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The Ultimate Guide to Cold Emailing For An Investment Banking Internship


“What is the point of cold emailing people if I can just apply online?”

“I don’t want to bother people…”

“I don’t have time to send emails, I have Quidditch!”

“But you don’t understand: I’m special! Recruiters will see my value…”

When I ask students why they’re not cold emailing investment bankers, the only thing I can hear is excuses. 

They think that simply applying online, like everybody else, will be enough to secure their dream investment banking job at Goldman Sachs… and then they wonder why they never get called back!

Look, it’s very simple. If you have high ambitions for yourself, if you’re looking to get a job at a world-class investment bank, cold emailing is NOT an option, it’s a necessity

Trying to get a job at a top investment bank without cold emailing & networking is like trying to build muscle mass while going to the gym one time every month: it won’t work. 

And there is a simple reason why “simply applying online” doesn’t work: investment banking recruiters receive hundreds of thousands of applications every year. 

They simply do not have the time to go through all these applications, even using AI tools to screen as many CVs as possible. So what do they do? They rely on employee referrals to make their life easier

If John, Managing Director in M&A TMT endorses the application of a candidate, then this candidate must be worth it, and he/she is pretty much guaranteed to be invited to an interview. 

Without a referral, it’s still possible to get far into the recruiting process. 

But you need 1) a killer resume (target university, perfect grades, top internships, etc) and 2) luck. 

That’s why you need to understand that just applying online is not going to bring you closer to your goal

If you want to stand a chance, you need some degree of support from investment bankers. And what is the best way to obtain their support? Cold emailing.  

In this detailed guide, you will find effective, time-proven pieces of advice on how to cold-email investment bankers properly in order to secure more referrals and job interviews

If you are currently struggling to get interviews at top investment banks, this article is a must read. 

3 common mistakes you need to avoid at all costs
3 mistakes to avoid
#1: Do NOT contact bankers on LinkedIn

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen students reaching out to investment bankers on LinkedIn, and then wondering why they get very few replies…

At this point, it’s almost a joke to me now. 

I know that when you’re new to this game, it “makes sense” to contact people on LinkedIn. After all, isn’t it a professional network where people can connect? Aren’t investment bankers on LinkedIn?

Yes. But like many things in life, it’s not because it “makes sense” that it’s necessarily the most effective option to get results fast. 

Let me explain to you in two simple points why LinkedIn actually sucks to get in touch with bankers:

  1. Senior bankers rarely go on LinkedIn. They live in their mailbox. If, by chance, they check their LinkedIn and see your message, they have so many notifications and requests from people like you that they probably won’t bother replying to you. 
  2. You have a “double barrier” to overcome whenever you’re reaching out to investment bankers. The first barrier is the connection request: they have to accept your connection request before you can even speak to them (unless you have LinkedIn Premium). Second, they have to reply to you after you’ve sent your message. That’s a two-step process. And the more steps you have in a process, the lower the conversion rate. 

For those reasons, contacting people on LinkedIn is a bad idea. You won’t have a high success rate if you follow this strategy. 

Instead, you should send cold emails, because 1) bankers live in their mailbox, so they’re very likely to see your email and 2) they don’t have to accept any connection request in the first place, which removes one obstacle. 

As per the common objection “What if bankers are annoyed to receive an email from a random student they don’t know?”,  this won’t be a problem, in the vast majority of cases. 

As long as you remain polite and respectful in your emails, bankers won’t be offended, and some of them will help you if your email is good enough (we’ll see later in this article how to write effective cold emails).

#2: Do NOT use cold email templates you can find online (overused, bankers are used to it)

I know it’s very tempting to type “cold email templates for investment banking” on Google and see what you can come up with. I’ve done the same a long time ago. But trust me: this is a bad idea. 

If these templates are available to everyone on the internet, it means that thousands of people are using them, literally copying and pasting the exact same text

And I can tell you from experience that bankers can instantly tell when you’re using these boring templates: they’re getting spammed with these emails every single day! 

Although some of these templates are genuinely good, they are so overused that they’re unlikely to make the bankers want to reply to you. 

Emails that are a commodity don’t have any impact. Only what is scarce has value. Same thing with emails.

If you want to obtain positive reactions, you need to send unique, original emails that immediately capture their attention and compel them to reply to you. Not “commoditized” emails. We will see later in this article how to do that. 

#3: Do NOT contact analysts or associates, only VPs and above

Never reach out to Analysts or Associates if your goal is to obtain referrals. Analysts and Associates are fine if you want to obtain some advice or key insights on the job itself, but the problem is that they don’t have the power to refer you, even if they wanted to. 

