Nine Ways to Improve your Finance & Consulting Job Search
It is my opinion that the single biggest resource Hamilton students need is an easy-to-follow guide for getting a job in finance or consulting (it’s either that, or more forks in Commons, air conditioning in dorms, and a tunnel under Martin’s Way so students can avoid the winter… but for now, this is all I can give). It took me a while to piece together my own road map to get a job, so I’m hoping that this How-To Guide will save you all a bit of the trouble that I and some of my close friends went through.
Before I get to that, I’ll give you a brief bio so that you know just exactly who you are about to take career advice from. I graduated from Hamilton in 2019 and began working as a first-year associate with L.E.K. Consulting in Boston in July of 2019. During the summer before my freshman year, the summer before my sophomore year, and the summer before my junior year, I worked for a landscaping company in my hometown. The summer before senior year, I worked a 10-week internship with a small consulting/market research firm called VDC Research (also located in my hometown). My professional path was definitely not very impressive compared with other Hamilton students, but I made it work for me because I was able to use those experiences to articulate my work ethic, what I learned along the way, and my desire to work in consulting.
I knew that the internship between junior and senior year was important. I devoted a lot of time and effort trying to get an investment banking internship rather than the consulting internship I ended up with. As banks were hitting their recruiting stride during my junior fall (recruiting can now happen during sophomore spring, FYI), I had networking calls with over 30 people who worked at investment banks, practiced over 30 mock interviews with friends on campus, and applied to over 15 investment banks including all the bulge brackets and some middle-market and boutique banks. I got first-round interviews with Barclays, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Citi, and did a final-round super day interview with Deutsche Bank. I struck out with all of them. But, I learned from my mistakes and did a lot better in my networking, preparing, and interviewing at consulting firms. My goal with this blog is to help you learn from my mistakes as well.
It’s hard to know what to do or where to start when aiming to get an internship/post-grad job. I sure didn’t know and I pieced it together very inefficiently. This list will help you understand what concrete steps you can take today, this week, this month, and this year to eventually get a great job in finance or consulting.
Steps to get a job in Finance or Consulting
To do today:
1. Banking or consulting? There is no harm in pursuing banking and consulting internships at the same time if you can manage it. However, if you have to prioritize one over the other and have no strong preference, then I recommend that freshmen and sophomores focus on a banking internship because there are more internship opportunities at top banks than at top consultancies and because banks primarily hire from their intern class whereas consulting firms tend to fill a smaller portion of their incoming class with interns.
2. Look up recruiting timelines and application deadlines. They come as quickly as sophomore spring for banking, though I think junior fall for internships and senior fall for full-time offers is more common.
3. Go to Career Center events that have finance-and-consulting-related content. They are posted on Handshake. Put some in your calendar today. Don’t put the job search off until junior year like I did (though I promise that if you are reading this as a junior or senior, there is hope).
To do in the next few weeks:
4. Go to relevant clubs. Cast a wide net. I know there are a whole bunch on campus, so attend a few that sound interesting. Finance Club and Consulting Club seem to be the most consistent year after year, but there may be other interesting ones like Microfinance Club, Investment Club, etc. You don’t need to commit to going to every meeting every week, but definitely push yourself to get your foot in the door at a minimum of one.
5. Take accounting before you graduate. (And before senior year, ideally.)
6. Network! Get access to the alumni database (look out for Career Center emails telling you how to do so, or call the Career Center to ask) and set up 15-20 minute phone conversations with people who work in the industry to learn more yourself. Remember that your network includes Hamilton alums, family, family friends, your roommate’s family, etc.
Have a few people that you network with provide feedback on your resume. If you end up applying to their firm, it’s good to have them look at your resume too before you submit your application.
7. Study technicals. For banking, this means valuation techniques, accounting, and other terms. For consulting, this means case interviews. The best way to study is to go to Finance or Consulting Club and to find/make friends who are also studying. Set up mock interviews to study together/quiz each other often. I recommend Wall Street Oasis (I found online flashcards that I printed) and Case In Point (I have heard that these both exist online as free PDFs if you dig around enough.)
Practice a minimum of 50 case interviews with friends, professionals, Career Center staff, and whoever else is willing to help.
8. Maintain a good GPA. Some firms have hard cutoffs at 3.2, 3.3, 3.5… Lots also don’t. Networking is still a more effective way to get a shot at an interview compared to just having a good GPA. in my opinion. That said, keeping the best GPA possible will keep the maximum number of doors open.
9. Know your story. The first question in any interview will be either “walk me through your resume” or “tell me about yourself.” These are essentially the same question and to answer them you need to know your story.
Your story should be chronological, no longer than 1.5 minutes and needs to answer:
- What you learned from the more important experiences on your resume
- Why you are interviewing today (so why you want to be in consulting or finance; bonus points if you can tie in a detail specific to the firm you are interviewing at, but don’t be too obsequious)
The best stories, in my opinion, are the ones that are chronological, discuss what was learned at each experience, and how those learnings were used intentionally to inform future decisions. If you can use that story-telling framework to explain why that brings you to finance or consulting, then you did well.
If you think that you have nothing important or impressive to put on your resume or talk about, YOU ARE WRONG! If I was able to articulate how my summers of landscaping (and the one-off time as a counselor at a day-camp) prepared me for a career in consulting, you can too! Just give some serious time and thought to what you learned, what you accomplished, what challenges you faced, etc.
Practice your story with friends, career center staff, or video record yourself and play it back (I did this a bunch. It is not fun but definitely helped).