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Why You Can’t Get an Investment Banking or Private Equity Job via Recruiters – And What to Do About It

Why You Can’t Get an Investment Banking or Private Equity Job via Recruiters – And What to Do About It

While most of the interviews on this site have been with job seekers or with current investment bankers, today we’re going to change things up and speak with an investment banking and private equity recruiter who works at a well-known recruiting firm.

You’re about to learn some little-known, highly valuable, and controversial information about the finance recruiting industry.

Keep reading to find out how to impress recruiters and interviewers and land PE and investment banking offers.

Where Did It All Begin?

Q: Can you tell us about your firm and what types of candidates you focus on?

A: Sure. We started off specializing in placing ex-military candidates, and since then we’ve expanded into almost 20 other industries, including accounting and finance.

Within investment banking and private equity, we focus on $200K – $1M total compensation per year positions. This corresponds to entry-level positions up through the mid-level – we do a few Partner and MD-level searches occasionally, but they’re not our core focus.

We work with a wide range of banks, but on the buy-side we concentrate on funds below $1B AUM and usually funds in the $50 – $500MM AUM range.

Q: How’d you get started doing this? I know sometimes investment banking analysts make the move over to the recruiting side – were you coming from that background?

A: No, I started off doing recruiting for general “Analyst” positions across all industries.

That was ok, but I found that I liked private equity and investment banking recruiting more because the fees were better and placement took more time – so you could focus more on a few key clients rather than spreading yourself thin.

While some investment banking analysts want to make the move into recruiting, they often fail to realize that technical skills matter very little for recruiting – it’s a sales job, not an analytical job.

You need to be a quick thinker and good on the phone – knowing the in’s and out’s of models and how an M&A deal works is ok, but you only need to know these topics at a very high level.

Q: You mentioned that you don’t do many Partner-level searches – but wouldn’t you earn far higher fees by placing these types of candidates rather than lower-level people?

A: While the fees are higher, there are a couple problems with Partner-level searches:

  • Usually it takes 6-8 months to place a single candidate.
  • All searches at that level are highly confidential, so making introductions and maneuvering the process has an added layer of complexity.

Overall, we’ve found that sub-$1MM range candidates are the best to work with because the chances of placing them are higher and because it’s not quite as extended a process.

How to Boost Your Interviewing Skills by 200% in 15 Minutes

Q: When you first emailed me, you mentioned 3 qualities that every successful investment banking or private equity candidate needs to show when they’re interviewing – what are they?

A: You need to demonstrate 3 specific skills when you interview:

  1. How you made money for your firm in the past.
  2. How you saved them money.
  3. How you improved a process.

The #1 mistake that you can make is focusing too much on your technical prowess and not enough on how much money you will make for a bank or PE firm.

Talking about models in interviews is fine, but you always need to tie them back to business results.

I get people who come in and start rambling about deferred tax liabilities and their hyper-advanced LBO models, and they miss something very important: most VPs and MDs don’t even remember how to build a model or use Excel.

What they do understand is making money or saving money, so you need to re-frame everything you’ve done in that context.

Q: Right, that makes sense – but a lot of people may not have “business results” to point to. Let’s say you’re working on a deal that never goes anywhere – how would you talk about how much money you made or how much money you saved your client?

A: You could talk about partial or potential results if you don’t have concrete numbers to point to.

Here’s an example: let’s say you’re creating a list of potential acquisitions for your client and you’re making recommendations on which ones they should pursue.

Even if this deal doesn’t advance to the final stages, you could easily talk about how much money you saved them if you can point to any acquisitions that you crossed off the list:

“I had to research potential acquisitions for our client – we got it down to a list of 10, and then I recommended taking 4 of the companies off the list because they weren’t a fit with the client’s product line. Any one of those would have cost them over $100 million, so I helped them to avoid a potentially bad acquisition and saved money in the process.”

If you worked on a merger that never went anywhere, you could talk about your model and key findings within that got your client a higher price if they were selling, or a lower price if they were buying.

Or you could always tie your work to the client coming back to you for more engagements in the future:

“The client was impressed with our work and especially the recommendation to avoid those acquisitions, so they decided to come back to us for 2 more engagements – I did the work that led to those, with a total fee potential of $10 million.”

Q: Right, that makes a lot of sense. Firms want people who can make them money or save them money – but is this true even of non-Partner-track positions?

If someone is just going to work there for 2-3 years and then go to business school does it really matter?

