Non-academic interests and activities continue to be 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.
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. Laura Gibson, now 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, Laura 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 Laura 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. The areas of work section of TARGETjobs investment banking and investment will also help you to understand what different graduate roles entail.
If you have done an internship, insight week or spring programme, or attended campus events, careers fairs or presentations, 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.
Simon Taillefer, 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. Simon’s experiences also demonstrate his creativity, resilience and global outlook – competencies that are required by most investment banks, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch and UBS.
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