top of page

How to get a return offer?

A return offer is typically made after you have completed your internship. It does not matter if it’s a summer internship or an off-cycle internship. A return offer is a full-time offer after you have completed your internship. You don’t have to further interview for it. People like you. They are happy with your performance and want to have you in the firm.

This is a big deal. With a return offer, you just secured full-time employment – your ultimate goal of going to college. You have saved yourself from going through full-time recruiting. You now have a full-time role secured.

Full-time recruiting is a lot tougher compared to landing an internship. Both large and smaller boutique Investment Banks prefer to hire from their pool of interns. These are candidates they already know well. They know their skill level and how well they fit into the team. The bank already tested these candidates for 3-6 months instead of an unknown candidate with strong credentials.

When do you get a return offer?

A return offer is usually given somewhat during your last week with the firm. This is when you are handing over your work and rolling off projects. During the last days of your internship, you will usually have a final review scheduled with your manager or some of the Senior Bankers. This is where you will get your feedback and a return offer if you are lucky.

Whether you will receive a return offer or not is usually decided 1-2 weeks earlier. That’s where your potential return offer is discussed within the team – and yes, you are competing with your fellow interns for a full-time slot.

Leading up to the end of your internship, you usually have a feeling of how good your odds are. You typically sense whether people are satisfied with your work product. If you are constantly being told to check your work better and are lacking attention to detail, that’s not a good sign. If you work autonomously and are given more responsibilities, that’s a better sign.

A return offer can take multiple forms. You can get a verbal offer without documentation – the contract will follow once you have accepted the offer. You might get a contract draft or a pre-signed contract to show even more commitment. This varies from bank to bank.

You will usually get a lot of time to decide whether to accept. After all, you are returning to college and your graduation is still around one year away. There is no pressure to close the deal on the spot. It isn’t an exploding offer. You will have a fair amount of time.

The exact procedures vary from bank to bank, but that’s the general outline.

Who decides to give out a return offer?

2-3 weeks before the end of your internship, the team will gather in a room and vote on whether you will receive a return offer. Those who worked with you the most will have the most weight regardless of seniority. It’s almost like politics.

People have three possible votes:

  1. Yes – I have worked extensively with the candidate and we should hire this person

  2. Indifference – I haven’t worked with the candidate enough to form an opinion

  3. No – I have worked extensively with the candidate and we should not hire this person

The Managing Directors will collect the votes and then decide whether to extend a return offer. You would want to collect as many “Yes” votes as possible. This will put you in the best possible position. You don’t want people to vote against you or be indifferent to your candidacy. In any case, your direct team makes the hiring decision, not HR or some obscure Managing Director alone. It’s the team that decides. You need to impress a few select people of the team to vote for your return offer.

But getting a return offer is not as straightforward as you might think. Yes, you can work on your hard performance and on your attitude to increase likability. But there are also things outside of your control. Does the bank have open full-time slots to fill? Are you competing with other equally qualified interns? It’s not like an exam where equal performance equals the same grade. It’s more like an auction process. The top 1-3 win. And everyone else goes home empty-handed.

How to get a return offer as an intern?

With that said, how can you increase your chances of landing a return offer? Well, let’s put ourselves into the shoes of an Analyst or Associate. These are the people who you will be working with the most. What do you think will make that person vote for your return offer? They are super busy and regularly work 60 to 80 hours a week. You will work on various tasks as an intern, but your most important goal is to save your team time.

Here are four things you can do to save your team time and increase your odds of landing a return offer:

  1. Keep a good attitude and never complain

  2. Submit error-free work (attention to detail)

  3. Take ownership of your work

  4. Be likable and get people to vote for you

1. Keep a good attitude and never complain

Do not complain. Nobody wants to work with a disgruntled intern who keeps complaining. Yes, Investment Banking is tough at not very glamorous at times. But complaining does not help anyone. You will make it harder for your team to get the job done and go home. You will not win any compassion or sympathy. So, always keep a positive attitude. Always be happy to help. Everyone gets unhappy now and then. But it is your job to hold your emotions better than others. So, always be happy to help and complain when nobody is listening. Don’t try to leave early. There will always be some face time required in Investment Banking. You leave when the team is leaving.

With that said, don’t act like something is beneath you and don’t argue with your Analyst or Associate. We get it, a lot of your tasks during an internship are not glamorous. They are tedious, manual and repetitive – nothing to brag about. Keep in mind, everyone is doing grunt work. You are not the only one. The Analysts are busy turning markups around. The Associate is busy checking his Analyst’s work. So, don’t act like something is beneath you. And please don’t start an argument with your full-timers about how to do XYZ. No matter how fancy your finance classes are and how elite your university is, nothing trumps real work experience. If you disagree with your Analyst or Associate, flag your point. You bring attention to the concern; say that you are “unsure” and let the Analyst or Associate decide. That’s how you add value.

Having a bad attitude is a sure way to kill your return offer.

2. Submit error-free work (attention to detail)

Triple-check your work. Never submit work with careless errors. Print your work and go over it again and again. Check your work multiple times. Always print your work. That way, you can spot careless errors easier. Check every single detail. Why is this so important? You want to set the tone early that you are intense and a strong performer. You don’t make careless errors. You don’t want to appear lacking attention to detail.

This is very important in building trust. If everything you submit is spotless, people will eventually give your more responsibility. Nobody will trust you with the hard stuff if you consistently mess up the easy stuff. Don’t just treat your first draft as a first ugly draft. Your first draft should be as final as possible, free of any careless errors. Your first draft that you submit to your Analyst or Associate should show the team what you can do.