A: Yes, because there’s no such thing as “predictability” when it comes to IB or PE careers.

People come to me all the time and say, “So, where will I be in 10 years if I go to this firm? Can you give me an exact blueprint of my future career?”

Sure, here’s your blueprint: you make a lot of money for your firm and you move up. You don’t, and you’re out.

It’s really that simple: no matter what they say about you, if they see in you the potential to make them a lot of money in the future, you move up.

Q: Ok, I see – so there’s less of a “path” than most people think. What other key mistakes do candidates make when recruiting for finance jobs?

A: I could probably write a book about key mistakes, but here are just a few more:

  1. Not proving that you can evaluate and run a deal by yourself.
  2. Focusing too much on features and not enough on benefits.
  3. Relying on pedigree rather than results.

For #1, private equity firms might look at hundreds of deals each month, but might only invest in 2-3 per year max. Principals don’t have time to sift through all the information and evaluate every single detail – they need someone who can step up and do everything on their own.

Even at the entry-level in private equity, you’ll be coordinating with lawyers, bankers, the debt financing team, the company’s executives, and more – and you need to be comfortable doing all the work for everyone else and driving the process.

On #2, this is just a classic sales mistake: too many people go in there and say, “Well, I have a 4.0 GPA from Harvard and I worked at Goldman Sachs.”

Guess what? Those are features, not benefits.

How will you make me money? How much money have you made or saved for other people in the past?

Whenever I meet a candidate for the first time, I make him/her write down 10 things that are great about himself/herself.

Even if it’s “I’m great at baking cookies, so you can enjoy great food if you hire me” that’s better than nothing – the point is to always present benefits rather than features.

#3 is related, but I see a lot of people from Ivy League schools and bulge bracket banks expecting the world just because they have well-known names on their resumes.

It doesn’t work like that: you need to deliver results if you want to advance.

Often, candidates from less privileged backgrounds perform better because they’re twice as motivated.

Q: I also get lots of questions from people with Liberal Arts backgrounds who want to do banking or PE – how should they position themselves?

A: Actually, if you have a liberal arts background that can often be a big advantage because you’re probably much better at talking and BSing than math/science/finance nerds.

You want to position yourself as someone who can tell a good story around the numbers rather than just cranking out models all day long.

When they ask about your weaknesses, don’t say your analytical skills even if you’re tempted to mention that – pick something more qualitative and show how you’ve improved over time.

How to Work Effectively with Recruiters

Q: Thanks – those tips should be really helpful to anyone preparing for interviews right now.

What do recruiters actually do? Is it just a matter of screening resumes and making introductions?

A: We do some filtering of candidates, but it’s more than just looking through resumes and deciding which ones we want to pass along.

To give you some numbers on how the process works, here’s what I did over the past year:

  • Received 7,000 resumes or inquiries.
  • Got interviews for 42 candidates.
  • Successfully placed 10 candidates.

These numbers improve a lot when the economy is better.

A lot of what I do on a daily basis is helping clients find very specific candidates – they no longer just come to us and say, “We need an investment banking analyst.”

These days it’s more like, “We want an investment banking analyst from Barclays Energy Group who worked on a specific recent deal, grew up in the UK, spent time in the Middle East, and can also play golf with under an 85 handicap.”

A lot of my time is spent looking for these types of people, and also with preparing our candidates for interviews and helping them to sell themselves more effectively.

It’s a huge myth that recruiters only forward resumes to firms.

Recruiters are also your best source if you want to do a secretive job search and keep everything on the DL – if you just go directly to an MD, he won’t care about your privacy. He’ll just call your current MD and ask how good you are.

Q: I get a lot of questions from readers without investment banking or private equity experience wondering if they should contact recruiters to help with the job search process.

Is there any point in doing this?

A: Short answer: no. Over the past 2 years I haven’t placed a single candidate who wasn’t a 9/10 match for the job.

If the economy is booming and banks have ramped up their hiring, you can still potentially come in with an unrelated background (e.g. do marketing at a Fortune 500 company for 2 years and then move into IB), but it’s pretty rare otherwise.

It’s not that you’re unqualified – but we just have so many people who do have finance experience lining up for jobs that it’s almost impossible unless you’re the Chairman’s son or you can bring a unique skill set to the table.

Q: OK, so what should people without the required experience do? How do you get noticed if you’re not a perfect match for the job?

