by Brian DeChesare Comments (107)

The Secret Experiment I Just Performed On You – and Why You (Still) Shouldn’t Overestimate the Competition

secret_experimentBack when I was deciding on what bonuses to give away with the Investment Banking Networking Toolkit, I was stuck.

I had been so busy creating new videos and products that I didn’t have anything new to give away beyond what was already available.

So I had the idea to give away a few free networking consulting sessions.

The only problem: I couldn’t give away that many, so I decided to limit it to 5 and make it random.

But not completely random – anyone who emailed me would have a higher chance of winning.

Subtle Clues

Rather than making a big announcement “FREE CONSULTING RIGHT HERE SAVE HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS!” I want to make it more subtle for two reasons:

  1. Giving away free, random copies of the new interview guide was fine, because it wouldn’t take up my personal time – but there’s no way I could have done 20-30 of these free consulting sessions.
  2. I wanted to speak with the readers who were the most serious and who had specific, actionable questions developed from actually playing the field.

So I just put a quick note about it in the course outline.

Kevin actually thought this was a bad idea and figured that dozens of people would reply. I bet that the response would be much lower than that.

The Results

So, guess how many of those who signed up for the Networking course actually emailed me to win one of the 5 free consultations?


Some of them had fantastic, 3-page long stories while others just wrote a few quick sentences.

But since only 5 readers emailed me, each one of them won one of the free sessions.

If you had sent me a 1-sentence email in broken English, you would have had an 83% chance of winning a free consultation.

There were no rules about how much you had to say, how detailed your story had to be, or even that you had to have a good reason to speak with me.


I’m sure there were plenty of reasons that the hundreds of other readers who signed up in the first week didn’t bother to email me: they were too busy, they were scared to talk to me, or maybe they didn’t have any burning questions that needed answering.

But I would bet that most of it came down to something simple: they overestimated the competition and believed that their chances of winning would be 0% since this site has thousands of readers.

But actually, their chances were more like 83%.

But It’s Not Just This Bonus

Let’s forget about this specific case for now, because this phenomenon goes way beyond this site.

Remember that free trip around the world you missed out on at Princeton because you also overestimated the competition there?

And here’s one of my most common questions:

“At a career fair, how many people actually contact you afterward once you give out your business card?”

One… two… three.

In several years of going to career fairs and information sessions at some of the “top” schools in the US (Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA), I can count on a single hand the number of students who actually followed up with me afterward.

And that number is out of hundreds of business card giveaways, so the follow-up percentage was less than 1%.

Behind the Closed Doors of Recruiting

I’ve written before about how random the interview selection process is – but here’s a quick reminder in case you’ve forgotten how it works:

  1. 75% of interviewees will be selected because one of the Analysts or Associates reviewing resumes knows them from school or elsewhere.
  2. 25% of the rest have impressive resumes or accomplishments and happen to catch someone’s attention.

It’s like rushing a frat or sorority, except you have more control because fewer than 100% are picked based on who likes whom.

When picking who gets interviews and who doesn’t, a lot of conversations go like this:

Analyst 1: Do you know him?
Analyst 2: Yeah, he was in my frat / in my section / in my club. He’s pretty cool.
Analyst 1: Ok, let’s give him an interview.”

Analyst 1: What about her?
Analyst 2: Don’t know her, but she contacted me last week and emailed me a few questions.
Analyst 1: Ok, interview her?
Analyst 2: Yeah, might as well – it took some effort to do that and no one else contacted me.”

So yes, it’s better if you know the person reviewing resumes beforehand – but that’s not the point here.

The point is that if you do something as simple as emailing someone a few questions you can often make up for not knowing them or not having spectacular accomplishments.

If It’s So Easy, Why Don’t More People Do It?

Because it’s easy to stay in your “comfort zone” and continue to overestimate the competition, despite all the evidence that “the competition” sucks and that you’re better off being less comfortable.

