Alright…you’ve decided that you want to change careers and become an investment banker. You have updated your resume and spoken to everyone important in your life and you’re now ready to start the job hunt.
So what should you do first? Should you cold call? Should you start hitting up recruiters?
My advice to you is to use your contacts. You remember how I said that lateral transfers into Investment Banking was not a streamlined process? How it doesn’t have the efficiency of the standard graduate recruiting process? Well that is a pain in the backside for things like interviewing and actually hearing back from the investment bank. However the big positive (for you) is that they don’t have a set way to find candidates.
How do investment banks hunt for lateral recruits?
Because there is no clear process for hiring lateral bank candidates the process for each bank is a little different but they basically all do the same thing:
- They use recruiters if they are short staffed and have to find a position to fill. The upside from the banks point of view is that they have already had a candidate semi vetted by the recruiter however the downside is the considerable sum they end up having to pay the recruiter
- They use their own staff to find candidates. As odd as it sounds this is actually the preferred way many banks have to find candidates. Their staff are unlikely to recommend someone crappy as they then have to work with them (and there is nothing worse than carrying dead weight in small deal teams!) and staff members are far more likely than recruiters to know the skill sets that they need. They also avoid having to pay the cost of a recruiter. In fact they like this way of hiring so much that they routinely offer an extra bonus to any staff member who recommends a friend that ends up getting hired (the bank I was at used to offer $10,000 to you if you recommended a friend that ended up getting hired)
Using your contacts is good for you, good for your contact and good for the bank!
Using your contacts is one of the few win-win-wins in investment banking. It’s good for you because you get a foot in the door and if you come with a recommendation you are far more likely to land the job. It’s good for the bank as discussed above because you come pre-vetted. They still need to interview you but they have to spend so much less time with you if you come with some sort of recommendation. And finally it’s great for the person recommending you because they often get a sweet reward at the end of it.
So how do you actually use your contacts to get an interview?
Have I convinced you yet that using your contacts is a great idea? Good! Now we can get on to how to actually hit up your contacts.
Basically your experience with contacts will fall into three different categories
- Great friends who are willing to recommend you on the spot;
- People you know that do investment banking but really don’t know you all that well; and
- “HELP…I don’t have any investment banking contacts”
The first situation is the easiest to deal with. If you have friends that are investment bankers (they are probably from college or university) and you know them well and they know your work ethic and you know they wont say anything bad about you…all you need to do is to call them up and get them to put in a good word for you. They will almost always be happy to do this (even if their bank isn’t specifically looking for someone). When I worked in investment banking I recommended 3 friends for interviews…they all got the interview and 1 got a job offer (although turned it down in the end so I didn’t get my bonus)
What happens if you have met a few people who happen to be investment bankers but they aren’t really your friend and you can’t call them out of the blue and get them to recommend you? Well it’s a bit of a longer process but you should do something like this:
- Call them up and tell them you’re thinking of doing investment banking and could you pick their brain
- Meet up with them and actually pick their brain for everything from work/life to interview tips and their recommendations
- Ask whether they are hiring and whether they think you should apply
This formula works remarkably well and because you are open and honest the whole time you’re far more likely to have someone recommend you for the job. One piece of advice…never catch up with someone and pretend to be friends with them when this is what you are trying to do. I once had a girl go on a date with me because she wanted a recommendation for a job. I can’t tell you had awkward it is when you are on a date and then you suddenly get asked to put in a good word for a job!
What if you don’t have any investment banking contacts?
Not everyone has investment banking friends and contacts. If you are working in an industry which is sought after by investment bankers the chance is that you will know someone…but maybe you’ve been unlucky and don’t know anyone. What do you do then?
If I were you I’d actually work on a dual track system:
- Use recruiters. The ‘contacts’ system is only efficient if you already know people who you can hit up immediately
- Go to networking events (junior bankers love them because it gets them out of the office) and meet some junior bankers and once you have a bit of a rapport go through process number 2 that I outlined above
Do both steps for the best results!
If you have any questions on using your contacts shoot me an email…I’d love to help you out!