A: Become your own recruiter. Make a list of firms you want to go after, go to LinkedIn, look up people at those places, contact them, call them, visit in-person and start introducing yourself like that.

Then once you get to know a bunch of people at a specific firm, you can come back to me and say, “Hey, I’ve made some inroads on my own and know these 10-15 people – now that I’ve done that, what can you do for me?”

That puts you in a much better position to interview there, and we can help you a lot more if you’ve already done some of the work yourself.

Also, look up jobs on Indeed.com – other sites are OK, but I’ve found that Indeed is the best for finance. Just search for “banking analyst,” don’t narrow down the region, and see what you can find there.

Some of these listings are for “ghost jobs” – they’re not actively recruiting at the moment, but they’re collecting resumes and will contact you when they’re ready.

A lot of bankers apply and expect to hear back the second they submit their resumes, but it doesn’t work like that – expect to wait up to 3 days for any “live” jobs.

Q: You’ve mentioned how much more specific clients have become with their requests. What else has changed over the years, and specifically what happens when the economy has softened?

A: A lot of regional boutiques and lesser-known firms suddenly get the attitude that they can pick up analysts at top bulge bracket / boutique banks simply because the market is bad.

They come to us and say, “So, can you pull out the top analyst at Goldman or Moelis and send him to us right away, for half the pay?”

But it doesn’t work like that – even in a terrible market, top performers are unlikely to leave unless they have a really, really good reason to do so.

Some candidates have decided to go and speak with these types of firms anyway, but very few actually make the move from a top bank or group to something lesser-known.

Q: Awesome, thanks for your time – learned a lot!

A: No problem. And let me know if you know of anyone who shoots under 85 and is a killer chef so I can refer them to my clients…

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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Investment Banking: Dubai Edition

Dubai SkylineDubai: the hottest emerging market in the world? The best place to work in finance?

Or is it all just a mirage in the desert?

The truth is somewhere in between, as you’ll find out in this interview with a current investment banking analyst who works in Dubai.

We cover this reader’s background, what the investment banking industry in Dubai is like, how you break in, and the all-important exit opportunities.

In the Beginning…

Q: Can you tell us about your background and how you got interested in Dubai?

A: Sure. I’m from the Middle East originally, and was studying at a university in Europe a few years ago.

As part of my school’s requirements, we had to complete internships – most people opted for Paris or London, but I was interested in more exotic locations.

I was from the Middle East and had been reading a lot about Dubai, so I decided to apply for internships there instead.

Q: Ok, so you’re in Europe but you want to work in Dubai. How do you actually apply for these internships? Was it just through on-campus recruiting?

A: One difference between Europe and the US is that when companies come to campus here, no one takes resumes or does interviews – they just come for informational and networking purposes. Then they tell you to apply online, go through numerical tests, assessment centers, and so on.

I went to all these networking events and also did the online applications afterward – in addition to both of those, I contacted alumni and searched for people with similar backgrounds to me on LinkedIn.

Q: You said “similar background” – what do you mean exactly, and what kind of response rate did you get?

A: I looked for others who were from the Middle East, had studied in Europe, and then gone back to the Middle East to work there.

Surprisingly, I got a higher response rate from people I found on LinkedIn than from alumni.

This was probably because we had a shared background, and because most other students in Europe were not thinking about working in Dubai.

Q: Wow, very surprising. So what were the results of your internship search?

A: I got a 6-month internship at a bulge bracket bank there – in Europe it’s common to have 6-month internships vs. the summer internships you see in the US.

Then I went back to school the next year to graduate, and accepted a return offer from the same bulge bracket bank.

The State of the Market

Q: So is Dubai amazingly awesome? Is it the end-all-be-all or are people drinking a little too much Kool-Aid when they talk about the finance industry in the Middle East?

A: Dubai is overrated. When most people think of it, they look at all the huge buildings and the media stories about construction projects here, and all the oil barons using it as their playground.

The truth is a bit different – while there’s a lot of growth here, most of the companies we work with are outside Dubai.

We’re responsible specifically for MENA (the Middle East and North Africa), which consists of about 20 countries.

We cover all industries and all products, but most of our clients are sovereign wealth funds, financial sponsors, and other holding companies.

They’ve definitely been on a buying spree, so from that perspective it’s interesting.

When it comes to actual deals, though, we often manage the relationship and then the industry team from London handles the more technical details – especially on larger deals.