I travel alone 99% of the time because it forces me to meet new people and make it up when I get there. Sure, it could suck… and sometimes it does. Sure, things could go wrong… and sometimes they do. But lots of cool stuff also happens that I would never see if I traveled with a group of 10 friends arguing about who has the best car or who has the most prestigious job.

And it’s the same with recruiting: something bad could always happen. You might offend someone. Maybe you’ll sound silly when you call or email them.

But most of the time there is close to 0 risk and unlimited upside.

Fear-Setting and Worst-Case Scenarios

Let’s say you meet someone at an information session and then you follow-up afterward but aren’t quite sure what to say.

What is the absolute worst thing that could happen?

You’ll look silly in front of the person and she may say, “Let’s not give him/her an interview, he/she made a huge mistake in this email.”

Unless you do something horrifically stupid – like forging emails, making up offers, or otherwise explicitly lying – there’s no way a simple networking email will get forwarded to other banks. You’re not that interesting.

And you know what? Even if you do say something silly in your email, it won’t necessarily hurt you. They don’t expect everyone to be a networking pro.

If they receive emails from no one else (extremely likely), then you’ll actually be ahead of everyone even if you screwed up.

Best-Case Outcome

You ask a few good questions and get considered for an interview simply because no one else did anything.

So the worst-case scenario might slightly hurt your chances at one firm, while the best-case outcome would almost certainly get you an interview there.

Mediocrity = Excellence

This is not just limited to finance or the job-search process, either.

Just go to a bar or a party and observe what everyone else does: 99% of people go in groups, stick to their friends the whole time, and only meet others if they get introduced.

Merely by approaching someone you don’t know and saying “Hello,” you’re already in the top 1%.

I get questions all the time from friends – “Wait, how did you get into that cool adventure? How did you meet that person? Why is your life so interesting and mine so boring?”

It has nothing to do with super-advanced ninja tactics: just by doing something simple (saying “hi” to new people) I put myself in situations where good things can happen.

Most of the time, mediocrity is enough to put you in the top 1%:

  • 90% of prospective bankers will never take any action whatsoever beyond “applying online” (hint: your resume just goes into a bottomless pit).
  • Of the remaining 10%, 90% of those will contact someone once and then give up if they don’t get an immediate reply.
  • So as a result, exactly 1% get to the top – not by being extraordinary, gifted, or talented, but merely because they were ok at something and kept trying whereas everyone else never took action or gave up after trying once.

Oh, and if you don’t believe me, just look at dating on Craigslist.

So What Do You Do Now?

Think about all your avenues into recruiting, all the people you’ve met, and find what you’re most afraid of. Find the one, two, or three people whom you’re certain receive floods of inbound inquiries every day and will just ignore or laugh at you.

And then contact them anyway.

If you don’t do it, who will? “The competition”?

Nope. No one.

So it’s yours to lose.

Oh, and if I offer up any free prizes / consulting here again, I expect a lot more contest entries next time.

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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Read below or Add a comment

  1. Hi Brian, thanks for the motivation. Given that you wrote this 11 years ago I wanted to check in how relevant and accurate this still is today?

    Thank you,

    1. It is even truer today. People have no social skills. Kids sit in front of screens all day and can’t interact with humans. And the virus outbreak is making it even worse. Eventually, people will no longer be able to socialize, and human life will end.

  2. Thank you Brian for the needed “push” in that direction.

  3. Avatar
    Tobi Ibikunle

    Brian, thank you so much for this. I will admit that, for various reasons, I have fallen victim to this multiple times in the past. Thank you for inspiring me to always take the initiative.

  4. Avatar
    Robert D Moon

    Bold and courageous, yes at the end of the day it’s a people business… EQ rules the world… So says this 5th generation California part native and vet… thanks for the straight up

    1. Thanks. Yes, agreed on all of that.

  5. Avatar
    Othman Kabbaj

    Are you still offering consultations by any chance?

