Even if you’ve spent some time reflecting on your goals, the first year of an MBA is so full of networking events, coffee chats, meet and greets, applications, and interview prep that your time management skills are quickly put to the test. Managing these endeavors, as well as class and social responsibilities, can be challenging, and knowing what to prioritize is key. I’ll be chatting with my fellow classmates and asking them to share insights, experiences, and advice to help you navigate the process when the time comes. I’ll post a series of blogs, each covering a different industry/function.
This part of the recruiting series focuses on investment banking. I asked Sarita De Bedout and Rachael Harrison, Class of 2021, to share their experiences and provide students with advice on how to navigate the recruitment process. Each of them worked in different areas of investment banking, so I was able to gather different point of views.
Where was your internship?
Sarita: Credit Suisse.
Rachael : Goldman Sachs.
Had you worked in the field previously or did you pursue an MBA as an opportunity to pivot?
Sarita: Yes, before coming to Booth I worked in an investment bank in Colombia for almost five years, focusing on infrastructure finance.
Rachael : I came to Booth to pivot into finance. Before business school I worked in oil and gas as a reservoir engineer. Banking recruiting is very doable for career switchers, even if you’re switching both industry and function.
Career Services offers both on campus and specialized search for recruiting. Which did you utilize?
Sarita: I relied on campus recruiting, especially through Career Services and the Investment Banking Group (IBG).
Rachael : I exclusively utilized on campus resources. Career Services provides a ton of guidance and structure for the on campus investment banking recruiting process.
How many companies do you think someone interested in investment banking roles should focus on?
Sarita: It depends on how specialized the person is within investment banking. I knew I wanted to focus on structured finance, so the number of banks I recruited for was smaller (I only recruited for six banks). However, if you’re looking for M&A groups or more general roles, I would recommend recruiting for a larger number of banks.
Rachael : The best advice I received was to “cast a wide net”. It’s important to maximize your options by recruiting with every on-campus firm, even if you have preferences going into the process. In some cases, it’s also helpful to engage with additional firms that don’t recruit on campus. The second years and Career Services can help you figure out what makes the most sense.
Did you need to network to get an interview invitation?
Sarita: Yes, it is mandatory, you have to network a lot!
Rachael : There are one or two banks that don’t require any networking, but the majority of firms determine interview invitations through the networking phase of the process.
Any tips for making a strong and memorable impression?
Sarita: Be yourself and have a clear answer to “why investment banking?” Your answer should genuinely connect your past experience with finance, being in a fast-paced environment, dealing with sophisticated clients, and with handling the challenges the industry faces.
Rachael : Try to connect with people on a personal level. Sometimes people overthink the questions they ask and resort to conversation that comes off as overly rehearsed. I found that networking went a lot better when we just had normal, casual conversations.
How did you orient the academic experience at Booth? Were there classes you selected to help improve your skills/knowledge?
Sarita: Because I had investment banking experience prior to coming to Booth, I decided to take non-finance classes that could give me a better background to understand clients’ business and operations when analyzing their credit profiles. However, for those with no finance background, I would recommend taking classes like Cases in Financial Management prior to their internships.
Rachael : In the first quarter, the only banking related class I took was Accounting, which was helpful for preparing for interviews. After recruiting ended, I focused on completing accounting and finance concentrations, but filled the rest of my schedule with topics that I wouldn’t have exposure to once I left school.
So, you managed to secure an interview. What can you expect?
Sarita: The interview is a time where you will tell your story again and explain your motivation on starting a career in that particular group and bank. Some banks ask behavioral questions as well like “tell me about a time you received feedback”. After this, there will be a section of technical questions about accounting, valuation methodologies and M&A transactions. Make sure you have a recent deal to talk about. Finally, use this time to get to know the people even more. Ask as many questions you still have about the bank, the banker’s vision of the job, and career.
Rachael : Typically there are two rounds of interviews. The first round interviews are 30 minutes long and can include both technical and behavioral questions. The second round interviews vary more by bank, but often involve a series of 30 minute interviews that also include both technical and behavioral questions.
What’s the best way to prepare for the interview?
Sarita: Practice, practice, practice!!! Practice with other first and second year students that are members of IBG and people from Career Services. Make sure your “why investment banking” story is powerful as well as why you’re interested in the specific group and bank. Finally, practice the accounting, M&A and valuation questions over and over again to make sure you’re prepared.
Rachael : There are a lot of resources online and passed down from second years that will guide you through the technical material. The second years will also volunteer their time to conduct mock interviews, which are extremely helpful. I did about 13 mock interviews right before interview week and it made a huge difference in both learning the material and getting used to thinking on the spot.
I hope Sarita and Rachael ’s perspective is helpful to all of you thinking of recruiting for investment banking internships. If investment banking isn’t your path – you can tune in to other parts of this series.