application tips

#1

One of our goals is to help you land discover that dream internship with our internship talks. Once you find it, the application procedure can be quite a challenging process. To make it slightly easier, we will be covering several practical application tips over the coming weeks. The first one can be found below and make sure to stay in touch for more!

An interviewer has 30 minutes to determine whether or not you are fit to work at their bank for the next three months or two years. Technical skills are a bonus, but you could answer every technical question perfectly, and that will still not guarantee you the job. Analysts will spend 80+ hours per week with their co-workers, so proving you are someone they will enjoy being around is more important than proving you know how to work your way through a discounted cash flow model. Within the answers to your behavioural questions, there are a few main points that you need to be sure to get across. According to the head of HR at a prominent investment bank, the three main traits you need to emphasise are the following:

1. You have a willingness and desire to learn - The banker sitting across the table from you knows more than you. No matter how smart you are, you need to look at this job as a learning experience. Keep that in mind and try to let them know that you “get it.”

2. You possess a great attitude and personality - Investment bankers spend countless hours together. If you aren’t going to maintain a positive attitude in the workplace, and be an enjoyable person to be around, they are not going to want to hire and work with you.

3. You are an absolute workhorse - 80, 90, 100+ hours per week. Back-to-back all nighters. These are things you have heard about and they are not myths. In 30 minutes you must prove to your interviewer that you are willing to work as long as it takes to get a task done, perform it perfectly in high pressure situations, and do it all with a smile. Let them know you’ve done your homework and you understand the physical and mental demands a job like this requires.

Every story you tell should be focused and told efficiently. To do this you can use the “S.T.A.R.” technique. First describe the SITUATION. Then describe the TASK. Next describe the ACTION. And finally, describe the RESULTS you achieved. You do not need a different story for each question, just a number of stories that you can shape to fit any question. You should not memorise these stories, but they should be practiced beforehand so you are sure to not miss any crucial points.

#2

Applying in banking is in many ways different from applying in other industries around the world. It involves days of preparation, careful thinking and perfect execution. After getting through the CV selection process and reasoning tests, you are often times invited for a (video) interview.

More often than not, these interviews follow a common structure and are very straight to the point; no chit-chat and questions focussed on your skills, personality and performance. Although daunting, these interviews actually follow quite a similar structure across many banks. Most of the times, an interview will contain questions in the following categories: your story, your "fit", your knowledge about the current market and technical questions. Best of all? This structure has existed for many years. As such, applicants are able to prepare very well for each possible question and get the most out of their interviews.

With so many interested students, it is not weird that many companies have published guides that can help you prepare. Good candidates are the vault guides (see link in the image), that offer good value for money and a great way to start preparing. Free alternatives, such as mergersandinquisitions.com (focused on M&A), also offer great guides to learn and develop your interview skills. However, keep in mind that every area in banking can offer different question, so try to look for guides targeted at your field of interest. Lastly, do not forget to check out the websites of the banks you are having your interview at. These generally offer a lot of advice on how their interviews are conducted.

Stepping up your game and preparing the questions you will receive is a definite must if you want to get the most out of your interview. Most would say that it is a requirement to get through the round of interviews. Furthermore, this preparation will help you discover what you want to get out of banking and reflect on your strengths, weaknesses and goals. Along with many industry professionals, we thus strongly recommend you too to start preparing whenever you can, as starting early is the best way to get ahead in banking.

#3

Technical questions are part of almost every finance interview. While the level of difficulty of these questions vary from firm to firm, and will change based on a candidates background, all interviewees will undoubtedly be quizzed on technical questions in at least one of the rounds.

Interviews are like games. Your interviewer will likely push you to see how far you can go until you don’t know an answer and that’s a good thing. Remember when studying these questions, you can’t prepare for everything that interviewers may ask. They will always be coming up with new questions and new twists on older concepts so it’s important that you try and understand the concepts behind the answers, rather than just memorizing. Obviously, you should focus on the relevant industry that you are trying to enter. If you are preparing for a Sales and Trading interview, you should focus on stocks, bonds/interest rates, currencies, and options/derivatives. For Investment Banking positions you should have a general background in all of those categories, but you are more likely to encounter questions from the Accounting/Finance/Valuation and Mergers and Acquisitions. Your answers to these questions should not take more than 30 seconds to a minute for most. Again, it is a game to prove you have done your homework. Answer their question and move on. Do not try and B-S your way through technical questions. Do not waste your interviewer’s time, but do not apologise. Ask them if they can explain it to you. Be confident in what you know and don’t know. You will learn on the job and that is what you need to prove you have the ability to do. Remain calm, cool and collected.

The final category is the brainteasers section. Getting brainteasers can definitely rattle you in an interview. In some cases, an interviewer will give a brain teaser to see how you react under pressure. What is more important than actually getting the answer to the teaser correct is the way you think through the problems, they want to see how your mind works analytically. You can find some examples below:

1. What is 17 squared? What’s 18x22?
2. How many gas stations are in the Netherlands?
3. If you were going to build a building in a city, and had no physical restraints, no capital restraints, nothing, how tall would you build it?

