If you want to land an internship at a bulge bracket bank, you'll need a fairly exceptional background. But know that credentials and school pedigree aren't enough. You'll also need to harness all the soft skills that banks are looking for in junior staffers.
To get a better picture of the ideal candidate, we reached out to Michelle Bucaria, J.P. Morgan's global head of campus recruiting. She offered up some application and interview advice, along with tips on how to take an internship in North America and turn it into a full-time offer.
Like most companies, we have a set number of schools where we actively recruit on campus, but not all the schools that we hire from are on that list. We have a very broad base of schools that we hire from. We have relationships with almost 200 schools in the U.S. and over 300 globally.
We employ full service efforts at set schools and then host regional events, in say Boston or Atlanta, to access a broader group of schools. Our diversity partnership programs are also great feeders. And then we have a ton of people who apply online and through personal referrals. There are a lot of different avenues to come by.
As for GPA requirements, they vary by business unit, but most are in the 3.2 to 3.5 range. Grades are clearly important – we do look at those – but beyond meeting the minimums we try to be open about it. Different people have different circumstances. There are athletes who need to dedicate 25-30 hours to their program who have a great work ethic and team philosophy. There are also people who are working to support themselves. We want to be flexible and take all that into account.
Make sure to pay attention to the rules companies lay out. Application deadlines are very early and many wait to think about internships until the second semester when you need to be focused on it during the first semester. For juniors, deadlines are at the end of the year and interviews will start as soon as January if not earlier.
Also, realize that the school’s technology is not connected to the firm’s technology. You can apply through career services but you still need to run your application through our website as well. We unfortunately can’t consider you if you don’t. Many think they have covered it through career services but haven’t.
There are certain competencies and skillsets that are required and schoolwork is obviously important. But we also look for leadership and teamwork through things like athletics, work, group projects and clubs.
Students need to be aware that there is a large array of opportunities at banks – asset management, consumer and commercial banking, technology, sales and trading, etc. There are slight nuances in terms of what we are looking for each program such as a higher degree of quantitative or marketing analytics, or great writing skills for instance. We are a bank and therefore do generally look for some knowledge of or interest in the market etc. We’re looking for a broad brush of skills but there is a baseline. Like I tell people: “there is math here.” Add, subtract, multiply and divide. You need to have basic quantitative capabilities, follow the market and have an interest in economics.
It backs up before the interview process. Our company does a ton of events and activities out on campus. That’s an opportunity that we use as part of the assessment process. That’s where they get to differentiate themselves. Another way is through their alumni. I highly encourage students to leverage their alumni network and follow up with the representatives that they met at the events. There’s always someone who will give them advice.
The interview itself is one of the final steps. With internships, we generally range from two to three, 30-45 minute interviews – up to one day. By the time you get to interview, in most cases everyone has the base line qualifications. Grades, market knowledge etc. Then it’s about how they articulate those competencies.
For instance, if you are asking a candidate why they chose something over something else, it’s those students who can demonstrate a thoughtful process who excel. Communication skills and a strong level of confidence is a huge part of the process.
We’re also looking for a curiosity with the markets and some baseline knowledge of our company.
Much of what students can do to be successful takes place before the summer internship begins. There is an opportunity to connect with alumni, prior summer interns from school and even prior analysts. Ask them to give you the lay of the land. Ask them how the training process works. You can be prepared in advance.
You should also prepare your tech skills. If you are going into investment banking, make sure you know Excel fairly well. If you go into a product or client area, understand the basics on PowerPoint. Get a step ahead before you walk in the door.
We have designed the program so that interns have an opportunity to learn, get to know the firm and do some work. It’s pretty balanced. We host tons of events and provide opportunities for people to get to know each other formally – Senior executives give talks to interns, for example – and informally. Our managers are really receptive to interns, giving them exposure to different parts of the business and the ability to socialize. It’s not a huge concern. Everyone knows that expectation of balance.
We will assign mentors, buddies or sponsors – an extra go-to person outside of the hiring manager. Take full advantage of those resources. Ask questions, get advice and get feedback. That’s invaluable to landing a full time position – having conversations with your managers, asking for feedback, knowing where you stand. Not on every email, of course, but if you just completed a project, ask for feedback. What could I do better? Really listening to that feedback and adapting it to the next assignment is just huge.
We do mid-summer check-ins to let them know where they stand and provide support with mentors to try to help them overcome any concerns. Our goal is to convert as many interns as we can.