5 Keys to Landing a Full-time Offer - the Investment Banking Internship

As most IB internships start the first week of June, thousands of 20 and 21-year-old college students will flock to NYC, Chicago, San Fran, Houston, Toronto and countless other cities, excited, and equally nervous for what they believe is a defining moment in their lives.

Most come in with some sort of meager advice, like network while you are there, don't make out with another intern, or keep your blackberry on loud...but how many are told do this and you will have an offer?

We decided that it was time for there to be candid advice for every intern on all range of topics on how to do well on the internship, so we started this summer series - "the Investment Banking Internship" - (yea I know, not too catchy, but it gets the point accross) with weekly posts on everything you could imagine or wish you knew how to do as an intern.

To start lets walk you through the 5 Keys on Landing the Full-time Offer:

1. Build Useful* Skills

Being familiar with financial statements, specifically 10-k’s and 10-qs will help you hit the ground running a lot better than knowing how to build a DCF model from scratch. A lot of the analysis you will do is searching for numbers of definitions in financial statements even if the info is readily available through aggregation tools like Factset or SNL. Familiarity with financial statements and SEC filings will give you a big leg up, allowing you to accelerate up the learning curve and take on take on more responsibilities early in the internship.

Additionally, build familiarity with Excel and Power Point keyboard shortcuts. These will give you a massive advantage as most other interns learn during training and while working. Unplug your mouse / track pad and get comfortable building a financial model with only the keyboard. Like most interns, don't leave it to training to learn these shortcuts. You will quickly find that every second you save using shortcuts is another minute, and potentially another hour, or day you saved in the review process for any and all projects. Write down every shortcut you encounter and make sure to use it at the next given opportunity.

Formal training is typically a week-long session at most banks that you spend with the rest of your intern class. During this week you are taught everything from basic finance & accounting, to excel shortcuts (the most important piece!) to basic financial modeling, as well as the policies and procedures of the firm. You will also be pitched the firm as they want you to believe you are at the best bank on the planet. During this week make friends with your intern class (we will have another guide on relationships right before you start at the desk) and pay a lot of attention to the excel and powerpoint shortcuts, and anything else you don’t know much about (hint: financial statements).

2. Always be Prepared

Here is the advice that most of you will have already received on what to carry with you at all times. Always have a notebook, a pen, and your Blackberry and personal phone (both set on Vibrate). These items should be with you everywhere you go....some clown is going to think this means taking a notebook with you when you go out in Meatpacking or in the Lower East Side, don't do that, just bring your Blackberry and also as an aside please don't be one of the interns that feels like he needs to wear a suit when they go to the bars...please don't be that guy or gal, everyone knows you are a badass IBD intern.

Being prepared goes beyond having your keyboard shortcuts and notebook handy. They are also about how you handle yourself, plan, and respond. Don't make weekend plans because you need to be ready in-case you have work (this does not include the weekend of training). You are there to do a job and land an offer, enjoying the city comes as a luxury not as a privilege. If you get an email or a call telling you to take a call at 7 am instead of at 9 am on a project you are working on...be there at the office, at 6:45 am completely ready to go. Don't be taking a call on your way in on the metro. Always be present...

This brings us to the topic of know your schedule as well as everyone else's. It goes without saying that you need to be ontop of your schedule and honestly your blackberry will do a good job of keeping you ontop of everything, but you need to also know the schedule of everyone else you are working with. If you need to get a deck to a VP by Tuesday, but he/she is traveling all day Tuesday, make sure to get the deck to them by Monday. Many interns have been known to forget about the schedule of whoever is supervising their work and end up in sticky situations where they have no-one to give it to, or it is completed on time but ends up delivered late. Taking a peak at someone's calendar on outlook or popping in and asking whether they will have time later that day to discuss goes a very very long way. Don't expect to be reminded by them, its your responsibility to stay on-top of your work.

