In order to get interviews, you have to get your resume in front of the right people. Occasionally, this can mean HR, but more often than not, it’s going to take a banker looking at your resume. Like every other type of job search, you’ve got to network. First thing to do is to contact any friends and acquaintances that are already in banking. Ask them to look at your resume and to pass it on to the right people. Without a doubt, you’ve got a much better chance if a banker passes your resume to HR than you do sending to HR directly (but do that too).
The next best thing to people you know, is your alumni network. Almost all schools have them, and almost all schools (undergrad and MBA) have alumni on Wall Street. Talk to alumni, ask about job openings, ask for advice and ask for informational interviews. Informational interviews are when you meet with (in person or over-the-phone) a banker for 15-30 minutes just to chat and to learn more about the job and the bank. Even though they are not technically interviews, definitely treat them as such. If the person likes you, he or she may be able to get you actual interviews.
Once you’ve exhausted your friends and your alumni network, try cold calling/emailing bankers. Most calls or emails won’t get returned but remember, it only takes one. And make sure to expand your search. There are literally thousands of boutique investment banks out there and boutiques are typically more flexible about their hiring practices than are the bulge bracket banks. And cover all your bases. Try headhunters and try to sending your resume to HR or applying online if the bank has an online application system.
Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. Networking and looking for a job is a difficult and ego bruising process. Some would say it’s a full-time job in and of itself. If you really hit a brick wall, then think longer term. Are there other jobs which could be stepping stones to banking? Or should you be considering an MBA?