2nd year folks and above: how many Bulge Bracket SWs did you land last year?

  • Nada

    Votes: 12 54.5%
  • 1

    Votes: 4 18.2%
  • 2

    Votes: 3 13.6%
  • 3

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • More than 3

    Votes: 3 13.6%

  • Total voters

Mr. Exclusive

This three part guide will go into depth answering the most common questions with regard to the application process and interviews. The hardest part of the process is actually passing the initial screening/psychometric tests and then getting an interview in the first place, so the emphasis will be put on these.

Once again feel free to comment on this and add any other advice you may have, greatly appreciated.

Subject Choice
Your subject choice at university does not matter. It’s as simple as that. Apply whatever your background. Your A Levels subjects also carry little weight as long as you meet the minimum requirement for that institution. It’s also worth mentioning if you are at a top-tier target university, your subject choice does not matter. However, the further away your university is from target status, the more important your subject choice becomes and therefore, should be more relevant.

You should also bear in mind if you are not studying a related subject (or even if you are) you need to be clear on your motivation for the industry, especially if you are from an unconventional background. Take a peek at the Goldman Sachs Employees Area of Study here to see a reasonable representation of subjects at undergraduate level:
Goldman Sachs Employees Area of Study

University Choice
While subject choice does not matter, university choice does. Your chances are SUBSTANTIALLY higher from the so-called target universities: Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Warwick, UCL and Imperial. Outside of these universities, you can still have a good chance at: Bristol, Bath, Durham, Nottingham, Cass Business School, York, KCL, Edinburgh, Birmingham, St Andrews and Manchester. These universities tend to only get a handful of candidates, if that, into front office positions year on year.

Outside the above universities, you also have a chance but you will have to work much harder. The rule of thumb is: the further down you are, the harder you have to work, the more relevant your subject should be and the more impressive your profile will need to be.

The Spring Week & Timing
The aim of a Spring Week is to give you a comprehensive introduction to the investment banking industry or your division of interest through case studies, presentations, networking, technical training and work shadowing. The reason they are important is because if you perform well you may be fast-tracked to a Summer Analyst position (Summer Internship the following year) which may in turn, convert to a graduate job offer. Even if you do not get fast-tracked, the experience and brand will look good on your CV and assist you further down the line when applying. You are not paid during a Spring Week (with a few exceptions) but likewise will only be working normal office hours. However, if you are fast-tracked to a Summer Analyst position, those are paid at approximately £45,000 base salary pro-rata in front office but hours can vary from 60-100+ a week.

In terms of the timing of applications, different banks recruit at different times and it can vary depending on how busy HR is. However, in general, you should apply as early as possible as most banks recruit on a rolling (first come) basis with a few exceptions (the most notable being Goldman Sachs). Therefore, the earlier you apply, the higher your chances.

For banks that recruit on a rolling basis, you should not apply any later than the end of October to maximise your chances.

- But what if I want to boost my application with extra-curricular activities? Should I wait?

The answer here is: it depends on your situation. If you think that by joining those ECs it will have a material impact on your application then yes, you should hold out. However, in general, it is unlikely you will do anything worth mentioning in the first month or two of university so on that basis it may be best to apply early. In some cases, it may be worth waiting as your university may organise speakers or special events to help you with your application. You should base your decision on the factors above. If you think your application will be greatly improved by your experience on ECs in a short space of time, then you can wait although a combination of applying early and waiting is probably the best strategy here.

- A bank is visiting my campus soon (sometimes late in the process) should I apply early or hold my application until after this event?

The answer here is: yes, but it depends on your situation and the time. If you have previously attended an event held by the bank or through other means know a lot about the institution that will make your application stand out then clearly little is to be gained by holding out. However, for most there are tangible benefits of holding your application, grabbing key connections and information from these events and then putting them in your application to help you stand out – for those people, it is worth waiting. However, if the bank is visiting you very late then it may well be worth submitting your application and then impressing bank representatives enough for you to connect with them and to make note of you and your application.

In short, you should spread your applications as wide as possible to ensure you secure something and spread it across a timeline. Apply to some early, the bulk in the middle and those that are not rolling basis late. Ideally apply to banks you are less keen on first to get an idea of the process and tests but leave some till later on (if you will have a stronger application) as back-up options. Watch for the deadlines of institutions, some are significantly earlier than others. Most deadlines land between November and January. But the word deadline really means “closing date”, the actual deadline is likely much earlier than this because of the first-come rule at some banks.

Also, you should not forget other institutions outside banking such as Big 4, Unilever, BP IST (Integrated Supply & Trading) and Shell which are popular alternatives.