In order to maximize your chances of getting referred and increase your number of interviews, I recommend that you only reach out to VPs, MDs, and above, because these people have enough influence and authority to push your application internally (assuming your approach was good).

How to build a contact list of investment bankers?

build a contact list

Ok, so now, you know that cold emailing is the best way to get in touch with bankers, secure referrals, and therefore optimize your chances of landing interviews in investment banking. 

The question is: How do you find the right people to contact? And how can you find their emails? That’s what we’re about to see in this section. 

First, you need to know for which firms you want to apply. So start by building a list of companies you may be interested in joining

But you’ve done that, you need to find relevant people to contact at each of these firms. Ideally, only look for people who 1) work in your division of interest (e.g., investment banking, private equity, equity research) and 2) are VPs or senior employees with at least 6-7 years of experience (to increase your chances of getting referred). 

Here’s the simple process you can use to find these contacts:

  1. In Google, type “[Name of job] [Name of the firm] [Location of interest] LinkedIn”. For example, if you want to get the names of people working in ER at Credit Suisse in London, type in: “Equity Research Credit Suisse London LinkedIn”, and Google will come up with links to the LinkedIn profiles of people who are working there in research (analysts, associates, VPs, and above, since the keyword “Equity Research” encompasses all of them).
  2. Check their LinkedIn profiles by clicking on the links (opening new windows to simplify your work);
  3. Retain the ones that are indeed working in the sector of your interest (some might do something slightly different but can be suggested by Google anyway);
  4. Enter the first and last names of each of them in your Excel sheet under the right firm (someone working at bank X should be put in the bank X section);
  5. Continue to gather names until you have at least 10 for each firm (if it’s a very small structure, 5 is enough);
  6. Repeat the process for every firm you have in your sheet, until you have at least a couple of hundreds of contacts.

You may wonder: why not do the searching for these people directly using LinkedIn rather than using the Google search bar? 

The reason is that if you don’t have a premium LinkedIn account, the number of research that you can do is very limited and won’t be enough to enable you to build a substantial list of contacts. 

This Google search trick allows you to overcome this issue very easily and save you money (but if you’re willing to get a LinkedIn premium account, you can automate this process very easily, as we’ll see below).

How to find their email address?

find their email

Now you have a massive list of people’s names who are doing your dream job, and who are working for your dream firms. That’s great progress. But all of this is worthless if you can’t contact them.

So the next step to get closer to your noble objective is to collect the emails of all of these people.

You have 2 main options to do that, one free but time-consuming, one more expensive but significantly more effective. I suggest you start reading both options and decide which one is best for you after.

Option 1: find emails manually (time consuming but it works)

Figure out the email format address the company they work for, by typing:

“[Company Name] email format” in Google. If you know the domain format of your targeted firm (what is after the “@“), you can type in: “@[domain of targeted firm].com email format”.

For example, if the domain of the targeted firm is “bankx”, type “ email format” in Google and you should find occurrences of real email addresses with this format.

To check if this format is correct and applies to the people you are targeting, enter their first and last names in the suggested format in the website “Mailtester”, who will tell if the email is valid or not.

Sometimes this checker is unable to tell if the email is valid or invalid. But usually if you find the same email format for several people working at the same firm, it is very likely to be the same for the people on your mailing list.

Note that the whole process that was just described here is entirely free, but is very time-consuming as you have to:

1)   Find the email format for each firm in your list;

2)  Manually enter the email of people in your list based on the email format of their firm. When you have 300+ contacts in your worksheet, it can take quite a lot of time.

That is why I suggest you opt for the second option, if you want to speed up the process.

Option 2: find emails automatically (time effective option)

Now if you want to automate the full process and build a list of hundreds of contacts in a few minutes, we made a special course that teaches you how to do that step-by-step. 

Using this automated process will save you dozens of hours and you’ll be able to get more results in less time. Check out our special cold emailing course on this page.

What to say in your cold emails

what to write in emails

By now, you have a list of relevant contacts working in investment banking (or any other divisions), and you have their email address. 

The next step is to write an effective, persuasive cold email that will compel them to reply to you, and hopefully refer you at some point.

As I’ve explained above, it’s a bad idea to use cold email templates that you can find online, because they are overused and bankers have probably seen these same emails multiple times in their mailbox.

For that same reason, I’ve decided not to share any cold email template on this page

If I share what I think are the best emails to send, thousands of people will literally copy and paste the same text and these very emails will lose their effectiveness (that said, if you want to get access to my private vault of networking cold emails, there is a link at the bottom of this article. These emails are not overused and have been proven to work multiple times.)

