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How do I apply for a first year internship in finance?

You can apply for a first year internship in finance when you’re in your first year of your Bachelor’s degree (surprise, surprise, eh?) or in your first or second year if you’re on a four-year course. 

Some of these schemes are still relatively new beasts in the finance world. Available for your spring or summer holiday (depending on the firm or bank), these work experience opportunities will give you a taste of work in the industry. You’ll get to work alongside finance professionals and get stuck into real tasks and projects.

These first year internships are well worth doing to kick-start your finance CV. They provide the opportunity to network, demonstrate an early interest in banking, finance or accountancy if you are studying a non-finance related background, and they can be the key to penultimate year internships if you do well and impress.

If you’re looking to apply for first year internships in investment banking, then you should look to apply for what is commonly referred to in the business as a "spring week". Spring weeks will take place over the Easter break and serve as an induction to the bank and some training, and then some time spent working in one department or more within the bank. They may even include a formal interview for summer internship, and that’s when you really could be in with a shot at a graduate job!

Sounds good! How do I apply for a first year internship? 

The application process itself is actually pretty straight forward… The tricky part is the competition you’ll have for a place.

Online application form

Ah, yes. The new age classic for any work experience or job nowadays is the online application form. You’ll have to fill in all of the details relating to your academic record and the like, and also answer a few questions such as why you’d like to apply for a first year internship with the company, or talk about your experiences and how they are relevant for working at the company. 

Top tips: Take your time over your answers to these questions! Draft them in a Word document first to save the risk of anything timing out, and make sure you do a check for spelling and grammar too. A daft mistake will not help your case!

Online tests

If you cruise past the HR gatekeepers with your initial online application, you’ll often have to complete some form of online test. If it’s investment banking or professional services you’re going for, these are likely to be numerical and verbal reasoning or numerical awareness tests. Otherwise, you may be asked to complete specialist critical thinking tests or numerical psychometric tests.

Top tips: A word for the wise here: don’t jump in head first into the tests! Take the time to find practice tests online, as they can be difficult and they will be under timed conditions too. You wouldn’t head into an exam without knowing what to expect, so don’t forget to get a field for these too before you complete and submit. 

A telephone interview

Nail the online tests and you’ll be through to the final stage, which is usually an online interview. Alternatively, you may have to complete an in-tray exercise. Either way, preparation is key! 

Top tips: If you’re scheduled to have a telephone interview, read up as much as you can on the company and their competitors and clients, and think about times when you’ve demonstrated relevant skills and competencies to the internship. 

It might sound obvious, but find somewhere quiet and private to take the phone call for your interview. Screaming over the top of traffic noise or your housemate giving their rendition of "Let It Go" all they’ve got won’t make for a smooth interview experience!

If you’ve got an in-tray exercise to master, then again make sure you take the time to complete any practice tests available. The more familiar you are with the format and the level required, the less baffling it will be.

In some cases, there may be a final assessment centre day too. For more tips on how to make sure you get across this final hurdle, check out our article on top tips for the assessment centre.

By Jos Weale

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