How to use Coffee Chats to get your First Investment Banking Job

If you’re an economics student or graduate, getting your first investment banking job can be rewarding as the industry is closely related to economics. Finding your first investment banking job is, however, hard because of the tough competition for entry-level investment banking (IB) jobs. It can be even more challenging to land your dream first investment banking job if you’re not from a top school or have a remarkable academic profile.

In such a situation, bright and ambitious economics students can use coffee chats to get their first investment banking job. This requires the development of networking skills. Wondering how to use coffee chats to get your first investment banking job? Keep reading to find out the steps to follow to get you there!

What is a coffee chat?

A coffee chat is an informal conversation with someone representing an IB company. It can be your potential employer or someone with experience and contacts in the industry.

A coffee chat traditionally takes place in a coffee shop on campus or at the employer’s office. Nowadays, coffee chats aren’t always in-person, they can be virtual too. In either case, the steps to follow to best leverage coffee chats are the same.

During a coffee chat, you can gather information about the banking sector. You get to know more about entry-level roles and the company you’re looking into. You are getting the chance to prove to yourself that IB is the right fit, even if it’s just a chat and not an interview.

The coffee chat may not be with someone who is actively involved in the hiring process. Your IB contact, however, may be able to share inputs that will help you. If you can make an impression, you might get a recommendation or even a formal interview.

For an economics grad, is getting your first investment banking job the right choice?

Economic growth and banking levers work hand in hand, and an economics degree makes it easier for you to see how they work together. In fact, there are different types of players in the IB industry that may be looking for your skills.

Whether you join a boutique investment banking firm or seek an M&A role in a regional office for your first investment banking job, you’ll be responsible for studying and analyzing data and trends, making forecasts, presenting reports, assessing risks, weighing the costs and benefits of strategies, and more.

Having a background in economics makes it easier for you to grasp the concepts of finance. That’s not all that bankers do, though. Employers are looking for enthusiastic candidates. If you develop networking skills, finance careers in the IB industry open up for you almost instantly.

The money you make as an IB professional isn’t too shabby either. According to a recent report by Glassdoor.com, the average base salary of an investment banker is $ 86,643 per year!

The price you pay for such a lucrative career is in work-life balance. As an investment banker, say goodbye to partying on weekends and spending quality time with your family every evening. You’ll often find yourself pulling all-nighters at the office to satisfy your clients’ needs and your boss’ expectations. The career is perfectly suited for those who enjoy complex, high-impact work.

Boutique Investment Banks for your first investment banking job

Boutique investment banks are a great choice for fresh graduates looking for a job in the IB industry. That’s because there has been a spurt in the number of boutique firms. These banks strive to make a difference in the market by –

  1. Establishing strong and lasting relationships that allow them to compete with the big players in the industry;
  2. Hiring the sharpest minds to come up with creative, fast, and cost-effective solutions and strategies;
  3. Offering a unique selling proposition (USP) that helps them stand out in a competitive market.

Such firms are often ready to pay more to the investment bankers they hire, compared to their larger counterparts. You will not only love the numbers reflecting in your bank account every month but will also enjoy the challenging nature of the role.

Coffee chats for your first investment banking job: The importance of networking

Networking skills can make or break your chances to get your dream first investment banking job. Whether you’re having a casual conversation or an informal interview with someone working in the banking sector, remember the following goals of your coffee chat:

  1. Make an impression by being on your best behavior.
  2. Show interest and learn about the industry and its opportunities.
  3. Get a recommendation or an interview or be introduced to essential contacts.

Make sure that you are charming, polite, and exude genuine interest and confidence. Be thankful for the opportunity. Don’t feign any of it, though, because the person on the other side of the table is probably experienced enough to detect superficial interest.

Networking may be the most important business skill and universities don’t teach it. Luckily Module 3 of the BESt™ certification course has you covered. Learn more here.

What to do during a coffee chat to get your first investment banking job

Here are a few tips to prepare yourself, organize important coffee chats, and impress your potential employer during the conversation:

1. Make a list of your dream investment banking jobs

The first thing to do is make a list of banks and the contacts at these banks. Start with your alumni association and get in touch with friends and family. Don’t forget to look at online portals like LinkedIn to find the right contacts.

2. Take the first step

It’s time to leave your shyness behind and contact important people for coffee chats. Push for an in-person chat or at least a virtual one instead of a phone call. Remember to make a polite request and keep the convenience of the other person in mind.

3. Do your homework

Whether it’s a casual conversation or an interview, do your research. You must be recognized as someone who is well-informed about investment banking and the organization whose representative you are meeting. That’s because even a casual conversation will revolve around the IB industry. Plus, what’s worse than running out of things to talk about?

