Why do investment banks always seem to want well rounded candidates? Surely when you start working as an investment banker work will take over your life anyway so a candidate that does nothing but study should be perfect for them? This post will delve into this question as well as how to position yourself to be the candidate that catches an Investment Banks attention.
If you have just landed here, this post is part of my 7 Steps to Landing an Investment Banking job. This is step number 4 which, unfortunately, is the last of the easy steps.
Investment Banks want well rounded candidates
If you ask an assessor at an Investment Bank what they are looking for in a candidate, they will normally tell you that they want someone that is interested in finance, who is intelligent and has good grades, who works hard and someone who is well rounded. The first three requirements make perfect sense when you think about the job description for investment bankers but the last one doesn’t make intuitive sense.
I will go through some of the reasons below but I want to tell you upfront that this is not a battle worth fighting. It is no use saying that they shouldn’t want these candidates…but rather find a way to position yourself to be one of those candidates
Why do Investment Banks want well rounded candidates?
I remember asking this question when I first started recruiting at the Investment Bank I worked for and I was given a whole host of different reasons including
- Well rounded candidates are better able to prioritise their time which is an important skill in banking
- Candidates involved in competitive sports or other similar pursuits have more of an ‘edge’ and competitive streak
- They are just more interesting…would you want to work with someone who does nothing but work?
The only semi decent answer is the first point above but I don’t think this is the real answer. I think the real answer is much simpler. Investment Bankers want well rounded candidates because they are simply the best looking candidate for the position.
Although investment banks are looking to fill a particular role, they want to have the reputation for hiring the best of the best. So who are the best of the best? Simply speaking those people whose applications you look at and say “wow”. What would the perfect (non-existent / hypothetical) candidate look like?
- Top tier university
- Perfect grades
- Great connections
- Olympic Athlete
- Started their own business / A superstar investor
- A whiz at excel
- Stunningly good looking
Obviously this is ridiculous and not going to happen but I can guarantee you that if the above candidate existed they would get an interview. Honestly after you spend hours upon hours (that you’d rather spend sleeping) going through application after application that look identical you really take interest in those candidates which do things other than study. The most memorable applicants I had included an ex Special Forces soldier and a guy that ran his own successful small portable toilet business (why he was applying to banking I don’t know).
Are you the well rounded candidate that Investment Banks are looking for?
The fact is that you don’t need to run your own business or be ex Special Forces to get an interview. You just don’t want to be the candidate that looks exactly like everyone else. If all you do is study and read investment banking blogs and finance books then you need to get out and do something else.
You don’t need to be amazing at it and it doesn’t need to be anything mind blowing. When I was interview almost every single investment bank talked about the fact that I did dancing for 6 years. Dancing has nothing to do with banking and was just something I enjoyed doing yet it gave me food for conversation in every interview I went to.
Finding activities to make you more appealing
The great thing about looking well rounded is that you don’t necessarily need to list your achievements or how long you have been doing activities (although you can if you have been doing them for a long time or have some pretty impressive achievements under your belt).
There is no real formula for this sort of thing. It’s just getting out there and doing something you enjoy. However if I had to suggest a formula I would:
- Get involved in some sort of sport (even recreationally)
- Get involved in some sort of activity outside of finance that interests you (and if you can try and get some sort of volunteer / leadership role that you can later plug)
- Get involved in a charity (even if it is just fundraising for them)
Chances are that you are doing most of this already but if you’re not and you are would struggle to put something on your resume then get out there and do something. One last point…don’t fib or lie about your hobbies – I once saw a resume where the person said they enjoyed scuba diving on a regular basis but then had no idea what it involved when it came up during an interview.
What do you do that is interesting? Have some quirky stuff you’re not sure about including? Comment below and we can help you decide!
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