[Editor’s note: This is a multi-part series on recruiting into finance. In Anish’s last essay, he discussed [navigating the finance recruiting process from a non-core school](/article/3430/how-to-recruit-into-a-finance-job-from-a-non-target-school). This article specifically discusses the finance and investment banking recruiting process but these lessons hold true for anyone looking to develop their networking skills while at school.]
When recruiting into finance, or any other career, people often tell you to “network”. But it’s sometimes hard to figure out how to make a connection with someone so that they actually recommend your name when picking candidates to interview.
The best method is to already have an idea of why you want to do that specific career — which in my case, is investment banking. Then you ideally get introduced to someone in the industry, by a mutual acquaintance. I personally reached out to alumni, family friends, friends’ brothers and sisters, and upperclassmen who were already going into investment banking to help make connections. Often I was introduced by upperclassmen to alumni of my school pursuing banking careers. I found these connections to be the most fruitful.
In the circumstance that you can’t find anyone to make an introduction you have to start seeking out alumni via your career services department, LinkedIn, and just google. Reaching out to people without an introduction is called cold calling. Many times cold calling won’t result in many responses, I know it didn’t for me, but every once in a while you may get in touch with someone who wants to help. This could mean 1 in 20 responses.
In the earlier stages of networking especially freshmen and sophomore year, you want to ask for an informational interview. Here is where you ask questions about the career, what motivated the person whom you’re speaking with to get into the industry, what advice they may have, and so forth. Go in with a plan, and definitely have a clue on what the career is. Otherwise, you are just wasting their time. Be a patient listener and ask follow up questions based on their story, as opposed to running through a prepared laundry list of questions.
It is then vital to maintain that relationship. This is easiest done by following up regularly via email or phone and keeping the connection updated with developments in your career and recruiting process. You can also ask for advice on items from them about navigating the process. You could potentially ask them to review your resume, or ask about how to prepare for a specific interview. As you build the relationship further, you can start talking about the recruitment process at their firm more specifically. Investment bankers know that when a sophomore or junior in college calls them, it is because they want an interview. You can’t outright say, “Will you recommend me to the recruiter?” but you can ask about how the recruiting process works at that bank or group. Additionally if you are speaking to someone who does have a say in the interview selection process, it is appropriate to subtly highlight areas where you stand out.
I went to a networking event hosted by a large bank for another division that I was less interested in. When all of the alumni had introduced themselves, one had casually mentioned being a VP in the investment banking division and since that division wasn’t the focus of the event, he then stepped out of the room. Typically at school networking events, investment bankers are surrounded (and hounded) by students wanting to make a connection. However, this time the banker was on his own just toying with his phone. I introduced myself and we talked about what he did in his division, and how he was able to break into the job considering our school is not considered a target school for that firm. He asked me to send my resume to him via email and that he would talk to the recruiters about possibly bringing in someone from my school for an interview. He got back to me swiftly and said that he wanted me to come to NY and meet his group as an informal interview screening for a super-day.
After weeks of not hearing back from him on dates, I persisted reaching out at least five more times to follow up. I finally did get a date from him but unfortunately it was after I had already accepted an offer. Importantly, we still stay in touch and he is an important relationship I developed through chance and persistence, and it got me an interview.
I had developed a strong interest in financial modeling by the end of my sophomore year. I was told that certain coverage groups will do more involved modeling than others, and I started reading up and understanding the difference between different groups within investment banking.
At the start of my junior year, I was told that an alumnus of my school was a senior banker at a large bank that I was interested in. I was introduced to him via email by an upperclassmen who had reached out to that alumnus in the previous year. When we got on the phone, I already had a strong working knowledge of the model that was used by his group and asked fairly specific questions on the group, and why these differences may occur. The MD was impressed and expressed that the level of specific self-study I had done was stuff that would be expected from someone interviewing for an associate position (more senior to the analyst position I was recruiting for). He also mentioned that although he had never recommended anyone from our school for interviews before, he was considering doing on-campus interviews and sending a few candidates for second round interviews.
Two months later he came to campus to interview students, and I was one of two to be invited to final round interviews at the firm. I consistently found that when navigating such a structured recruiting process, preparation paid dividends.
In the next segment of investment banking stories from the trenches, Anish discusses the interview process.