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The best time to apply for an investment banking job

If there were a golden rule to getting a job in an investment bank, it would be this: the longer you wait to apply, the worse your chances are.

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Applying for a job just before, or even after you graduate, is setting yourself up for failure when it comes to banking. By this point, the banking job you want will have gone. It was given away months, if not a year, before. 

Getting a job in a bank is about internships. And preparing to apply for an internship begins the moment you step through the door in your first year at university.

1. When to apply for a spring internship in investment banking

Congratulations on getting into the university of your choice! We hope you’ve put your feet up and enjoyed the sun during your summer break – you don’t have time for that “relaxation” business anymore.

When you arrive at university, you have a few things to do. The first is to make your CV. The second - if you're in Europe - is to start looking for and applying for spring internships.

Spring internships (also known as spring weeks) are week-long internships for first-year students. They’re hosted by banks for students and are designed to give students an introduction to banking jobs. If your spring internship goes well, you may get preferential access to a summer internship in your second year. 

The key period for applying for a spring internship as a first year student is September and October, sometimes later, and never earlier. As with all applications, the earlier the better. 

2. When to apply for a summer internship in investment banking

If you're in the USA, you need to get started on getting your summer internship in your first year at college/university. If you're in Europe or APAC, your second year at university is when you apply for and complete your summer internship (AKA "summer analyst program").

These are, by far, the most important internships you will do. They last around 10 weeks, and if you do well, you’ll get an offer at the end of it to join the bank full-time when you graduate. Job done at that point – if all goes well.

We have a lot of articles on summer internships, such as this one.

When do you apply for summer internships in banks? In Europe and Asia, summer internship applications will generally open in August or September of the year before – that is to say, a full year before the actual internship begins. In Europe and Asia, intern applications usually close in November or December at the latest.

In the US, however, applications for summer analyst programs can open even earlier. Think December or January – that is to say, 18 months before the actual internship starts. We had a list of programs open in March, with deadlines generally between July and September. Some were as early as March.

It's important to move quickly, as interviews are known to start before the application deadline has passed. The application process can last a while regardless of where you’re doing the internship. JPMorgan, for example, was recently spied doing HireVue interviews in January for internships, and only gave offers in April.

3. When to apply for graduate schemes in investment banking

The ship on normal internships has sailed for you in your third year. This is bad. It’s bad because banks have already earmarked who they want to hire for their analyst programs from previous years' interns. You’re old news – but that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of options.

Banks run analyst programs for graduate hires. But these programs are usually full of either their own previous year's interns or interns from other banks. If you've never had a banking internship you will be at a disadvantage. “Why would I hire you if no one else in the industry would?” is a reasonable attitude. A consulting internship may help. 

If you want to apply for an analyst program in your third year at university, you'll usually need to do so around September, which is when applications usually open (other banks, such as Goldman, start earlier). The deadlines are usually in November, but you should have applied a lot sooner than this. 

There are also off-cycle internships. These, by their very nature, don’t have set dates to start and end. Keep an eye open and check your preferred bank’s jobs pages regularly. And, erm, start learning a foreign language.

4. What investment banking internships can master's students do?

A master’s degree is a great lifeline if you’ve failed in finding a summer internship, a full-time analyst program, or an off-cycle internship. You’re basically back in school – so all of the deadlines in section two apply again – August and September is when things open.

Don’t mess it up twice. There is no third try.

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Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

AUTHORZeno Toulon
  • Pa
    14 May 2024

    I'm not sure I agree with this. Here's a counter-argument based on the stories you hear about investment banking internship schemes. From the point of view of the bank, the internship scheme is an opportunity to hoover up vast numbers of graduates and filter them down to a small number who are selected. The remaining are let go. You hear stories about how insanely competative this route is, and everyone complains about the work life balance.

    There is an alternative way which is to gain relevant experience in other industry sectors, and then move sideways into an IB. This is going to be a much, much easier transition. It's easy to make mistakes when you're young and have just graduated. Arguably it's better to make those mistakes in a company where it matters less, then move to an IB when you have all the professional experience and can really make the most of it.

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