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Extracurricular activities help graduates get investment banking job

Can extracurricular activities help you get an investment banking graduate job?

According to graduates who landed analyst roles with the likes of Nomura, Morgan Stanley, Citi and Goldman Sachs – yes they can.

Creativity, resilience and global outlook – competencies that are required by most investment banks.

Non-academic interests and activities are of high importance to investment banking recruiters. They are looking for graduates who have developed a range of skills and experiences in different contexts.

Extracurricular experiences will help to distinguish you from other applicants. They’ll also give you real-life examples to prove that you have developed or honed certain key competencies that are sought by investment banking employers.

TARGETjobs spoke to two graduates at Morgan Stanley, who explained:

  • ‘It helps to demonstrate experiences outside of education. This could be work experience, sport or volunteering – anything you’re passionate about. I’ve always loved playing sport and was involved throughout school and university, which I believe enhanced my CV.’
  • ‘I think my involvement in competitive athletics exemplified my motivation and teamworking skills. Have interests, hobbies and achievements that make you stand out and be prepared to show your enthusiasm for them.’

Throughout the entire recruitment process – from the online application to the final interview – you’ll have numerous opportunities to make your extracurricular pursuits work for you and increase your chances of getting hired.

Extracurricular activities during the Covid-19 pandemic

Lockdowns and social distancing restrictions have made it harder to join or continue extracurricular activities in 2020 and 2021, but don’t worry too much about this: employers will understand if you don’t have as much on your CV as you otherwise might. You can also include activities you were involved with before the pandemic struck. However, it is worth considering extracurricular activities that you can do safely from home, including university societies that are being run virtually. For inspiration, take a look at our articles on filling a coronavirus-shaped gap on your CV and career-friendly activities you can do while social distancing.

Interviewers want to engage with you – give them something to talk about

What’s interesting is that extracurricular activities don’t merely add a bit of veneer to your application. A vice president in Citi’s investment banking and broking arm says they give your interviewers something beyond your academic achievements and work experience to discuss with you during your face-to-face interview.

An award-winning hockey player while at college and university, she says Citi interviewers were keen during her interview to find out about her participation in the sport. This led to a more informal conversation, which showed interviewers that she would be a pleasant person to work with.

Have a good grasp of the skills and experience required for the investment banking role

Before you even begin contemplating, say, how your season as rugby captain could support your investment banking application, you need to have a good understanding of the requirements of the role to which you’ll be applying. Carefully read through the job advert and person specification, taking note of the essential and desired skills and experiences that are sought.

Also read between the lines; banks don’t always explicitly list all the skills that they want in graduate recruits, so the responsibilities of the role will be an indication.

If you have done an internship, insight week or spring programme, or attended campus events, careers fairs or presentations (whether in person or virtual), consider what you learned about the competencies investment banking recruiters are looking for. Also read our guide to the skills you need for banking and investment graduate schemes for further information.

Relate your extracurricular activities and interests to investment banking careers

Make your examples relevant to the role when asked to prove that you possess the skills, knowledge or experience sought by your chosen investment banking employer. Your examples should have some bearing on: the responsibilities that you’ll have if you are taken on; the required skills and competencies; and/or the culture and values of the organisation. (Find out why company values matter when you're applying for a graduate investment banking job.)

A graduate at Goldman Sachs says: ‘Previous internships within the industry, such as at Deutsche Bank, and playing hockey at an elite level gave me a competitive edge in the application process.’ These experiences will have developed his teamworking skills and proven his ability to commit long-term to a group and interest – attributes investment banking employers want their employees to have.

A vice president at Nomura comments that he believes his interests in cooking, running and sailing (which saw him sail across the Atlantic) showed that he had ‘real passion and curiosity’, qualities that are sought by Nomura. His experiences also demonstrate his creativity, resilience and global outlook – competencies that are required by most investment banks.

Article last updated 9 March 2021.

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