Q: Interesting – so is the finance industry there dominated by other bulge bracket banks that leverage their presence in London? Or are there local boutiques as well?

A: Regional boutiques do exist, but they’re limited to smaller IPOs and smaller deals in general – anything large is handled by bulge bracket banks based in the US or Europe.

Wheeling & Dealing

Q: You mentioned that the London industry team often handles the more technical details. So do you get to do much modeling work? Or is it all qualitative?

A: We get exposure to both. The London team has more of a presence on larger deals – they argue that they have more expertise and that they should control all the models as a result.

For anything smaller, we do the valuation and modeling work and they’re less involved.

If it’s an intra-regional deal – both the buyer and seller are from our region – then we’re also more involved and the London team doesn’t do quite as much.

Overall, though, it’s a lot different from working in a large group in London or New York because there are more “random” tasks and the teams here are smaller.

Q: You mentioned smaller deal teams – how are they different from what you’d find in London?

A: Our entire team is less than 30 people, and there are fewer mid-level bankers. We have a bunch of Analysts, a few Associates, and then some Directors and MDs but relatively few VPs.

So you get to work more closely with the MDs, and it’s not unusual to work directly with a Director or MD as an Analyst – which would be unusual at a bulge bracket bank in New York or London.

Lifestyle & Culture

Q: So how much do you work each week? Is this still banking or do you work fewer hours because it’s a regional office?

A: It’s still banking. I was working about 100 hours a week for the past 2-3 months, but like any other banking role there’s downtime and slow periods as well.

The average hours aren’t much different from what you’d expect in banking, but there’s less face time and they care more about work getting done vs. staying in the office late every night.

One part unique to the Middle East is that the entire region shuts down in the summer – CEOs are traveling and on holiday, so August is our slowest month (also due to Ramadan coinciding with the summer this past year).

M&I Note: The same is true in the US, though not to the same degree – lots of executives and bankers take their vacations in August.

Q: What about the culture? Do you hang out with your co-workers outside work?

A: There isn’t too much interaction outside work, even when we have free time – as an intern it was much different and Analysts / Associates would usually spend time with each other.

We might have dinner together, and we do have “team events” every few months to build camaraderie.

The Bottom Line

Q: Let’s talk about money. How much do you get paid, and is Dubai more lucrative than London?

A: Base salaries and bonuses are both the same as what you get in London… BUT we have no taxes here so effectively you make almost twice as much.

We also get a housing allowance of $30,000 US Dollars per year, which is also untaxed.

Normally it’s a bad idea to go into banking for the money, but if you work in Dubai you will make more than in other regions.

M&I Note: This trick doesn’t work 100% if you’re a US citizen – you still have to pay some US income taxes even if you live abroad.

You can deduct taxes for up to around $100K in income – which saves you a lot – but your taxes won’t be exactly $0.

Disclaimer: I am not an accountant / lawyer. This is not tax advice – please consult a professional.

Q: Wow, I’d move to Dubai in a heartbeat if I didn’t have this annoying US passport. What about exit opportunities?

A: Unlike the US, a lot of people here actually go into banking and plan to stay in it for the long-term. The whole concept of “Do this for 2-3 years and then jump to PE” isn’t as prevalent here.

Part of that is just a cultural difference in Europe and the Middle East, but part of it is also because pay at sovereign wealth funds and private equity firms here isn’t significantly higher than what you would earn in investment banking – so many people don’t see the point in leaving.

If you do want to move elsewhere, the 2 main options are sovereign wealth funds (SWF) and private equity firms – both local funds based here and then international ones like Carlyle and KKR.

One appealing aspect of SWF is that you get a high salary with great hours – one of my friends leaves at 6 PM every day and makes banking/PE pay.

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but one perk in my program is that I can choose to move to another region after 2 years, so that’s an option as well.

How You Can Work in Dubai

Q: Working at a sovereign wealth fund in Dubai is starting to sound good to me. What advice do you have for anyone looking to work there?

A: If you’re already in banking, the path of least resistance is to ask for a 1-year rotation to Dubai.

I’ve had friends who have done exactly this – they did internships in the US or Europe, got return offers, and then asked about switching to Dubai instead.

It’s tough to come here directly if you haven’t done an internship or you’re straight out of school – I would not recommend just showing up here and saying, “Hi, I want to work here, who will hire me?”

Q: So you wouldn’t recommend just applying directly to Dubai via online applications, for example?

