by Brian DeChesare Comments (81)

Investment Banking Recruiting in Europe: London vs. Frankfurt vs. Milan

Investment Banking Recruiting EuropeWhile you’ve learned all about recruiting in Europe before in places like the UK, Germany, and Italy, we’ve never done a direct comparison of what to expect in each region.

Will you really have to go through assessment centers and similar interviews in each place?

Are they only looking for locals or can you break in as a foreigner? What about language requirements and that all-important summer internship to full-time offer conversion rate?

Today a reader who has recruited across Europe – and won 2 internship offers – will share his experiences and answer all those questions, plus a whole lot more.

Introductions

Q: Can you walk us through your background and how you first got interested in finance?

A: Sure. I was born and raised in Italy, and after high school I studied business administration and completed a BSc in Finance from a non-target Italian university.

During my 3rd year there, I took a few classes in corporate banking and first learned about investment banking, M&A, PE, and VC.

The professor was great and we had several financiers as guest speakers – I was most interested in private equity and how they look for small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) to invest in. There are so many SMEs here that I knew there would be a lot of opportunity if I could break into PE.

Q: So you tried to get into PE coming from a non-target university with no full-time experience?

A: No, not yet. I looked for information online and spoke with the guest speakers in our class and learned that most people in PE had MBAs, that you had to know accounting very well, and that you had to do investment banking, consulting, or auditing first to break in.

I knew I needed better access to recruiters and more accounting knowledge, so I looked for a 2-year MSc program in Accounting and applied to the only “target” university in Italy.

I moved to Milan to complete the MSc program and then found out about summer internships in investment banking – but my chances weren’t good since I was from a non-target university, hadn’t studied abroad, had no relevant work experience, and didn’t speak a 3rd language.

But I applied to all the banks anyway and ended up getting several interviews and assessment centers, and then won a back office internship in London – which I accepted, since I had no better options. I also figured that having a bulge bracket name on my CV would at least help me with recruiting in the future.

After finishing that internship, I applied to both full-time jobs and internships (internships work a bit differently here) in investment banking in the UK and continental Europe, and went through recruiting in London, Milan, and Frankfurt, finally winning 2 internship offers.

M&I Note: The audit to PE path is more common in Europe. It does happen in the US and other regions as well, but your chances are not as good unless you’ve done something like audit to Big 4 TAS first.

M&I Note 2: While I’ve been critical of the back office in the past, it’s not the end of the world if you accept a back office internship. It’s more difficult to move from the back office to the front office if you’ve already accepted a full-time offer.

Q: That’s quite a story – you must have had a great strategy for winning those offers, or at least something that made you stand out.

A: In high school I wanted to play football full-time at first, and I had also worked as a sports journalist for a local newspaper before.

That wasn’t prestigious, but it did give me something to talk about in interviews for my “interesting fact” – and I could reference that when they asked about leadership, managing stressful situations, and so on.

This story helped me get my first back office internship – I think the 2 IB internship offers were more about solid technical preparation, since I had focused on my corporate finance studies over the past year.

Recruiting

Q: That’s a good one – much better than those interviewees who tell you that their “hobbies” are learning Excel or doing statistical analysis.

So what was the recruiting process in these different cities like?

A: I always started by applying to London first – usually applications from continental Europe are checked by local offices first, even if you apply to London. Sometimes they’ll even call you and say, “There are no spots left in London – are you interested in Milan?”

Then, if you pass the initial CV / cover letter / competency question screen, you’ll get a first round in the local office (Milan in this case) and then the 2nd round in London, or maybe a phone interview and then the AC in London.

With one bank I did the 1st and 2nd rounds in London and was then sent to Milan for the 3rd round since they ran out of spots in London, but that was the exception and not the rule.

