With the majority of graduate places going to former interns, landing an internship at a leading investment bank is the biggest step you can take to securing a place on the graduate scheme.
This in itself is no mean feat, so it's essential to understand what the people making the hiring decisions are actually looking for. To shed some light on the process, we spoke to a number of recruiters from the graduate recruitment team at one of the world’s leading investment banks, Morgan Stanley.
With their help, we've come up with eight universal tips (four do's and don'ts) to guide you through, as well as division-specific advice for the investment banking division (IBD), sales and trading, operations and technology.
Do's and don'ts
- Take the cover letter seriously. For Morgan Stanley, it’s arguably the most important part of the application process and not to be underestimated. It’s soon apparent which candidates have thought about the structure of their letter and the message they want to send.
- Research the firm thoroughly. Rather than just regurgitating information from the company website, take the time to really understand the firm you’re applying to and what makes it stand out from its competitors. Perhaps read up on its social responsibility policies or a recent deal the company has worked on.
- Let your passion come through. A genuine interest in finance is always a big positive when it comes to screening potential investment banking interns. Don’t hold back: we want you to tell us what excites you about the industry and why you want to work here.
- Be proactive. Recruiters like to see people who’ve gone the extra mile to find out what investment banking is about and who’ve sought out people in the industry to speak to. Attending finance events on campus is an excellent place to start.
- Rely on scatter-gun applications. A quickly rehashed cover letter or application form is an immediate reject for recruiters, especially when a candidate accidentally leaves in the name of a competitor. Your application should always be specifically tailored to the firm and (ideally) the division you’re applying to.
- Undersell your experience. As an internship applicant, your employment experience doesn’t have to be exactly in line with the role you’re going for. Working in a shop or restaurant shows that you’re proactive and have good customer service skills. You can also demonstrate a wide range of skills and qualities by including other experience you may have, such a charity work, involvement in a society at university or travel. It all adds up and helps us to build a picture of you and your skill set.
- Try to be the candidate you think we want. We want to understand who you are as an individual and not what you think the perfect internship candidate might look like. Some candidates make the mistake of trying to hide behind a persona and it very rarely works.
- Exaggerate your abilities. Be careful not to oversell yourself or to exaggerate your skills or experience. There’s nothing to stop you describing yourself as a fluent French speaker – but be prepared to be tested on your language skills during the interview process.
As you will have discovered by now, investment banking is a multifaceted industry that encompasses various different strands and business lines.
As well as heeding the general advice offered above, it’s essential that you understand the specific demands and requirements of the division you’re applying to. You then need to think about how to tailor your internship application to meet these.
Here’s what recruiters from four divisions at Morgan Stanley had to say about applying to each of their business areas:
- Tips for applying to the Investment banking division (IBD)
- Tips for applying to the Sales & Trading division
- Tips for applying to the Operations division
- Tips for applying to the Technology division
Watch Morgan Stanley employees give advice in our video on internships at Morgan Stanley.