West Coast Tech Banking Journey

This week, we feature an MBA candidate who successfully recruited into a west-coast bulge bracket firm. This is for everyone who is interested in tech! 

1. How was the recruiting process?  
The recruiting process for west coast was much easier compared to east coast recruiting. In terms of recruiting for an associate position in the east coast, you have to go to all of the networking sessions and if you miss one event, your name will be cut from the list. However, for West Coast recruiting, it is easier as most of the conversations are through phone calls due to our location on the east coast. I went there once on a school trek and visited San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park. We visited ~10 firms in two days – just to get business cards from people, drop off resumes, express interest, and get the conversation started. Once I got back home, I reach out to set up informational conversations with the people whom I met. If they like you after the informational conversations, they put you on their invitation list and that’s when you apply and get the interview invitation either through the school’s official portal or through a direct email from the bank.

2. Regarding the recruiting process, did you network? Did you do anything non-traditional?

You always want to be proactive and show interest. Its still a pretty competitive process, even for top schools. As a result, I flew to the west coast one more time after the initial visit since I was really interested in tech banking. Two weeks prior to that trip, I emailed a bunch of people to have coffee. Although not everyone replied, many told me to stop by their office. Ultimately, I went to three or four firms in two days. They have this for most west coast students – it‘s pretty much similar to what you do on the east coast. You go to their office and you sit down for a 25-30 minute conversation. In most of the cases, the person will likely ask whether you have more time. If you reply yes (which you should), he’ll see if anyone else is available to speak with you. Most of these banks will do two to three back to back conversations. Through these meetings, they begin to realize that you’re probably a little more interested compared to other people. That is what I did, which probably was a bit more proactive compared to people who focused on east coast but on the side considered working in the west coast as another option.

3. Speaking of informational interviews, how were they?

It depends – but in general, you sit down with the person and they start off by asking you to tell them a bit about yourself and why you’re interested in west coast banking. Afterwards, they’ll likely say something along the lines of, “let’s casually chat – you can ask me anything.” For the rest of the conversation, you’ll most likely be asking questions. In some of the cases, they’ll also ask about some of the deals that you found to be interesting or why you’re interested in tech banking. Those are the two most common questions you’ll get from the bankers. But from those questions, you’ll have to show that you did some research on what the bank has been working on and what’s going on in the market.

4. How did you land the interview and how did you prepare for the interview?

I think whichever school you come from, if there’s a club or if students organized an investment banking club/society, that’s the best resource to leverage. They’ll tell you how to prepare for interviews; there are two parts – technical questions and fit questions. For technical, I only used the Break into Wall Street guides. You can prepare for all of the technical questions using those guides – the most important three being M&A, LBO, and DCF. For fit questions, its all about practice and knowing your story. For MBAs, you have work experience, so most of the cases they’ll ask you about your previous work experience and how you perform under certain circumstances. Maybe they’ll also ask you about teamwork and leadership, strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you know your story or whatever is on your resume, because anything is fair game.

5. What were some of the interview questions? How were west coast interview questions different?

I think most of the questions I got were general, technical questions and some fit questions. What’s different about west coast interviews is that most of the time they’ll ask you about the trend in that industry. For east coast, when you go through recruiting, you probably don’t know what team you want to go into or they won’t ask you because there are a lot of teams to pick from. Therefore, they’ll ask you general questions like tell me a deal you follow or general market questions. For tech banking, they know you’re coming for the tech industry so they’ll ask you about deals or company activities in the tech industry. I think you want to know the most high profile deals for the past 12 months and when you recruit with a certain bank, you also want to know what deals the bank has worked on and the rationale behind those deals. Finally, you probably want to know some high level valuation multiples.

6. Lessons learned:

Recruiting is a pretty long process, so make sure not to get frustrated early on. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. If you feel like early on, you’re not super prepared or you don’t happen to know much about banking, it is totally okay. Still go to the information sessions and coffee chats – don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask questions for your personal benefit. If you want to know what the role of an associate is, feel free to ask. Early on, you’ll mostly be speaking with an alumni so it’s a pretty safe place to ask questions. But half way through the process, you want to make sure that you have gained a pretty good knowledge of what investment banking is, what associates do on a daily basis, and what your transferable skills are. I think that’s my biggest takeaway – leverage those informational sessions. Really get to know about the firm and about the job itself. Secondly, do not underestimate the importance of technical skills. Finally, don’t be shy to show your passion for the industry, especially for technology banking. Generally, they’ll favor people who are passionate about technology compared to people who are passionate about finance but less passionate about tech. Every time you speak with a person, make sure you show him or her that you really follow this industry and tech is where you really want to work and you have the commitment to work on west coast.

*This article was written without any collaboration or affiliation with third-party universities / corporations.



If you have any specific questions for this person, feel free to email us at Jason@brainceek.com (and we'll pass along the question).

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