Updated: Jun 21, 2020
If you’re like me, and you’re looking for an internship at a large financial institution next summer, the odds are you’ve most likely started applying to companies’ internship programmes. Below, I’ll give you the lowdown on what to expect, and some tips to help you out.
Firstly, the internship application process is unnecessarily arduous. There are so many stages, and it can often feel like it’s impossible to showcase your talents and true ability due to the rigidity of the process. The initial registration process online, which can take upwards of an hour to fill in all of your personal details, can be enough to put any able-minded applicant off. And that’s before you’ve even submitted your CV/Resumé, and a cover letter!
So, let’s say, like me, you’ve applied for a summer internship position at various firms. What can you expect? Well, the truth is that every company has a different process with different stages. However, here is the likely procedure:
Step 1: Choose a company, programme, and division that you want to apply to (in my case, I am very interested in Asset Management, as well as Global Equity Research internships)
Step 2: Fill in their application form online (as mentioned above, this is unnecessarily long, but if you’re determined to obtain an internship, what’s one hour of filling in all your education history and personal details)!?
Some of the information you may be asked to fill in
Step 3: This is not always the case, but for many companies, you’ll be asked to take part in an online personality test. This is conducted so that the company can gain a better understanding of your traits and attributes, and how you would react when placed in certain positions. Normally, these are not graded, and you are given a feedback report shortly after, outlining different traits and characteristics that you hold. (My particular favourite online test was J.P. Morgan’s pymetric testing – the games were quite fun).
Because these tests aren’t ‘graded’, per se, they are certainly nothing to get stressed or anxious about. Also, as most of them differ, there isn’t so much preparation you can do beforehand. It’s best to go into them with a clear head, and just try to make rational, calm decisions like you normally would.
This is an example of a feedback report you may receive after the pymetric testing
Step 4: Wait…
If there’s one thing I have learnt about these internship applications, it is that they are a waiting game. Some of my applications were submitted on the first day that entries were open, a couple of months ago, and I have not heard anything back – neither positive nor negative news.
Step 5: Video Interview/Online Immersive Test
This can sometimes come straight away after taking the online tests, or it can come a while afterwards (or not at all). And, to make it more challenging, it isn’t a video interview in the traditional sense where you’ll be sitting at home and Skype-ing a Morgan Stanley or HSBC employee in Malaysia or Hong Kong. No, it’s much more daunting than that. Instead, you are given pre-recorded questions and you have a limited time to record an answer and submit it. No retakes, no time to rehearse (well, very little), and 100% awkwardness. There’s no doubt that it is significantly harder to do a video interview when you can’t connect with an interviewer, you can’t vibe with them and gauge how they respond to your answers. In truth, it is really difficult – and, if I didn’t already mention, extremely awkward. Nevertheless, you can only improve with practice, and the more video interviews you get invited to do, the more confident and less anxious/awkward you become.
Hirevue is just one of the platforms used to conduct online video interviews
With several companies, you don’t just get a video interview, but also an online test. This challenges your competency and judgment in workplace situations. In many, it also has some pretty hard maths questions, so make sure to have a calculator at the ready!
Step 6: Wait
Again, there’s a bit of waiting as you find out what happens next. Because, after doing all that, what could be more excruciating than waiting weeks, or even months, to find out that you have successfully made it to the 4th of 8 rounds of the application process!
Step 7: Phone/Video Interview
So far, I’m still stuck at Step 6, and spending a lot of time waiting, but, as far as I am aware, the next stage is an actual video interview, with someone on the other side of the camera, or a phone interview. The one exception that I have encountered is with HSBC, where they offer a Job Simulation, which combines a video interview, with a test of written, verbal, and practical skills. This test was fast-paced and challenging, as one would expect.
Step 8: Assessment Centre/Super Day
This seems like a very very very long way away from the initial application process. Picture this – you successfully manoeuvre your way through several stages, and then, to your dismay, find out that you’ll be attending an assessment day, where you will have plenty of individual interviews. Fun! This is the ultimate step before finding out your fate, but is undoubtedly the most difficult. Get through this successfully and you’ll be set for life – well, sort of!
Step 9: Success or Setback
So… what can we learn from the above information. Well, for starters, the process is ridiculous. It isn’t necessarily fair, and it is certainly unforgiving. Take a look at David Tyoember, for example. A Chemistry student at Imperial College in London, David decided that the application process did not provide a platform for him to showcase his talents properly, and thus challenged the approach by standing outside a London tube station, handing out copies of his CV in the hope that someone would take an interest and offer him some work experience. You can read more about this viral story here!
Also, another thing to take from this article is that rejection is not the be all and end all. Whether you are rejected at the first or last stage, it doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent or deserving of a role. Rejection is just a part of the process, and often can lead to greater opportunities in the future. So, don’t be disheartened. The chances of landing an internship with one of these big firms is so low as it is, and so it really is advisable not to get your hopes up! You can be the top of your year at university, with a fantastic CV, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.
Finally, don’t give up, don’t be anxious, and don’t apply for the sake of it.
Don’t give up if you get rejected – try to find other ways to gain work experience or an internship. A large, global firm looks great on your CV, but a smaller firm (where a temporary position may be more readily available to students) may give you greater exposure to the financial world, and help you to decide whether it is a career path you truly want to follow.
Don’t be anxious – don’t let the application process drown you and take over your life. Don’t let it stress you out and give you sleepless nights worrying about video interviews and tests. It’s just not worth it.
Don’t apply for the sake of it – I know a lot of people that apply for investment banking/investment management internship positions, without knowing much about the field, or really being passionate about it. They apply because the internship programme provides a pretty tasty salary, and good potential future career prospects. But, it’s silly, because if you’re not passionate about the subject or the role, you’ll be easily weeded out by the company, and your application will be discarded. Moreover, there are people who apply to company after company, and position after position, to maximise their chances of obtaining an internship. However, this isn’t recommended. Apply to a company because the work they do interests you, because you agree with their values, because you’re drawn to a particular division there, not just because they’re a big name and a great CV filler. Make your cover letter and application personal – let them know exactly why you want to apply to their programme over any other companies’.
If you follow this advice, I can’t guarantee you success in obtaining an investment internship. However, I can promise you a much more fulfilling and meaningful application process.
And finally, if you’re not put off by that massive step-by-step application process, and still determined to land your dream internship, what are you waiting for? Go apply!
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share you internship tips/experiences below!