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Careers advice: how to get an investment banking graduate job.

Beat the competition for investment banking graduate jobs

Banking and investment careers are highly sought after by graduates, with the industry having seen highs of 135 applications per vacancy. If you want to improve your chances of getting a foot in the door, here’s what you need to know about beating the competition.

Don’t leave it till the middle of the autumn term to check when you need to get your application in.

Interested in a graduate career in banking and investment? You’re in luck. Recent surveys by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) have revealed steady growth in the numbers of graduates recruited by the finance and professional services industries. Although Brexit will affect the profession, to date, it hasn’t lessened the number of first jobs created. There is a particular demand for graduates in banks' technology divisions.

Competition is still stiff, but there’s plenty you can do to help your application make the final cut.

1. Be aware of closing dates for investment banking and investment management employers

Don’t leave it till the middle of the autumn term to check when you need to get your application in. Most graduate schemes at investment banks open in August or September, and some close in late October/early November.

Bank of America is among the banks that recruit graduates on a first-come first-served basis. Not all recruit graduates in this way; some prefer to wait for their deadlines before sorting through all applications at the same time. However, as these deadlines can fall as early as October, that doesn't mean you can wait around.


Summer internship recruitment tends to follow a similar timetable as graduate recruitment, though some banks have later deadlines for these. Most investment banks fill the majority of graduate scheme positions via their internship schemes. Therefore, if you want a banking job you need to start applying in the month or so before you begin your penultimate year at university.

Spring insight

First years need to be ready too. Make a note to apply for the spring insight weeks that many employers in this sector offer as an introduction to their work. These are typically held during the Easter vacation, and will give you a head start in applying for internships. The employers usually introduce you to their different divisions and provide advice on succeeding in their recruitment process.

Deadlines for spring insight programmes are typically in January/February. You will need to apply in your first year, or second year of a four-year course. It's also a good idea to contact your university careers service and sign up for relevant events, such as campus visits from investment banking recruiters or TARGETjobs’ First year Banking insights.

2. Treat banking internship applications as seriously as those for graduate jobs

Do plenty of research before you apply for internships. Some employers ask prospective interns to apply to a specific part of the business and interns are then assessed for a graduate scheme in the light of their performance in that area. It's essential you excel during your internship, and a spring insight programme can help to achieve that. Expect the internship recruitment process to be almost as tough as for graduate jobs.

3. Home in on your target employers

Find out what they offer, and work out what that means for you. This is a hugely complex sector and the range of graduate schemes on offer reflects that. For example, Barclays offers graduate roles in seven broad career areas and banking, quantitative analytics, markets and research within the investment banking arm. 

Are you interested in quantitative analytics? Global financial risk management? Structuring? Why? How do you know? If you don’t understand the work that goes on in the sector, it’s going to be very difficult for you to know what area of business is the best match for your skills.

Recruiters are likely to restrict the number of opportunities you can apply to within their organisation. Applicants to Nomura and HSBC can apply for only one vacancy, for example.

4. Brush up on your interview skills

Not all investment banks run the assessment centres, which are a typical feature of graduate recruitment. Interviews are held instead. Goldman Sachs, for example, does not hold a typical assessment centre. The bank invites applicants to take part in a series of two to five interviews during a ‘superday’ and then interviewers swap notes to build up a clear, all-round picture of individual candidates.

Interviews give banking recruiters a chance to see if candidates can think on their feet and communicate confidently. As the ability to hold your own in a face to face meeting is an important aspect of recruitment in this sector, seize opportunities to brush up on your interview skills and participate in practice interviews.

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