Cold Calling Your Way Into Finance
Full-time recruitment is almost complete. Even though it has been a tough recruitment season, I hope the students who put time into interview preparation and networking were rewarded with offers.
For those looking for summer internships, I wanted to share cold calling tips and methods that worked for me. Honestly, when I started, I was scared of cold calling- I was more confident in person, cold calling seemed very unpredictable, I didn’t know what to say, and wasn’t prepared.
I eventually got over my fear and landed an offer that allowed me to break into Wall Street. In this post, I share a more regimented method that will drastically improve your chances of getting an offer. Remember, “Victory loves preparation.” Don’t be lazy or procrastinate. Stay hungry and with practice, you’ll gain the confidence necessary to start your career in finance.
Below are the 7 steps I would take when calling a company. After each step, I try to answer frequently encountered questions.
1. Update your résumé, cover letter, and “story”
What should be done to your résumé?
“Bankify” your résumé by making sure there are no grammatical mistakes, each bullet point is relevant, linked to finance, and actionable, and contains the correct formatting. Improving your résumé is one of the simplest and most effective ways to increase your chances of getting an interview.
Why edit your cover letter?
You should focus on the cover letter much less than your résumé. In my experience, bankers rarely read cover letters. The reason I would still write one is in case it is asked for before an interview. Additionally, writing one will help you get your “story” down.
Is your “story” important?
Yes. Personally, I think it is one of the most important parts in your preparation. Creating a solid story will help you during the call, when networking, and during an interview. A great story explains your background, demonstrates you are interested and suited for finance, states your motivation and explains why you want to work at that firm. For a more detailed explanation, look at my previous post.
For the purposes of cold calling, its important to have a condensed, elevator pitch version completed since people are less likely to understand or remember anything lasting longer than 30 seconds on the phone.
2. Create a targeted list of firms
Who do you want to contact?
Your list has to match your strategy. Your strategy might be contacting alumni bankers. In that case, your list would include firms with people from your school. Another possibility is contacting bankers who have worked at places similar to you before joining the firm. All of these will increase the chance that the person contacted will get you an interview.
Additionally, it is important the companies that make your list are researched. For example, a middle market firm that has passed its summer recruitment for the year shouldn’t necessarily make the list. I suggest targeting regional boutiques as many of them have unlisted openings.
Where can you find a list of firm?
Google Maps, Crain’s Lists, Wall Street Oasis, and LinkedIn are great places to start your search. If you have access to Capital IQ, Reuters, or a Bloomberg terminal utilize them. It is best to get the names and contact information of individual bankers rather than calling the firm’s listed number.
Should you contact senior bankers or junior bankers?
I say contact who ever you have a “connection” with. Personally, I prefer calling junior bankers since I can then use their names when I get referred to senior bankers. Referrals are great but unlikely when actually calling; most junior bankers will just hang up.
Senior bankers are the ones making the decisions on who gets hire and generally are kinder. When I was interviewing for full-time positions, it was rare that I found a senior banker who would grill the technicals. They seemed more interested in your ability to make conversation.
How should the list be ordered?
As soon as I find a firm that might be an option, I added it to my Excel worksheet. The worksheet included the name, contact information, description, size, and my status/history with the firm as headers. The final list should be “benchmarked” similar to a comparable companies valuation model. The list of firms should be separated by geography, size (i.e., by employees or fund size), and based on your strategy. Since you’ll still be getting a feel for cold calling during the first few calls, start by calling firms on the bottom of your list.
3. Build a cold calling template
What is a cold calling template?
I created my template in PowerPoint. Since I had no previous cold calling experience, I wrote out a few of my conversation points. Remember each call is a conversation so it probably will not follow a regimented outline, but the outline will steer both people towards your end goal: getting an interview.
How should the calling template (A.K.A plan of attack) be organized?
1. (Introduce yourself) – Hi [Contact’s Name], my name is [Your Name] and I am a [Year In School] at [University Name].
2. (How did you find the person/firm?) – One of my friends who previously interned at [Company Name] referred me to you (note: referrals are very powerful).
3. (Briefly introduce to your experience or background) – I’m became interested in banking while working with a team to manage our school’s $100,000 fund.
4. (Why are you calling?) – I was wondering how best to secure an investment banking internship at [Firm Name].
5. (Ask for an interview) – When is a convenient time for us to meet?
In the remainder of this post, I will refer to each of the following points above as “Step(s)”.
Should you prepare to leave a voicemail?
Leave a voicemail. The voicemail should include “Step 1” and reason for calling along with a call back number. Keep it brief.
4. Practice your cold calling template and “story”
What are some ways to practice?
Record your voice, list to other people’s cold calls on YouTube, and practice with a friend. Making improvements along the way will help your delivery. Also, make sure your call doesn’t get too rehearsed, and remember the law of diminishing returns. Move on from this section after a couple trial runs. The best way to get practice is through making the first calls.
5. Obstacles you may encounter during the call
How do get passed objections?
I would do so by courteously asking inquiring questions that counter the person’s reservations. For example, “We are not hiring right now because we already have someone” can be countered with “If the firm’s workload increases as we near summer, is it possible for me forward you my résumé at that time?”
To seem like you are not just riddling off questions, it helps to add a short descriptive sentence before your question. For more information read How To Win Friends and Influence People, my personal favorite.
What should you do if you get the secretary?
Use a combination of “Step 1” and “Step 4” to articulate whom she/he should transfer you to. Many times saying “Can you advise me on who I should talk to regarding a summer internship?” provides the secretary with enough information and flattery.
What if you get transferred to HR?
HR can be more difficult to deal with since they are the “gatekeepers” to the bankers. Deal with their objections with the usual questions and make sure you get their email addresses so that you can send them a résumé. You never know when there might be an opening.
Should you work unpaid?
Many boutique firms don’t pay their interns. If compensation is an issue, work for free. The experience is invaluable and will help get you the 6 figure post-undergrad salary.
Do you want to stop calling?
Along the way you might fatigue or loose hope. That is why it is important to set a cold call limit per day. Also, make sure you are refining your strategy and improving your résumé along the way as they might be holding your progress back.
6. Make the calls
What time should you call?
I prefer calling in the afternoon after 1:30pm since most professionals have morning conference calls. If you think you’ll get the firm’s secretary or HR manager, try calling after 5pm as bankers are the usually the only ones in the office.
Where should you make the calls?
Make the calls in some place quiet with good reception. Many people like walking while talking, talking in a parked car, career office, or on a landline.
Should I reach out to the firm before I make a call?
When I was calling, I didn’t have a lot of time before summer started. Therefore, I started with the call and followed up through email. If you have more time, it would be more effective to follow up an email with call to the same person.
How should you follow up?
Depending on how your call went, send a personal email to a specific person with your résumé attached, description of your motivation and experience, possibly something you spoke about on the phone, and a statement that demonstrates your interested in setting up an interview.
How often should you follow up?
Once every week and a half you should send an email or make a phone call. Keep track of your progress and any responses in your Excel file. If the firm tells you to stop, stop sending emails.
The key to cold calling is being persistent. If you have any other questions or would like to share your cold calling strategy, please do in the comments section. Additions to the post will help others find a job. I hope helped clear up a few common cold calling questions.