

      Summer interns – No HHs are usually not involved – they won’t get paid enough to justify their costs

  37. Hi i’m an undergraduate from singapore looking for internship in asset management companies. I wonder what’s the efficient way to get hired? Besides, does coldcalling still work? Can I design my resume according to the IB resume template?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole



  38. What does the author do specifically, I’m assuming not “trading mortgages.”

    1. He didn’t want to say what desk he’s on because it would give away who he is (not many people from unknown schools on trading floors at the largest banks).

  39. Hi I was wondering what would be best for majoring at a semi target. Should i major in asian studies specifically chinese language And minor in Business to hopefully land something in S&T or something finance related in China or major in Business and Minor in the language

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Your ability to understand the markets and most importantly, your ability to trade, matters most

  40. I recently received an offer from a bulge bracket in S&T from a nontarget/semi-target as a sophomore. Definitely, I’d say the most important things that you want to get across during the interview is
    1) enthusiasm (passion for the markets by being knowledgeable)
    2) fit (ability to take risk and make decisions; be prepared to give examples)
    3) get to know some people at the firm before your interviews and speak with them about what they do to really show your interest, hunger, and desire to learn.
    Good luck!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your input!

  41. Hi,

    I am a junior at a semi-target university who’s looking at S&T positions. I couldn’t get any S&T summer internship at BB and I am thinking about applying for the full-time positions. What’s your recommendation for the summer? I am a member of an investment club with real money invested and am thinking about devoting myself to it during the summer. Do you think this would be a good option, or do you think getting an internship in a prop trading firm or doing anything related to corporate finance are better? I mean, there are no such thing as ’boutique’ S&T firms, right?

    Also, I heard from someone that in some cases they are slightly biased against those with significant experience in trading, since they want to teach people from scratch. Is it true?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Sure though getting an internship w a boutique or a trading firm might help you better,provided that you get to work on some good projects/work

      No. I think having experience will put you ahead of others who are inexperienced (unless they can demonstrate their raw talent). Sometimes people like inexperienced people because they don’t have an ego given their lack of experience. So I think what is relevant is your humility open-mindedness and willingness to learn

  42. Hi, Brian. This might sound like silly question, but does non-Haas Berkeley considered target for trading positions? (I am currently an applied math major at UC Berkeley.) Also, in addition to what has been offered in this article, I have seen some people who went on to acquire master’s degree in financial engineering and received offer from BBs. I guess it is another way to secure trading positions from BBs.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Berkeley is a target

      Yes. MF degree helps

  43. Ok, so I work middle office at GS (finance div), and recently emailed a vp at MS who is an alumnae from my school (non-target), he has a front office role. Essentially I asked for more info on his line of work and the firm in general. He responded! And agreed to a phone call, now the problem is what the HELL do i say in this phone call? What should i ask? I’m supposing i should not be too direct, especially so early on, but any tips or questions to ask that maybe start planting the seed for a possible opportunity. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Congrats. Just treat him like a fellow human being :) and be genuine. Ask him questions related to his work and tell him what you’re looking for. Ask him if he can share with you his thoughts etc – should be easy. Make sure the conversation is flowing!

      1. Just to add, do you know which asset class he’s in? If so, search for whatever sell-side (or even buy side if you find it) research you can find. Just google things like “US fixed income strategy,” ” FX monthly,” ” sector research,” or variations of the above. Try several combinations, you should find a couple of things.

        Also try googling names of analysts/strategists quoted in the business news, i.e. the guy that’s on bloomberg tv for 2min talking about the oil market. Things they’ve written can come up too.

        Read whatever you can to get a feel for the issues that people in that asset class are talking about/dealing with at the moment. This will also help you internalize what’s going on in terms of market action. You may get asked for opinions, but you can just talk about something you read and why you agree/disagree with it.

        Do this and the guy will think you’re both passionate about the markets and really on top of what’s going on. Just be careful not to talk about things you don’t know or haven’t read about, bullsh*t is detected quickly and not tolerated.