    1. This article was written in 2009, so no. Looking at it now, I sort of just want to delete it.

      1. Good thing that you did not deleted it! I always thought, “meh was the point, I bet hundreds if not thousands of people applied/ emailed/ contacted them…”

  6. This article inspired me to lose fear and just go for it. I spent way too long regretting past decisions since I do not have any internships and I am graduating soon. Thanks to you I have the confidence to go out and start actually communicating with people. Even if I fail and do not achieve my dream I still learned a valuable skill.

    Akshar Patel

  7. Avatar

    Hey Brian, great article as usual. Would you say this trend of increasing mediocrity in the applicant pool is continuing, has stalled, or is reversing?

    1. Since this article was written in 2009, the average quality of candidates has fallen dramatically. There are fewer high-GPA students at top schools who want to get into IB, and there are more students with low grades / worse schools / worse work experience who are trying to get in. You have to start earlier and know more now, but in some ways, it’s arguably easier.

      1. Avatar

        So I see… I hate to beat a dead horse, but in other parts of your website, you’ve mentioned that banks are now looking for higher GPA’s (3.8’s instead of 3.5’s, for example). How can this be true if the overall quality of the applicant pool is decreasing? Thank you once again for taking the time to answer my questions.

        1. Banks want to see a higher GPA if you’re from a non-target school. You can’t judge the quality of candidates by the stats like GPAs or internships completed… a lot of that is fake or doesn’t mean much. In an interview setting, it’s obvious within 5 minutes if the person is terrible, potentially good, or great. And there are fewer people in the last two categories, partially because banks now recruit so early that it’s tough to figure out who’s serious about the job.

  8. Thank you for lifting up my self-esteem! Thanks for writing these articles!

    1. Thanks for reading!

  9. I’ve been trying to break into trading from engineering. I have been working as an engineer for almost two years, but I want to make the shift right now. If not possible, I want to go back to school to get financial engineering degree.

    How do I tell that I want to be a trader? and capable of doing in a cover letter?

    Thank you .

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You can talk about your spark in trading and why you’re interested in trading – perhaps its because of your passion in the markets. You can do so on your cover letter by devoting a paragraph on why trading and why that particular firm

  10. Hey thanks for this, what a great article. I have compiled a list of recruiters I want to contact, and I’m currently formulating questions I might ask them. I don’t think they are analysts, because if I search their names on LinkedIn (or other online databases) they’re listed as “campus recruiter” or some other recruiting member of HR. I don’t know what your opinion would be, but I do think it is a good chance to get to talk about the recruiting and interview process. If I ask questions related to banking (for example, can you tell me how you got into this industry, or about a recent project you’ve worked on, etc) how relevant would these questions be to HR or recruiters as opposed to analysts/bankers?

    Lastly, this may sound a bit silly. But how do you make sure the person who reads your resume is the one you emailed/contacted (I would guess there’s quite a number of analysts at a firm..)?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      These questions would be more relevant to bankers, who may be representatives of campus recruitment. If you send your resume via email, yes I believe the person whom you sent the email to would read it. If you sent it via an online system, HR would be screening the document first before they pass it to bankers who may be junior analysts. You can’t make sure the person who reads your resume is the one you contacted if you’re going through an online system.

  11. With a relevant example, would you elaborate the fact that “A resume is known as a sales letter”.

    1. Not sure what you’re referring to?

      1. why is a resume know as a salesletter, or under what circumstances can a resume be reffered to as a saleslatter….

  12. my friend was invited to a superday at a bb in london and got a call from the bank 2 days later, but since he didnt hv voicemail setup, no message was left and when he called back the number was the bank’s central number so he doesnt know who called him. he sent an email to hr and she said it wasnt her..could this be a good sign or not? since he doesnt know anyone in this bank.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It is hard to say. I’d suggest your friend to contact other contacts in HR as well as the person who is in charge of recruiting at his/her school.