My overall experience looked like this:

  • Bank A: Applied for the graduate program in London, did a phone interview, and then an assessment center in London (group work, then 3 interviews with 4 VPs).
  • Bank B: Applied for the graduate program in London, did a 1st round interview there with 2 associates, and then also did the AC in London (business case and presentation to Director, then another 2 interviews with 2 other Directors). But then I was sent to Milan for 3 interviews with the local Directors there and also had to complete an Excel test as well.
  • Bank C: Applied for summer internship in London and was then called and asked if I was interested in Milan – I did the 1st round in Milan with 1 analyst and 1 associate and then the 2nd round in Milan with 2 associates.
  • Bank D: Applied for a 3-month internship in Frankfurt via email – they responded shortly after that, and I then completed 3 interviews in Frankfurt on the same day (with 2 associates and 1 analyst).

Q: Awesome, thanks for sharing that information – I’m sure everyone’s recruiting experience is different but it’s good to have data on what to expect in different places.

So it sounds like you didn’t do much networking to get any of these interviews?

A: That’s correct – I did not do much networking. I already knew one of the VPs that interviewed me at Bank A because I met him during my previous summer internship, so I spoke with him in advance and asked about recruiting, how to best position myself, and so on.

But then another guy won the offer from Bank A, so it wasn’t too effective for me.

Q: What about CV differences? Is there anything that banks in Milan and Frankfurt care about but which offices in London do not?

A: The overall structure of CVs is not that much different, but in local offices they tend to care more about your grades.

In Milan and Frankfurt they asked me specifically for my GPA, while in London HR just scanned it quickly when screening CVs.

Another difference is that for full-time recruiting, they pretty much expect you to have had a previous internship in investment banking – whereas for internships you can get in just by having strong technical knowledge and some kind of previous experience even if it isn’t directly related.

All the candidates that received full-time offers in my final round interviews were former summer interns who had worked in IB at other banks.

Q: Right, so standards tend to be higher for full-time interviews and it’s tougher to break in if you haven’t had that IB internship before.

What about the type of people who recruit in each place? How is that different, and what are the language requirements in those cities?

A: Overall there’s the least amount of diversity in Milan because you must be fluent in Italian. So it’s mostly Italian students who end up there – either voluntarily or because they didn’t get into the London office.

Most of these students are coming from schools such as Bocconi University, LUISS, Politecnico, or ESCP.

In Frankfurt, they didn’t care about language abilities for internships. I don’t speak German but still won the offer there – but for full-time positions it’s different and I was told that you must be fluent in German to do investment banking there.

In London you see the most diversity – people from all countries throughout Europe, Asia, and North/South America.

Obviously there’s no language requirement there except for English, but language skills are still viewed very highly and you’d be at a disadvantage if you don’t speak other European languages.

Q: What about differences with interviews? Did you find a different ratio of “fit” to technical questions, or were the questions themselves any different?

A: Overall, I had the most technical interviews in Frankfurt. They asked pretty much everything you could ask: standard questions about EPS, accretion/dilution, synergies, the control premium, the liquidity discount, what happens post-merger, how to value startup and bio-tech firms, how to adjust for pension plans, leasing and IAS 17, stock options, derivatives, and more.

They asked me to explain how a PE firm works, what the average debt-to-equity ratio in LBOs was, how to value a company, and then how to write down and change all the main items of a P&L, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.

In Milan they also asked a fair amount of technical questions (Beta, WACC, DCF, multiples, etc.) but they didn’t go nearly as in-depth as they did in Frankfurt. They also asked a lot of questions about consolidated statements – what the financial statements for a parent company plus its subsidiaries look like and how to combine them.

In London, the technical questions were the easiest – everything was pretty standard and consisted of questions you can find in most interview guides. They focused more on your background and how well you fit in with the rest of the team there.

Q: Interesting – I’m sure we’ll get a lot of comments from readers there who experienced slightly different (or maybe significantly different?) interviews.

Earlier you mentioned that you won several internship offers even though you’re set to graduate shortly and you said that internships in Italy are “a bit different.” How does that work exactly?

A: In Italy we don’t have structured summer internships like you see in other countries.

You might find them at a bulge bracket bank with local offices in Italy, but local banks here don’t have such programs.

So 6 months before you graduate, when you’re writing your thesis and exams are over, you can apply for off-cycle internships. If you’re good enough to get in and do well there, they’ll just ask you to keep working after the internship, effectively turning it into a full-time offer.

That’s much different from London, where you usually do the internship just before your final year and then you start full-time one year later.

