Wondering how to get into investment banking? When going through the internship application process myself, I realised there wasn’t an actionable, comprehensive game plan out there so I decided to make my own, as summarised on this page.
3 simple stages and hacks that worked for me
At the heart of covering every single component below is a divide and conquer strategy & consistency.
Stage 1 – Pre-application
- Organising yourself for a consistent but efficient grind: Do an application audit i.e. creating a spreadsheet of the 25-30 firms you’ll be applying to, noting expected open date (apply ASAP when applications open and save application PDFs). For the application audit, check out this Google Sheet made by some students last year.
- Preparing a solid CV: Use a template & guide e.g. the one I provide. Seek out experiences that differentiate you in the coming months and year, while doing what you can with the experiences you have.
- Writing a cover letter they can’t ignore: Why firm (max 3 reasons – harnessing networking + firm profile after deep research). Why division (use Pyramid Principle book + build personal narrative). Why you (ABC method from CV template I provide, different examples to the CV).
- Networking to give you an edge: Use LinkedIn, be patient (20% response rate), you can use the message template I provide.
Stage 2 – making the shortlist
- Passing situational judgement tests: use a list of rules e.g. find the SJT pack given by JobTestPrep where they break down the main positive and negative characteristics you should use as a guide in every situation (I’ll be releasing a post to all weekly email subscribers on this soon).
- Passing online psychometric tests: Note ‘overlapping’ firm providers i.e. firms that use the exact same test and make sure to harness the power of reflection through strong documentation. I will be making a future post on this, but for now, here is a breakdown of companies that use sometimes identical online tests (and hence why one company online test should also be seen as preparation for future tests):
- Cut-e/Aon are used by RBC, Morgan Stanley, Nomura (see Assessment Day to practice their logical reasoning test), Credit Suisse, BNP Paribas (they use industrial instead of financial case study pack).
- Korn Ferry/Talent Q is used by RBC/Natwest, UBS, Standard Chartered and Citi.
- Smashing competency questions: Prepare at least 2x STAR examples for each major competency. Create A4 summaries of all your competencies to review before an interview to move information from long term to short term memory.
Stage 3 – winning over the interviewer
- Getting through technicals: Use 400Qs guide or for extra mile/if time afterwards, then also try the Pearl & Rosenbaum book. I prefer the 400Qs guide as it prepares you for most interviews, plus there are many other components that need covering.
- Brain teasers and market sizing: Cover as many brain teasers as you can find (e.g. clock angle, 4L bucket, cube in red paint examples) and use the 1-line formula + disaggregation approach for market sizing.
- Hacks for commercial awareness (news story, recent deal): Use newsletters/podcasts to make it a habit, then use overarching trends to build 1-page summaries through harnessing consulting reports available online. Also, use the biggest hack of them all; the cookie-cutter method for “tell me about a recent M&A deal”.
Examples of trends I used and would still continue building on:
- Regulation of tech giants
- Consolidation of food delivery market
- Automotive sector trends
- ESG revolution
- M&A trends overview.
To source new interesting trend ideas, I would use the Pitchbook Sunday newsletter as my go-to.
Never underestimate the competition but focus on racing against yourself.
- Prepare a solid introduce yourself answer (snippet 4) – the question that you’ll be asked in 90% of interviews.
- Undertake Excel and M&A courses. Beyond the CV and being asked what courses have you done, this will give you a much deeper technical understanding and build your competitive edge.
- Take a process-oriented, not results-oriented, approach to avoid unnecessary stress (read the Practicing Mind for more details). Find your grind time (see the book Deep Work). For me, deep work happens early in the morning with my phone on ‘do not disturb’ (no notifications) and listening to a few soundtracks (e.g. Deus Ex).
- [Shameless plug here] Sign up for the weekly newsletter by clicking subscribe either in the top or bottom right corner of this page if you want more detailed tips sent straight to your inbox every week
If you want to download this game plan as a 1-page summary, which includes a CV template on page 2, click the link below (this file will also be sent to you if you would like to sign up for the free weekly newsletter):