Low GPA? Not a finance major? No problem! Through speaking with numerous students over the past few years, many students worry about either their GPA being too low or major not being in business or finance. This week, we interviewed a student who was able to land an investment banking internship and full-time position despite starting off with a low GPA and being part of a pre-med program. Fast-forward a few years, he now works in an European bulge bracket firm.
1. How did you recruit into banking?
Long story short, I went to a top-tier school for medicine as an undergraduate because at that time, I wanted to be a doctor. After 2 years of studying, I discovered that it wasn’t for me – the stuff that I was learning wasn’t practical and I was having trouble staying focused. Consequently, I wasn’t doing well and only had a 3.1 GPA. During my sophomore year, one of my best friends, who was the pledge master of a business fraternity on campus, said to me, “I know you’re not doing pre-med anymore – come pledge for us. Worst case, you’ll meet some friends and best case you’ll find your new interest.” The pledging process involved a stock pitch and I quickly discovered how practical finance could be after joining the fraternity.
However, as sophomore summer was coming to an end, I was close to not having an internship. I did a lot of cold calling and ultimately interned at a place that hosted conferences for private equity and banks to hold discussions and give out awards. This gave me great exposure towards banking and private equity. During junior year, I understood the importance of finding a good internship for the summer, so I networked during the school year and interned as well during the school year in order to have something to talk about during interviews. Leading up to the actual recruiting cycle, I struck out because my GPA was still a bit low. I ended up calling boutiques and eventually worked at a small firm in New York where they hired me for 12 weeks to be an unpaid intern. This ended up not only as a good experience but also a great learning opportunity. Through this process, I was able to have more confidence and have better grades for full-time recruiting. I targeted middle market banks with a lower GPA threshold, and was ultimately able to land a position at a boutique on the street.
2. How did you make transition from your boutique to a European bulge bracket?
I quickly realized that my experience was not meeting my expectations as I yearned to work on more deals as well as on a bigger platform. Using the same strategies that I used as an undergraduate, I applied to everything available online and started to network with alums, friends, recruiters – basically anyone out there. After some time, a headhunter reached out with an open position at a mid-tier boutique which I was pretty indifferent about but still went along with the interview. I received an offer from them but was really unsure about accepting. Once I had the offer, I started reaching out to people to ask whether I could be involved in a super day. Since I already had made connections with numerous banks and was involved in different interview processes, it was easier for me to leverage my initial offer.
Fortunately, a person at a European bulge bracket informed me that they were looking to hire someone for one of their teams. I sent him my resume and he took me in the next day, which included 6 interviews followed by three additional interviews the following day along with a modeling test. Afterwards, I received an offer the Monday after.
3. How did you prepare for the interviews?
In college, I spoke with a lot of my other friends who did the same thing but honestly, I was a bit shy at the time so I did a lot of reading and practicing by myself through speaking in front of mirrors or in the shower. I recommend reading WSO interview guides; they were helpful. For lateral interviews, I found them to be much simpler, as you only need to read about the deals, understand the rationale and details behind them, and be able to talk about them / provide the reasons behind them. Behavioral questions were also more direct, such as why you were trying to lateral and why that company. Once you have a banking background, many of the general questions such as “why banking” and “ability to work hard / pay attention to details” are no longer there.
4. Looking backing back, that’s probably what a lot of people can do huh?
People tend to be complacent, since it is a lot of work – I interviewed at many, many places. A lot of people go for one or two opportunities and stop right there, or when they have an offer, they think the race is over. They don’t understand that you can push it to another level afterwards. The rewarding aspect is that you can not only obtain a better job / get into a better firm but also speak with a lot of cool people along the way.
5. Did you do anything out of the ordinary or do you have any suggestions for people who want to lateral or get into banking?
Honestly, you don’t have to be the smartest guy or the best spoken person to do banking. Just being persistent and having the right mindset and attitude is key. You have to be very resourceful – so just network, stay in touch with people, just constantly use every possible resource – your high school, college, fraternity, whoever you know. Ultimately, it comes down to luck and timing so if you’re persistent and keep going, luck will bounce your way.
*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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