From my experience, finance internships are extremely competitive and near impossible to get without the proper support, especially so if you’re not at a top university. So after sending out seven dozen applications and landing a finance internship this past summer, I’m ready to share some internship seeking tips that will save you from getting a head ache.
#1 Instead of quantity go with quality,
Or at least find a balance. Do not waste your time applying to almost a hundred finance internships on LinkedIn like I did.
There is a lot of advice out on the web and some say apply to as many internships as possible; I say pick and choose wisely. Yes, it is a numbers game, but it is all about opportunity cost. Quantity costs quality. Quality costs quantity. If you go for shear quantity, you’ll never hear back from the company, which is actually the most common outcome when applying to random internships online without a referral from someone in side the organization. So avoid the frustration, it is an absolute waste of time to write a good cover letter and submit a generic resume for every internship you would like to have; by being a little bit choosier as to what you apply to, you’ll have more time to spend on tip two.
#2 A tailored resume
Your first goal is to get your resume to human eyes and past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). For this you need to hit the key words that the ATS is looking for. But how do you know what those words are? Start with the job posting’s required and desired skills. Next is doing the research. Look up similar job postings in the same company. A lot of times finance internships are feeder programs for an entry level analyst program; find it and look at what the differences and commonalities are and look to see if there are common themes in the type of applicants that the company is looking for across different postings. Also, while I did not do this myself (I wish I had thought of it earlier), I would recommend leveraging your LinkedIn network of student peers who have landed a prior year’s summer internship similar to the ones you are applying to and ask them if you may look at their resume. It’s much better than googling “finance internship resume examples,” besides, the worst thing that can happen is they say is no or simply never respond to your request.
Lastly, when submitting your resume, submit it as a PDF with minimal formatting. Although I had bullet points in my resume, even bullet points run the risk of screwing up the whole formatting in some systems. I used to have a nice resume with lines separating each section, but sometimes less is more.
#3 Be active and go to professional networking events specific to finance
This is absolutely critical for two reasons. First this where you find quality advice from professionals already in the industry. You get a feel for what is valued in a candidate and it opens your eyes to the many different possibilities finance has to offer. Also, you’ll be able to find out what skills you lack, but know you should learn. For example, at a networking event in September, I found out that BlackRock uses Python programming language to balance portfolios, screen and execute trades. Well, maybe taking a Coursera course to learn Python would be a good idea (If you do, you’ll later be able to hit the key words in the ATS that have such requirements).
Second, referrals! In my experience, going to professional networking events is the best way to get referrals. Referrals are definitely the best way to go, though no guarantee, your probability of getting hired (and your resume looked at by human eyes for that matter) go way up since 91% of applicants referred by director level employees get hired and 53% referred by entry level employees get hired (Morgan, 1). Now honestly, getting referrals is the trickiest part when at a professional networking event. You need to be able to connect with someone on a personal and an intellectual level all while being respectful. Once they get to know you a little bit express interest in what their company does and ask them about what they do at the company and how they like it. You don’t want to out right ask them for a referral especially if you have just met, you want them to offer the referral to you. So when the timing is right, most likely when they finish talking about why they like their jobs, you can say something like, “Wow, sounds like X inc. is a great company to work for that… (say something about what he/she said), do you know if the company has an intern program?” then they’ll tell you, and if you’re lucky, offer you a referral. If they don’t, that’s ok just make sure you get their business card, add them on LinkedIn, follow up with a thank you and stay in touch.
Yes, you don’t have the Stanford network, but you don’t need one. So where do you find these professional organizations? There are plenty of high quality professional and student orgs on and off campus. Be active and seek well established student orgs with connections in your desired niche. Good student orgs have ties with professional organizations and the industry as whole. Sometimes you can find the organizations through viewing people’s LinkedIn profiles and see the organizations they are a part of. Other times, you can meet good connections at workshops held by your university and inquire about it. If you went to community college, don’t forget that you have friends that just transferred to other universities, so stay in touch and share your resources and you might get invited to an event hosted by a different university’s student org.
#4 Utilize university career resources
Go to events and workshops, preferably ones hosted by your university’s business program. You’ll probably learn a lot, but also stick around at the end and turn the workshop into a networking session.
Build good relationships with professors, academic counselors, and career development counselors. When they get an internship or leadership opportunity sent to them, you want to be the first person they think of. Having good relationships with counselors played an important role in how I landed an internship this past summer. It allowed me to go to a job shadow day at Wells Fargo and receive an internship application via email. The opportunity that I applied to was forwarded five times before it got to my academic counselor. I was the person she forwarded it to. Be that person!
#5 Positive Personal Brand
Your brand is your first and last impression that you give off. It is important through the whole application process, not just when you walk into the interview room.
It starts with your social media profiles and feeds. Most people try to have “not bad” profiles by deleting those silly embarrassing pictures and posts with profanity on Facebook and Twitter. It is important to have a good impression, not just “not a bad one” by constantly shooting out good information. Create the person that you want someone to see, not only on LinkedIn, but consistently across all social media platforms. Tweet and post about what is relevant to your field to show your dedication and passion.
While on the topic, LinkedIn can be a double edged blade; having inconsistencies or typos on your LinkedIn could eliminate you from getting a call. I applied to an asset management firm and soon after a recruiter from that firm view my profile and sent me a request. I was excited, but never made it to an interview because my profile wasn’t perfect or was lacking in one way or an other.
#6 Once your resume gets through the ATS, say THANK YOU!
Be grateful. If you are lucky enough to get to a phone screen, say thank you and always follow up showing your appreciation to have been provided with time and consideration. Emailing a thank you shows the recruiter three facts. You care about the position and are grateful to be considered. You are kind. Your name! Your name shows up in their email; think about it as free marketing.
Let me just finish off my point by saying this: Imagine you have an identical twin with exactly the same resume and experience who applied to the same position as you. The only difference is that you showed appreciation to the recruiter by saying thank you. Who will get the internship?
#7 Self improvement, and hedging your bets?
Even the A student with a qualified resume and a good cover letter may never get a response from the companies that they have applied to. Know there is such a high volume of applications being submitted to postings that your resume might not stand a chance passing the applicant tracking system unless you have really honed in your skills, networked, and perhaps have already achieved certifications and new skills that most applicants have not.
I know first hand how discouraging it may be when you’re not getting call backs. Out of all the internships I applied to, only two got back to me with good news (less than 3%). I had actually given up on applying to internships and had decided to evaluate my resume and think of what could be done in order to be a more competitive candidate.
At a certain point, if you don’t get call backs, you’ll have to decide what to do. Perhaps hedge you bets and apply to less competitive opportunities or find relevant work through a temp agency. Or perhaps study for certification programs that will give you an edge in the job market. The initial discouragement sucks, but be proactive, create you own opportunities, and good luck!.
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