  13. In regards to networking question,I’m a sophomore at a top school and have been attending various info-session as well as networking session at various firms. I’ve heard that networking too early can never hurt. Question is,how often do you keep in touch with your contacts over the year? Seeing how I followed up with an e-mail after meeting them,is it wise to have a phone conversation with them or would it be better to wait out till my junior year?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Network now…this means initiating contact and building strong relationships now…this means a phone conversation now if possible!

  14. Avatar

    Hey M&I, great article! Very encouraging. I have just finished (on Monday) an interview with a Big 4 CF team (internal transfer) for a junior position. The HR gave me her business card and said she will get back to me before end of the week and if I have any questions, I can just email her.

    Do you advise I follow up with an email before Friday? Or this would appear unnecessary as she already said she will be contacting me end of the week?

    Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Do you have any questions in mind? If so, ask. Otherwise, wait till the end of the week. If she doesn’t get back to you by then, email her next Mon.

  15. Avatar
    Raj Subramanyam

    Dear Brian,
    I had to pull this one up after I won 3rd prize in a testimonial writing contest (a $300 value) simply for – making the effort! All I did was write 3 paragraphs of 2-3 lines each. I genuinely liked the guy, so I made the effort. I procrastinated and waited till the last day for exactly the reason you state: what chance do I stand when there are hundreds of readers that would send way more sophisticated testimonials than me?
    But then I pulled out the saved three paragraphs, resisted the urge to make it “perfect” and simply clicked “send”.
    Just want to thank you again for this wonderful piece of self-improvement advice. And yes, I have responded to your testimonial request (that coincidentally came in today) quite promptly!

  16. Hi. Great website and advice. I’m currently working in a BB in what would be considered a good job on paper but I really don’t like the work. I’ve been cold emailing some desks within the bank asking for informational meet-ups and have had a few positive responses. If these sessions go well, how soon after do you think I can enquire into potential openings on their desks? If I don’t receive an answer, how many times do you think I can follow up? Any help much appreciated. Keep up the insightful articles! There’s no other website out there that gives your sort of advice!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      As soon as possible, as long as there’s a “conversational” opening for you to make the ask.

      1. Can you clarify what you mean by ‘conversational’ opening? I met with one desk which basically consisted of 3 seniors and they were telling me about how they were looking to build-up the desk. I had quite a lengthy conversation with them about their work. Do you think it would be ok to email them enquiring into whether they’re looking to hire any juniors? Thanks in advance!

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole


  17. I just got a PhD in theoretical physics from a 90s rank US university. I plan to move the Quant finance. I have little finance background, but have some programing experience in the research(not use C++). I have started to read books suggested for Quant position such as Hull’s derivatives book. What is the chance for me to break into investment bank? What effort should I make?

    Thanks for your advice in advance!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      While you might not be an engineer, I think this article should help

  18. Hey Brian

    There is a lot of insightful and encouraging advice on your site :)
    I had a question though. I am going to be a senior in the fall but I am graduating one semester early due to finances. I am majoring in Biology (w/a minor in Chem) and have a 3.9 overall at a top 10 university in the US (which I believe is also a target school for recruiting).

    I was wondering if you would recommend the ibanking analyst position as one of the optimal ways of paying off student loans. I will have 140k+ of student loans to pay off after I graduate (did not fully comprehend the absurdity of that number until recently) — so I decided to try to pay off these loans before committing to anything else (like med school).

    Another question I had — when I begin to network/cold-call should I be asking for an off-season internship (in the spring, after i graduate) or should I be aiming for a full time position. I have zero work experience in finance so I was wondering if even an internship was feasible since it seems from the site that you can get an interview with

    1. high gpa
    2. finance internship
    3. networking

    How realistic would the switch to trying to get into Ibanking be at this point?

    Thanks for any help you could offer!

    1. It can help but to be honest it will still take a long time to pay them off because you don’t make much after taxes (do a search here for “salary”). If you don’t have much exp. aim for an internship first and hope to convert it to a FT position. Very tough these days without an internship.

