You may think that graduate hiring decisions are based entirely upon whether you went to the right university and got the right grades, or whether your uncle knows the EMEA head of M&A.
Investment banks and financial services firms work hard to make their graduate recruitment processes as objective as possible. Many use ‘scorecards’ to assess the CVs they receive. These scorecards allow banks to rank CVs and to decide who they’ll invite for interview – much as we've done in our own ranking of student CVs here.
How do such scorecards work?
An investment banking graduate recruiter has kindly let us in on the secret. We’re not reproducing the full scorecard as it’s proprietary information, but the rough weighting of scores goes a little like this…
1. You will be scored according to the class of your degree and the ‘rank’ of university you went to. (15.5% of the total)
2. You will be scored according to the grades you achieved at A level or equivalent. (12.5% of the total – with greater weighting given to ‘classic’ A level subjects – economics will score higher than business studies, for example.)
3. You will be scored according to the amount of relevant work experience you have. (21.1% of the total. A high score here requires excellent prior experience in the role you’re applying to.)
4. You’ll be given additional points for speaking foreign languages fluently. (11.5% of the total. If you speak more than three languages fluently, you won’t usually be allocated additional points).
5. You’ll be given additional points for extracurricular activities. (21.1% of the total. A high score here requires high achieving, exciting – and probably multiple, extracurricular achievements.)
6. You can score extra points for the presentation of your CV. (7.5% of the total)
7. You can score extra points for demonstrating conviction about the role you’re applying for. (10.8% of the total)
Your university, your degree class and your pre-university A level or college grades are the first filters for graduate candidates, the recruiter explains. "After that, we still have a very large pot of students with excellent qualifications," she says. "So then we look at the work experience- and there's an alarmingly large number of graduates who have excellent experience too."
If you make it through the academic and work experience hoops, the deciding factor when it comes to inviting you for interview will therefore be your extracurricular activities and how well you answer the so-called 'competency questions' on banks' application forms. These are the long questions which typically say something like, 'Can you describe a time you worked in a team to achieve your aims?'
"Graduate applications are so strong now that extracurricular achievements are becoming increasingly important," says the recruiter. "A lot of graduates have set up interesting businesses of their own, or done very well across different areas like team sports and music," she adds.