What I will do, however, is to teach you how to craft your own cold emails, by sharing with you a few best practices – things you need to convey in your cold emails to get a response from busy bankers. If you follow these best practices, your cold emailing efforts will pay off. 

Best practice #1: Show that you’re here to add value

Before sending any email, you need to realize this: bankers don’t really care about you. They only care about what you may bring to the table. You will only have value in their eyes if you can add value to their team. 

Put yourself in the shoes of a Managing Director with 10 years of experience, responsible for executing billion-dollar deals: what is the number one thing you would look for in a potential candidate? 

The answer is simple: he will look for someone who is useful to the team. Someone who brings value to the table, who is adding a positive contribution to his team. Someone who will make their life easier, and who will save them time and resources. That’s all they’re interested in. 

They don’t really care about your investment club. They don’t care about your hobbies. They only care about your capacity to be useful. That’s why, when you’re writing your email, you need to convey that you are here to add as much value as possible to their team

You need to employ a tone that signals that you’re not here to TAKE, but here to GIVE

So instead of begging them for an internship (as countless candidates do…), show and prove how you will contribute to their team, should you have an opportunity to work with them. 

You can do that by giving practical examples of how you would help their team (e.g., assisting you in the preparation of marketing pitchbooks, Memorandums or any other related materials you may need help with), and by proving that you’re capable of doing these tasks using personal experiences.

Best practice #2: Be very direct in your intentions (2 main types of request)

Never be vague in your intentions when you’re writing these cold emails. When the person is reading you, she needs to have a very clear, unmistakable idea of what you want. As I explain in my in-depth cold emailing & networking course, there are two main types of request you can do in these cold emails:

  • Cold email #1: Explicitly say that you’re looking for an internship/job AND show how you can add value to their team (cold email to apply through them)
  • Cold email #2: Say that you would be interested in having a coffee/call with them to learn more about their job (cold email for a networking call). If you choose this type of cold email, you DON’T have to prove that you’re here to add value because you’re not supposed to reveal your intentions in this email (unlike cold email #1)

The networking cold email (cold email #2) is more effective for bulge-bracket banks who will typically require to speak with one or more bankers before getting an interview invite. The first type of cold email (direct application) is more appropriate for IB boutiques and smaller firms with less bureaucracy. 

Best practice #3: Have a clear call to action

A call to action (CTA) is a sentence designed to make the person do what you want them to do. For example, if you want a call with them to learn more about their job, you should include a CTA that will compel them to accept your call invite.

  • Example of networking call CTA: “If you are willing to have a brief discussion with me, please let me know by answering this email. Additionally, you can also reach out to me directly at [YOUR PHONE NUMBER]”

Always include a clear CTA in your cold emails to compel them to perform the action you want them to do. Doing this is very important to increase your response rate. 

If you want to get access to exclusive cold email templates that have been proven to work (they got me multiple interviews at GS, JPM, Lazard, and others), you can check out our advanced cold emailing course here

The cold email templates you will find in this course are used by a select few students, so you don’t have to worry about using the same emails that everybody is using. 

In this course, we also share unconventional networking tactics that will help you land more IB interviews faster than anyone else. Learn more about our course here.

Follow up at least once

Sending just one email is rarely enough to get people to reply. Sometimes people won’t see your email. Sometimes they will see it but are too busy to answer at the time they read you, and end up never answering you. 

For those reasons, it’s important you follow up at least once to optimize your response rate. Don’t follow up more than two times, and leave at least one week between each follow up. 

Keep it short, polite, and simple. If you want examples of effective follow-up emails, check out our cold emailing course here.

Repeat the process on hundreds of people

Now, you just have to repeat the same process again and again, until you reach at least a few hundred people. 

This is clearly a number’s game. The more bankers you contact, the more calls you will get. The more calls you have, the more referrals you can secure. The more referrals you can secure, the more interview invites will land in your mailbox. 

I hope you found this brief guide on cold emailing helpful. If you want me to show you step by step how to send hundreds of effective cold emails to land interviews at top investment banks, I strongly recommend you to check out our course on cold emailing

Best of luck for your applications.


A word about the author

Aurelian Tran is the founder of Alpha Lane and an ex-Goldman Sachs analyst who has spent 4+ years working in the investment banking industry.

He founded Alpha Lane to help students and young professionals achieve their highest professional ambitions, by securing offers at top-tier financial institutions.