Banking applications

Banking applications

What roles are available to you?

First year (or equivalent): Spring Week

  • A week-long programme introducing the banking industry
  • Application open as early as September
  • Interviews conducted over December or later. Usually consist of 1 round of phone interview (and sometimes another at the bank)
  • The programme itself is in April.

Penultimate Year: Summer Internship

  • 8-10 weeks interning as a Summer Analyst
  • Applications open as early as September
  • Interviews conducted throughout the year.
    • This varies from company to company, and often consists of a telephone interview, followed by an assessment centre (with several interviews, a group exercise and a case study).
  • The internship itself is from Mid-June until late August.
    • Beware that there is a limited but real chance of the internship clashing with May Week
  • Within IBD, you are either working as a ‘generalist’ or situated in a team, dependent on the bank.
  • Within markets, you often rotate between 2-3 desks.
  • A successful internship can lead to a full-time job offer.

Graduates: Full-Time Roles

  • It is never too late to apply for banking jobs.
  • If you have a strong CV, you could apply for full-time roles without prior experience in the bank.
  • The application cycle often starts in September, once the full-time offers for interns are finalised, but may also be year-round so it is important to keep checking.

Application Process

The Starting Point

  • Before you start on any career path, you should ask yourself:
    • What skills have you gained inside and outside the university?
    • Which of these would you like to develop the most?
    • Who are you must comfortable working with: people, projects, clients or computers?
    • Do you prefer small, medium or large corporations?
    • Do you want to be based locally or globally?
    • Do you want to study for further qualifications?

Application Form

  • To apply, you being with the online application form found on the company’s careers website
  • The application form asks for your personal details and for your CV
  • Some firms ask for cover letters
  • Most firms require you to answer questions (roughly 200 words long).
    • This is usually time consuming
    • Do however, spend time thinking and answering them properly as it is taken more seriously than generally perceived.
  • Common questions asked include:
    • What differentiates ABC bank from its competitors?
    • How has the banking industry changed over recent years?
    • Examples of leadership, teamwork, skills showing you are suited for the role
    • Explaining the business
    • Motivations for applying.
  • In answering these questions you should:
    • Be direct and concise. Answer the question asked.
    • Be personal and make it as specific to the bank as you can
    • Drop in technical knowledge and current affairs if you can
    • Use real examples. Emphasise ‘your’ role.
    • Proof-read.
  • Example of a good answer:
    • Q: Please summarise a recent event or development relating to local, regional or global activity that impacts our investment banking business (150 words)
    • A: The recent global economic turmoil, sparked by the credit crunch and sustained through a slow recovery, had marked significant changes to Investment Banking business. The burst of U.S. housing bubble caused by subprime lending and weak credit controls through intricate financial instruments resulted in a bailing out of financial institutions. While the collapse of Lehman Brothers and acquisition of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan epitomizes the change in players of investment banking, new regulations aim to resolve the “too-big-to-fail” issue. The Basel III, for example, globally designates bank’s capital requirements, leverage ratio, and liquidity requirements, increasing the costs of the bank’s operations, and thus reducing profitability. Policy responses such as quantitative easing have also impacted banks, as they must now operate in low interest rate environments. At low interest rates, firms, for example, may find it less costly to issue debt rather than equity. The consequent uncertainty e.g. over potential QE tapering, in addition, resulted in less business activities as firms may find mergers and/or acquisitions untimely

Numerical tests

  • The next step is the online numerical test.
  • The test is designed to test your analytical skills and numeracy
  • The best way to tackle these tests is to practice!
  • There are several resources available online.
  • Also, you will find that banks tend to share the same tests. Visit the members’ portal website to access a wide range of practice test materials.

Other tests

  • Broadly speaking there are 3 main kinds of ability tests that banks can also ask you to complete.
  • Tests of intelligence:
    • Primarily used to test the problem-solving skills of a candidate, as well as the ability to understand, analyse and adapt to new situations or challenges.
    • If you see seemingly random images and are asked to deduce subtle patterns, or are presented with a simple scenario requiring some mathematical interpretation of the situation presented, beware; your intelligence is being tested.
  • Tests of reasoning
    • These tests measure a candidate’s ability to solve more complex problems, process and check information and more importantly, reason: analytically, verbally and in abstract.
    • These are tests that require greater attention to detail, so expect some brainwork here.
    • Tests of reasoning include paragraphs or shorter pieces of text requiring some interpretation, as well as complex situations that require some quantitative or qualitative interpretation.
  • Tests of aptitude
    • These tests are used to measure the leadership and management potential, as well as the mechanical ability of the applicant.
    • Typical tests of aptitude take the form of short questions requiring personal responses to situations, as well as time-consuming, yet simple, scenarios requiring some analysis.