4. Have a valuable conversation

Focus on a valuable conversation through a balanced exchange. Ideally, you should ask questions to get crucial information out of your IB contact and let them talk about themselves. You should respond to questions to display your interests, experience, understanding, and expertise in a humble way.

5. Be enthusiastic!

Every conversation, every interview is a step forward into the world of investment banking. So be grateful and excited about the coffee chat, even if it doesn’t go according to your plans. Demonstrate your enthusiasm for any opportunity that may come your way.

6. Ask thoughtful questions

The questions you ask must reflect who you are, what you have to offer, and what kind of a team player you are. You can start by asking personal questions and let them talk about their career progression, their participation in deals, and their experience at the bank. Then, steer the conversation towards you. See more below for how to ask thoughtful questions!

7. Be prepared with your answers

Coffee chats are not actual interviews, and there might not be a specific opening. They are more of a stepping stone for you to get a formal interview. The questions you’ll face will reveal your skillset and help identify what position for which you might be suited. So, prepare for mundane questions as well as intrusive ones.

What not to do

Now that you know the “Dos” for a coffee chat, it’s time to look at the “Don’ts”!

1. Don’t be forceful

Remember that the person you’re trying to meet for a coffee chat might have a busy schedule, considering their career in the banking sector. Don’t be too pushy about setting up a meeting to which the banker can’t commit. Be polite when you make the request.

2. Don’t be cocky

You might be dealing with someone in the banking sector who has probably been on several coffee chats on both sides of the table. For them, the difference between a good interview and a bad one is glaring. They immediately recognize unpolished, disrespectful behavior. Don’t be cocky or impolite.

3. Don’t ask for a favor directly.

As a student or a fresh graduate, your intention for meeting a senior banking professional is quite evident. Don’t ask for a recommendation or an interview immediately. The person on the other side is either there to guide you or gauge if you are a good fit for their company. Either way, you should avoid being too upfront at the beginning of the conversation.

How to ask thoughtful questions to get your first investment banking job

You’ve probably understood by now that conversation is the most critical part of the coffee chat. To do this, make a list of thoughtful questions. They should allow you to portray your strengths and motivations while letting the other person enjoy guiding you by speaking about their experience. Like most people, bankers love to talk about themselves.

Frame your questions in an open manner. Ask questions that require qualitative answers rather than yes or no answers. A lot depends on your body language and the ability to carry a conversation forward. You should also show that you have done your research about the industry, job, and the banker’s career.

Your questions should revolve around –

  • Why they chose the company for which they work
  • What led them to choose a career in investment banking
  • Their experience in the industry, favorite deals, etc.
  • Unexpected sides of their career progress in the industry
  • What makes their company unique in investment banking
  • What the company seeks in new hires
  • How you can use your skillset to fit into the IB industry and that particular company
  • Advice about further networking and creating an investment banking career

Don’t ask anything that can already be answered by Google! The key is to find out about experiences that this person is uniquely positioned to talk about. Ask about their career, job, and perspective, without being too intrusive. Don’t forget to learn more about the organization and its business model.

Etiquette during coffee chats

Here are a few quick tips on protocol during a coffee chat –

1. Clothes: While a coffee chat has a casual tone, make sure to show your seriousness through your clothes. Being overdressed is a safer bet than being underdressed. Business casuals can work well.

2. CV: Carry a few copies of your CV and cover letter. Don’t push these at the very beginning of the conversation. Wait and see which way the conversation is headed, unless you’re asked for them first.

3. Coffee: If the meeting was proposed by you, you should buy the coffee. Even if it’s an interview proposed by the other person, offer to pick up the bill and leave a nice tip.

4. Food: If you have not had the chance to eat before the chat, there’s no harm in grabbing a quick bite. Make sure, however, that you don’t stuff your mouth during the chat.

5. Politeness: Be polite with the barista and waitstaff because that makes an impression. A coffee chat is where your personality comes out. Here’s your chance to shine and impress!

Final Thoughts:

A coffee chat is not just a great chance for networking. It can very well be your way of securing an interview with your dream company in the investment banking industry. The coffee chat itself is not the final step of an interview. You have to win over the person you’re meeting with.

Be thoughtful in the way you ask and handle questions. You can’t afford to be too shy or too aggressive. Be flexible and go with the flow of the conversation before asking for favors. How candid you choose to be depends on the person in front of you.

The best way to secure an interview is to show your skillset politely but enthusiastically.

Finding your first investment banking job can be hard because of the competition.

The BESt™ Certification can help you stand out from others competing for that job. Learn more here.

Streamlined business economics online learning that helps you stand out, perform and achieve your career goals without breaking the bank. Get the BESt™ program