Everything you need to know about getting a job in investment banking

Forewarned is fore-armed in the banking industry. It’s a race to gather as much intelligence as possible to beat the competition to a deal, an opportunity, a network, or in your case, a job. So, we’ve put together our top ten recommendations for what you need to know to start your job search in the Finance industry.

Networking events

Despite the thousands of applicants to their schemes, the banks want to meet you. Far from hiding in their sky scrapers, they’re sending out teams to campus to see the top students. They’ll be holding company presentations, competitions, careers fairs and invitation-only dinners.

Peruse our Events section for a list of the top events on your campus, and also get chatting to your careers department for more dates, and then go to as many as you can. You’ll be building a picture of the firms and the industry, making contacts and learning how to impress over the application process.

The reality is that if you want to work in finance, those events should be your life in the autumn term, when they’re most on campus. 

Furthermore, attend events at their offices in London too, even if your university is outside of the capital. They’re always worth it.

Internships

Almost no one secures a graduate scheme at a top bank without work experience in the finance industry. The banks want applicants with intern experience to prove the candidate is passionate about finance, and has evidence they can work in that environment. The good news is the banks all run structured internships for first, second and third years, with off-cycle opportunities available too.

Even better news is that banks will often select the best interns to be fast tracked to the graduate scheme – J.P. Morgan exclusively hires its grads from its interns.

Subsectors

Banking is actually a very diverse industry and different sectors will suit different people. What banks look for in a Trader is very different to what they need from a Private Equity Analyst. You need to research the different areas and specialisms to see which will suit you and play to your strengths, or you’ll risk being in the wrong job interview for the wrong industry.

The different divisions are also expecting to find true commitment to their small part of finance and you will only be able to provide true enthusiasm if you actually know what it is they need and do.

Commercial awareness

Banking needs many competencies (personal qualities) and you should be building your skills in things like leadership, teamwork, analysis and communication. However the big desirable, the non-negotiable, the vital competency has to be: Commercial Awareness.

If you can’t tell me what a recession is, who Mark Carney is, what the FTSE is, how the government is dealing with the deficit or give me an opinion on QE’s effectiveness, then you’re unlikely to get a finance job. Start reading the economics news publications, listening to the Today Programme on iPlayer and joining relevant societies. Practice your commercial awareness questions here

Psychometric tests

The application process to a finance role is a long one by necessity. With so many applicants of high calibre, banks have to apply many stages to ensure they are assessing each candidate’s true suitability. Psychometric tests form a significant part of the process so you need to spend plenty of time preparing and practising for them. We have some top tips here.

CV

Not all applications to graduate schemes at the larger banks require a CV – they may prefer you answer a set form – however drawing up an effective CV is still vital. It will help you structure your experiences and think properly about what you’ve learned and achieved.

Your CV must be one page long so it’s a great exercise in being concise and really asking yourself what is relevant to the task at hand. As much as you were proud of winning a sports league in Year 9 or doing two weeks at a local café in 2010, you perhaps need to have a think about their inclusion for a Finance CV. 

CVs will also be the most useful tool in gaining off-cycle or speculative internships at smaller firms. They won’t have the structure for thousands of applicants so a CV is still the most efficient way of communicating your profile. Read more on how to write a star CV here.

Lingo

Banking professionals, like all tribes, have their own vocabulary and slang. Acronyms and shorthand abound and mix with archaic-sounding words like arbitrage or mezzanine. It’s key you understand these terms so you can discuss current economic affairs and spend your internships impressing your bosses, rather than acting like an awkward foreign exchange student in Banklandia. Luckily, we’ve compiled some common terms and lingo to get you started.

Enthusiasm for money

Banking is all about money, its movement, its growth, its restructuring, its lack and its supply. Ultimately, if you are not motivated by wealth creation, be it your own or the bank’s, then this isn’t the industry for you. The hours are long and the challenges manifold, so if you’re not sufficiently interested in the industry, then you won’t last very long. 

Academics

The industry requires the top talent to drive it forward and remain competitive in a world market. It naturally draws in driven people who are used to working to win. The good news is that you can do this too – but you’ll have to work very hard. First Class degrees are highly prized by recruiters and they remain rightly difficult to achieve.

However, you need to give it your best shot to prove to employers that you have the drive and intelligence to reach the very top. Of course, plenty of amazing students are still hired on 2:1s, but your entry to the industry will be much easier with the highest classification – especially if you do not attend a top four university.

Confidence

The final thing you need to know before you apply for banking opportunities is this: you need to believe in yourself and think you can be a great hire. Finance is an incredibly rewarding industry and it’s worth the effort of the tough application process. It’s a meritocratic system so if you are an intelligent person – which as a Bright Network member you are – then you are good enough to try. You will experience setbacks, but you will also find a way to overcome these. You don’t need to be an over-cocky caricature, but you do need to be able to project a confident, professional manner.

You should learn to project the kind of person you want to be, even if inside you are quaking like a leaf in a hurricane.

Projecting confidence takes practice, so join in debating societies and push yourself out of your comfort zone, for example white water rafting or working abroad.