The steps to a job in investment banking

We asked Jane Clark, EMEA Head of Campus Recruiting at Barclays, for her application and interview tips

Much is made of the competitive nature of the investment banking sector. The recruitment process, then, should prepare you for it nicely. Interest in investment banking roles shows no sign of waning among students and graduates, so it's essential that you get your application right to win a position. We spoke to Jane Clark at Barclays, who helps to devise the investment bank's recruitment process, to find out what the bank looks for in candidates and how exactly you can navigate the process successfully. The information below is applicable to applications for both internships and permanent graduate positions.

Step 1: Online application

What it entails

This is the only way we accept applications and, while the content will vary dependent on which department you've applied to, the structure is the same for applicants to all our intern and graduate positions.

It starts with a short registration form, followed by a couple of psychometric tests (again, these are different for each role and division within the bank).

Navigate those successfully, and you'll be invited to write about your education and extracurricular activities.

The online application concludes with some competency-based questions, one of which asks why you've applied to Barclays, while the other is macroeconomics-centric.

Jane's top tips for success

Throughout the application process, preparation is key. Read as much material on Barclays as possible and know exactly why you want the job, even at this early stage. Those who have done lots of research stand out immediately as having the kind of drive and passion we look for.

Sell yourself. If you've had a part-time job, or captained a sports team, get that on your application and let us know how it's shaped you as a person. You also need to demonstrate a willingness to step up to the plate and show that you have entrepreneurial spirit.

One of the most effective things a candidate can do is meet Barclays on campus. We host events from October onwards and this is your chance to get a great insight into our culture.

If you've met someone on campus, use their name in your application. It makes your application far more personal and shows you've been proactive in pursuing your interest in our organisation.

Step 2: Telephone interview

What it entails

These take between 20 and 30 minutes and allow us to verify the information from the initial application and to see whether the candidate fits well with the department they've applied to.

Often, it will become clear that they may be better suited to another department, so we use telephone interviews as a chance to explore the candidate's suitability.

While some companies use competency-based frameworks, our telephone interviews are strengths-based, meaning they focus on what you do well or what you enjoy doing, rather than what you're simply capable of.

Strengths-based interviews are more structured than competency-based ones, allowing us to benchmark candidates against one another more fairly.

Jane's top tips for success

Don't miss your slot and make sure you include the correct phone number on your application. If you're using a mobile phone, make sure the signal is good and that you're in an appropriate environment (don't sit whispering in the corner of the library).

Speak slowly, clearly and with structure. Your answers should have a beginning, a middle and a conclusion.

If you've prepared well, you should be able to articulate yourself concisely and thoroughly. Don't talk for too long (about two to three minutes per answer should be fine) and make sure you've understood the question before you start answering. Don't be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat themselves, or to explain something. If you can't think of an answer, ask to return to it at the end of the interview.

Know your online application inside out: discrepancies between what it says and what you say won't reflect well in our evaluation of you.

Step 3: Assessment centre

What it entails

Our assessment centres last for a full day and are designed to give applicants an accurate representation of life at Barclays, especially within their chosen division.

We make every effort to ensure that our assessment centres provide a valuable experience and give you a sense of how Barclays Investment Bank differs from others. We also make sure that the exercises are based on the area you are applying to and offer more of an on-the-job simulation so candidates can decide whether that division is for them.

The structure of the day will depend on which division you've applied to but, roughly speaking, there'll be a series of group exercises and role-play-based scenarios designed to test your skills and compatibility with the business area you're applying to.

Assessment centres also provide fantastic networking opportunities, since Barclays employees from all levels are in attendance. Use them wisely!

Jane's top tips for success

Be yourself: don't be dishonest, as our recruiters will see through that right away.

It's worth emphasising the importance of preparation again. Find out as much about the day and our expectations of you as possible. If you know what's going to happen, you probably won't be as nervous.

Make sure that you look the part. We expect candidates to wear business attire, so choose something suitable for the occasion.

Come prepared with intelligent questions to ask throughout the day. You can pick up great information from Barclays employees that might not be available online or from campus recruiters, which can be used in the interview that concludes the day.

Step 4: Face-to-face interview

What it entails

Our assessment centres conclude with a strengths-based face-to-face interview with a senior member of the team at Barclays.

This interview is much more personalised and in-depth than the telephone interview. It's longer (it lasts about an hour) and you'll be expected to expand further on your own strengths, your suitability for the role, your desire to work in the bank and the specific division, and your macroeconomic knowledge and commercial awareness.

We aim to let candidates know whether they've been successful at interview before the end of the day.

Jane's top tips for success

Don't ask questions which can be answered by looking elsewhere. Your time with senior interviewers is valuable, so use it sensibly and use your questions to display intelligence, enthusiasm and understanding.

Don't ask about any aspect of the recruitment cycle, such as remuneration. Save these questions for the recruitment team.

Make sure you can back up any jargon or technical information with understanding. I've heard candidates drop acronyms into conversation without knowing what they stand for.

There are five key things you've got to think about for this interview: What is your background? Why investment banking? Why Barclays? What are your future aspirations? How do your interests match these?