My journey into an investment bank - The story, resources and tips

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Yanlin Duan's picture

Unlike many people who have been so determined to join a bulge bracket firm right from the start of their university, I have been using my past three college years to explore as many career opportunities as possible.

As an accounting major, my participation in the Credit Suisse HOLT Valuation Challenge in my sophomore year was my first chance to learn about what the finance industry and investment banks were all about. Joining this competition not only gave me a solid foundation in corporate valuation, but also trained my critical thinking, research skills and presentation skills. Through hard work, I was recognized as a HOLT Champion and this award has become a great shining point on my resume. I was also deeply intrigued by the intellectually challenging environment in investment banks.

Another turning point was during my junior year when I went to Carnegie Mellon University for exchange. I happened to choose a computer science class and soon became really interested in this subject. I realized that coding was an amazing way to solve problems and showcase my creativity. I then decided to target positions where I could further my interest in both finance and computer science, and that was how quant analyst roles came to my mind.

From accountant to quant has been a very non-traditional switch, and being from a non-target school has made this change even more difficult. I was extremely lucky to receive invaluable support from one of my professors who saw my potential and had faith in me. His referral has helped me knock on the door, but there were still rounds of interviews awaiting me before I could finally break into the industry.

Looking back, two resources have been extremely helpful during my interview preparation. The first one was offered by Project Firefly. I utilized the career counseling service Project Firefly provides to HOLT Champions, and it was my honor to work with my mentor Daniel. He has been helping me continuously to improve my interview skills by doing mock interviews with me. Thanks to his help, I have become much more confident in the interview and was able to handle the behavior questions better.

Second were the free online BBS and books. These would vary depending on the position you are applying for, but in my case, and Mark Joshi’s personal webpage were very useful. I also got lists of self-study books from these sites. Moreover, there are a number of career-related posts on the HOLT LinkedIn Community written by our peers that are very helpful. These pieces usually contain fresh information and valuable suggestions which have been proved to work well. Therefore, it is wise to check them out regularly.

As for interview tips, the most important one is: be nice. I cannot emphasize it more. Even if you answer all interview questions correctly, you won’t get the job if people don’t like you. Being nice, for one thing, is about your personality. For another thing, it is also about whether you speak and behave in a polite manner that makes others feel comfortable around you. Additionally, though it sounds cliché, it is true that smiling, showing your interest in the position as well as being prepared are important aspects one should pay attention to.

There are also several don’ts. First, do not lie. This includes claiming you know something only to have them find out you actually do not. Also, being too ‘insistent’ when answering interview questions is not advisable. Finally, do not be afraid to ask for help if you are stuck. Of course, it would be better if you could state what you have tried, why you think it did not work before you raise any ‘smart’ questions.

I have been interning at Credit Suisse for almost two months now and I enjoyed my time here very much. I felt really grateful to have everyone who helped me and I sincerely hoped to return their goodwill back by contributing what I know to the HOLT Community members that may feel like I did. All in all, landing in a job that you both like and fit is really a matter of hard work and also a bit of luck. I hope this article was helpful for you up in this stressful recruiting season and could give you some guidance and tips for your upcoming interviews.

Good luck and happy job hunting!


Thank you so much for your sharing! Though I'm not major in financing-related majors, but I do take an interest in this field, and I'd try my best to achieve my dreams!