I don’t know what the exact “conversion rate” is in these 2 places, but your chances might actually be higher in Milan since pretty much all full-time bankers at local banks started out by completing post-graduation internships first.

Another difference here is that some banks only want students who have already graduated when they search for interns – and the internships themselves last 6 months rather than 10-12 weeks.

Since banks don’t have structured programs, they just post job openings on their website or on the business school careers page and you submit your CV and cover letter without completing competency questions or numerical tests or anything like that.

You also see that for some international boutiques with offices in Milan, but it’s more common at local banks.

Next Steps

Q: You mentioned before that you applied to both full-time jobs and internships but ended up with the 2 internship offers – do you think it’s harder to get full-time offers in Europe?

A: I think in general it’s more difficult to get full-time offers because people with previous IB internships have a huge advantage, so Europe is no different in that respect.

Q: I see; it’s definitely getting more competitive every year. 10 years ago the people applying to banks for full-time roles had far less internship experience.

So what’s next for you? When do your internships start?

A: Originally I was planning to complete one of my internships over the summer and then start the next one in September, before graduating in December or May.

Recently, though, some personal problems arose and because of those I couldn’t join one of the banks in the summer – so I’m going to focus on my thesis for now.

That would at least give me the option to move back into academia if I decide that I don’t want to do investment banking or can’t stand the hours.

Q: Great. Thanks for sharing your story – I learned a lot!

A: No problem, hope you enjoyed it.

For Even More Practice…

For even more practice with numerical, verbal and logical aptitude tests and assessment centers in general, check out Job Test Prep and all their test prep offerings.

They have our highest recommendation for online tests and assessment center prep – and their courses are the single best way around to prepare for EMEA recruiting.

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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by Brian DeChesare Comments (115)

How to Break Into Finance as a Consultant

How to Break Into Finance as a Consultant

I’m not gonna lie: I haven’t treated consultants very well before – and even though that infamous Leveraged Sellout video is ancient history by now, it still pops into my head whenever I get questions from consultants.

But despite that, I still do get lots of questions from consultants on how to move into the world of finance, mostly to investment banks and private equity firms.

In some ways, you’re in a better position than engineers, lawyers, or accountants trying to break in – but the bad news is that a lot of bankers don’t like consultants.

So here’s what you do to get around that and break into finance:

What You’re Up Against

Just to recap what you’re up against vs. other professions moving into finance:

  • Engineers: They are great at math, but can they talk to people and work a lot more than they would at Google or Facebook?
  • Lawyers: They can put up with sociopaths and work 100 hours per week, but can they count?
  • Accountants: They know accounting and Excel, but are they hungry enough to work without sleep for days at a time?
  • Liberal Arts Majors: They can communicate, but can they crunch numbers and burn the midnight oil?

As a consultant, here’s your challenge:

“I know you can work with clients and that you understand the business world. But can you build an LBO model? Do you have any discernable skills? And are you prepared to work true banker hours?”

So it’s a combination of what lawyers and accountants face, with some extra prejudice thrown in since many bankers don’t take consultants seriously – especially if you’re an IT or HR consultant rather than a management consultant.

What Will Help You

But you do have a few things working in your favor:

  • You “get it” – you’re not some engineer with no business experience who doesn’t understand how to work with and manage clients.
  • If you’re working at a top firm (MBB), you have a prestigious name that all bankers recognize.
  • Better networking opportunities than an undergraduate – Partners are well-connected, and your clients might be investment banks.

Your Story

Just take the story-telling tutorial and template here and apply it to your own situation.

Here’s a sketch of what you might say:

“I was really interested in business and advising companies on major strategic decisions, so after graduating from [University / Business School Name], I decided to take an offer at [Consulting Firm]. I’ve done well there and have gotten good reviews, but I also realized that what I did as a consultant was rarely implemented by clients.

I had worked on a few M&A and due diligence-related projects, and realized that in [investment banking / private equity] you have much more of an impact on the company you’re working with – and I was more interested in modeling and valuation than in qualitative work.”

That is just a sketch of the basic idea – you would expand on that in interviews.