Finally, in most cases you cannot “ding yourself” by failing to answer a technical question. However, you can definitely knock yourself out of contention by answering a fit or behavioural question in an undesirable manner. Most of the time truly connecting with your interviewer on a personal level and showing you have the drive, passion and ability to learn in this crazy business can outweigh a misstep on a technical question.

#4

Check out our basic resume template here.

The HR department in investment banks only spend 30 seconds on average reading your resume, so you want to hit on the key points rather than overloading them with information. One page only! It is recommend sticking to 1 page unless you are applying to an MD position (if you’re reading this post, that is probably not you, at least not yet :D). Avoid the 0.25″ margins and size eight font unless you absolutely can’t fit everything – try to use 0.5″ margins at a minimum. Decreasing the font size is better than decreasing the margins if you need to fit more information on the page – but again, you should make sure everything you include is both necessary and useful. To your convenience we have attached a resume template to get you started with your new resume.

Header
Centre the header, make sure your name is in a bigger font size than the rest (so they remember who you are), write your address, phone number and email address right below your name. There’s not much more to it than that – keep it short. Note: Never include your photo on your resume when applying to a position in the US. Furthermore, personal detail specifications vary a lot between countries, so double check what the standard is in the country you are applying in.

Education
Since you are still in university this should always be at the top. The key points here are where you go to school, your degree , expected graduation date, and GPA. You absolutely need to include your GPA, even if it’s “bad” – otherwise they will think it’s “really bad”. You can also list study abroad or summer program experiences here – these should be included as separate education entries if you have the space. Don’t include high school unless you just got to university and have no real experience yet.

Work & Leadership Experience
You should aim for between two and four major work experience entries. Don’t make a list of all 27 different clubs you’ve been in, because there’s no way you had major accomplishments for all of them. Think about what a banker reading your resume would want to know. As an example You were in four associations at university and also had an internship at Goldman Sachs. DO NOT write about each of these as if they were equal – Goldman Sachs is significantly more important than your associations, so spend half your resume on GS, pick the two activities where you contributed most, and write a few lines about each of them. Grouping “Work Experience” with “Leadership Experience” together under one heading saves space and makes your activities seem more like “work experience.” But let’s say you had four investment banking internships, in that case you should probably just call this section “Work Experience” and focus on the three most recent ones. If you’ve had absolutely no real internships or other work experience, you should still call this section “Work & Leadership Experience” to give the impression you did.

Skills, Activities & Interests
Surprisingly, this is the one section where you see the greatest number of mistakes and outright silly writing. Let’s start with the list of common mistakes: Leaving it out entirely, going on for too long (10+ lines), failing to list useful/interesting skills like language abilities and instead listing every single club you were in since age five. Listing “Fluent in English” is unnecessary if your resume is already in English, it would be concerning if you didn’t know the language your resume is written in. Furthermore, “Proficient in Microsoft Office/Excel” this might have been impressive in 1992, not today.

Keep this section simple and list any language proficiencies first, followed by technical skills (real ones, like programming languages), and then you can list your financial modelling/CFA courses next, followed by a line or two on more minor Activities, and then your Interests at the end. This is a more subtle point, but when you’re picking your Interests try to list interesting interests. Don’t just write “Running” – write that you “Competed in marathons in 13 countries across Europe and North America.” Even though this isn’t “work experience,” the same strategies hold true – be specific, focus on what’s memorable, and try to go in-depth with only a few areas rather than giving a laundry list with minimal details.

#5

Cover Letters are important but will not get you the interview single-handedly just because you wrote an eloquent piece of text. A cover letter is used to check if you tick the boxes and whether it is of good enough quality such that your application does not get tossed in the bin.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when writing a cover letter is that less is more. The longer your cover letter the larger the risk that you'll make a mistake such as a typo or including something irrelevant. Keep it simple! Mention who you've talked to at the firm, your interest in the job, why this firm in particular, your qualifications, and briefly explain any gaps in your resume. Two or three paragraphs is all you need for that. Any more than that, and you're giving recruiters a potential reasons to bin your application.

Common Cover Letter Mistakes highlighted by recruiters:

1. Using phrasing like: "After my summer analyst stint, I learned the entire deal execution process..."; "I am extremely proficient in Excel and financial modeling...". Be confident, but don't overemphasise anything out of the scope of your ability to speak to it.

2. Not enough emphasis on teamwork. This is important. People should know that you are able to work with others. This is easy to incorporate, just give a brief two sentence overview of what your team structure was and why it made sense.

3. When candidates don’t know what to write in their cover letter, they often resort to restating their job history. But this isn’t a great tactic. Remember, the recruiter has your resume.