      1. Thanks so much for the reply!
        Yeah I read the article about what to expect realistically after taxes and living costs. But with the bonus it looked like it was possible to save 30-40k a year…

        Is it too late to begin looking for internships for the fall / do banks even consider internships for students still enrolled and taking classes?

        Or should I focus on networking and cold calling now to get an internship for the spring semester (in 2012) after I graduate — and hope that the spring internship leads to a FT offer?

        Thanks again for all the advice :]

        1. Some banks offer fall programs but more so in Europe, in the US mostly only small/boutique banks do that. I would focus on a spring internship.

  19. I spoke to this alumni who’s a managing director at an IB couple weeks ago. We had a decent conversation and I asked him at the end of the conversation for any referrals he may have. He said he’s happy to help and told me he’d give it to me by 7/15 friday. I emailed him last week to follow-up but got no response. I emailed him again yesterday just to make sure he received it, should I assume he’s ignoring me now? How often should I email/call him? Thanks for your time.

    1. Call him and check back once a week

  20. hey i was wondering what it takes to get a job in a IB selling finacial products? what qaulifications are useful? what experience is required?

  21. Thanks for all your fascinating ideas and they helped a lot .
    But I really want to get the chance of free consulting whenever you can .And looking forward to more information you provided .

    1. This was posted over a year ago, so the offer has ended now.

  22. To say that you’re posts get me jacked would be understating things a bit.

    I know I’m pretty late to the party, but can I get a free consultation/book?


    1. You get points for trying, but this article was written around a year ago so the offer is long-gone by now.

  23. Hi,
    I am from India and I wish to do an internship from Feb to May in an I Bank in US, Kindy Guide.

    1. *kindly

    2. Start with The Banker Blueprint ( as that gives you a direct guide to what you should do.

  24. Great post as always. This post and the comments that go along with it talk a lot about overestimating in the realm of networking. What about estimations on the qualifications of other summer internship applicants? I tend to assume that every other applicant enjoys following the markets and trading stocks/options as much as I do (which is a lot!). Is that accurate or are there people who just know i-banking can be lucrative and are going in somewhat blindly just to try it out?

    1. Assume that most other people are clueless… most people have never even traded before.

  25. I am a senior who’s going to be graduating a year late because I switched majors from psychology with a focus on pre-optometry to double majoring in psychology and economics. My GPA isn’t strong right now… at 3.3 and will only get lower because of gen. chem this semester. My resume doesn’t have anything related to the fields of finance or psychology. I only shadowed an optometrist and studied for my OATs. Should I even put my shadowing experience on my resume since it has no relation to business whatsoever? My networking is almost non-existant and I have no idea where to start. What should i do ?

    1. Sorry, I forgot to mention this… but great post and thanks for taking your time to educate and inform us on things we wouldn’t know.

    2. I would not put it on your resume if it’s not related to business – honestly getting into finance at this point will be very, very tough unless you can get some type of unpaid / informal finance internship, which I would highly recommend… otherwise they will look at your resume and have no idea why you’re applying. Think about how to spin student groups / activities / anything outside of school/work into sounding relevant… independent study, trading, etc.

  26. I apologize for the long post, but I’ll appreciate your feedback.

    I had a superday almost 2 weeks ago now with a MM/Boutique firm. I emailed the Associate with whom I had the first round interviews and the HR recruiter a week later to follow up (yesterday) since I haven’t heard back. I haven’t received a response yet to the emails and was thinking about shooting them another email next week after the holidays if I didn’t hear anything. I’m thinking I didn’t get the offer. However, after reading this article, I’m wondering if it would be appropriate to contact the President of the firm’s IBD group (also interviewed with him during superday). It turns out that he’s an alumus and was very approachable during the interview/took interest in me because I attend the same university. Would this be overkill? I don’t have any offers and desperately need to network.