If you’re moving in from something less business-related – like IT or HR consulting – then you should also include something about wanting to see the trees for the forest and understand the business at a much higher level.

Point to specific clients or cases you worked on and the finance-related analysis you did that made you more interested in finance.

“I worked with a $50B telecom company in its restructuring process and learned about what management considers when it decides to declare bankruptcy rather than restructure its debt – and I got to assist bankers with analyzing the best debt structure going forward” sounds much better than just saying you think financial modeling is cool.

And before you mention it, yes, I know that common stereotype of consultants’ advice not being implemented is not necessarily true.

Plenty of work you do as a banker never sees the light of day, either, and it’s even worse in PE.

But what matters here is perception, not reality – and financiers like to think of themselves as shaping industries and companies and “having a really significant impact” (even if they don’t get home by 7:15).

Networking

So you have your story… now how do you pound the pavement and make sure someone actually hears it?

I’m not going to repeat the dozens of tutorials on networking, informational interviews, weekend trips, cold-calling, and so on because those still apply if you’re a consultant moving into finance.

The main differences lie on the sourcing side – where you find names in the first place:

  1. You have access to an additional “alumni” network – from your consulting firm. Leverage it and contact everyone who now works in finance.
  2. Partners at consulting firms are very well-connected and will know bankers. Don’t be shy about asking, especially since you’re expected to move elsewhere after working in (management) consulting.
  3. You could move to a finance-related group at your firm, or go to a banking or PE group that has overlap with your background (e.g. if you consulted with energy companies, you could target oil & gas groups).

Those 3 represent a big advantage over anyone else who’s moving into finance.

You could still cold call rather than using the strategies above, but don’t start there unless you are targeting boutiques and have absolutely no connections (unlikely).

Should you focus on boutiques rather than bulge brackets?

That may improve your odds, but it may not be necessary depending on how well-connected your firm is: if you can contact bulge bracket bankers, at least give that a shot.

Finance-Specific Consulting Firms?

Similar to industry-focused investment banks, there are also industry-focused consulting firms.

So it must help to go to a place like Oliver Wyman that is well-known for financial services consulting rather than a firm that does everything, right?

If you have the choice between 2 smaller or 2 specialized firms, yes, go for one that has the financial focus.

But don’t pick a finance-specific firm over McKinsey (or Bain, or BCG) just because you get to work with more finance companies – brand name makes far more of a difference if you’re breaking into banking or PE.

Resume/CV Spinning

You have it easier with your resume/CV than an engineer because at least you’ve worked with clients before and can point to specific projects and “deals.”

Click here to download the “Experienced” resume template and view the tutorial, and then make the 3-4 most relevant clients you’ve worked with into separate “Project” entries.

Your main challenge will be spinning what you did into sounding relevant to finance:

  • If you worked on anything related to due diligence, M&A, or capital markets, obviously list that and hype it up.
  • If you don’t have anything directly related, take what you have and highlight the quantitative work you did rather than the qualitative side. Numbers and dollar/Euro/other currency figures are good.
  • Even if you have not worked with financial statements, you can highlight market-sizing analysis, cost analysis, or anything that involves numbers.

And remember the golden rules of spinning: re-adjust the focus, magnify small details, and omit facts that do not make you look good.

If you write something like this:

  • “Worked with Fortune 500 Company to analyze hiring and retention strategy for sales force and make recommendations that improved retention by 50% by better aligning incentives, target customers, and sales rep performance.”

That might be a good bullet for consulting jobs – you have a specific number and your recommendations were even implemented by the company.

But for finance you should write the following instead:

  • “Worked with Fortune 500 Company to boost revenue and profitability by improving sales rep productivity and revenue per sales rep and by reducing G&A costs associated with sales force hiring; led to estimated [$xx] increase in revenue and [$xx] increase in pre-tax profit.”

You’re still writing about the same client engagement, but you’re framing it differently and focusing on finance rather than operations.

You probably won’t have exact numbers in this situation, so estimate and make it clear that it’s just an approximation.

Interview Domination

Interview questions will focus on the key “objections” that bankers have to consultants:

So you need to address both of those and presenting solid “mini-stories” that prove your points.