        Good luck

        1. Brian, your site can’t show text in brackets? The above should be “(insert company name, e.g. UBS) FX Monthly” and “(steel et al) sector research”

        2. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Thanks Adam!

        3. Thanks for the additional input Adam, he is in alternative investments and used to be in prime brokerage (where I presume he still has some connections). I’ll definitely look into what you suggested. Thanks again!

          1. For prime brokerage look for things on “equity finance” – for prime brokerage this is a way to finance leveraged trades, “synthetic equity” – basically equity swaps, and “stock loan” – for short selling.

            Also know what “freebie” services that prime brokers will offer to win business, things like office space leasing, investor relations work, and recruitment.

            Next, alternative investments is ripe for interesting discussion topics, you should be able to find some things.

            Lastly, wanted to add to my original post, be up to speed on new regulations, like the derivatives stuff and Volcker rule in Dodd-Frank. This has a big effect throughout the industry.

            Best of luck

  44. This article is so accurate! I broke into S&T from a small non-target in Texas, thanks to a few IB alumni from our school who had connections on trading desks, and some connections I made in summer PWM. The description of interviews is very accurate — all fit + the question about your opinion on the markets. Be prepared to defend all your points well. They also like to ask about current events, i.e. events that happened that morning a few hours ago, just to see how up to date you are with the markets.

    1. Thanks, glad to hear it. Yeah current events are much more important in S&T, not common to get tons of questions on them in IB/PE.

  45. Bravo! Always enjoy reading these great interviews. I went from substance abuse at a non-target (in the Caribbean) with an 8yr undergrad plan to being recruited by UBS and later by a boutique trading desk on wall st as desk strategist. One thing is clear, that is NOT taught in school, you need to build meaningful relationships and network your way in. N

    1. Thanks! Glad to hear it. Would love to hear your story as well if you want to do an interview.

  46. Hi Brian, what do you think of a sales position (insurance) with a large financial company as a step towards S&T at a BB? I am finishing up grad school in engineering and am eager to get into any finance/banking positions but unsure of the potential tradeoffs. Thanks!

    1. That could be potentially helpful, but more so on the sales side than the trading side of S&T. It’s better to work at something more directly in finance if you can, but something insurance-related is better than nothing at all.

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Adding to Brian’ points, I don’t think selling insurance would really help because you need exposure to institutional investors but your sales skills will still be useful

      1. Thanks Brian and Nicole! I’ll try and hold out a little while more and see what happens.

  47. This is currently exactly what i’m doing…I have been networking tremendously at 4/5 bb and its absolutely been tough. I’m already 4 years out of school so i do have sales experience and i have work at two bb for at least 1 year each. What do you think is a good way to take advantage of this upcoming March Madness? Is their any recruiters or headhunters i should speak to or should i just keep networking like how am i doing now?

    1. If you’re already 4 years out it’s even tougher – if you have sales experience, I would actually suggest expanding the scope of what you’re looking for and thinking outside of large banks. Sales experience can translate better into related fields in finance, so that could be an option – talk to smaller hedge funds that need help with fundraising, bankers, PEs that are fundraising, and even normal companies that might need someone with sales skills. If you’re looking to move into a different field entirely, you might want to consider MSF / MBA programs but for now I would keep networking and talk to firms beyond those 4-5 bulge brackets.

      1. Thank you Brian and I will definitely expand my search base

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Adding to Brian’s points, be open. In this environment, I believe quite a few “laid-off” bankers or those who are disgruntled w their bonuses and the way things are will be (if not already) starting their own firms. You might want to sniff for such people’s info and try to “create” yourself a position w them.

          I’ve also found this to be helpful – figure out what you really desire, how your strengths (Figure them out) can add value, and go with the flow

          1. I actually have done that a little bit and that is a great suggestion because I didn’t think of focusing on that aspect too much

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