You can increase your chances of success in online applications for jobs and internships in banking and investment by knowing what to expect, how and when to apply and what recruiters are looking for.
What to expect in an online application for banking and investment jobs or internships
Your online application is likely to include:
- Providing factual details about your education, qualifications and experience
- Completing ‘competency’ questions, giving examples of situations in which you have shown the skills the employer seeks
- Answering questions about your motivation to join the employer/division/graduate scheme in question
- Completing online reasoning tests
- Potentially, uploading a CV and covering letter.
Do I have to complete the whole banking/investment online application in one go?
It’s very rare to have to complete an online application for a banking or investment job or internship in one go. However, many students make a poor job of their applications by trying to do so. Don’t.
Most systems allow you to view the questions first, then submit your answers at a later point in time. Take advantage of this to draft your answers, get them checked over by a careers adviser and have them proofread by someone trusted before you submit them.
Other systems are broken down into sections, and you have to submit your answers for one section before you can view the questions in the next. However, this still gives you to opportunity do the above, albeit in several stages.
Typically the reasoning tests are the last part of the online stage. Most employers send you a link to the online tests once you have submitted your application, and give a deadline for these to be completed (often two to five days later). Other employers include the tests earlier in the online application.
When to make your banking online application
To maximise your chances, apply well before the deadline. A number of banking and investment employers assess applications as and when they receive them, rather than waiting till the deadline to assess all applications together. And they don’t hold off inviting candidates to interviews or assessment centres and making subsequent job/internship offers. There may be few or no positions left in your chosen area by the time the deadline comes.
However, prioritise quality above speed. It’s not necessary to get your application in in the first week. And you do need to have practised reasoning tests, and carefully drafted your answers to the competency and motivational questions before submitting them.
If you mess up the reasoning tests, you’ll have to wait till next year to apply again. And many investment banks insist that you jump through particular hoops at a particular time in your university life. If you fail to get an internship for the summer after your penultimate year, the bank may not accept you for a summer internship the following year, after you have graduated.
Also consider the timing of the reasoning tests when deciding when to submit your application. With those employers for whom the tests are the last part of the online application, you will have a tight window in which to complete them. So don’t apply just before you go on holiday or have exams scheduled.
Keep your responses specific to the job you want
At many graduate employers, there’s a fairly limited number of graduate roles you can apply for. That’s not the case with most banking and investment employers. In your application you need to make it clear:
- Why you want to work for that particular employer (as opposed to a competitor)
- Why you want to work in that specific division (eg in trading rather than in marketing)
- Why you want that specific role (eg trading commodities rather than futures)
Draw on any concrete experiences you’ve had that relate to the role as evidence, for example what you found out on a spring insight programme, via a trading simulation game or on an internship.
With some banking/investment employers you can apply to more than one role or division. When explaining your preference, devote most space to talking about your first choice of position.
What skills are banking and investment recruiters particularly keen to see on online applications?
Employers are interested in transferable skills as well as finance ones.
Being able to build rapport with different kinds of people is important, as is the ability to create networks. This doesn’t mean boasting about the CEO you once managed to have a quick chat with; it means creating useful, practical networks among peers in your everyday life. For example, perhaps you helped bring together two different university societies to run a joint event. Or maybe you wanted to form a team to enter a competition and needed to find and bring on board a member with a particular skill set that you didn’t have among the group’s immediate acquaintances.
When giving evidence of your finance skills, remember the obvious. Working to a budget might not sound glamorous but it’s actually a good experience to mention. Any examples you can give of working accurately and not making mistakes when under pressure will also be well received, whether or not these are from a finance context.
Online tests for banking and investment jobs and internships
Online tests for banking and investment jobs often cover numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning and other ‘logical reasoning’ tasks – for example working out a pattern and how to complete it, or filling in the blanks in Sudoku-like puzzles.
The numerical reasoning tests only require you to use simple mathematical functions (multiply, divide, etc) but you will be doing so in quite complex ways and under time pressure.
Tests typically have a set number of problems to work through in a tight time limit: typically around 20 questions in 20 minutes. However, don’t assume you’ve failed if you don’t finish the last one or two. If you’ve got them all right, you’ve probably got a high enough score – and may have done better than a friend who completed all the questions but made errors.
Candidates typically take the same tests regardless of the role they are applying for. However, for different roles different tests can be more or less important. For example, for a trading role a high score on a numerical reasoning test may be more important than a high score on a verbal reasoning test, whereas this may not be the case for a role in operations.
You can practise psychometric tests in advance. Many university careers services have practice tests you can take and a small number of employers include basic practice tests on their recruitment websites.
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