    1. I would call them rather than emailing at this point. If you still don’t get a response, then maybe call the President.

  27. People who signed up but didn’t email for a chance at a freebie: can you confirm whether the supposition is correct, that you overestimated the competition, or are there other explanations?

    1. ? I’m not sure I understand your question. There’s no way to “know” whether or not the supposition was correct.

      My basic point was simply that it was startling how few people actually emailed me.

      There could be other explanations – like being too lazy, not having the time, not wanting to speak with me.

      But my main point was that people often miss opportunities because they fall back on excuses like this rather than taking action.

  28. I’m having trouble with following up with people. If you leave a voicemail and they don’t call back, and then wait 2 weeks and send an email, and they still don’t respond, what do you do next? I’m worried that I’ve turned people off by following up too much, but if I don’t hear back about something it’s worthless anyway. How do you know if they’re intentionally ignoring because they don’t like you? How many unanswered emails/phone calls can you generally make before you become an annoyance?

    1. In general I would not leave voicemails, and I would not wait 2 weeks to follow-up again. I would try email first, go to phone if no response within 5 days, then try phone again… if they still don’t respond, put them lower on priority list and then wait 1-2 weeks to follow-up again.

  29. Hey, From your knowledge would you say that networking is equally valuable for UK candidates? Do you know anyone (or know of anyone) in the UK who networked their way into banking? As a UK student I get the impression that networking is a much bigger deal in the US. Thanks!

    1. Yes. Tons of people network in the UK, and I’ve had readers successfully cold-call their way into front-office positions using the tactics on this site and BIWS.

      It may be less common culturally in the UK, but it’s just as valuable.

  30. Hey I would just like to start off thanking you for this website, it’s been a great help and has offered a lot of insights. Curious, does applying online really never do anything? I’m not talking about one of those 1 in a million cases as i’m sure some online applications get through, but for the majority do they not? the reason why i’m asking is because i’m applying for a summer internship for freshman and sophomores at JP morgan and the reason why i’m applying online is because i got accepted to the spring semester at Berkeley. so currently i’m at a community college getting credits but will go to Berkeley in the spring and when i notified them of this they simply said to apply online. i’m sure it would be far better to have applied via Berkeley in the fall, however, i was not able to because i was still not “technically” a student there. should i give up on applying since i’m applying from a community college or are there things that could improve my chances? btw i’m currently an undergraduate freshman Thank you again.

    1. Applying online can sometimes work, but your time is far better spent on networking with real people.

      1. Thank you very much for your response, I appreciate it.

  31. I had a phone interview almost a week ago and they told me they were partially done with phone interviews. They said I should “keep them updated” about my interviews with other banks. It doesn’t seem as I will have any updates anytime soon and I’m worried this will make me look like a weaker candidate. I assume they will be done with phone interviews next week or so. How should I follow up if I don’t have any other updates? When should I do so?

    1. If you don’t have any real updates, just contact them and ask what your status is. There is no point lying about other offers/banks, so that’s really all you can do for now.

  32. great post, I have a question about networking, does it matter if you are applying to a non-elite MM/boutique like jefferies, HLHZ, harris williams. Will simply top grades and top school get you the job, or will you still need to network?

    1. Networking ALWAYS helps no matter how great your background.

      Last year one of my customers had a 4.0 GPA at one of the top schools in the US and got 1 offer through her school. Then she got 2 more via networking, despite her impressive credentials…

  33. I’m about to cold email people at several hundred small banks for FT analyst opportunities. How long can this email be? Can it basically be similar to my cover letter? What should be in it?

    1. Keep it very short – no more than around 4-5 sentences to introduce yourself, say what you’re looking for, give your contact info. and attach your resume.

      1. If it’s this short how do you differentiate yourself from the dozens of others emailing them about analyst positions? If you have several relevant internships/accomplishments do you want to just list everything off or could that look to overbearing?

