Continuing from part 1, after you can answers those helpful questions at the end of the article, it’s time for you to select the best strategy for your networking effort.
Investment Banking Networking Strategy #1: Conduct Infomational Interviews
This networking strategy is appropriate if:
- You are an undergrad, with at least 6 months before internship recruiting begins (and ideally more like 12 months). Or, you are already working full-time in a related field, and you’re seeking a lateral role at a bank (whether you’re a recent grad or an older candidate).
- You are an incoming MBA student, and you want to have an IB summer internship that would later become a full-time role.
- If you do not have 6-12 months for preparation, or you don’t fit into one of these categories, you’ll have to use other methods (see below).
These are 8 basic steps leading you a standard and well-prepared informational interview:
First, find names of bankers on LinkedIn and via your school’s alumni network, if applicable. You will get higher response rates from junior-to-mid-level bankers (Analyst through VP), so focus on them first, and then get referrals to reach senior bankers.
Then, determine the appropriate email format for each person, check that the email address exists via Email Checker, and add the person’s name, email address, and key facts (school, major, firm, previous experience, interests, etc.) to your list.
Email the person to request an informational interview, and follow up 2-3 times if you do not hear back at first. This email should be 5 sentences at most, and it should reference very specific details you have in common with the other person.
If you do hear back, set up the informational interview call and do 15-20 minutes of additional research on the person right before the call.
Conduct the informational interview on the phone. Spend your time listening and asking questions about the person’s career and tips that he/she has for your job search.
At the end, make a “mini-ask” in the informational interview, such as passing your resume along to others in the group or for referrals to other bankers. Drop a hint about a possible future in-person meeting or weekend trip to their city.
Then, if it is logistically possible, conduct a weekend trip several months after the informational interview and meet up with the person just before recruiting begins. If you can’t do this, send 1-2 email updates/ speak again on the phone to ask more specific questions.
Then, make your “real ask” and ask if the person can pass along your resume or otherwise plug you into the recruiting process at their firm.
To give you an idea of some informational interview numbers:
You can get started with your email outreach once you have gathered 20-30 names.
1,000 – 2,000 emails
If you’re at a non-target school or you do not have the same access, you might send more like 1,000 – 2,000 emails. Even if you send 10-20 emails per day, it will take months to complete this process.
If you’re at a target school and have solid alumni access, you can expect to send a few hundred outreach emails
A 10-25% response rate
You’ll likely get a 10-25% response rate if you’re using a good template and contacting the right people. Out of the bankers who respond, you might speak with ~50% on the phone.
50 – 200 bankers
So you might end up speaking with 50 – 200 bankers on the phone; a reasonable goal might be 2-3 calls per week.
20 – 30 contacts
You can expect that 20-30 contacts will become useful and take real steps to promote your candidacy. Ideally, each one will be at a different bank so you’re not dependent on a few groups or firms.
Investment Banking Networking Strategy #2: Cold Email to Ask Directly for Internships or Jobs
This cold-emailing strategy is appropriate if:
- You are an undergrad, and you are seeking an initial finance internship in your first or second year of school, especially at smaller firms.
- You are an incoming MBA student, and you want to complete a pre-MBA internship to give yourself a leg up.
- You are about to graduate from university, you missed recruiting, and you need to find something ASAP.
- And, ideally, you will be at a target school or have other brand names on your resume/CV, as they will make cold emails far more effective.
- Cold emailing to ask directly for internships or jobs will not work well if you’re already working full-time or you’re aiming for summer internships in the formalized recruiting process. In those cases, you should be using investment banking networking strategy #1 (informational interviews).
A long time ago, I used to dismiss cold emailing as “spam” – who would respond to a random email sent by an undergrad with no real work experience?!!
But as I conducted more interviews with more readers, I began to change my mind.
Cold emails offer one simple advantage over cold calls: bankers live in their email inboxes.
If you email them, they will see it, even if they do not necessarily respond.
The steps in the cold-emailing process are very similar to the ones for informational interviews: you still find bankers, guess their email addresses, email them to request calls, and then do the calls.
The main differences are:
- When you send the initial email, you ask directly about internships or jobs the group might be offering.
- On the call, you stay focused on possible openings in the group or other groups at the bank. There is no need to make a mini-ask; get to the point.
- If you get a “no” answer initially, which is very likely, it’s always worth following up a few months later to see if anything has changed. But you don’t need to schedule a weekend trip or do another call – just send a quick follow-up email.
Cold emailing works at both boutiques and bulge brackets, but if you target the big banks:
- You should contact Group Heads or other senior bankers (MDs, Senior MDs, etc.) because they have a better sense of hiring needs across the firm and more power.
- And you will need at least one relevant internship or other work experience. If you have nothing, start with smaller firms, gain experience there, and then aim for off-cycle roles at the large banks.
Investment Banking Networking Strategy #3: Cold Call to Ask Directly for Internships or Jobs
And now we arrive at the last main networking strategy – cold-calling, and also the least favorite to some people.
Unless you have tried every networking strategies and they don’t work, cold-calling should only be your last resort:
- Cold-calling tends to be effective only for undergrads and recent grads who lack work experience and have no other way to market themselves.
- If you attend even an average school and you have even mediocre internships, you’ll almost certainly get a higher response rate from cold emails.
It rarely works at mid-sized-to-large firms, so this strategy limits you to boutiques.
- It’s a repetitive, ego-bruising process that entails more rejection than any other strategy.
- And finally, most students are terrible at speaking in real-time on the phone, especially in the age of texting/smart phones/social media.
So, if you went to a completely unknown school, graduated with no work experience, have no marketable skills, and you want to focus on boutique banks, sure, knock yourself out with cold calling.
The standard process for any cold-call is:
Find a list of banks in your area, and then search for bankers’ names and contact information. You can use LinkedIn, Google, Google Maps, or, ideally, services like Capital IQ to do this.
Plan your pitch and figure out what you’re going to tell them. Keep this very, very short (1-2 sentences) and state your university, major, and experience, and ask how to position yourself for an internship at this firm.
Place the call and be prepared to respond to their objections (we’re not hiring, we don’t take interns, we don’t have money, etc.). You will also have to be nice to assistants to reach senior bankers or otherwise ask for the person in charge of recruiting.
Afterward, assuming a negative response, follow up once per week. Move on when they stop giving you specific objections and start saying, “No” or “Please do not call us again”. Meanwhile, continue to contact and follow-up with other firms on your list.
The numbers here vary widely, but you’re unlikely to get results until you’ve called a few dozen firms, perhaps 100+ firms, and tried to get through multiple times.