Landing an investment banking internship can be complicated because there are so many variables to consider: How early should you apply? Where should you apply? What should you include in your application? To simplify this process, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on how to get an internship in investment banking.
We’ll go over:
- How to Get an Internship in Investment Banking
- Internship Application Timeline
- What to Expect From an Investment Banking Internship
How to Get an Internship in Investment Banking
There are five things you need to do to land an investment banking internship:
It feels like every year, recruiting efforts for investment banking internships start earlier. Many students are beginning to seek out internship opportunities in their first year of college. Ultimately, if you want an investment banking internship in your junior year, you need to start preparing for it in your freshman year. Using your first year of college to network and hone your interviewing skills can greatly benefit you moving forward.
Some key tips to keep in mind as you prepare to find banking internships include:
- An internship (any internship) in the summer after your first year can help you learn how to interview and give you something to put on your resume. Learn how to find internships to jumpstart your career.
- Networking and involvement in school leadership programs can lead to better opportunities later.
- Some internships conduct interviews and applications over a year before the start date, so keep an eye out for internship openings and apply as soon as you can! Applications for Summer 2024 applications opened in March 2023, for example. See our guide to internship deadlines to get a better idea of when top companies hire.
- Applying for internships as a freshman is excellent practice, even if you don’t land anything.
- Internships often hire on a rolling basis, so applying as soon as possible is more important than simply applying during the open period.
Connections are everything in the banking industry. The saying “it’s who you know, not what you know” applies even to internships, so networking and connecting to people in the industry is vital to success. Some ways to build your connections include:
Even if an event isn’t specific to investment banking, building a network of finance professionals can be a great way to explore opportunities. It can also lead to more connections later on.
LinkedIn is a great resource for networking and connecting with people you otherwise may not have access to. In addition to seeking out prominent bankers and recruiters at the banks you are applying to, you can also connect with alums from your college who work in finance, other students working towards investment banking internships, and leaders in peripheral companies, such as private equity and consulting firms.
“Attending events and connecting with people in the industry through LinkedIn groups can make a big difference,” says Tim Doman, investment analyst and CEO at Top Mobile Banks.
>>MORE: Learn more about virtual networking.
Clubs, Organizations, and Activities
Many college campuses have investing clubs where students collectively invest and manage a certain amount of money. Some investing clubs are highly selective, so being a member automatically boosts your resume. These organizations also participate in networking events and can facilitate meetings with relevant alums.
Even if your school doesn’t have an investing or finance club, joining a club or organization on campus is an easy way to expand your network. When reaching out to alums, the more things you have in common, the easier the connection can form, and clubs are a quick way to increase your chances of success. Additionally, employers love seeing leadership experience on resumes, so becoming a leader in a college club or organization looks great on applications.
Investment banking case competitions allow you to showcase your skills while boosting your resume and making inroads in the industry. In a case competition, you work with a team to complete a case study or project. For example, some focus on building pitchbooks, while others may involve writing essays or participating in trading activities.
Employers and banks often sponsor these case competitions, so participation can be a great way to get a prominent company’s name on your resume. Additionally, a case competition gives you something to highlight in your interviews and cover letters if you don’t have other practical experiences.
Early Insight and Diversity Programs
Diversity programs and early insights opportunities are typically targeted toward specific groups or underrepresented minorities in the banking industry. If you qualify for them, being part of a diversity program is an incredible way to get in with the right people.
Many banks hold informational or introductory sessions for their diversity programs which give you direct access to the bank’s human resources department, recruiters, hiring managers, and bankers. These programs often lead to internship offers, so capitalizing on this chance to network and workshop can boost your chances of a full-blown internship the following year.
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Learn the Skills
No amount of networking can compensate for a lack of technical and hard skills. You need to be able to do the job to get the job, so the sooner you start practicing core banking skills, the better! Before applying, you should be comfortable with a range of technical skills, like discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis and the steps involved in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). The interviewer will ask a series of technical questions, and the better you understand these concepts, the more confidently you can answer them.
“Getting to use [Forage] modules helped me figure out where I want to direct my interests and my career path” — Evan O’Connell, a first-year student who used Forage to land a banking internship.
While hard skills are essential, soft skills will ultimately get you hired. How you interact with teammates, navigate office politics, and think analytically can determine whether or not your internship turns into a full-time offer. Of course, you need to be prepared to answer all the technical questions, but being personable and making a genuine, human connection with the interviewer can greatly impact your success.
>>MORE: Learn the in-demand investment banking skills you need for your resume.
Where you apply matters. The top investment banking companies and bulge bracket banks are ridiculously difficult to get into. For instance, Goldman Sachs‘ acceptance rate is about 1.5%, making it more selective than Harvard or Oxford.
