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Investment Banking recruiting timeline



How early do you need to apply for an Investment Banking internship?


The short answer: 1 to 1.5 years in advance.


If you have the slightest interest in Investment Banking, you must apply early not to miss all the deadlines. Summer internships are almost a requirement for landing full-time offers. You don’t have time to ruminate and “find yourself”. Apply and while interning, you can figure out whether Investment Banking is something for you.


Suppose you figure out that you hate Investment Banking; good. You can cross Investment Banking from your bucket list and move on to normal careers with slower timelines. This is better than deciding you want to pursue Investment Banking right before you graduate only to figure out that you still have a lot of interview prep work to do.


We are trying to make the point that you need to start thinking about Investment Banking the moment you arrive at university. This gives you more time and the best chance to get into Investment Banking.



Recruiting timeline and dates


Internships


Recruiting for summer internship programs that last 10-12 weeks usually kicks off 1.5 years in advance. Yes, you have read correctly.


This is the rough timeline for larger institutions:

  • February – Internship recruiting kicks off

  • September to January (next year) – Deadline ranges

  • May to July/August – Summer internships

The exact dates vary with each bank. The main point is that you need to start early! Research the banks where you would want to intern. Research their deadlines and keep on applying. Don’t wait until the deadline of an internship program. Ideally, you want to be one of the first ones to apply. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis until all slots are filled. Every bank advises you to apply as soon as possible.


The biggest goal of a summer internship is to land a return offer. These offers are extended to interns that perform exceptionally well on the job. Yes, internships are, in some form, extended job interviews. Don’t expect everyone to get a return offer. Many interns return to school without a return offer after a summer internship.


If this timeline is moving too fast for you, focus on smaller boutiques and middle market Investment Banks. These banks usually have less structured recruiting processes in terms of strict deadlines. Boutiques are more flexible and will hire based on need. Interviewing at these firms can happen all year round. But still, this isn’t an excuse to start as early as possible. The earlier you start, the more options you have to apply for.





Full-time Analysts


The majority of Investment Banks fill their full-time slots through their internship programs. The bank gets to test drive the intern for three months and knows exactly what they are getting. That’s why internships are considered extended job interviews.

On top of that, there are full-time recruiting activities. Here you would need to apply about a year in advance:

  • August to September – Full-time Analyst recruiting kicks off

  • October to December – Deadline range

  • June (next year) to July – Full-time Analyst programs kick off

Again, these are ranges. Do your own research. Research all firms you want to work at and apply directly through their website. The main message is the same: start early – like a year early. This is just how the industry works. Similar to internships, smaller boutiques are more flexible and hire based on need throughout the year.





How to tackle these timelines?


Investment Banking recruiting moves fast. Don’t think you can wait until your junior or senior year until you start taking Investment Banking recruiting seriously. Start as early as you can. You can still figure out whether Investment Banking is something for you on the job. The process moves at a breakneck pace. You must be ready to jump when applications open.


If you don’t start early enough, you’ll play catch up. With banks recruiting so much in advance, you’ll have a hard time. Your options will be more limited and you are forced to recruit at smaller lesser-known boutiques rather than bulge brackets or elite boutiques. The biggest mistake is hesitating vs. going all-in.


The best time to prepare for Investment Banking is as early as possible. The best time to start was yesterday. The second-best time to start is today.


Let’s look at your plan of attack. This is what’s happening behind the scenes of every student who wants to get into Investment Banking:


Keep your grades up


This is your first order of action. Keep your GPA within a competitive range. We mean a minimum GPA of 3.5 (US) or a British upper second-class (2:1). In ECTS grades, it would be anything above a B+. In German grades, stay above a 2.2 – preferably a 1.9 and above. You want to be in the top 20% of your class to maximize your chances. Besides, you don’t want to take super difficult classes that might tank your GPA. Advanced math is not needed for Investment Banking. You are better off sticking with regular Finance and Business degrees. Don’t go overboard. Keep your grades in the competitive range and jump into research and interview prep.



