With hundreds of applicants per place for Spring weeks, internships and entry level jobs, investment banking is perhaps the most competitive sector in the graduate labour market. In this first of two blogs, a University of Warwick undergraduate shares his experience of the application process.
“Most of the banks will come to campus and run networking and information events in the Autumn term and you should absolutely attend these. They always bring alumni which are usually very recent graduates with something in common with you and can be a goldmine of knowledge! The applications can go from being very generic to very niche and are very time-consuming, I remember spending 2/3 hours a day for a couple of weeks on this process.
The first stage is usually CV, cover letter and then typically motivational questions on the on-line application. For your CV make sure it is one page, it is better for the reader when it is concise. Your cover letter is super important, I have heard from different recruiters that they don’t matter, all the way to they are a defining part. My attitude is: why risk it? The idea of a cover letter is you are telling the company a little more than your CV can, and it is a bit more personal. I usually structure it in a format such as, what I am applying for, why that company, why me and what skills I possess that make me suitable for the applied role. Make sure to check the company’s values when creating your cover letter, highlighting that you recognise those values can’t harm your application!
The application form questions take a lot longer than one might expect. My advice for this is really to think about the question, try to tie in the company values and the skills for the job into your answer but be genuine! I am a big believer in if you try to fit yourself for the role, you will not enjoy it. I guess my key takeaway for this is to do your research. Marketline was an incredibly useful resource, providing company summaries and history, use this!
Next usually comes the tests. Some companies will screen your application before this stage, some will send the tests straight away. The tests usually fall into 3 categories (although as of this year it is now 5): numerical, verbal, logic, situational and immersion/job simulation. The numerical is exactly what it sounds like, a mixture of graph reading, basic arithmetic and some percentages. Doing a maths-based degree I found them easy but so can anybody with enough practice.
There are a lot of practice tests on-line so make the most of them. The verbal reasoning is a bit like what we did in the early stages of English GCSE. You have to interpret sentences and phrases from a large body of text. This once again is just a matter of practice and not rushing. You are against the clock but try to take your time. The logic tests are my personal favourite, your job is to spot patterns and sequences. Once again practice really is your best friend here. Situational judgement tests are trying to work out if your personality is correct for the job. For these you need to consider what is an appropriate response to the situations, you can’t really practice these. Just make sure you read through the question and answers thoroughly before answering.
Job simulation is brand new it seems this year, this involves all assessments simultaneously as you work with live situations. They are really well set-up and you just need to practice the individual elements. If you make it through this part, congratulations! The next stage is usually a phone interview.
This doesn’t need to be a cause for concern if you have done enough research and know a bit about the industry you will be absolutely fine. These interviews are usually testing basic knowledge and checking ‘fit’. If they could work with you for 80+ hours a week, that is usually a good sign! Typical questions are usually of the form:
- ‘Why this company?’
- ‘Why Investment banking?’
- ‘Tell me about some recent news.’
- ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’
- ‘Tell me about a time you failed at something.’
My biggest piece of advice for these is using the STAR approach – Situation, Task, Action and Result. Having used it, I think it is wonderful way to set out the answer well. But I think the conclusion is really important, what did you personally contribute and learn from this experience?”
To be continued…