Sunday, August 29, 2010

What do you want?

Well it's come again. Recruiting season. I've been surprised how many students have reached out to me this year, wanting to get advice and hear about where I work. It's a good thing though - the more that reach out, the better chance we have of finding the best new analysts!

I've noticed more and more how easy it is to tell the difference between somebody who has prepared and somebody who hasn't. And the difference is obvious within three minutes of talking with a person. This is why when you interview, the interviewer usually makes a decision by the time you've told your story - the rest of the interview is spent confirming that decision, whether to ding you or to pass you on.

I thought it might be helpful to write down one of the ways I prepared which I feel really helped me perform in interviews.

So a little background. I had just finished up my internship at a bulge bracket bank, and was thinking about what to do next. I felt like it would be a good idea to interview around, and I reached out to people I had met in the lead-up to internship interviews. Luckily, I had a great summer and was able to have some substance to my resume as I was sending it out. At the places where I didn't know anybody, I simply sent my resume to the websites of those companies. I didn't think it would lead to anything, but when you don't have anything to lose, why not? It turns out that I ended up taking a job at one of the places that found my resume through the website.

As interviews progressed, I was fortunate enough to get a few offers. At this point, I realized that I was going to have to make some decisions about what I wanted to do for the two years following college. I had a lot of questions, like, "Bulge bracket or boutique?" and "Investment banking for a career or private equity after banking?"

I decided that to really be able to figure out where I wanted to be, I needed to decide what I want out of my two-year analyst experience. I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and began writing out what I really wanted as an analyst.

My thoughts focused around three broad categories: (1) Finance / technical experience, (2) Culture / lifestyle and (3) Career / Exit opportunities.

Finance / Technical
Within this section, I included the following:
-Deal team size (10-15+ at bulge bracket, 4-5 at boutique)
-Generalist vs. product/industry group
-Modeling (templates vs. building from scratch)
-Analyst responsibility (double-staffed with other analysts or sole analyst on deal teams from day one? Run the model or share with associate? etc.)
-Mentoring (assigned or just part of the culture? Interaction with senior people daily or never? Chain of command or flat culture?)

It turns out that the things most important to me were to get a lot of responsibility and experience modeling from the get-go. I also wanted to be a generalist and focus on M&A, because I had decided that my long-term goal was to go to private equity.

Culture / Lifestyle
-"Face time" policy
-My view of the culture (basically I just used adjectives to describe how I viewed each bank's culture based on my interactions with people from the banks)
-Salary (not that important, but still a data point)

This section was important to me, but it wasn't what really swayed me one way or another. I still view investment banking as an investment in the future, and if you have to deal with a rough culture for two years, you can do it. But, if you can go to a top-tier bank and be in a great culture, even better.

Exit Opportunities
-Firm's view on interviewing for private equity (fire you vs. help you)
-Firm's view on promoting internally
-How well have analysts done in the past in recruiting at this bank? (this was all based on hearsay and research I did on my own just looking at various websites of the PE shops)

Although this isn't something you can bring up as a positive point in an interview about why you would want to work at a specific bank, it was very important to me. In the group where I spent the summer, the analysts who were interviewing literally had to lie about what they were doing and sneak out to interviews. I really didn't want to be put in a position where I felt that I needed to be dishonest just to do what I wanted. Because this was a priority, I ended up choosing a bank where people are very willing to help you prepare for and do well in private equity interviews. Luckily, my analyst class did amazingly well in private equity recruiting, and I think it's largely because of the way the firm views recruiting.

This exercise took quite a while to think through and fill out, but once I had gone through the page and ranked the various banks at which I had an offer or was likely to receive an offer, it became very clear to me that based on the criteria I had prioritized, I needed to go to one bank in particular. I knew what I was giving up, and I knew full well what I was getting. At that point I didn't even have an offer from this bank yet, but I had final rounds scheduled.

When the time came for interviews and I was asked, "Why do you want to work here?", I began to explain how I had thought about that question quite a bit. In essence, I said something like this:

"I've thought about this in great detail, and the way I have approached it is to think about what things I really want to experience as an analyst. I know that the criteria that are important to me are [list off the things I just wrote about above]. As I've considered the various banks, yours absolutely fits those criteria the best. I would love to be here, and have no doubt in my mind that I could thrive here."

I would go on to list of specific things about the bank, such as their views on analysts, modeling, mentoring, culture, deal teams / experience, etc. It was clear to every person with which I interviewed that I had given this question substantial thought. The great thing is, I was talking about all the same reasons that they loved working at this bank, and my answers resonated strongly with the interviewers.

I received the offer and have had an absolutely fantastic first year. My point in writing all of this is to encourage those of you with interviews coming up to really put thought into what is important to you in your analyst experience and to convince yourself of the best place for you. Then, when you interview there, it will come across clearly that you have thought it through, and that you are a great fit for the job.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Thank goodness for first year analysts. It's still hard to believe that a year has gone by since I got out of training. It's been awesome to have the new first year analysts around to share the load.

July was definitely the worst month of my life. Because the analysts in the class above me left to go to private equity and the new analysts in the class below me were in training, my class of analysts basically had to carry the load for the month of July. In a span of a week I went from being on two live deals to being on six live deals. I'm still not sure how that's even possible, but I, along with the other analysts from my year, basically didn't sleep for a month and just cranked 24/7.

But it's so much better. Even though I'm still on four live deals, just having first years around to take on new pitches and other work makes a huge difference.

Another good thing about the end of summer is that we're heading into recruiting season. This is one of my favorite times of year because I really enjoy seeing students step up and perform under pressure. Now that I'm involved in the recruiting for our firm, I feel like I have a much better idea of what is important / what works than I did when I was actually recruiting. I still can't believe that I actually got a job at my firm by sending my resume to the firm website, especially since now I'm the guy receiving the resumes from the website and I know how hard it is to really give people a good look when it's 3am and you've been working all week. But I really try to screen the resumes well because I feel like I owe it to future generations of students trying to break in the same way I did.

I'd forgotten how cathardic it is for me to write a blog of what's going on in my banking life, and I think I'm going to start writing again. Who knows if people still read this, but regardless I figure it will be good for me to have a record kept of my years in New York.

Because it's recruiting season, I'll probably be writing a lot about what made me successful in interviews, and what I feel like the best candidates do to stand out.

It's good to be writing again!