Research banks and deadlines


Make a list of banks where you want to apply and track their deadlines. Make an Excel spreadsheet to track these data. You will use this list throughout your entire studies and recruiting cycle after recruiting cycle. After a year or two, you will have all the relevant banks within your area. This will help accelerate your applications as you can build upon last year’s research. That’s why it’s so important to start early because the work cumulates.



Keep your CV updated and prepare for interviews


Always keep your CV and cover letter updated. Once you can add a new experience to your CV, update your CV. If you have zero internship experience and just landed a relevant internship for the summer, add “incoming summer intern” to your CV. Yes, everything is accelerated. You want that brand name on your CV for the next recruiting cycle, which starts before your summer internship starts. You want to put yourself in a position where you can quickly submit applications. You don’t want to get bottlenecked with an old CV full of typos and formatting errors.


Preparing for the actual Interview is out of question. Everyone knows you will be asked fit questions and technical questions. You need to know the ins and outs of accounting and valuation. If you are struggling to find time during your semester, here is a tip: Winter breaks are a great time to update your notes, prepare your technical questions and craft your story. You can find some time to relax as well as work on your career.



Apply like crazy


Now comes applying. Don’t make the mistake and hesitate. Apply to every bank you would be ok with working at, regardless of it being a bulge bracket or smaller boutique. Be prepared to send out 20-50 applications per recruiting cycle.


Usually, you would have to pass a CV screening, first-round interviews and second-round interviews until you get an offer. Every round adds another point of failure. You are not in control of your competitors and how many candidates the bank has already interviewed. You can only control how many applications you send out and the effort you put into your interview prep. That’s why the only thing you can do is apply as early as possible and cast your net as wide as possible.


Remember, internship recruiting kicks off in February – 1.5 years before the actual internship. This is how early you have to be. Deadlines range from September to January (next year). But banks hire on a first-come, first-served basis, so don’t hang around.


For your first year, aim for a finance-related internship. You will probably have a hard time with actual Investment Banks as they prefer to hire sophomores and juniors for their intern slots. But there are other options you can apply for, such as smaller boutiques, Big4 transactions services, controlling or Big4 audit. These are all relevant roles to build your CV for a first internship.





Alternatives and backup plans


Not everyone will land their dream internship on their first try and now everyone will follow the perfect timeline. The entire process is messy and chaotic and moves at a breakneck pace. You must be ready to jump when applications open.


Not getting an Investment Banking internship is not the end of the world. It just means you have to build your CV more towards Investment Banking. Get your GPA up and try smaller boutiques or Big4 transaction services. These are all viable backup plans to Investment Banking.


Not getting a return offer is not the end of the world. Apart from skill, you need to have luck as well. You need to hit the ground running both technically and inter-personally. There is not a lot of time to learn the ropes.


The Investment Banking recruiting cycle is moving so fast nowadays that it’s becoming increasingly common for people to intern after they’ve finished undergraduate studies. This is where you can slot in off-cycle internships that are 6 months long vs. just your 3 months on-cycle internship. This gives you more time to learn and get used to the environment. Following up with a master’s in finance is also a good option to buy yourself some more time.





Where does it leave us?


Investment Banking recruiting moves fast. Don’t wait until your junior or senior year until you start taking Investment Banking recruiting seriously. Start as early as you can. You can still figure out whether you like Investment Banking on the job and use the experience to build your CV.


How early do you need to apply for an Investment Banking internship?


The short answer: 1 to 1.5 years in advance.

  • February – Internship recruiting kick-off

  • September to January (next year) – Deadline ranges

  • May to July/August – Summer internships

If you have the slightest interest in Investment Banking, you must apply early not to miss all the deadlines. Summer internships are almost a requirement for landing full-time offers. You don’t have time to “find yourself”.


Keep your GPA in a competitive range, research banks & deadlines, keep your CV updated, prepare for interviews and apply like crazy. Keep yourself organized so that you can move fast. The process moves at a breakneck pace. You must be ready to jump when applications open. This is how you get into Investment Banking.




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