How to Become an Investment Banker: Is the Money Worth It?

Investment Banking Job interview questions

Banking Investment / November 16, 2014

Investment Banking Phone Interview Cheat Sheet

Understanding Whether you are Core or Non-Core

There are two separate interview processes that the investment banks run: one for internships, and one for full time recruiting. This is true for both analyst and associate hiring. Figuring out where you fit into this interview process is extremely important—many banking candidates are not aware of the nuances.

Generally, the largest investment banks are the ones with the most structured interview processes—they have a thorough and rigid recruiting game plan each year. This differs from smaller Boutiques, which will usually hire more on an as-needed basis because they don’t have the predictable deal flow nor the financial and human resources to implement a structured recruiting program each year. The investment banking recruiting process at larger banks is typically divided up between “core” and “non-core” college recruiting (sometimes called “target” and “non-target”). Banks have a certain number of core (target) schools at which they interview on-campus each year; they typically allocate a certain number of job slots from each school for their incoming analyst and associate classes.

Whatever is leftover after “core” interviewing constitutes the “non-core” recruiting; this process typically trails core interviewing by a few months.Investment Banking Job Interview Timeline Thus, for example, if you go to Penn State you will have a much different interview process than a job candidate from Wharton, because you will be recruiting for one of the non-core slots in the incoming analyst class (or associate class for incoming MBA students).

The makeup of recruiting from “core” schools always differs by bank, but it will typically include recruiting from the top 10-15 business and liberal arts schools in the country. Thus Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) will always be core schools while Indiana University and UCLA will always be non-core.

Non-core recruiting is conducted differently. Most candidates are introduced to the process via internal referrals and, to a lesser extent, online applications. It is a good rule of thumb that if you are a non-core candidate without an internal referral, it will be very tough to ever get noticed. Investment banks will receive tens of thousands of resumes every year with hundreds of internal referrals. Because their time and resources are finite, most of these candidates will not even get a first glance, let alone a second one.

Investment Bank StructureNow, compare this to the number of job slots: a typical Bulge Bracket investment bank generally hires about 60-80 first-year analysts every year, with a majority being internship hires and students from core/target schools. It is estimated that roughly 900 first-year analysts are hired every year in the U.S., with a majority of these coming from the Bulge Bracket banks. As you can see, the odds are stacked against all of the candidates — but especially against the non-core ones. While the process to get noticed and do well is very challenging, it can be done. This Chapter can teach you how.

Breaking Down Core Recruiting

Again, core recruiting (also called target recruiting) refers to investment banking recruiting where the banks will visit your school for on-campus recruitment. These schools are the backbone of the hiring process and generally makeup roughly 70% of total hiring for analyst and associate programs for Bulge Bracket banks.

Investment Banker Career PathCore recruiting is a very structured process and it is really important for you to understand how this process works, if you are a candidate from a core/target school. Later in this training program we will discuss dates and deadlines, but for now let’s focus on how the overall process works. Generally, the core recruiting process is done in 3 steps. (Steps 4 and 5 are strictly on the candidate side and don’t directly affect the banks themselves.)


The first step is applying online via the college’s Career Resources Center (CRC) and/or the individuals banks’ websites. Make sure you are checking the dates/deadlines on the school’s CRC website, because the online application process will often close weeks before interviews actually begin! The investment banks will then bundle up the collected resumes into a book and send them around for current investment banking employees at the bank to peruse (usually 1st and 2nd year analysts). Also, banks will often host information sessions on college campuses a month or two before interviewing starts. The information sessions typically only last for a few hours but it gives candidates an opportunity to learn more about the firm and network with a few professionals at the firm. These information sessions provide candidates a great opportunity to stand out. Come prepared to these sessions with thoughtful questions and make sure to follow-up with thank you emails.


Interviewees are then selected for on-campus interviews based on feedback from the information sessions and their resumes. The investment banks will work with the school’s CRC to schedule a time to interview accepted candidates on-campus. These generally consist of 30-45 minute interview slots, where candidates will meet with 1-2 investment bankers (usually Associates and VPs). There will be both behavioral and technical questions asked — so make sure to prepare for classic investment banking interview questions beforehand.