3. Learn RAPIDLY

You have 10 weeks to prove whether or not you should be hired. They are more like 8 when you consider that during training your group isn't interacting with you, and that by week 9 the group has already figured out who they want to hire. This leaves very little room for taking your time with things.

To be given more responsibility, especially on a deal or an important pitch, you have to show that you can learn quickly and execute well. If you don’t understand something, don’t hesitate to ask, however make sure to truly understand it THE FIRST TIME. Asking questions is a good thing, however asking the same questions over and over is a red-flag (and runs the risk of annoying full time analysts who are your most important allies). Additionally, if you ever see an analyst or associate do something, learn how to do it as well. This will save you and them time in the future. Ask for help. There is no point in trying to figure something out on your own that someone else could show you how to-do in 10 minutes. You aren’t proving yourself by doing something like that. Chances are that you are just wasting time. You will quickly learn that time is the most valuable asset in banking. The more time you save your colleagues the more of an asset you are.

4. Take on RESPONSIBILITY with a good Attitude

The hours are long, and the stress levels are always elevated. There are always the complainers. Don’t be that guy or gal. Especially not during a short internship. If you are asked to do something, be grateful that you are getting the chance to prove yourself and not that you have one more thing to do.

It is okay to ask for more work, but do not under any circumstance complain that you aren't being given anything tangible or rewarding. One intern may get to sit on 5 deal teams and you may only be given 30 pitches. If you want to be on a deal team its okay to express interest in wanting to learn more and want to help, but do not at anytime complain. Also, note that you don't need to sit on a deal team to get an offer. You just need to crush whatever you are working on, consistently.

Your attitude is also extremely important because banks only want to give offers to interns who they think will accept. If you are a superstar at your work but constantly talk about how awesome some other bank is, or how lame your responsibilities are don't be surprised when you don't get the offer. Always say thank you for literally any task you are given and never ever say anything bad about your group or your bank...your bank is utopia and you are grateful to live there. Period.

5. Be Social - Friendships and "facetime"

This is a tough line for many interns to walk. They don't know how friendly is too friendly or where the lines in relationships lay. Some go too far with their social game and others keep their head down. It is better to be on the not-so-social end than on the overly social. Nothing replaces a hard worker. Although there is the fact that bankers want to hire people they can spend 80+ hours sitting next to, they care much more about having someone who produces quality work consistently and reliably, than the person who is super fun but average at best at their work. However note that if you don't make any friends no one will want to vouch for you either.

Moreover the idea of face-time, where people show that they are putting in long hours even if they aren’t busy, only goes so far. If you don’t have tasks, and are not staffed on any deals, it’s ideal to make sure to wait until your seniors have left the office or have told you to leave. It’s also appreciated if you check in with full-time analysts or associates who are working late, and offer to help. However, if there is a deal team working on something until 3 am and you aren’t on the deal, it’s ok to go home (after you offered to help). Don’t just stick around for the sake of being around.

Intern friendships are very important so we will be dedicating a whole post covering intern friendships and competition right before you hit training...


What's Next?

Keep these keys in your back pocket and you are sure to be a superstar. Through the summer as promised we will be publishing additional pieces in our series on the following topics:

  • The balance between making intern friends and being a superstarthe internship is competitive so staying on top of how to make friend vs. foe is huge

  • How to network in the bank - want to make connections within your bank but don't know how to approach MD's? Or maybe you got placed in a group you didn't want to be in, and want to plan ahead?

  • How to recruit elsewhere for full-time - its important for anyone looking to jump-ship to another bank to understand the ins-and-outs of "accelerated recruiting".... especially as some elite boutiques start recruitment as early as July before you have even completed your internship and landed an offer

  • The perfect email for networking as an intern - subject line is the key to getting anyone to even consider talking to you

Additionally for your underclassmen friends we will have a couple pieces on what they can do over the summer to prepare for the fall recruiting cycle.

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Thanks for reading, if you have any questions or topics you'd like to learn about feel free to contact us, and congrats on starting your internships!