For #1, talk about how busy you were due to the infamous consulting travel combined with client demands and how you had to pull banker hours for an extended period.

Even if you work less than bankers on average, just point to a particularly busy period and use that, and then turn around and use the same story for the other standard fit questions as well.

To prove you know something about finance, either talk about finance-related projects and analysis at work, or how learned on your own from classes, training programs, and self-study.

While I’m not a fan of the CFA, it would make sense to bring it up here if you’ve somehow had the time to complete it.

Other than that, all the standard fit and technical questions covered in the superday interview guide and the investment banking interview guide still apply here.

Technical Questions

As a consultant, you may receive more technical questions than others because bankers will be skeptical of your financial know-how.

While the CFA is overkill and isn’t realistic given how much you work and travel, a crash-course on the technical side is not a bad idea.

You already know about the financial modeling training programs offered through this site, and I’m too lazy to insert a sales pitch here but you can read all about them on your own and decide what’s right for you.

You could also look at the books recommended on IBankingFAQ for a solid grounding in accounting, valuation, and finance.

Remember that you are competing with ex-bankers, undergraduate finance majors, and others who know the technical side very well – you don’t want to give banks a good reason not to hire you.

And For Private Equity…

I’ve been lumping banking and PE together, but there are a few differences if you’re focused on the consulting –> PE transition.

First, it’s very difficult because private equity firms recruit almost exclusively from the investment banking analyst pool.

So it might actually be easier to get into banking first and then make the move to PE.

If you don’t want to do that, you need to target firms that have a tradition of hiring consultants – the classic one is Golden Gate Capital, which was founded by Bain consultants and still hires mostly Bain consultants.

Focus on firms that emphasize operational improvement and turnaround strategies over financial engineering (actually easier to do in a recession or quasi-recession).

Your chances of getting into KKR, Blackstone, TPG, and so on, are slim because they only make a few hires each year and only hire those few from the top banks – the vast majority of bankers at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan don’t even have a good chance of working at those places.

So target operationally-focused firms or anything with a complementary industry focus – if you worked with entertainment companies, maybe you can join Bono at Elevation Partners.

Venture capital is also a possibility – they care far less about financial knowledge than PE firms, and if you’ve worked with tech or biotech companies you can easily spin yourself into a “strong cultural fit.”

Hedge funds are more of a longshot because so many are about hardcore finance and don’t care about operations or strategy – if you want to go there, you’ll have to find one that is more strategy/operations/long-term investing-focused and less about short-term trading.

Plan B Options

So what if you’ve done everything above but still can’t break into finance?

1. Move to a Bigger Consulting Firm

Specifically, M/B/B – see Kevin’s thoughts below for more on this one, but generally the brand name makes far more of a difference than your actual industry focus as a consultant.

Plus, Partners at the top firms are more likely to know bankers and financiers than the ones at smaller firms.

2. Go to Business School

If you go this route, you’ll have a much better chance at post-MBA investment banking positions than PE ones: as interviewees on this site and I have mentioned before, your chances of getting into private equity without having been an IB analyst are slim.

And you should still do a pre-MBA internship that brings you closer to finance or you may not be able to re-brand yourself as easily as you expected.

3. Go to Something Other Than IB/PE/HF

There are plenty of other, less competitive finance industries out there (and yes, before you mention it, they also pay less).

So you could network your way into an asset management or commercial banking role, then get to know people in the investment banking division and move in like that.

This one is a better idea if you have no connections and have no other way in – otherwise you are better off staying a consultant rather than moving to a more finance-related but less “prestigious” role.

More Thoughts from Kevin

To get another perspective, I asked Kevin from Management Consulted for his thoughts on this topic and used some of what he mentioned above – here’s what he said in more detail:

  • It’s all about brand name – get into the best consulting firm possible. While Oliver Wyman is marginally better than, let’s say, Kurt Salmon (boutique retail), M/B/B is far better than any of the rest in helping you get there.
  • Most consulting firms have internal finance groups/sectors – get as many cases under your belt in these groups as possible.
  • Most partners in those practices have serious connections – leverage those connections by over-delivering with your cases and networking heavily with partners.
  • Ask for intros to the banks you’re targeting – they might be your clients and you can build relationships first that way.
  • Go to NYC. Just like entrepreneurs move to Silicon Valley, you must be in NYC to have access and credibility. In Europe, go to London. In Asia, go to HK.
  • It’s all about your network and less about financial knowledge, at least in terms of getting interviews in the first place – organize internal networking events in the finance practice to meet even more people.
  • A lot of consulting firms have externships and special programs to give you corporate exposure outside of strategy consulting. Leverage those as much as possible.