The Application
The general rule of thumb when applying is that you should apply to as many as you possibly can, but not at the expense of the quality of your application. Do not rush them. Some will require substantially more effort than others and of course, copying and pasting is a recipe for rejection. Not only is it likely what you have copied will not actually answer the question or may be addressed to the wrong bank but recruiters can see straight through this – it’s an instant ding. The average application including tests can vary from just a few hours up to 7-8 hours per bank; however you should become more efficient at them throughout the process. You should bear in mind that while you are a first year at university, this process is time-consuming and therefore managing your time to ensure you get a 2.1+, have a social life and complete the applications requires good time-management planning.

On the application form you will be required to do the following:
  • Enter your basic contact details

  • Educational information

  • Previous unrelated, voluntary work, travelling and related work experience

  • Competency questions which can include questions such as “How does Bank X stand out from its competitors”, or “Concisely explain a development in the global economy that impacts our industry and why it would be important to us” or “What is your primary motivation for pursuing a career in investment banking” or “Name a time you had to use your initiative, how this impacted the team and what the result was” or “Give three examples of your leadership experience and how it developed you personally” or “What differentiates you from other candidates and makes you a good fit for this institution”. Varieties of all these questions are extremely common. Some banks will not use these questions however on average expect to answer anything from 1-5 of these type of questions per application – the average length an answer should be is 150-300 words but this is usually stated.

  • CV and Cover Letter

  • Diversity form
Cover letters should take the following format:
  • Saying who you are an what motivated you to apply

  • Why you have applied to that division and what motivated you to the industry – you should name-drop representatives you have met, awards and deals (and why they interest you)

  • Highlight any previous key experience (work experience, extra-curricular etc.)

  • Highlight how your skills and personality make you a good fit for the bank
On CLs you should always justify your text by using the (CRTL + A) function to highlight all and then (CTRL + J) as this looks neater and more presentable.

Both CVs and CLs should be kept to one page.

With competency questions following the CAR (Competency – Action – Result) or STAR (Situation – Task – Action – Result) are all recommended techniques. You should be very specific in these answers, generic answers are not acceptable. For example when stating why you are good fit for a bank or why it stands out from its competition, it is very easy to be generic by saying things like “World leader in fixed-income” or “I am a demonstrated team player” but you should be specific in scenarios where you have demonstrated this and how it would apply to the bank “When co-founding the debating society I developed xyz achieving y which could be applied to IBD when you’d be required to do xyz”.

When stating why a bank stands out mention specific numbers “With your recent strategic announcement to become a leading player in fixed-income focussing on government debt with revenues of $2.5 billion which make up 32% of all revenue winning awards such as X…” This shows exemplary research and industry awareness. Or “Your recent transaction in the TMT M&A sector was ground-breaking because *outline strategic benefits*” and then state how this affects the bank, you (if you were to work there), the client and why it interests you. In short, be specific. One good strong example is better than loads of generic statements. If a particular sub-division or industry intrigues you, mention it as this shows high levels of research and genuine interest – if you do this, you must justify your reasoning.

Hope you guys found this useful; don't forget that no matter how many places you get rejected from it only takes one offer to get your foot in the door. This is the mindset that you need.

Next time I'll take you through online testing and interviews.

Part 2 is here.


Thanks for writing this up - could you give specifics on SW pay (thought only GS does it) based on last years?

Mr. Exclusive

Thanks for writing this up - could you give specifics on SW pay (thought only GS does it) based on last years?

As far as I know (someone correct me if I am wrong), it is approx. £400 per week at GS. The rest of them are unpaid however I am aware sometimes the specific female programmes at places like Nomura are also compensated for what I imagine to be a somewhat similar amount.


New Member
Where can I practice the numerical reasoning tests, given I haven't got an A level in Maths?

I'll be starting at Cass soon.

Mr. Exclusive

Where can I practice the numerical reasoning tests, given I haven't got an A level in Maths?

I'll be starting at Cass soon.

Recommend www.jobtestprep.co.uk (best quality & most expensive) or www.assessmentday.co.uk or www.graduatemonkey.com for numerical reasoning tests. You shouldn't worry about not having A Level Maths for the numerical reasoning tests as it is mostly at GCSE level. The difficulty comes in the timing and using the right technique with the question (knowing the different types and what to expect). If you're starting at Cass, they have a course a week before you start to help you catch up with A Level Maths and then help you catch up progressively from that point onwards.


Revered Member
Ideally apply to banks you are less keen on first to get an idea of the process
those who don't know: firms you are less keen to apply for = ones not in the bulge bracket = RBS/RBC/HSBC/etc

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