A: You can do that, but the process is less standardized than it is in Europe. It varies by bank and in some cases you can just apply directly online via the London career website – but overall it’s more haphazard than Europe.

Q: Right. But let’s say you don’t know anyone in the region and you’re not in the position to apply for internships or full-time jobs directly – what do you do?

A: Headhunters are probably your best bet if you really don’t know anyone and have no strong connections to the region.

Just get a list of headhunters in the Middle East and start sending out your resume and contacting them – that’s not the ideal way to break in, but outside of networking and the formal application process it’s all you can do.

Q: What about the language requirements? Do you need to know Arabic, or is it just a plus?

A: It’s not necessary – plenty of people on our team come from the US or Europe, so they don’t know Arabic at all.

However, it is perceived as a plus and if the bank is down to 2 candidates with similar credentials, the one who knows Arabic is more likely to get the offer.

At the Analyst level there are more Arabic speakers, because sometimes we have to translate documents.

Occasionally firms will also create specific positions where the language is required – for example, KKR in Dubai was looking for Arabic speakers awhile back.

Q: Awesome. Thanks for your time – I learned a lot!

A: No problem.

Coming Up Next: Even more countries, groups, and stories. We’ll also take a look at another “hot” Middle Eastern country that has been off most peoples’ radar and compare and contrast it to Dubai.

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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Lateral Hiring 101: How to Look Before You Leap, and Then How to Make the Leap

Lateral Hiring 101: How to Look Before You Leap, and Then How to Make the Leap“Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”

-Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Except with lateral hiring – where “mistakes of ambition” are sometimes just not worth it.

Look Before You Leap: Should You Do It At All?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself. I get about 10 emails per week saying the following:

“I’m set to work at Deutsche Bank / Credit Suisse / JP Morgan / UBS next year and feel like a failure because I did not get an offer at GS or MS. To improve my self esteem and get better exit opportunities, I want to make a lateral move to a better bank 2 years from now. How can I do this?”

This is a flawed plan for at least 2 reasons:

  1. You won’t necessarily have access to “better” exit opportunities at the top 2 firms – in fact you may be worse off.
  2. Once you’ve been working for a year, the “prestige” of your firm will be the last thing on your mind – getting more than 2 hours of sleep per night will be priority #1.

There are only a few good reasons to make the move:

New Geographies

It’s difficult to move internally unless you know someone in the location you’re interested in – but if you know someone at a different firm in the location you’re interested in, it may be easier to move there.

It’s especially helpful if you’re trying to move to New York/London from elsewhere, or vice versa.

Your Group Makes You Want to Kill Yourself

There are some groups (and jobs) that are “beyond repair.”

Trying to improve them would be like trying to remove a tumor by applying band-aids: it might look better for awhile, but you’re still going to die.

If you have violent thoughts every moment of the day and fantasize about beheading your MD, it might be time to move on.

Unknown Boutique to Better-Known Boutique / Middle-Market Firm

Regional boutiques are great for getting experience and getting your foot in the door, but they’re not great for finding exit opportunities.

You’ll have much better access to recruiters at well-known boutiques and middle-market firms, and you’ll have access to more co-workers and “alumni.”

Luckily, this type of move is one of the easiest and most useful to make of the possibilities on this list.

Boutique / Middle-Market Firm to Bulge Bracket

Similar to the move above, you’ll get better access to recruiters and large-cap PE firms and hedge funds if you go to a bulge bracket.

Surprisingly, this move makes less of a difference than going from unknown regional boutique to better-known boutique – there you’re going from “almost nothing” to “something,” whereas here it’s just “something” to “something better.”

So Why Not a “Lower” Bulge Bracket to GS/MS?

“I’ll have a much better chance of getting into KKR / Blackstone / TPG because I looked on their website / asked around and saw that they hired FOUR bankers from GS but only ONE from my bank! My chances are 4x higher there!”

But this reasoning is flawed. All these firms hire very few people to begin with – and yes, they might hire “more” from GS/MS but there are also more people from GS/MS applying in the first place.

And they don’t necessarily have a “preference” for certain banks/groups – they want the strongest Analysts overall.

Maybe you have slightly higher “chances” at the top places, but the marginal benefit is not worth pissing off everyone at your current bank, losing potential references, and then having to wait another year for buy-side recruiting.

How to Make the Leap

Once you’ve looked, here’s how you leap.

