“Hardo” is the term used to describe students that go hard to break into banking. They are the students that by second semester freshmen year (give or take a semester) know they want to go into banking, they know everything there is about how to walk the walk and talk the talk. They know their technical questions inside and out, they are extremely polished with their answer’s to why IB?, their resumes look impeccable (including freshmen year hedge fund internship at family friend’s fund in Greenwich), they discuss recent deals like they actually understand what deal rationale is, and they’ve networked with every banker you know.

“Scrub” is used to describe the complete opposite of a hardo. Someone who has no understanding of banking and it’s culture. Often times, signs of a scrub are having no idea what technical questions are, has never networked with a banker before, posts on Linkedin when they get a an internship offer, has a very low GPA (sub-3.3, as yes, there are still phenomenal candidates in the 3.3-3.8 pool, although elite boutiques and bulge brackets aren’t really paying attention to them anymore), has no relevant finance internship experience, resumes are mis-formatted, and the list goes on.

Essentially, the big differentiation is that hardos are typically the ideal banking candidates on paper* (checking all of the boxes), and they already have a relative understanding of the culture, while scrubs are considered bad candidates both on paper, and for behavioral reasons.


Hardos, although it would seem would make for shoe-ins, today, it can be either a compliment or a negative. Hardos were typically considered good candidates for banking because they took the time to understand the job and its people, and work very hard to get there. It took some of the guess work out of the equation when considering hardos because they had done a lot of the work tailoring themselves to fit in ahead of time, working hard in and outside of school, and wanting deeply to be great at the jobs... However, today being hard can also mean that you are too cookie cutter, have a bad attitude, or are a psycho because all you do is live and breathe for finance.

Junior bankers often times don’t want to be in banking for life, so when they see students that have no relative interests other than finance, it is a red flag of someone you would not want to work next to, at the desk. Additionally, because of the influx of Instagram and Snapchat accounts that propagate and mock the worst parts of banking culture, students are clinging onto and making this culture their gospel. Most junior bankers don’t smoke juuls, use the terms “deal sled” to describe their loafers, go to the Hamptons every weekend, or use MD speak in normal conversation. It’s not uncommon to see hardo college students speak to each other using language like “circle-back,” or to see college upperclassmen have attitudes as though they were MDs; these are the very kids who are the most desperate for prestigious jobs and treat bankers as the pinnacle of human society - they can be seen treating their peers with MD like attitudes and with attitudes of entitlement that most bankers absolutely despise. The very things that most bankers hate about banking culture can be caught influencing the next generation of would-be bankers in the most negative ways.

Everyone Talks

A friend of mine, who works at an elite boutique, sent me a screen shot of a text he received from a college student I had introduced him to, and whom he had spoken to once. The text was wishing him a “Happy Thanksgiving.” Moves made by college students that are not genuine but clearly made to endear themselves to bankers are easily spotted. This also wasn’t the first time anyone had sent me screenshots of a would-be banker doing things that junior bankers loathe - everyone talks and being a hardo or a scrub sends signals across the street.

Be Genuine

Many bankers involved in recruitment note that nothing replaces being considerate, genuine, and working hard. That candidates that are over-polished with their emails and in conversations are beginning to be ruled out because hardos have taken things too far and sometimes are being simply referred to as too insane, psychos, or having bad attitudes. Diversity in interests is desired and the elevator test is still king - today’s hardos just aren’t the kind of people most bankers want to sit next to at the desk.

The High Finance Guide to LinkedIn [don’ts]

Linkedin can be a great resource for anyone looking to break into high finance, but recently many have been made it into a Facebook for the back-office bound.

Here is a list of the 7 most common mistakes as assessed by our team and contacts across street:

Posts about your “great experience” at an internship or Signing an offer

Now that summer internships are wrapping up many college students are posting about what a great experience they had at their internships, and the value they were able to add…here’s the truth, as an intern you did not add any value. You might have helped ease the burden of tasks but in terms of actual value creation, no matter what you created or worked on, it was not a value-add and more importantly, no one in high finance thinks you did. Posting about how you are #blessed to have had the opportunity to intern at Morgan Stanley is more impressive to those outside of banking, than to those in it. Your work experience listing and headline are enough and do not require a post to supplement.

Posts about signing an offer are equally as bad for many of the same reasons as above. Bankers often ding kids who have posted about getting and signing offers.

Listing school clubs as work experience

If you are in your junior year internship this can be dropped from your work experience. It’s tolerable to keep your role as Portfolio Manager for XYZ Student Managed fund while you still don’t have actual industry experience. If you’re a rising senior or later in your career drop this from the work experience section to the club and activities section of your school.

Writing a Bio | Using Buzzwords in your Headline

No one cares how you would like to blend your poly-sci major with your passion for finance. Bio's are useless and lead to more laughs and jokes because of how unnatural and awkward they sound, than actually helping you stand out. You know how cover letter’s and purpose lines on resumes are useless in banking – your bio is the same as that.

On that note stay away from listing buzzwords in your headline - be direct about what role you are in or if you are a student. No “Investment Banker | Problem Solver | Thought Leader” style sensationalism - it just adds to more laughs at your expense.

Using InMail instead of email

Here’s a rookie mistake in networking. If you want to reach anyone in banking, email them on their work email. Don’t InMail. InMail is for sketchy salespeople and people you already know or don’t need an immediate response from. LinkedIn should be used to determine whether an alumnus works at a specific bank so that you can then go and find the email convention (WSO has a great compilation of these) and send a message straight to their work email.

Listing participation honors on your profile

Listing participation in conferences as a Forbes 30 under 30 “Scholar” or going to GAME conference as an honor or award is the equivalent of telling everyone about your participation trophy from intramural soccer. If you absolutely want to keep them on your profile, most definitely do not write a post about them or add them to your headline - include in extracurriculars and activities.

Writing a post about a lateral move

Unless you are a part of the founding team of a new startup, there is absolutely no reason to write a post about moving from one shop to another. When you change your current work experience, LinkedIn will automatically share the update.

“Incoming Investment banking summer analyst”

NEVER make your headline “Incoming Investment Banking Summer Analyst.” This used to be the biggest peeve of junior bankers (now it’s the posts at end of intership and about getting offers). The only reason anyone does this is to flex on their peers - while bankers across street will have had a laugh at your expense. If you need it for networking purposes, as previously mentioned, network via email and use the subject line and body of email to explain where you are going for the summer.

If you are an incoming banker, this too is typically unnecessary, you can update your headline once you start at the desk, but it’s much more acceptable here...if you absolutely must do it.

Essentially, a lot of this speaks to the idea that LinkedIn is to be used sparingly and not as a professional Facebook. Use it to compile contacts and to provide an up-to-date virtual copy of your resume, not to open yourself up to critique, or to look amateurish and out of depth. Why is it some hedge fund founders’ profiles look like a child put them together using a blackberry? Because they don’t care what anyone knows about them – they’re too busy working. Obviously don't make your profile that unprofessional, you aren't at the point where you can completely give zero hoots, but you can at least limit your exposure to criticism and mockery. Limit sharing posts to monumental achievements, and yet again that is not your internship at Morgan Stanley. Less is more.

Disclaimer: these notes are regarding usage of LinkedIn for the purpose of breaking into banking. If you are interested in the back-office or are not in the industry, please feel free to break all the above rules. Notes are also regarding high finance in the U.S. – these rules may not apply to other cultures and locations. Finally, the harshness of the tone is meant for equal parts comical relief and gravity. These are most definitely, things that are not kosher for banking but don’t beat yourself up if you have done any of them, just reverse course and correct!