1. Tell a compelling story
As a general guide, we would say that employers are looking for:
(i) Academic and intellectual ability;
(ii) Willingness to learn and adaptability;
(iii) Client-facing awareness; and
(iv) Leadership qualities.
It is a non-starter that academic qualifications are a pre-requisite to break into the ultra-competitive fields of investment banking and management consulting. However, there are many ways to showcase intellectual prowess, not necessarily defined to grades. This applies similarly to showcasing adaptability and leadership. Backpacking in India alone and overcoming adversity when you were left stranded without a Wifi signal VS. Emerging as the wining team through a grueling 3-round case competition VS. Being awarded the Golden Bayonet or Sword of Honours during your National Service are all equally valid indicators of your abilities. Using a right mix of experience points will help convince your employer of your strengths.
Client-facing awareness requires a composite mix of IQ and EQ. You can signal maturity and strong communication skills in a variety of ways. For instance, being tasked to handle a delicate situation as president of a student society or liaising with various external stakeholders in an event that you coordinated. Be sure to highlight specific and tangible instances where your role was highly valued.
2. The Right Fit
The “right fit” usually points to fitting into the culture of the firm and showcasing demonstrable passion for the industry. As a starting point, read everything on the website (Mission statement, Profiles of the board, Key news and changes in the company etc.) as this will help you get a sense of the candidates they are looking for. For instance, some companies put a premium on giving back to the community, and you should then highlight your volunteering experiences accordingly.
Your cover letter is the perfect way to insert personality into your story. Make sure that all experiences and achievements are interconnected to form a compelling story showing your demonstrable and continued passion for the industry. Having a convincing story will also help to distract (or explain away) weaker points on your CV (e.g. a bad grade, an unrelated internship you undertook). Rather than wait for your employer to assume the worst about a gap on your CV, explain it or try to ensure that you have an otherwise compelling story about who you are and why you want this job.
For ultra-competitive industries like IBD and consulting, it is important to throw away clichés and generics. Your employers are seasoned veterans in the industry, they can spot a fake a mile away. Be specific and be real. Candour and wit can help you stand-out and demonstrate your genuine interest for the job.
3. Leverage connections
Much has been said about the importance of who you know, rather than what you know. Many candidates may fret over their lack of perceived “connections”. However, who you know, is a highly changeable state of affairs. The key is to leverage your existing connections. Talk to professors, talk to your classmates, family members, seniors through LinkedIn and Facebook etc. Make an effort to go to networking events and strike up a real conversation. Keep in touch with people you worked with during your internships. Do your research and ask informed questions. You’d be surprised at how helpful others can be in sharing their experiences.
Secured an interview? Take a look at our IBD/Consulting interview guide here.
If you have any queries on how to break into IBD or consulting, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org