  • Your CV is the most important document of your professional life.
  • Although not all personal traits can be expressed through paper, your CV reflects who you are and what you can bring to the firm at the first glance.
  • In its purest essence, how good your CV is depends on two things:
    • The content (based on your experiences)
    • How the content is communicated.
  • Content
    • A typical CV would consist of the four following sections:
      • Education
        • Include both your university and A-levels (or equivalent)
      • Professional experience
        • Try to build up as much professional experience as you can.
      • Extra-curricular activities
        • Be involved and join societies.
        • Do what you enjoy and try to develop your roles within the societies.
        • Volunteer or organise a May Ball.
        • Even better, initiate something.
        • Firms appreciate well-rounded applicants who show traits or leadership, teamwork, communication, skills, ambition, and an interest in finance.
      • Skills/interests/achievements
      • It allows the company to see the ‘other’ side of you
      • Do remember that at the end of the day, you’d be working with them and they would want to work with someone who they enjoy being around.
    • To build a good CV, you must have the relevant contents for each of these sections.
  • Quick Tips:
    • Format- 1 page long, in a professional font size 9-12
    • For first time CV writers, go to Cambridge Careers Service for their CV guide for examples.
    • Writing:
      • Be precise- tell them what you’ve done. Drop in some figures (e.g. the size of the society’s mailing list if you can)
      • Tell them what skills you’ve developed from the role. Use active words.
      • For something niche, briefly explain what it is.

Cover letter

  • Format:
    • 1 page only
    • In a professional font sized 9-12
    • Provide contact details.
  • Content:
    • Cover letters usually consists of 4-5 paragraphs and are organised as follows:
    • Paragraph 1- Introduction:
      • Who you are and how you heard about the opportunities
      • Name drop as much as possible: university, people you’ve met, previous work experience etc.
    • Paragraph 2- Motivations:
      • What inspired you to apply? Why the firm? Be specific!
      • Tell them why the firm. Do not sound generic.
      • It is best here to show them how the bank differentiates itself from its competitors.
    • Paragraph 3- Past work experience:
      • Position, jobs skills earned, relevant examples.
      • Tip: do not simply list all your experience but only the relevant ones.
    • Paragraph 4- Extracurricular experience:
      • Position, skills earned, relevant examples.
    • Paragraph 5- Conclusion:
      • Brief summary, contact detail and thank them for taking their time to read your cover letter.


Broadly speaking, one can segregate interview questions into 4 types: competency-based, technical/industry knowledge, qualitative, brainteasers.

Competency-based questions

  • Competency-based questions are used to gague your soft skills and to see the way you communicate
  • It generally covers core competencies of:
    • Leadership
    • Ability to work in a team
    • Entrepreneurial skills
    • Integrity
    • Perseverance
  • Example questions:
    • Could you tell us about a time you’ve demonstrated your ability to work in a team?
    • What are your past failures and what have you learnt from them?
    • Tell us about a time you’ve convinced someone to do something.
  • To prepare, think of examples for each competency ahead of time.
    • Research the firm to see whether there are core competencies that they value.
    • Be able to go through your CV, thinking how each of your experiences developed your soft-skills.
  • The best approach in tackling competency based questions is the STAR approach. Your answer should be structured as follows:
    • Situation
      • Explain the situation.
      • What was the problem at hand?
    • Task
      • What did you have to do to resolve the issue?
    • Action
      • What did YOU do?
      • Even within a team, specify what YOU did in particular
    • Results
      • What were the outcomes?
      • Were you satisfied?
    • BONUS: looking back, I would… From this, I learnt…

Technical questions

  • Such questions usually have a two-point agenda
    • Asked to gauge your knowledge of the specific area you have applied to
    • And your knowledge of the industry.
  • Examples include questions like:
    • If a firm with a low p/e ratio acquires a firm with a high p/e ratio is the deal likely to be accretive or dilutive?
    • What is “goodwill”?
    • What do you think are the reasons for the Eurozone problem?
    • The you following any deal/firm in particular?
    • How is our firm organised? What is our share price?
    • What are the methods of valuing a company?
  • These questions are used to judge the knowledge base of an applicant. Accordingly, such questions are infrequent in spring internship interviews, but quite common for summer internship and graduate program interviews.
  • To prepare, learn the technical side of the job.

Qualitative questions

  • Such questions have three intended purposes behind them:
    • To evaluate your motivation to join your preferred business area
    • Your motivation to join the firm
    • Your background
  • Example questions:
    • Why do you want to go into investment banking?
    • Are you apprehensive about the working hours?
    • With which other banks are you interviewing?
    • Walk me through your CV


  • Used, especially for markets roles.
  • The purpose of brainteasers is to test your intelligence, and whether you could learn quickly.
  • If you are not good at brainteasers, you can prepare for them in advance. Do as many as you can. Remember, practice makes perfect!