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Investment banking is a highly competitive industry, hardly surprising considering how lucrative the profession can be. Only the best make it in and with applications on the rise, standing out in the crowd is critical. Nearly 110, 000 students applied for Deutsche Bank’s graduate scheme this year, and Citigroup’s applications were up by 12 per cent, with only 0.9% of candidates lucky enough to make it through.

Getting a job in investment banking nowadays involves much more than simply fulfilling one internship position and attending an interview. It’s no wonder the stakes are higher than ever.

How to apply

The application process consists of three main stages: submitting your resume online or through contacts you have made, attending first-round and, occasionally, second-round interviews and then lastly, if lucky, being invited to attend a Superday/assessment center. Sometimes, you will also be expected to complete some form of psychometric testing. The first-round interviews may take place in person or over the phone and the key here is to really emphasize your technical knowledge. On the other hand, Superdays are much more geared towards assessing whether candidates are the right ‘fit’ for their team.

Banks want to test your dedication to forging a career in finance, which is why the recruitment process has become much more rigorous. If you are graduating from college or university, you will be looking to apply for analyst positions, the entry-level roles within investment banking. On the other hand, if you are armed with an MBA, you may be able to apply for associate positions.

So, how can you increase your chances of breaking into investment banking?

Start as early as possible

We’re talking your first year of college. Seek out finance clubs and societies to join on campus. Remember, the earlier you join, the more likely it is that you will able to progress to committee level. Not only that, but it is also a good idea to make the most of the ample leadership opportunities available across colleges. Banks will be looking for candidates who show a willingness to get involved and go beyond their studies. Also, keep an eye out for any appearances from the banks on your campus. This is where you can begin establishing those key relationships.

Secure multiple internships

One internship is unlikely to be enough to cut it these days, especially when applying to bulge bracket firms. Don’t forget, the first impression the banks are likely to have of you is when reading your resume. The more experience you can get down, the more likely it is that you will be placed through to the next round. While applying to the big names is tempting, an internship at a smaller bank or boutique should not be overlooked.

Elevate your learning with online courses and training

There’s tons of resources out there to enhance your knowledge, whether that’s learning through books, online courses, boot camps or classroom training. This is especially important if you are majoring in a subject other than finance, economics or accounting. Recruiters are looking for applicants who will be able to quickly and smoothly transition into an investment banking role, so the more you are able to convince them that you possess sufficient knowledge the better your chances will look. On top of this, you should be listening to and keeping up-to date with trade news.

Achieve impeccable grades

It’s no secret that the more prestigious banks are looking for Ivy League level graduates. This is because academia is super important in the world of investment banking. You need to be the best in class, so don’t chance it when it comes to your grades. Candidates with insufficient degrees may be turned away at the first hurdle.

Gear your resume towards finance

Recruiters are solely interested in relevant experience that proves you are suitable for a role in investment banking. Therefore, you need to ‘bankify’ your resume by illustrating everything you have achieved in this particular area, and all the applicable knowledge that you possess. Don’t forget to use the correct terminology as well to emphasize your insider know-how.

Stress your extracurricular interests and hobbies

Banks can afford to be picky. They have heaps of wannabe-bankers knocking at their doors. This is why they’ll also judge you on your interests as well. They want to know what you are passionate about beyond finance. You need to come across as an outstanding individual, so highlight the extra-curricular activities that mean the most to you. Do you have a passion for sport? Acting? Singing? Recruiters are looking for something that makes you not only seem interesting but memorable too.

Make contacts

Reach out to people on LinkedIn or via emails. As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know”. Get yourself noticed and you may well reap the rewards.

Find yourself a mentor

It really helps to have someone you can turn to for advice. This could be anyone, from your parents to a teacher, just make sure they have a background in finance or business which will enable them to provide you with plenty of support.

As you can see, it’s important you strive to put in the groundwork early on. The competition is fiercer than ever, so don’t get left behind.

The Investment Banker