While there may be signs of growth in the economy, with encouraging signs overall in terms of commercial recruitment, there are fewer graduate jobs than ever before, with greater competition and more restrictive entry requirements. Internships, for example, are now incredibly difficult for graduates to land in popular areas; for prestigious companies, it often helps to know someone. And the most competitive of all? Top of the list is investment banking which frequently comes first in surveys of most desired graduate roles.

Tens of thousands of graduates apply to each of the major investment banks every year and with application numbers through the roof, the interview process is tougher and more selective than it’s ever been. City CV works closely with many of the top investment banks – MD Victoria McLean is a former recruitment manager for Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch – our strategies for graduate CV writing and interview training are sector-specific and derive from our insider knowledge.

So what can you do to optimise your chances?

  1. Start preparing your application early. Don’t wait for your final year, or worse, until after you’ve graduated. Statistics show that this can severely harm your chances, and that successful candidates have usually started planning their applications in years one or two. Make your applications as early as possible, and find appropriate work experience. Join relevant societies or voluntary groups, and do something entrepreneurial; managing a real or simulated portfolio is perfect. You need to develop and demonstrate a long-term passion with knowledge for markets and investments.
  2. Have an outstanding academic record. You are going to need to show that you’re both a ‘type A’ personality and a ‘straight A’ student. Just having good A levels and a 2:1 probably won’t be enough; you’ll need to show that you’re academically exceptional. It’s not absolutely essential to be studying maths or economics – banks need many different types of people – but you will need to demonstrate academic excellence in a particular area.
  3. Demonstrate teamwork. Investment banking is entirely reliant on teamwork and effective communication. Demonstrating that you have the skills to speak your mind while bonding with those around you will show that you’re qualified to work in a financial system based on people. Communication skills are key, so participating in group activities requiring teamwork (sports, societies, etc) is a great way of showing you work well with other people.
  4. Make your application perfect. Even if you have great writing skills, it is easy to get ‘lost’ in your applications and CV, and there’s no substitute for the objectivity of a third party, especially if they have insider intelligence. Alternatively, do plenty of research on what constitutes a perfect graduate CV and make sure it’s achievement-focused, optimised for keywords and completely free of any typos or mistakes.
  5. Prepare for interview. Ensure you are absolutely ready, with well-polished two minute responses to all the usual questions from “Tell me about yourself” and “What appeals to you about M&A” through to the more weird and wonderful. How would you respond to this actual question Deutsche Bank asked this year; “Estimate the annual revenues of a hotel in Bristol”? Or, “Explain the options Greeks”, which came from Goldman Sachs? Insider knowledge is imperative, so draw on resources wherever you can. If you know someone, no matter how tenuous the link, ask (very politely) for advice – it is amazing how helpful senior people can often be.
  6. Be likeable. A tougher one to prepare for, of course. But the idea that banks just want supremely intelligent corporate robots is a fallacy. Having an all-round personality with an outgoing, engaging communication style is one of the most important skills you can have. Try to relax and be yourself at interview; think happy thoughts and be as upbeat and positive as possible. Many candidates turn grimly serious with nerves, and this can be unhelpful.

Finally, do your research. Having a comprehensive understanding of the investment banking environment and graduate recruitment market will give you the best possible chance of success while navigating the application processes.

To help you craft an impressive investment banking CV, take a look at our video guide to The Perfect Investment Banking CV.

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