My first question is this -- did you go to business school for an MBA, or for your undergrad? And did you go to one of the Magic 8 schools, assuming you are from the US (Harvard, Sloan, Chicago GSB, Stanford, Kelloggs, Wharton, Columbia, Stern)?
Good investment banks (like the ones you mentioned) usually pick from a select few B-schools that they frequent, usually from the MBA programs. Sometimes, they go for schools not necessarily because they are the best but because of proximity (which is why a lot of Wall Street firms and banks interview from smaller NY schools, compared to much better schools elsewhere, say, the mid-west).
Outside of that, it is very hard for you to get in unless you have some contacts within the banks, or have an excellent track record to prove your skills.
Usually, the best way to break into the industry from the outside is to get an internship at the place of your choice, prove yourself, and use that as leverage to get a full time job. However, since you are graduating in a month, that is no longer an option.
The other thing for you to do is to write the CFA exams -- even if you are not from the preferred list of schools, additional qualifications (such as CFA) usually go a long way.
What I would recommend, of course, is to take a job at a relatively smaller financial institution in the area (e.g. a hedge fund or PE firm) and work your way up to one of the bigger i-banks. I've a friend who worked at DE Shaw, went to school for computational finance and is currently employed at UBS.
I would also recommend talking to your school (since you are interested in finance, I'd recommend talking to the finance profs) and asking them if they have any contacts. A lot of finance profs have usually spent a good deal of time in the industry and tend to have contacts there.
Unless you are married to the idea of staying in the US, you could also try applying to i-banks elsewhere in the world -- usually, they are quite happy to hire an English speaking westerner in another region (e.g. China). It might be easier to break in, and would give you a good step up in the right direction.
Then, there is networking. Go to the Vault forums and ask questions, find people and talk to them. If you are in the NY area, find a local bar that i-bankers frequent, post a message on Craigslist etc.
Finally, go ahead and apply -- as long as you are well prepared and know your stuff, you may just strike gold. Besides, even if it doesn't work out, it does not rule out you applying again, at a later time.
As far as the actual application goes, you could go ahead and apply online, but I'd also recommend talking to the i-banks themselves. Call them up, tell them that you are interested, ask questions, ask if you can meet with them, be very frank and open about what you want to do etc. So, unless you're calling Schwarzman or Blankfein, most banks are usually quite amicable in this regard.
At the end of the day, initiative and perseverance are what's needed. Of course, a penchant for working 100 hour weeks doesn't hurt, either! :) So, good luck!
Answered By: Metlin - 2/29/2008