Timing

Wait until near the end of your first year before contacting recruiters and your friends elsewhere, for 3 reasons:

  1. Even if bonuses suck, you still want to get your money before leaping away.
  2. Right after year-end bonuses, a lot of Analysts leave and banks scramble around to find new, experienced people.
  3. You won’t look too impressive with less than a year of experience and no solid transactions to speak of.

You probably want to start this process 2-3 months before the end of your first year – that way you’ll have time to make a good impression and you’ll be on their mind should they suddenly need someone else.

How to Do It

You have 3 routes to getting interviews at another bank:

  1. Headhunters
  2. Friends
  3. Alumni / Referrals

In theory, headhunters should be a good way to do this: they should want to help you out because they get a commission if they place you.

But in practice, large banks don’t rely on headhunters too much – they’re more common on the buy-side, where companies are smaller and where HR departments are non-existent.

So your best bet is to go through friends at other banks, or to go 1 degree further out and use alumni or get referrals via anyone else you know.

Rather than emailing them, call first (assuming you know them decently) and start off by asking what they’ve been up to, talking about recent events, then casually bring it up and say, “By the way, you know if your group is looking for anyone new right now?”

Follow-up is essential in this situation because your own fate is at the bottom of any other banker’s priority list, even if you’re “friends” with them. You need to be more persistent than usual and keep calling them until they outright say, “No, sorry, I really can’t help you at all.”

What If You Don’t Know Anyone At Other Banks?

Your next best bet is to ask around and get referrals from friends, or to go to your alumni directory and see what that turns up.

Cold-calling can work but it’s not the best move – it’s not effective at large banks, and it works better for undergraduates and recent graduates as opposed to full-time bankers.

You could also try getting in touch with HR or recruiters at banks if you really don’t know anyone else.

One advantage of HR: they’ll know with more certainty whether or not the group is hiring. The disadvantage is that they won’t “go to bat for you” in the same way that real bankers would.

You could also try looking online and consider sites like Doostang if you’re coming from a top school and have a solid resume with at least a year of work experience – but don’t rely on this, because talking to people always trumps applying online.

Keeping It Confidential

You might be wondering how you can prevent word of your planned move from leaking.

Should you use fake names on your resume? Set up a wire tap to monitor all communications? Have Chloe monitor conversations, email, and IM at other banks?

The short answer: no matter what you do, people will find out what you’re doing. Rather than worrying about that, just avoid telling others – even “trusted” friends – what you’re doing and use your personal email account if at all possible.

Oh, and don’t use fake names for companies on your resume or you will not get any interviews.

The Market

Lateral hiring is even more sensitive to market conditions than normal hiring. Banks always need a certain number of new 1st Year Analysts each year – but whether they need more than they planned for depends on deal flow.

When we’re in a bubble, hopping around is common and relatively easy – but in leaner times, large banks don’t do much lateral hiring unless someone happens to leave unexpectedly.

Lateral Hiring for Associates

For Associates the process is tougher and more selective because fewer people leave unexpectedly – and banks hire fewer Associates to begin with.

The process isn’t much different from what Analysts would go through, but the odds of success are lower and firms make fewer lateral hires all around.

At this level it’s almost pointless to bother with cold-calling or applying online: you really need a friend or referral to the group you’re interested in.

1st Year vs. 2nd Year

This is more applicable for Analysts making the move, but some banks may “demote” you and make you a 1st Year Analyst once again. This is common when you’re making a “big move” – say from an unknown boutique to Goldman Sachs – and less so if you’re jumping from one bulge bracket to another.

You have no leverage to “persuade” them otherwise, but it also doesn’t matter much: no matter what your title is on paper, the real downside to making a lateral move is that you need to wait another year for buy-side recruiting.

The Interviews

If you’re interviewing as a potential lateral hire, interviewers will focus more on your deal experience and on more advanced technical questions than they would for undergraduates/MBAs.

Case studies, modeling tests, and other types of assessments are all possible – but they’re less common in North America compared to other regions.

They’re more like private equity interviews than standard banking ones, so make sure you know how to write about your deals, how to talk about your deals, and how to dominate your case studies.

You also need good answers to the “Why us?” question and you need evidence that you’re sticking around in finance for the long-term – otherwise, why else would you want to make the move?

Ready, Fire, Aim

Before making the leap, you need to spend most of your time thinking about whether or not a lateral move makes sense – because for most bankers it doesn’t.

But if you’ve looked and decided to make the leap, now you know how to do it.

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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