With competition for roles greater than ever, companies are using methods typically associated with graduate schemes for intern applications. From online application forms to psychometric tests, read on to discover what the next stages are and how to succeed in them.

The format of the application process will vary depending on the sector and individual company you’re applying too. You may have to complete all or just some of the below stages – but remember, it’s better to be over prepared than under!

For finance and consultancy internships or placements (banking roles in particular) you can expect a rigorous application process, similar to that of a graduate role. This is also the case for school leaver opportunities at large companies. After submitting your application form you may be invited for a telephone or video interview and, if successful, on to an assessment centre.

For insight days/weeks you’ll most likely be asked for a CV and covering letter and perhaps a telephone or video interview. Before you even think about starting your application, check that you have followed the primary steps below to ensure you are prepared for what lies ahead:

Step 1 – Research the company and business area you’re interested in – make sure they align with your skills, interests and future career aspirations.

Step 2 – Find out what their application process involves – CV and covering letter or online application form? Will you need to prepare for online tests or a telephone interview?

Step 3 – Identify the skills/competencies needed for the role.

Step 4 – Find evidence from your past experiences that would suit both the role and the company.

CV and covering letter

Your CV and cover letter are your prospective employer’s first impression of you and as such, due care and attention should be taken when tackling them. They are your chance to sell yourself, so don’t sell yourself short. Read our CV advice and cover letter top tips to ensure you submit a top class application.

Application form

For banking roles in particular it’s likely that you will have to complete an online application form over the traditional CV and covering letter. Sometimes this will only consist of basic personal details, but can be as in-depth as the application for a graduate scheme, including questions about your skills, motivations and experience.

The Questions

It is likely that you will be asked a series of competency-based questions and will need to give examples of when you have demonstrated a particular skill or accomplished a certain task. You may be asked to give an example of a time when you: worked as part of a team; brought someone round to your way of thinking; took a leadership role or learned from a mistake. Other common questions include: what are your three strongest skills relevant to this role?; how do your motivations set you apart from other candidates?; give an example of a personal achievement that you’re proud of.

Employers understand that as an undergraduate or school leaver you may not have as broad a range of experiences to draw on, so don’t panic. You won’t necessarily be expected to have any industry-specific experience (they recognise that this is you trying to get some!). There are plenty of other experiences you can draw from – read our Background Check article to see how you can apply other life experiences during the application process.

Learn to demonstrate your skills using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method and an example of a project you have previously worked on.

STAR method
S: Explain the situation and remember to focus on a specific event or activity.
T: What tasks were required of you, who, when and where.
A: The action you took or initiated – what you did, skills used, behaviours, characteristics.
R: The result, impact and value your actions achieved. Try to identify multiple positive outcomes.

  • Take your time – a good application should take you no less than four hours to complete. Check out the company’s website and social media platforms to gauge their culture and values and tailor your application accordingly.
  • Be professional throughout the recruitment process – make sure you use an appropriate tone in all correspondence as well as your CV/cover letter and application form. Your company research should give you an indication of the style and language to use.
  • Talk about ‘I’ not ‘we’; recruiters want to hear what you personally did.
  • Make sure you read the questions carefully and answer all parts. If there is a word limit, ensure you stick to it.
  • If possible read all the questions first and then decide which example to use for each. Try and use a different example for each question. Preparing a list of experiences beforehand
    and having it nearby to refer to during the application process will come in handy.
  • When completing online forms, prepare your answers in a Word document first. This will allow you not only to check for typos (and show your attention to detail) but also means that you’ll have your answers handy to review if you get through to interview stage.

Psychometric tests

Many graduate and school leaver schemes will have psychometric tests as part of their application process. This is less common for internships, but larger companies will have them so make sure to find out all stages of the company’s application process at the outset. Before completing the test, check to see if they provide you with any practice ones, then make sure you are somewhere quiet with good internet connection!

These tests are normally multiple choice questions and speed and accuracy are important. Familiarise yourself with the format and time allowance beforehand to improve your technique and give you the best chance of success. Being calm and prepared when you do the real thing will mean you are more likely to perform at your best.

Numerical Reasoning Tests

The purpose of these tests is to measure your innate numerical potential, as opposed to your learned mathematical knowledge (i.e. your ability to learn facts). So, don’t panic – you won’t be expected to perform advanced numerical calculations or algebra! Rarely will the test involve more than basic maths techniques and calculations of percentages and ratios. It’s likely, however, that you will have to extract information from charts and graphs so prepare by reading financial reports and studying different types of charts.

Verbal and Logical Reasoning Tests

These are used to test your ability to understand written information and make logical conclusions. They usually involve a written passage followed by a statement; you must then decide if the statement is true, false, or not possible to say without further information. These types of test are particularly popular in consultancy applications, as communication skills and interpreting written data is key to these roles.

Other tests you may come across in your application include situational judgement tests and personality tests.

Throughout the application process show that you:

  1. Have the desire to do the job.
  2. Have the right skills.
  3. Have the potential to grow.
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