Investment banking is one of the toughest fields to break into, because literally thousands of people apply for each opening that doesn’t involve selling securities to individual investors. You’ll need all the help you can get to land an interview and win a position in analysis, institutional sales or trading.
While most entry-level Wall Street openings are filled via on-campus interviews at Ivy League schools or through personal referrals, job candidates with the right credentials and a bit of luck can still break into the business.
It helps to know the road ahead. Reading the right combination of Wall Street memoirs, job-hunting guides and select nonfiction books will give you a better idea of what you face when planning and executing an investment banking job search.
To get an idea of what’s involved in the investment banking hiring process, start with The Fast Track: The Insider's Guide to Winning Jobs in Management Consulting, Investment Banking, and Securities Trading by Mariam Naficy, a former Goldman, Sachs & Co. analyst. Naficy gives you the inside scoop on what consultants, analysts, traders and bankers do and how they’re recruited. While the company profiles are stale (the book was published in the late ’90s), it’s a very easy read that explains the recruitment and interview process in detail.
Now that you have the broad view of the industry, you’re ready to read about individual companies. Start here at Monster’s Research a Company section. Next, read The Vault.com Career Guide to the Top Investment Banking Firms.
You can also take a closer look at what goes on in individual companies by reading Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle, John Rolfe and Peter Troob’s lighthearted, crass memoir recounting their days as junior analysts for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.
And speaking of crass, Bloomberg reporter Susan Antilla’s Tales from the Boom-Boom Room is a well-written exploration of the sexual harassment and intimidation faced by women at Smith Barney in the 1990s. This is a must-read for any woman considering work in investment banking.
If you manage to score an interview, prepare yourself by reading The Vault Guide to Finance Interviews, 6th Edition, and two WetFeet Guides, Beat the Street I: Investment Banking Interviews and Beat the Street II: I-Banking Interview Practice Guide. If you’re sure you’re getting the interview, Heard on the Street: Quantitative Questions from Wall Street Job Interviews by Timothy Falcon Crack can help you rehearse your responses to quant questions.
On the Job
Once you’ve landed a position in investment banking, you’ll need a guide to succeeding on the job. Working the Street: What You Need to Know About Life on Wall Street by Erik Banks, a former Merrill Lynch managing director, shares the inside scoop on navigating company politics and how investment banking really works.
Given that the odds are stacked so far against the job hunter in investment banking, it might be a good idea to formulate a plan B. To help you figure out what else you might want to do in finance, read The Harvard Business School Guide to Careers in Finance, 2002 edited by Ying Liu. Written for MBAs, but also beneficial for undergrads, the book describes what finance grads do in a variety of positions at a slew of companies. After reading the guide, if you don’t end up getting the call from Wall Street, you might find an even better job was out there all along.