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If you’re set on starting your career in an investment bank, you will no doubt have figured out that a summer internship is an important pathway to fulfilling that dream.

At Freshminds, we work with a number of ambitious investment banks who are looking for world-class graduate talent to fill their roster. In other words, we act as a bridge between applicants and their internships. This puts us in the perfect position to advise on best practice around applications, interviews, expectations and more. 

If you’re a follower of Freshminds content - you may have read the first part in this series - Investment Banking Internships - the first steps to securing a role. If not, do skip back and read the piece here.

Once you have done the groundwork to apply, checked all the dates, chosen your target banks and made sure your achievements and qualifications are on the right track, you will be ready to put pen to paper and apply. In the second part of our series, we explore the next steps in more detail, making sure you feel cool, calm, and collected before embarking on your internship journey. We break down the stages as follows:

  • Applications

  • Interviews

  • Assessment Centres

1. Writing your application

The first step, and vital first impression you’ll give to an investment bank, is your internship application. When applications open for your firm of choice, submit your application as soon as you can. Before starting your application or answering any questions, make sure you have a good and thorough understanding of the focus areas of the bank to which you are applying. It’s important to answer the questions within the right context. 

If a bank works heavily across Retail, Consumer and Leisure; but you are really interested in Telecommunications, Media and Technology, then you might have trouble making your application relevant. If you are passionate about a particular area, then this might be the time to seek out a sector-specialist firm that suits your ambition and interest.

Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of thinking there is no one reading your answers on the other side of the screen. Answers to screening questions are a really important way for hiring managers/recruiters to identify a candidate who has done their research, understands the priorities of that particular bank, has clear motivations and good written communication skills.

Secondly, be sure to keep an eye on the company website for networking events and seminars you can attend to get more face-time with the bank. Any events or informative evenings can really help you understand more about the bank and industry as a whole, which will help you answer questions in a more focused manner in the interviews. Moreover, if you get to meet some of the bankers there, there is the opportunity to engage and potentially to make a good impression at the beginning of the process.

2. Preparing for interviews

If you make it through the initial screening phase of applications for internships, you may be invited to an interview. 

The first “screening” interview will likely be with an external recruiter, an internal HR member, or potentially via an AI-based external provider. Try to find out who will be conducting your interview beforehand so you know how to structure your answers. It is useful to know whether you will be speaking to a member of the HR team, or a trained investment banker.

This being said, don’t make the mistake of assuming that a recruiting partner or HR manager knows nothing about banking and finance! They will be trained well and will often have been running these internship programs for the bank for many years. 

Bear in mind the number of applicants in each process and be respectful of your interviewer’s time. It may be the case that one member of the graduate scheme team has to interview 200 candidates in the first stage. Think how you might be one of the candidates who leaves a really positive impression. And this is relevant across both face to face, and video interviews. For more tips about how to make the most of a video interview, read our piece, Five Tips for Successful Video Interviews, here.

Throughout the interview process, make sure you are booking your interviews in a timely manner and that you know whether the interview will be online or in-person. Ensure that you read every email carefully and confirm with the sender if necessary. 

Furthermore, ensure that your email correspondence is respectful, friendly, and follows a formal email cadence. Attention to detail is vital for success as an investment banker, as is emotional intelligence, which may shine through in a well-constructed and thoughtful email response. 

Lastly, it’s also important that you maintain a good impression through what you choose to wear. Make sure to follow a “business formal” dress code whenever you’re going to be in front of someone from the bank  - be that via video call or in person - just to be safe. If you’re unsure of what this entails, give it a search on Google - you’ll find plenty of examples.

3. Assessment centres

If you are successful through the various interview stages – you will be invited to attend what is called an Assessment Centre – or “AC”. The AC is essentially a day full of interviews – often set up a bit like speed dating! 

These events predominantly follow the same structure across most graduate/internship schemes. Half the day is usually spent in a series of 'speed round' interviews with employees of the investment bank. The second half of your day will usually involve a case study, in which you are given a particular fictional situation or problem, and asked to come back with a solution or roadmap to solve it, within a set period of time. 

You will then be expected to present your findings to members of the bank’s team. Sometimes, this case study task will be done in groups, sometimes on your own. It’s vital to find out as much information about how each AC you attend will be structured – so that you can prepare as much as possible in advance. 

Assessment centres: Tips for Success: 

Tip #1 Keep up-to-date with economic affairs

For the interview section of the Assessment Centre, it’s recommended to prepare by keeping up to date with current affairs and the macroeconomic climate. Having discussions with your peers about current happenings in the corporate finance world is a great way to train your brain throughout the year to engage in interesting conversations about banking. However, a true understanding of the content is more important than just knowing the technical aspects by heart. 

Tip #2 Remember throughout the interview never to panic 

It is completely okay to not know an answer, but always take the interviewer through your thought process – try and explain how you would answer the question based on what you do know. When it comes to the case study part of the AC – the crucial elements are resilience, teamwork and presentation skills. 

Tip #3 Communication is key

If the case study is a group task - remember to communicate well with your peers and work as a team. Moreover, don’t be afraid to ask your teammates questions that you may not know. As a tip, find out about their majors and utilise your different strengths among the group. For example, a maths student may be strong at valuation calculations, whereas a marketing student could be well-versed in creating presentations, and a languages expert on creating compelling messaging, so pin your strengths together as a team. 

If it is a solo task, do your best to ensure you are sifting out unnecessary information. Make sure your presentation/ final answer showcases your strengths and interests. Remember to not focus too much on perfection, but rather on good structure, understanding and presentation. 

Assessment Centres can be scary, but remember that the entire process is incredibly competitive, so if you have been invited to attend an AC, you deserve to be there. Be confident and believe in your ability!

Final thoughts on preparing your investment bank internship application

In conclusion, mastering the investment banking internship application process demands meticulous preparation and effective communication. Crafting a strong application involves showcasing your writing and interview skills while attending as many events as you can to gain insight into the industry.

When facing interviews and assessment centres, remain calm, leverage your strengths, and collaborate effectively in group tasks. Stay informed about current affairs and industry trends to bolster your discussions and problem-solving abilities.

Remember, each step brings you closer to your goal! Approach the process with confidence, knowing that each step forward is a huge accomplishment. With resilience and perseverance, seize the opportunity to demonstrate your capabilities and pave your way to a successful career in investment banking.

Stay in touch with Freshminds to pick up details of the graduate schemes managed by our team on behalf of several investment banks. You can follow our LinkedIn page here:

Written by Freshminds Associate Consultant Isabella Kindersley

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