Here is a list of items you need to check:

  • Get your formatting right. Learn the formatting conventions of your firm and follow them to a tee

  • Get your typos right. Check your spelling. Press F7. No typos or grammar errors. Make sure company names and C-level executives are all written correctly

  • Get your numbers right. Make sure your numbers are 100% correct. Does this chart make sense? Are the currencies correct? USDm vs. USDk?

  • Get your markups right. Never miss any comments handed down to you. When you are given a set of markups, use a highlighter to cross out the comments you processed

Submitting work littered with careless errors will kill your return offer.

3. Take ownership of your work

Don’t just become another “drone” that does as being told and does not care. You shouldn’t be losing yourself in the details of a financial model. Make sense of why you have to do your current task. You have to become an autonomous actor at some point in your career. You can’t just sit and passively wait for orders.

Try to make sense of the bigger picture. Try to understand how your work fits into the bigger picture of the deal. Learn the bigger picture behind your deals. Understand why you need to add a page into the deck and what the purpose of the financial model is vs. just blindly executing it. This will help keep your motivation up when dealing with long hours and mundane tasks.

Ask questions in batches. It is very important to learn how to efficiently ask questions to know what you are supposed to do and keep progressing. Once you are working on your items and find things you don’t know, write down your questions. What do you need to know to continue working? Collect your clarifying questions. Then, continue working on other items where you can progress without guidance. Then you raise your hand and ask all your questions in one go. This prevents you from repeatedly bugging your Analyst or Associate with single questions whenever you don’t know what to do.

Do things before you are being told to do them. Your job is to save your team time. You must think 1-2 turns ahead of what you are doing now. You have to anticipate the items that will be passed down to you before being told to. This is how you save your team time. This is how you become more of an autonomous operator. Try to anticipate the items ahead of time and try to prepare them ahead of time. This is how you stay ahead of the game.

This is where most interns rank. They consistently submit good work yet still have difficulties taking ownership. Taking ownership of your work will set you apart for a return offer.

4. Be likable and get people to vote for you

Following the steps above, you will eventually establish yourself as a strong performer. You never complain and are always happy. You always submit error-free work. You ask smart questions without bugging your colleagues. Don’t bother playing politics if you haven’t mastered the basics yet. Nobody will give a return offer to a grumpy intern who constantly submits work full of careless errors.

Once you are perceived as a strong performer, you can gradually transition into playing office politics. The goal is to work with a few people, not everyone on the floor, long enough AND to get them to vote for your return offer. You don’t have to get the entire floor to like you. One to two deal teams are good enough. Try to work as close as possible for the same deal teams. The longer you work with a full-timer, the more their vote counts.

You don’t have a lot of time as an intern. So, you can’t try and be friends with everyone on the floor. You have to establish strong rapport with one of your first Analysts or Associates early on. This will benefit you tremendously. Learn to be likable and quickly build a rapport with your Analysts and Associates. It goes a long way. That way, you can always test the water where you stand regarding your performance and chances for a return offer. After all, you want your team to vote for your return offer. And the conditions for a “yes” vote are (1) does this person save me time (aka quality of work) and (2) do I like working with this person all day long.

Accept that there are things out of your control

You have followed all the steps above and positioned yourself as a promising candidate. This is pretty much all you can do to land a return offer. Everything else is beyond your control. By that, we mean whether the bank has open full-time slots and other competing candidates.

If you have done everything right, there is still a chance that you might not receive a return offer. Maybe the bank just hired a full-time Analyst via its full-time recruiting process and has filled all slots for this year. Perhaps the bank has three former interns competing for the same full-time slot. Now you are just fourth in line, although your performance was good enough to make the cut. These are all things you cannot control.

If you have done your homework and positioned yourself as a strong contender for a return offer, you just need some luck at some point. There is only that much you can do. At the end of the day, the bank still decides how many people they hire and who they hire.

So, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get a return offer. There are greater forces at play beyond your performance and likability.

Where does it leave us?

Return offers are super important and can boost your career. It’s the full-time employment you have been eying for. Return offers are usually given at the end of your internship. If you have performed well and enough people voted for you, you will be invited to join the firm.

Here are four things to keep in mind to maximize your chances of receiving a return offer:

  1. Keep a good attitude and never complain

  2. Submit error-free work (attention to detail)

  3. Take ownership of your work

  4. Be likable and get people to vote for you

With that said, the quickest way to kill your return offer is to complain and submit work full of careless errors. Get your performance on par first and then try to get people to like you – not the other way around. You will not get a full-time position just because you are a “cool guy”.

Lastly, accept that there is only so much you can do. You can try and maximize your chances. You can do your best and position yourself as a compelling candidate. However, there are also factors beyond your control, such as available slots and competitive pressure. At the end of the day, you need a little bit of luck.

With all that what’s at stake, try to take it easy. Try to learn as much as possible and get along with your fellow Associates and Analysts. If things work out, congratulations! If you don’t receive a return offer, don’t get discouraged. It’s a learning experience and another valuable role you can add to your CV. Keep at it and things will work out. Best of luck!

Additional resources

Feeling inspired to break into Investment Banking? Are you up for the challenge?

If you would like to fast-track your interview prep and maximize your chances of landing an offer, come train with us. We’ll give you everything you need to land the IB job you've always wanted… how to professionally edit your CV & cover letter, how to ace all technical questions, how to shine with tricky behavioral questions, how to master Excel like a pro and how to navigate office politics to maximize your chances of a return offer. Everything you need to know in one place.

Check out your free preview and learn how to handle the top interview questions.


Most recent posts

bottom of page