        1. You differentiate yourself by actually emailing them and preferably calling instead…. calling is way more effective than email. Don’t assume “dozens” are also doing the same thing, because in my experience students very, very, very rarely have the guts to contact people like this. Don’t list accomplishments – keep it short.

  34. Hey Brian,

    Your advice is dead on. I’m from a non-target, interned at two BBs, and just signed on at another BB. After I didn’t get an offer for full time, I went through recruitment and the only reason I got this offer to IBD is that I emailed a recruiter. The recruiter later told me that I emailed her (with my resume) right before she was heading to a meeting to discuss who they were bring in for superday. So pretty much, I reached out to a stranger (I had almost no contacts at this firm) and was an afterthought for this superday, but in the end, I got the interview and then the offer.

    I tell my friends to cold call and email, but they are too afraid.
    It makes no sense when the risk is so low and the return is so high.

    1. Congrats. Yeah, most people are afraid to ever do anything… so they do nothing. Amazing how one simple thing puts you ahead of 99% of applicants.

  35. I remember you saying that if you are contacting a MD at a Boutique or MM it would be best to e-mail them first. WHen making this initial contact what kind of things should be said. I know that they will be very busy and wont want to sit and read through a bunch of bs. Should the first e-mail give your “short story” and ask right away “how can I best position for an internship”? Should you ask if they do even offer internships? I am a bit confused.

    1. Keep it short and ask to set up a time to speak with them for 5-10 minutes. Give 1 sentence to introduce yourself, say you’re interested in them because of X, Y, and Z and then suggest 2-3 dates/times to speak on the phone.

  36. If I get a FT analyst offer at a decent middle-market or small boutique firm in NYC, and I’ve developed a shit-ton of connections at bulge brackets in my search (didn’t get offer because of gpa), what are my odds of getting into a better NYC firm after a year? I would expect my graduating gpa to be a little higher, so it will be less an issue. What strategy would you use to maximize chances of this happening? I assume I would start as a first year analyst with the 2011 grads if it worked? How often does this happen at NY BB? Thanks

    1. Your odds are good if you have a good network at bulge bracket firms. You can’t do much about your GPA, so your best bet is to continue focusing on networking and get some solid deal/modeling experience at whatever firm you do start at.

      It really depends which BB you’re going to as well – at GS they might knock you down a year if you lateral, but at others they could keep you as a 2nd year if you have solid experience.

  37. Avatar

    Hey brian,

    Can you rank the relative difficulties in obtaining in internship in investment banking, S&T and research?


    1. They’re all difficult. S&T and research are harder because there are fewer internships (I’m not even sure most banks have formal internships at all for research)

  38. I had a 1st round phone interview with a bulge bracket and HR called to tell me I didn’t have a 2nd round. I asked if there were any reasons. She said that it’s against firm policy to give reasons. What does this mean? What if I directly email the guy that interviewed me for feedback anyway?

    1. That sound weird, I would just email the guy who interviewed you to find out why.

  39. Ohhh Brian…. why did you have to write this article. My competition just got 1000 times bigger…. Ahh well.

    1. Don’t worry, only 1% will actually apply these tactics…

  40. What do you think of working in a credit/lev fin group at a firm like TD Securities in NY? How would this be viewed on the street, and would it be possible to transition into bulge bracket after a year?

    1. It’s ok, the same as anything else not directly in finance… better than waiting tables etc. but still hard to transition in unless you have killer connections

      1. What do mean by not directly in finance? From my understanding, most of the work is structuring debt transactions. Would this not be considered a skill-set transferable to a group at a BB?

        1. You have to remember that all bankers look at everything in relation to them.

          “Investment Banking Analyst” = Perfect.
          “Private Equity…” = Close.
          “Wealth Management” = Ok, but not as cool as us.

          And the list goes on – while the skill set may have something in common, the perceived closeness is not that high.

          A transition like this comes down 100% to connections and who you know on the inside.