So there you have it – thoughts from someone who knows consulting inside and out.

Still Can’t Buy Bottles with Starwood Points?

So if you’re tired of flying up to Saskatchewan every week to tell a company what it already knows, follow everything above.

And you just might be able to get rid of those Starwood points and buy a few bottles with your banker friends.

Series: Career Transitions

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

Break Into Investment Banking

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

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by Brian DeChesare Comments (383)

How to Write an Investment Banking Resume When You Have No Real Work Experience

How to Write an Investment Banking Resume When You Have No Real Work Experience

“Ok, I’ve followed your resume templates, but I don’t have any real work experience and I’m applying to internships… what do I do?

How do I compete with the guy who already has finance internships on his resume?

This one is very common if you’re still in school and you’re going for internships or even full-time offers.

And it applies even if you’re more experienced – but you don’t have much in the way of finance experience.

So here’s how you spin your resume to win investment banking interviews – even if you don’t have much “real” work experience.

Get the Templates Right Here

How to Spin Non-Finance Experience: “Before” [Download]

How to Spin Non-Finance Experience: “After” [Download]

Wait, Resumes Still Matter?

You might be wondering why this matters at all: doesn’t networking trump polishing your resume?

Yes, any day of the week. And spending dozens of hours “perfecting” your resume is still a waste of time.

But you still need a solid – if not perfect – resume. That’s especially true if you’re not coming from a well-known school and you don’t have brand-name internships.

And if you use cold-calling or cold-emailing to contact banks, they will judge you heavily based on your resume – so it needs to be good.

The Tutorial

To make all of this more concrete, we’re going to do a “resume makeover” and show you exactly how to change this university student’s resume to make it far more effective.

You can watch the video tutorial below:

And here’s the text version:

Key Mistakes

This resume is certainly not “terrible” – but there is one big problem:

Nothing on here indicates any interest in finance or desire to do a finance internship.

What’s wrong specifically?

  • He lists too much experience, and most of it isn’t relevant. 2-3 solid entries is far better than 6 thin experiences.
  • He does not highlight what’s most relevant to finance here, and instead treats everything as equal.
  • He fails to list a highly relevant entry that should be counted as “work experience” rather than an “activity” at the bottom.
  • He’s not specific enough with the finance-related experience.

So how do we fix all that?

Magnify Tiny But Relevant Experiences

Repeat after me: relevance trumps time when it comes to work experience.

This student should focus on just 2 experiences:

  • JP Morgan Investment Banking Case Competition
  • Investment Fund

And then he can briefly write about his retail job over the summer and the student newspaper.

Unlike the others, the retail job is “real” work experience, in an actual workplace – which shows banks that you’re capable of functioning in the real world.

Right now this student barely mentions #1 and #2 above, but he should expand on both and pretend they’re work experience.

Even if the case competition only lasted a week, you need to draw attention to it because of the brand-name and because it’s more relevant than anything else on there.

Turn Your Hobbies and Clubs Into “Work Experience”

Examples of hobbies, clubs, and activities you could turn into “work experience”:

  • Day Trading / Your Personal Portfolio (works better for Sales & Trading)
  • Professional Organizations (e.g. Society of Securities Analysts)
  • Finance Website You Started
  • Case or Investment Competitions
  • Student-Run Investment Funds or Finance / Consulting Clubs

What if you’ve racked your brain and you really can’t think of anything that seems remotely related to finance?

Your best bet is to re-position some of your experience as “consulting,” emphasizing the recommendations you made and the results rather than the technical details.

Remember, anything could be called “consulting” – and if you never had a formal title, all the better. More on that one here.

