It’s done. The pursuit of landing an investment banking summer associate internship for the summer of 2022 is complete! In this post, I’m going to highlight a few resources and processes that helped me land not just one, but three investment banking internship offers.
Investment banking recruiting is one of the first (if not THE first) recruiting cycles that happens at Tepper. Preparation begins within the first couple of weeks of being on campus. This post is not an exhaustive list of everything, but here are three summarized categories of what went down: Preparation, Coffee Chats, and Interviews.
Investment Banking Preparation
First, the Graduate Finance Association (GFA) is absolutely the best resource for those recruiting for finance roles. The GFA, led by second-year MBA students, provides clear guidance on the path to land an internship. Here is how the GFA helped us prep:
Weekly prep sessions:
- The GFA holds weekly technical prep sessions to provide a foundational knowledge of what could be asked in an investment banking coffee chat or interview. The topics of these sessions were accounting, valuation, mergers & acquisitions, discounted cash flow models, leverage buyout models, and behavioral interview questions, just to name a few.
- These sessions are not meant to be the only method to prepare. They are meant to be an introduction or review of concepts that need to be studied outside of these sessions.
- These prep sessions are held in the evening, once per week, in an interactive lecture format.
- Every first-year student who is recruiting for investment banking will be assigned a second-year mentor. These mentors were an incredible resource since they have all successfully completed the recruiting process.
- In these mentor meetings, my mentor would answer my questions, ask me interview questions, and provide feedback on cover letters, interview question responses, and anything that could be improved. He was always available and 100% committed to helping me get an internship. I’ll forever be grateful for his help.
- I met with my mentor every week until I landed an offer.
Mock coffee chats:
- In addition to the mentor meetings, all of the second-year IB students were available for “mock” coffee chats with us. These “mock” chats were an opportunity to practice everything I’d learned in the weekly prep sessions and the weekly mentor meetings.
- I treated these mock coffee chats as if they were actual meetings with bankers. Everything was practice, from the email that I sent to schedule the mock chat to my answers to every question they asked.
- I had a total of six mock coffee chats.
Banking Immersion Week:
- In late September/early October, the Masters Career Center puts on the “Banking Immersion Week.” During this week, numerous banks host presentations to give us a look at what it is like to work at each of the banks.
- Most of these presentations were with Tepper alumni. I believe in the past the immersion week took place in New York, but for us, the presentations were entirely virtual. The virtual world was great because it allowed for a ton of efficiency. Instead of bopping around NYC, we could virtually visit bankers at all the major banks.
- Over 15 banks gave presentations. There were presentations from Bank of America, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Jefferies, Guggenheim, Credit Suisse, Baird, Morgan Stanley, and many more.
Prep with classmates:
- Although the GFA wasn’t directly involved with this, a few days a week, a few of my classmates and I would meet either in-person or over Zoom to go through interview questions. For us, this was much more informal than everything else we were doing. We stumbled through answers to questions, shared feedback with each other, and discussed what was going well and what wasn’t.
- These prep sessions also held each of us accountable and forced each of us to study independently. I didn’t want to be the only person on the call who didn’t know answers to easy questions!
By mid-October, all of the GFA technical prep sessions were completed. Then coffee chat season began. Coffee chats were a way for us to network with actual bankers at almost every bank. The GFA released an alumni list with the contact info for Tepper alum who are working in IB. We were only able to access this list after we had completed a final mock coffee chat with a second-year student. This final coffee chat was a test to ensure that when we started meeting with bankers, we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves or embarrass the Tepper School of Business.
Scheduling coffee chats:
- Once I received the contact list, I dove right in and started filling my calendar with coffee chat meetings.
- Second-year students provided great ideas for how to stay organized while having dozens of coffee chats. Scheduling coffee chats was as simple as emailing every single banker on the list. These emails need to be crisp, clear, and have zero grammatical errors. Again, the second-years provided examples and assistance with how to write these emails. The emails need to be perfect.
- My goal was to have my calendar as full as possible with coffee chats and meet as many people as I possibly could.
HAVING coffee chats:
- The first coffee chat I had was incredibly nerve-wracking. So many uncertainties popped into my head. What if I don’t know the answer to an easy question? What if I give a terrible answer? The list goes on. This stress dissipated quickly because almost all of the alum are incredibly helpful, nice, and understanding.
- Coffee chats are usually 30-minutes long. Pretty much any question is fair game, technical or behavioral.
- Most of my coffee chats were over Zoom. I did make three trips to New York to meet with bankers in person. The in-person meetings were hands down way more impactful. Barring any COVID surges or banker preferences, if you’re interested in banking, you should try to make as many trips to the city as possible.
- Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic formula to make it to interview rounds (which happen later in the process), but the entire process begins with coffee chats at all the banks.
- It is impossible to be perfect in every coffee chat and some coffee chats end up going nowhere for myriad reasons. I did strive to be as polished and prepared as possible for all of them though.
- The goal with coffee chats is to a) make a good impression on the banker and b) get introduced to someone else at the bank. This keeps the ball rolling at that specific bank.
- I had over 50 coffee chats
Typically, in late November/early December, interview rounds begin. As I mentioned, there isn’t a specific formula to get invited to interview at the banks. The goal is to keep getting passed around to as many bankers as possible during coffee chats to make a good impression. As banks start finalizing their interview lists, you want your name to be on as many people’s minds as possible.
First Round Interviews:
- If a good impression and meaningful progress is made at a bank, the potential to get invited to a first-round interview exists. First-round interviews are essentially a way to either weed people out or push people through.
- There isn’t a standard agenda in these interviews, but in my experience, I was asked a lot more technical questions (accounting, DCF, LBO, etc.) than behavioral questions. They can also range from being a 30-minute, relaxed discussion to being two, 30-minute, two-on-one, technically heavy interviews. I had both.
Super Day (final round) Interviews:
- The final round interview is called a “Super Day.” Super Days tend to be comprised of multiple interviews with multiple people.
- In total, I had three Super Days. My first Super Day was a full-day, in-person affair in Charlotte with six interviews and a hosted lunch. My second Super Day had two 30-minute interviews over Zoom. My last Super Day had five, one-on-one interviews over Zoom.
- The questions in Super Day interviews can also span the spectrum of technical and behavioral. At one of the banks where I received an offer, the Super Day questions were 100% behavioral. At another bank, the questions were 50% behavioral, 50% technical. The theme here is to always be prepared for everything.
In summary, I was fortunate to receive internship offers at three investment banks, one in Charlotte, one in Chicago/Milwaukee, and one in New York City. I decided to accept an offer with Morgan Stanley in New York. The process seemed daunting at first because there was so much to learn. As time went on though, I became more comfortable and confident with the IB world. The resources at Tepper were incredible and helped me make progress on my initial MBA goal of pivoting to investment banking. The work isn’t over though! Although an internship offer is a breath of fresh air, it does not guarantee a full-time offer. The full-time offer has to be earned during the internship!