How to stand out?
Be unique. When I say unique, what I really mean is try to stand out among your competitors with something that is not ordinary. Remember, you are trying to enter investment banking. If your strategy is to impress someone with your grades, your great leadership skills, or amazing internships you have had, you stand a great chance of being drowned in the pool of thousands of other candidates that fit the same profile.
You should not think those things are unimportant. Far from it. They are required for you to even be considered for the position. However, they will not make you stand out. All applicants have great GPAs, are very involved on their campuses, and the majority of them have had prior internship experience somewhere within finance.
Try to put yourself in the recruiters’ shoes. Let’s say they interview 12 candidates a day. These are all top candidates with great resumes and very impressive achievements. However, they are most likely going to be very similar. 3.8+ GPA, multiple awards, a previous finance internship, and are a leader of some sort of campus organization.
So how do you stand out? Tell a story that is memorable. When given a chance to introduce yourself, throw in something about yourself that is very unique about your life. Something that will make people remember you at the end of the day. If you like to hike, talk about it. If you play an instrument, talk about it. If you play sports, talk about it. Cooking, singing, traveling, surfing… You name it. It is important to keep in mind that recruiters like to see well-rounded people. You stand a much greater chance of being remembered if you are personable and tell the recruiter something interesting about yourself that doesn’t directly relate to banking. So at the end of the day, when they all get together and talk about the candidates, they can say, “Oh, Joe, the golfer, I really liked that guy.” If you’re shooting for them to remember you by being a president of some club, the response will most likely be “Joe who? What club?”
Another way to stand out is to make sure you thank people for their time. Sending punctual thank you e-mails is a priority in this case. You want to let people know that you appreciate their time and that you learned something new from them. If you really want to take thank you notes to the next level, go to the nearest bookstore, buy a bunch of nice cards, and handwrite thank you notes for people who helped you a lot. I guarantee you that 99% of people don’t do it.
Finally, keep people updated on your progress. At the end of the each semester, send out an email saying what is going on in your life. Something like:
I just wanted to let you know that I just finished up the Fall semester and I’m ready for a break. I had a lot of interesting classes and learned a lot. I got involved in the financial markets club at the University, and it has been a great experience thus far. How is everything going with you? How’s New York? I am looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks and have a great day!
An email as simple as this one can make a big difference. This is a perfect way to reach out and connect with people by reminding them who you are and what you’re doing, while not really asking anything from them.
Finally, during the holiday season, wish people happy holidays. Everyone likes to be remembered. Put yourself in the receiver’s shoes and think about what you would think if you got an email wishing you a happy Thanksgiving. It won’t get you a job, but it will help you be remembered.