Investment banks usually only go to a handful top universities for on campus recruitment, the so-called “target school”. They have lately expanded the target schools list to increase the diversity, and focus on the best candidate, instead of best school.
In the UK for example, the target school list includes Oxford University, Cambridge University, LSE, UCL, LBS, Warwick University, University Bath etc.
So is it possible to get into investment banks if you study at a non-target school?
The answer is yes, but difficult, especially for bulge brackets, and you have a better chance to get into a mid-market or boutique investment banks.
Here’s how: step by step strategy
You will need to have a perfect CV to convince the HR that you have all the qualifications the banks are looking for as a candidate, regardless the brand name of your school. This includes your academic performance, the courses taken, internship experience, extra curriculum, interests etc.
2. Cover Letter
Cover letter is not a must for job applications sometimes. However, if you are not from a target school, you will probably need to have a perfect cover letter to show case what your achievements are that you even out shine the candidates at target school
This will be one of the key steps. Since the banks don’t find you, you will have to find them. You might not know someone who can refer you a job directly, but you for sure know people who know people. This step is a long and tedious process, but you will have your opportunity well deserved.
For candidates at target schools, they may have 5 interview chances. But for candidates from non-target schools, all the interview opportunities are most likely coming from networking. And you only have one chance to prove yourself. It’s all about preparation, preparation and preparation when it comes to interview.
You definitely need to be 100% ready for the big day. Be prepared for all the technical questions, and behavioral questions. There is no shortcut, but to prepare yourself for all the interview questions, take some training classes, mock interview practices, and practice more.
We would strongly suggest candidates to set their expectation right as well. It is more likely for you to network in boutique banks compared to bulge brackets, and you want to allocate your time and effort right among all the leads and opportunities you have.
Last words: the concept of target school and non-target school only matters before you get into the bank. Once you are in, you are in!