As we move further into summer internship season, many have asked me why they can get interviews but can never seem to get actual offers.
Usually, they lack a hook. To get an investment banking job, it's not enough to show you can do the job well and have a serious interest in it.
You have to show them that they need you more than you need them.
Of course, this is never really true. You're just a resource. They're a $100 billion firm. But a hook makes them think differently, at least temporarily.
What's A Hook?
A hook makes you stand out from everyone else. It can be your extreme enthusiasm over the job that caused you to email them 59 days in a row. It can be the experience you had working at a Chinese Private Equity firm last summer. It might even be how you were a Varsity Athlete in that sport they've never heard of.
But it can't be, "I really want to do banking so I can learn!" or, "I like the fast-paced environment!"
Those are just standard reasons to say you want to do the job.
When bankers interview you, they try to check off 3 boxes - 1) smart 2) can do the job 3) like him. A hook makes sure #3 is a "check."
But I'm Just A Normal Person, How Can I Get A Hook?
One good tactic is to make a connection with your interviewer by having similar interests, asking questions about some topic he or she likes, or having friends/alumni in common.
This requires upfront research and isn't always possible. But when you can do it, it works well.
Was your interviewer in the Marines? Maybe your brother/cousin/uncle was too. Was he in the industry where your dad/cousin/uncle works? Same undergraduate schools?
No One Wants You Until Someone Wants You (Then Everyone Wants You)
Everything is just high school all over again.
Another "hook": Convince the firm that you have offers with other investment banks. When they find out others want you, they'll be afraid they're missing something and want you more.
The correct answer to, "Are you interviewing with other firms?" is NEVER, "No." Even if you're not, never say, "no." Just be vague and say you are interviewing and considering several options.
If you are indeed interviewing successfully with other firms, mention the names - this works especially well if they are competitors. Naming any of the bulge brackets when interviewing with a bulge bracket, for example, would give you a boost.
Worst Case Scenario
Sometimes none of these tactics above actually works. This is why you spread your net wide and interview at many different banks - because eventually your hook will work and you will land that investment banking job.
Ian Spellfield, a former investment banker, advises students and young professionals on understanding investment banking and how to get investment banking employment.
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