          1. Where do you think Public Finance Analyst would fall in this hierarchy? The public finance group at my firm does advisory and underwriting.

          2. It is usually viewed as below IB/PE since you’re working with governments rather than companies

  41. Avatar
    Summer Analyst

    Also, if you know an analyst/associate in a bank and you grab some food with them and ask them to introduce you to other analysts/associates in the process, you get a HUGE leg up when it comes to full-time summer monkeydom.

    You’ll be assigned a lot more meaningful work/live deals and if you keep up, people will treat you like a co-worker not just another summer intern.

  42. Hi Brian,

    It’s more easy to apply online and contact the HR at MM Investment Banks or Boutiques (top and others)…
    But for BB type GS/MS/JPM/CS where you don’t know anyone or you can’t reach any HR or operational because you get blocked by assistants, how can you take any action beyond applying online (even if you tried several times)???


    1. Go through alumni database, get referrals from friends, or in the worst case when you cold-call do it before the gatekeepers arrive (i.e. early in the morning or after 5 PM) so that you can actually get through to bankers… or if you can’t do that, call and ask to speak with someone specific there instead of just “asking about recruiting.”

      1. Avatar
        Summer Analyst

        Actually really doesn’t take that much of an effort to charm the gatekeepers. Persistent and niceness is the key. Also, the gatekeepers at banks tend to know other gatekeepers at other banks. If you know a few at one bank, you can go through the other ones.

  43. Oh well. Thanks for the lesson. The main reason I got your ninja tool was to talk to you, but I guessed I learned my lesson.

    Brian, how should one proceed when on the website they say specifically “Please do not contact us about this position”? I feel that if I were to contact them, they might as well say “Well, this guy can’t follow directions. Lets toss his resume out”.

    Thank you.

    1. Well, if I offer more free prizes in the future make sure you email me. :)

      For that situation I would still contact them, but don’t do it directly through the website – go around official channels and find someone else there, ask about their background, then casually bring up the position at the end.

  44. Long time reader, first time poster…

    You say its not a bad idea to drop a networking email to recruiters but can you give an example of what to say. I mean, I guess you have to be more subtle than:

    “Hi, because i’m sending you this please remember my name and give me an interview when you get through the 100 applications above mine in your pile”

    Is it cheeky to demand more of a recruiter’s time by emailing them, on top of the 3 page application form you’ve asked them to review (and deny)!

    Absolutely love what you’re doing on this site though, thank you. You keep me fighting for the chance that I might one day break into IB.

    1. I would just ask them a few questions, or email them and ask if they can speak with you for 5 minutes about the recruiting process. You don’t want to say, “Please remember me” – the best way to go with recruiters is to ask very specific, targeted questions and express how enthusiastic you are.

      1. I’ve been wondering about this myself. I always see that it’s suggested to network and follow up…. but what exactly can you ask without coming off as a complete idiot? It seems to me that there’s very little that you could ask which isn’t toolish or just showing naivety.

        The whole “what is banking,” “what do you think of your job” type questions can all be answered with a simple google search — showing naivety. Asking stuff about the firm’s culture or whatever, to me that seems toolish, superficial, and insincere. So the only question that I’ve really asked which seemed appropriate was, “what is your story? How did you break into banking, and why did you do it?”

        Other than talking about the recruiting process, what other questions are actually good, constructive questions to ask during follow-up emails? Like you, I’m also assuming that the main objective is landing the interview.

        1. This is covered extensively in the networking videos/articles here and in the Toolkit, but you want to stay focused on their background the whole time and try to shift into more personal / “fun”-type questions instead. Try to find a shared connection, and then focus most of your follow-up questions on that… if someone has absolutely nothing in common with you, then maybe they’re not the best one to stay in touch with.

  45. Great advice. UBS is having a big recuiting event on my campus in a week and this could not be more timely. I also want to thank you for all of your other articles; I think I’ve nearly read all of them.

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