Applying for finance graduate jobs in your final year? Your survival guide
How to balance work, study and play with applying for banking, insurance, actuarial and regulatory vacancies.
There are loads of employers you could apply to and, yes, you should be applying to more than one.
The application dates for most finance graduate vacancies close in November or December the year before the job starts – whether in insurance or in banking. This means that you’ll be applying in the first term of your final year, and applying to finance organisations does take a lot of time and thought. You really can’t dash off an application in an evening and expect to get an interview. The application forms often involve:
- Online aptitude tests – most commonly numerical, logical reasoning and verbal
- Detailed questions that assess your personal qualities and skills
- Questions that assess your commercial awareness, understanding of the financial services industry and your ability to work out how economic events could affect that specific employer
- It’s not unknown for organisations to request a tailored CV as well – and that’s in addition to pages asking for your academic results, work experience history etc.
So how do you balance applying to employers with your course commitments – and, you know, find time to relax?
1. Be selective to focus your finance job search
There are loads of employers you could apply to and, yes, you should be applying to more than one. But employers like you to give them the impression you are only interested in working for them, so the best thing to do is to find a few ‘priority’ employers (between five and ten) to really focus on initially. Browse our employer hubs to view specific employers' recruitment literature and our advice on how to impress them.
2. Get organised to get a job
- The autumn term is when finance employers will attend careers fairs and run events (whether face to face or virtual). This is a good chance for you to discuss any concerns you have with recruiters (eg mitigating circumstances, which work visas they accept), talk to recent graduates about what it’s like to work at the firm, and make contacts that you can mention in your application. To impress, carry out some preliminary research on the main attendees (a list of attendees will be available on the fair's webpage) and think of some questions.
- Add all careers events, skills sessions times and jobs-related deadlines to your calendar/diary, so you can fit them amongst your part-time job, social and academic commitments. If you haven’t got a diary, get one – whether on your computer/tablet, on your mobile or on paper.
- Leave yourself plenty of time to write draft answers to application form questions and get them reviewed by a careers adviser. An expert second pair of eyes can make all the difference. Most finance forms give you the opportunity to save and return to your application.
- Keep an MS Word document (or alternative word-processing package) updated with all details of your qualifications, work experience history and contact information. You will need to use this a lot, so it makes sense to have it to hand to copy and paste. This is the only part of your application where you can get away with doing this.
3. Technology is your friend
You will need to demonstrate knowledge of what’s going on in the finance world in general and specific developments at (and affecting) individual employers. Technology can make finding this information a lot easier:
- Keep checking our employer hubs and Finance Twitter feed for specific advice on how to ace the recruitment process at that employer – and we’ve done a lot of your research for you, too.
- Create lists on your Twitter account to manage information from employers, deadlines and news from TARGETjobs. Favourite useful tweets.
- Set up Google alerts to email you news about your preferred employers etc.
- Consider getting RSS feeds for finance-related media, eg The Financial Times, so that you can scan headlines at a glance.
4. Get social – but keep a record
This is your final chance to build up a stash of extracurricular activities to use when providing evidence of your skills. Check out the competencies finance organisations want. If any of these skills are lacking from your repertoire, use this term to develop them. If you haven’t got involved with a student society yet, for example, it’d be a good time to do so. It sounds dull, but keep a record of what you’ve done – this will make it easier to select the right example for each competency question. Due to social distancing restrictions, student societies may be run virtually. We also have some ideas for career-friendly activities you can do during lockdown.
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