Big banks and financial firms tend to do extensive on-campus recruiting from “target schools” — these are typically your ivy leagues and larger schools like Stanford, and NYU. Different banks have different target schools, partly driven by their own alumni network. NYU bankers tend to recruit others from NYU, Yale bankers tend to recruit from Yale. Most finance recruitment happens via alumni networks.
Yours is a target school for an organization if:
They make on-campus presentations and host events
Conduct on-campus interviews
More than a handful of candidates get invited to “super-day” interviews (final rounds at the firm’s offices)
The recruiting process tends to be expedient
Lots of graduates from non-target schools make into large banks and financial institutions every year, and if you are focused on the career, chances are you will do just fine. Many banks still recruit from non-target schools in the following ways:
Some non-target schools still see on-campus recruiting from middle-market banks or boutiques, and are often “target” schools for those banks. Moreover, schools in big cities (LA, SF, Houston / Austin, Chicago) tend to sometimes see interest from regional offices of the bulge brackets / larger financial institutions as well. So find out who recruits actively at your school and target those firms actively.
You may also see certain banks do an “on-campus lite” strategy. They might give a brief presentation, conduct a resume drop — but limit the number of candidates invited to super-day final round interviews to a handful of students a year.
You may also see a scenario where after the resume drop, you are invited to a phone interview with an alumni of your school, before you get an in-person interview with someone at the firm (and prior to super-day final rounds).
The rarest scenario is that there is no on campus recruiting at all and not even a resume drop. Then it’s all up to you, the candidate, to create opportunities to recruit.
Note — regardless of whether you are at a target school, or a non-target school, most banks and financial institutions primarily recruit full-time candidates from their summer intern classes. So you need to focus your recruiting prior to your junior year and get the junior internship to stand your best chance of getting a final offer.
The following is generally expected from all applicants — whether from target or non-target schools, when recruiting for finance jobs, especially investment banking jobs: 1. A very high GPA (min 3.5 to apply but over 3.8 is best) — there is some credit given to “hard” majors but not a lot
A history of relevant internship experience after freshmen and sophomore years (anything finance or accounting related will help)
Joining finance and investing clubs that demonstrate your interest (student managed funds, to ibanking clubs)
Showing leadership (varsity sports, college organizations, volunteering)
Pursuing activities such as studying abroad and entrepreneurship can add strength to a resume, but nothing will beat an internship in a highly related field. For example, if I received the opportunity to intern at a boutique investment bank after my sophomore year and had to choose between that and study abroad, I would choose the internship to maximize my chances during the recruiting process.
The most important thing for someone at a non-target school is to network. Find alumni at various firms and pro-actively reach out to them to schedule informational calls / interviews. Visit New York and schedule meetings with people at firms to better get to know them and their firm. At a non-target school, you need to start this process early, and be persistent (but polite). When a recruiter is weeding through the thousands on resumes on their desk your success is going to depend on if your name is recognized or handpicked by someone you know.
Finally, as I talked about before, do your homework on which firms recruit at your school and their degree of engagement with your school and size of alumni base that works there. That will be key in figuring out how to prioritize your time and energy.
After targeted networking with a specific MD at a specific group at a bulge bracket bank, I was invited to a super-day interview. The night before the super-day the group held a networking event for all of the candidates. Being one of two from my university at the super-day and having no alumni other than the MD, who did not attend, this event was very awkward.
All of the other candidates were from the target schools, and almost everyone in attendance was similarly from those target schools. It was much easier for the target school students to speak to an associate from the same school about their football team, or for mutual members of a fraternity to speak about specific houses they had lived in at one point. For me, the evening was a challenge to find common ground, which was hard when competing with candidates who could draw on a wide range of topics relating to their school.
Moral of this story: This is no reason to be discouraged. Although it may feel like a disadvantage or extra roadblock, investment bankers are people too and won’t shun you just because you don’t support the same college basketball team. It just becomes your burden to be more proactive. I wish I had reached out to more members of the group prior to the super-day. I had reached out to one associate, who went out of his way at the networking event to get me involved with the event, and it certainly would have helped to have networked with more bankers.
The next chapter discusses how to network effectively when recruiting for finance jobs. In the meantime, here are some investment banking jobs and internships to start thinking about.