For finance and business majors, one of the most coveted offers to have at graduation is an analyst position at an investment bank. Business students are attracted by the pay, the prestige and the fast-pace lifestyle that these twenty-something analysts live. But before collecting that (rather large) signing bonus, prospective analysts should make sure they understand what they're getting themselves into.
Though many will seek investment banking careers, few will succeed. There are only so many IPOs, mergers and leveraged buyouts that take place each year, therefore the industry can only support so many jobs. Furthermore, there are many peaks and troughs in this market, so even if you have a job one year, you may not have it the next.
Despite the high degree of competition and the job insecurity, the resume drop box for analyst positions is always full at the business school's career office. So what kind of person are these firms looking for?
Getting in the Door
Yes, corporate finance looks for bright minds who can clearly articulate business insights. But investment banks are also looking for students who are driven and disciplined. Athletes often have the ideal personality type for investment banking. They work with a team and practice every day to win. That's the type of mentality that succeeds in the corporate finance world.
In terms of education and experience, bankers are generally looking for candidates with business and finance backgrounds. Good majors include finance, accounting, business administration and economics, but even math and engineering majors can make their way into an interview if they can demonstrate that they are bright and understand the industry that they're getting themselves into.
Internships and other work experience that relate to finance are also very important. If a candidate can demonstrate that they're comfortable with financial modeling and analysis, they are likely to get an interview. But the interview process is where the fun begins.
Once selected for an interview, it is time for analyst candidates to start sweating. These interviews are often the toughest in the business world, and potential candidates should think twice before entering an interview without several hours of practice interviews as well as a few interview study books under their belts.
In these interviews, bankers are looking to verify that the aptitude that they perceived on a resume is actually there. They may do so with brain teaser questions, rigorous financial analysis exercises or strange questions that are meant to throw the candidate off and test how they react to pressure.
Interviews may involve several rounds – on campus, off-site at a hotel or at the firm. The interview process usually culminates in a "super Saturday" round in which the top candidates meet with all the bankers at the firm and socialize – perhaps taking in a sporting event.
Super Saturday helps the firm to make a final decision on which candidates are the best cultural fit. Offers are extended, signing bonuses are accepted, and the newly-minted analysts enter the crazy world …