If you’re at a target school, have fantastic grades, and have networked well, your chances of getting into a major investment bank are higher, but it’s still a good idea to spread your applications out to other institutions.
Some factors to keep in mind when applying include:
- Location: If you live near a branch or satellite office, apply for internships there rather than in major cities. Everyone wants to get that summer analyst role on Wall Street, so the satellite and branch offices typically have fewer applications, increasing your chances of success.
- Size and scope: Apply to smaller private equity firms, boutique banks, venture capital firms, wealth management, and consulting internships. An internship in anything related to corporate finance can help you lay a stronger foundation for future internship and job applications.
- Apply broadly but carefully: While applying to as many roles as possible can increase your statistical likelihood of landing an internship, some recruiters see multiple applications from one candidate to the same institution as a red flag. Therefore, make sure you only apply to relevant roles within one company, rather than applying for every job opening they have. Also, remember that some banks only allow you to apply to a certain number of roles annually. For example, JPMorgan only allows applications to three programs per year.
Polish Your Application
Some students report applying for over 100 internships just to get one offer. While that is certainly an option, remember that your application for each internship can take significant time and effort. (See how ChatGPT can help you write resumes!) You want to put your best foot forward, so you need a clean and polished resume and a cover letter highlighting both your skills and why you would be a good fit for that company.
Doman advises students “tailor the cover letter and resume for each specific internship. Highlighting relevant skills and experiences can really make a candidate stand out. Trust me, adding a personal touch goes a long way.”
In cover letters, your goal should be to show the employer you are passionate about the role and that you have the skills to add value to the team. Explore the best practices for writing cover letters for internships.
For your resume, you need to showcase your willingness to learn and adapt. You should also read the job posting carefully to pick out key skills the employer is looking for. Learn more about writing a resume for internships and get a resume template to work from.
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Internship Application Timeline
- Get involved as early as possible — networking, joining clubs and organizations, and taking on jobs, internships, and leadership roles that can bolster your application.
- Apply for investment banking internships a year to a year-and-a-half ahead of time. Applications usually open around January to March for the following year’s summer internships. (Make sure you apply as early as possible since applications are typically reviewed on a rolling basis — meaning first come, first reviewed, first hired!)
- Complete the first round of interviews. Many banks use HireVue or other virtual, pre-recorded interview formats, but some may use video or phone interviews with a recruiter.
- Take part in a Superday — a weekend-long interview and networking event featuring multiple interviews. Always send a thank you note to each interviewer afterward!
- Wait to hear back from the company. Some banks make offers during Superday, while others may take weeks or even months to decide.
- Accept an offer! (Learn how to accept job offers.)
If you don’t get any offers, that doesn’t mean your career in investment banking is over. If possible, reach out to the interviewers to ask for feedback. Otherwise, review your experience and determine where your weaknesses lie. For example, maybe you were personable and made great connections with the interviewer, but your technical skills weren’t up to par, or vice versa. Or perhaps you only applied to bulge bracket banks or highly sought-after locations.
If you’re a first- or second-year student, you still have time to find a non-investment banking internship. The experience you gain from any internship can be valuable in making your application stand out the following year and help you hone your skills.
>>MORE: Prepare for your interviews by mastering some common investment banking interview questions.
What To Expect From an Investment Banking Internship
Your investment banking internship is a trial run to your potential future career in banking. The experience should help you figure out if you can handle the notoriously long investment banking hours, stress, and pressure. These internships are 10 to 12 weeks, where you become the right hand for analysts and associates, aiding them in whatever they need. Yes, that may mean getting coffee sometimes. But it can also mean working on presentations, pitch books, and completing financial models.
Your first goal throughout the internship should be to land a full-time offer. This requires impeccable soft skills — you need to network and have people in positions of power on your side. You also need to ensure you produce high-quality work and work well within the team.
“I remember when I was an intern at a top investment bank, I made sure to actively participate in meetings, even though it was intimidating,” says Doman. “By contributing my insights, I managed to leave a positive impression on my seniors, which eventually led to a full-time offer.”
Your other goal should be figuring out if you actually like investment banking. Sure, media like The Wolf of Wall Street makes banking seem like a high-drama, action-packed experience where you’ll wind up living in a Beverly Hills mansion with five sports cars at your disposal. Unfortunately, that is not what banking is really like, especially not at the start of your career. It’s fast-paced, sure, but it’s also a lot of work, long hours, and many years of proving yourself before you can truly feel comfortable in your position.
You can begin learning if a career in investment banking is right for you with Forage’s Investment Banking Career Path.
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