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No offers of summer internships in investment banking: What to do?

IB no offer

So, you’ve applied to dozens of banks. You’ve sent the best version of your resume. You spent hours on application portals. 

Yet, despite all your efforts, you have no internship offer. And you don’t understand why. Now, you feel like there is nothing that you can do. That you’ve missed your shot for good. 

The question is: what can you do in this situation? Is your dream of becoming a rainmaker at GS and having your Wall Street corner office at 32 definitely over? The good news is that there is always hope. There is always a way in, no matter how desperate you think your situation is. 

In this article, we present you several options you can opt for in case you didn’t get any investment banking internship

What does it mean to have no offers?

“No offers” can have several meanings:

  • You’re in your last year at university, you don’t have any experience in investment banking, and you will graduate without having completed any internship in IB
  • You’ve been through several rounds of interviews and even reached a few Assessment Centers, but you didn’t get any offer, and now the recruiting season is essentially over for most major banks. You’re about to graduate so you think you won’t have a chance to apply again. 
  • You’ve finished your MBA programme but didn’t manage to secure any internship offer.

Those are the cases in which you may need some strategic advice to see what to do next. In case you’re a first-year university student crying because you didn’t get a Summer in M&A at Goldman, chill out: just try again next year.

Common reasons for not having an internship
  • You didn’t send enough applications. Getting an internship in IB is clearly a number’s game, you need to apply to a lot of different places to have interviews, and you need to have a lot of interviews to have an offer. Don’t apply to 3 banks and expect to get an offer. Even the cream of the cream of applicants can’t pull that off. Apply to at least dozens of firms, including your dream firms, second-choice firms, and other firms you can use as a safety net.
  • You have bad grades. Major US banks often require that you mention your grades during your application. If your grades are bad or not great, you will be penalized. If your grades are really bad, no amount of networking will solve the problem. If that is your case, you may want to invest in a specialized master in finance and work as hard as you can to refresh your grades with better ones.
  • You were not prepared enough for interviews. One of the most common reasons candidates don’t get offers is because they simply weren’t ready to handle interview questions. And most of the time (remember this carefully because chances are you’re making this mistake as well), they don’t fail on technical questions, they fail on FIT questions. I’ve interviewed dozens of candidates for my former employers, and I can assure you that 8 out 10 candidates are not truly ready to deal with fit/behavioral questions. It’s not that their answers are incorrect. It’s just that they are boring, generic, and unconvincing. Some candidates also fail on the technical side, but in my experience, the real lack of preparation is on the fit side.
  • You tried “too hard” during the interviews. Yes, there is such a thing as trying too hard. Many candidates arrive at the interview with good intentions, they want to impress the recruiters. The problem is that when candidates are “over-motivated” (by speaking very loud and with excessive enthusiasm), it usually sounds fake, try-hard, and recruiters don’t like that. It’s ok to be ultra-motivated to join an investment bank. But don’t be a showman. Have some respect for yourself. Don’t play a cartoonish character that you know you’re not. Remain calm, stay chill, and channel your high motivation to produce answers of exceptional quality, while maintaining a professional demeanor.

You started applying too late. If you’re applying close to the deadline, it’s already too late. The deadline is just here for indicative purposes. But most of the recruitment has been done months before the official deadline. Candidates are recruited on a first-come, first-served basis. That means that the earlier you apply, the higher your chances. Don’t apply on December 2nd for a deadline on December 5th for Christ’s sake…

If you didn’t get any internship, what are your options?
Option #1: join a company with a strong brand name, in a field that will bring you skills that are valued in investment banking

The brand of a firm is important insofar as it signals to future employers that you’ve been through a selective recruiting process. Typically, the stronger the brand of a company, the more aggressively they try to protect by hiring top talents. If you manage to get an internship outside of investment banking but at a reputable firm with strong brand power, IB recruiters will give you some credit for it even if it’s not a purely finance-related experience. 

Now, brand name by itself is not sufficient to improve your odds of getting an IB offer after this temporary internship experience. If you work in product design at Coca Cola, the skill overlap with investment banking is very limited so it’ll be hard to prove to recruiters that you have the right skills. Instead, you should favour fields of work that share a common skill set with investment banking, so that you can essentially say to recruiters (implicitly): “Look, I don’t have IB experience, but I’ve done this internship which enabled me to develop skills that are very useful in investment banking”. 

For example, strategy, M&A within a company, financial consolidation, are fields in which you can develop useful, and therefore marketable skills for IB. 

If you want to opt for this strategy, here’s what you can do:

  • Look at the list of Fortune 500 companies 
  • Among these companies, make a list of 15-20 companies with a strong, well-known brand name (e.g., Pfizer, Boeing, American Express)
  • Look at their website and see if they have any corporate finance department or any other department related to finance
  • Cold email people who work there to get an interview (to see how to cold email people to land interviews, see more here)

Once you have that name on your CV and the relevant experience that comes with it, you’ll be in a much better position to apply for IB roles. 

Option #2: apply to small boutique investment banks for the sake of gaining experience

There are many small boutiques that won’t give any brand name to your CV, but which may be a good way to gain some investment banking experience. 

These “no-name” boutiques are typically much less selective than bulge-bracket banks and elite boutiques, receive a significantly lower volume of applications, and are generally more open-minded to welcome interns with no relevant experience (as long as your networking is on point and that you’re well prepared for the interviews). 

To find these boutiques, you have to do some digging online by typing requests like “investment banking boutiques in France”. You should be able to find a few names following this approach. Another technique you can use to find some IB boutique is to go on LinkedIn and type the name of boutique you know (e.g., Arma Partners). 

On the results page of your research, you will find a section on the right side called “People also viewed”. This section will contain names of similar companies, which you may not have found otherwise.  

To get an internship at these boutique investment banks, there’s no secret: you just need to cold email and network with bankers who work there. For our full guide on networking click here. 

Option #3: Apply for a Master’s in Finance programme or an MBA

Another option is to delay your graduation date by doing a graduate programme, like a Master’s in Finance or, if you have more time, an MBA. 

The benefit of opting for this option is that if you manage to get a spot in a top-tier programme, you can boost the academic prestige of your CV, which will later increase your chances of landing interviews at top IBs. Another benefit is that it gives you more time to network and send applications. 

However, the main drawback is the cost: a good Master’s in Finance can easily cost over $30k, meaning that you may have to take a student loan for that (at least that’s the case for most students). MBAs at top grad schools can be even more expensive. So it may not be the most cost-effective option, but if you feel like you have no other option and you are certain that IB is for you, then why not. 

Option #4: Consider changing career path

I know it’s hard to hear, but maybe investment banking isn’t for you. Many students have this fixed idea about making a career in IB. But very few actually take the time to speak to people working in this industry, and reflect to see if this would be a good fit for them or not, EXCLUDING social prestige and money. If you don’t genuinely enjoy the job on a “spiritual” level (for lack of a better word), if you don’t take sincere pleasure in the daily responsibilities of a young investment banker, then it probably won’t be a good fit for you long-term.


A word about the author

Aurelian Tran is the founder of Alpha Lane and an ex-Goldman Sachs analyst who has spent 4+ years working in the investment banking industry.

He founded Alpha Lane to help students and young professionals achieve their highest professional ambitions, by securing offers at top-tier financial institutions.