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How to get a banking job: Work on your personality

The investment banking recruitment process has a lot of emphasis on target schools, grades, and interviews. We’ve had plenty of articles about how to ace those interviews (especially the technical questions) over the years, but there’s a crucial component of any recruitment process that is somewhat… Ineffable: being an interesting person.

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Luckily, even if it isn’t quantifiable, there are some suggestions as to how exactly “being an interesting person” might be looked at by a bank. Andrew Osayemi, global head of corporate partnerships & recruitment for AmplifyMe (and former Morgan Stanley & Citi recruiter, TV producer, and RBS trader), gave some insight in an interview with eFinancialCareers.

“It’s about having a personality,” Osayemi explained. “Not being afraid to talk about where you came from.” The traditional factory-assembled finance candidate – “reads the Financial Times every day, no personality, but fantastic academics, fantastic internships” – can fall flat on their face. “because they can’t build a connection with anyone,” Osayemi said. “Those are the people that almost get in, but don’t make it.”

Who are some of those interesting people that do get in, then? “I interviewed someone who told me that they were an international DJ,” Osayemi recalled. “They had DJ’d for celebrities like Justin Bieber and Idris Elba.” The sheer outlandishness earned him the immediate attention of the recruitment team. “He said something so memorable that I was like – I want to sit next to this guy at work.”

A variation of this is usually called the airport test: how fun someone would be to spend 100 hours with in an airport. There’s a lot of scope for who that person could be.

“I remember another guy who talked about how he was in the Arsenal academy,” Osayemi said. “He was just about to get signed, but then he had a career-ending injury,” which broke both his knees and his hopes of a professional career. But he bounced back, aced his A-Levels, and went to a good university. “By the time he told me his story, I wanted to help him. He bough a connection with me – it’s the art of being able to connect with people. Those are the people who get jobs.”

Positive personal relationships with recruiters are a key during crunch time. After an assessment center, “you have twelve people do the interview rounds, and at the end of the day you’ll have what they call a wash-up,” Osayemi explained. This basically involves the recruiters sitting around, pulling up the individual candidates on a screen, and deciding if they want to hire them or not. 

“It’s remarkable the people who people root for,” Osayemi said. “I say to people: have you left the impression in the interview that someone wants to fight for you?” Those personal relationships can make or break your chances of getting an internship: someone who didn’t score particularly highly in an interview can go through because they have someone in the room fighting for them. The opposite can also be true, however: a technically proficient candidate can be discarded due to a lack of impression left.

“The main advice I would give, if you’re a student out there, is to work on your storytelling, how you build connections, and how to leave a memorable impression,” Osayemi added.

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AUTHORZeno Toulon
  • Ma
    Martin Z.
    27 April 2024

    Great point. Being personable is far more important than all the technicals, according to many bankers I spoke to.

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