Cut Out “Work Experience” If It Won’t Impress

Forget about telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: there’s no “law” that you have to list every last detail on your resume, and most of the time you shouldn’t.

What should you cut?

  • Part-time experience at the library, student center, etc.
  • Retail/restaurant work.
  • Anything you’re listing just to make a “laundry list” of activities – move this to the bottom instead.
  • Anything over a year old that’s not relevant.

One exception: you may want to leave on retail/restaurant-type work experience if that’s all you have aside from activities.

Don’t focus on it, but it’s good to keep at least 1 entry on there to show banks that you have some real world exposure.

Forget Chronological Order

While you should usually use reverse chronological order for your resume, there’s no “rule” that says you have to strictly follow it.

So if you have “JP Morgan Investment Banking Case Competition” please put that at the top of your Work Experience no matter what the date was.

If you’re no longer in school this gets harder to justify and you should stick more closely to chronological order.

Move Your School to the Bottom

In the case where you have brand-name companies on your resume and a non-brand-name school, you could move Work Experience to the top and put Education below it instead.

That may raise some questions if you’re still in school – but it is an option if you’ve recently graduated and you feel that your work experience looks more impressive than your school, GPA, or major.

We’re not using this strategy here because this student is applying for summer internships and because his university – while not a “target school” – is also far from unknown.

The End Result

You can see for yourself right here.

We’ve using the exact same experience, but we’re presenting it differently, focusing on different points, and excluding what doesn’t matter.

And this student now has a much better chance of getting interviews and landing offers.

What to Do When You’re Out of School

If you’ve already graduated or you’ve been working for a few years, you can still apply some of these strategies.

The main difference is that you can’t get away with turning all your activities into “work experience” as a student might be able to.

You can still list them on your resume, but you need to focus on “bankifying” your real work experience by focusing on the business results and the big picture.

Wait, Is All of This Legal?

You might also be wondering if everything I’ve suggested here is “legal.” Will you be flagged during background checks? Get your offer rescinded because you omitted something?

No.

While you shouldn’t omit major summer internships, leaving out part-time, unpaid, or informal experience is fine.

And spinning experience into sounding bigger than it really was is not lying – it’s just spinning.

All of This Helps, But…

Also note that while the strategies here will help you get interviews and will make your resume look more substantial, you’re still not going to “beat” the guy or girl with a Goldman Sachs internship and an Ivy League school on his/her resume.

So you won’t be able to level the playing field completely, but you can give yourself a boost and reduce the gap between yourself and everyone else applying.

What Now?

If you’re applying for internships or full-time positions and you don’t have much real work experience think about what you could spin into sounding relevant: Clubs? Activities? Your Own Portfolio?

What are the 2-3 most relevant experiences to focus on? What could be omitted to make room for more relevant entries?

Think about all that, and then re-write your resume and spin your way to success.

Still Need More Help?

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We will take your existing resume and transform it into a resume that grabs the attention of finance industry professionals and presents you and your experience in the best possible light.

When we’re done, your resume will grab bankers by the lapels and not let them go until they’ve given you an interview.

Specifically, here’s what you’ll get:

  • Detailed, line-by-line editing of your resume/CV – Everything that needs to be changed will be changed. No detail is ignored.
  • Your experience will be “bankified” regardless of whether you’ve been a student, a researcher, a marketer, a financier, a lawyer, an accountant, or anything else.
  • Optimal structuring – You’ll learn where everything from Education to Work Experience to Activities should go. Regional badminton champion? Stamp collector? You’ll find out where those should go, too.
  • The 3-point structure to use for all your “Work Experience” entries: simple, but highly effective at getting the attention of bankers.
  • How to spin non-finance experience into sounding like you’ve been investing your own portfolio since age 12.
  • How to make business-related experience, such as consulting, law, and accounting, sounds like “deal work.”
  • How to avoid the fatal resume mistake that gets you automatically rejected. Nothing hurts more than making a simple oversight that gets you an immediate “ding”.
  • We only work with a limited number of clients each month. In fact, we purposely turn down potential clients in cases where we cannot add much value. We prefer quality over quantity, and we always want to ensure that we can work well together first.

FIND OUT 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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