If you want to get into the finance industry, particularly the banking industry, you are lucky enough to have been studying on this tiny island, Singapore, which is really a hot spot of money flow. But with more lucrative job opportunities, competition also increases. Your competition doesn’t just come from local universities, but overseas schools that may have even better branding. Hence your chance of getting in isn’t necessarily higher, unless you get some insider help. And the help has come.
This article primarily focuses on getting an internship in a bank. Almost all the global banks have their presence in Singapore, in addition to many local and regional banks. Most banks start their internship recruitment in late September or early October all the way till mid-November or early December. They follow very standardized process, hence Digital Senior’s introduction is applicable to most of the banks that you want to apply for.
The process is divided into four parts: online application and résumé screening, online test, phone interview and finally assessment center. Each part deserves an article explaining in detail, but it is good that you have an overview of the whole process and bear the big picture in mind.
Step 1: Present your Case
First of all, you need to submit an application. You are advised to submit your application early as many banks recruit interns on a rolling basis. As soon as the firms visit your campus, the application portals may have been ready for applications. Don’t wait until two weeks before the deadline. Banks won’t close their portals even they have finished their recruitment for the year, so don’t be misled by the appearance of receiving applications when they have closed everything on their end.
When you are submitting your application, at the very least you need to have a résumé ready. Guess the first question is: how long should my résumé be? Well, Digital Senior thinks you should ask yourself rather how short should it be. The answer is to keep it to one page. Two pages are still somewhat okay, but still less neat and concise than a one-page CV. Anything beyond that level, you may blow away your chance of being considered seriously as that is testing the patience of recruiters who will be extremely busy during the cycle.
Some banks also require you to fill in some application questions. They usually relate to your motivation of applying (why us?) or your own experiences (leadership, overcoming difficulty, teamwork). When answering such questions, make sure you give examples (same goes for interviews). Giving examples make your answers interesting stories, and that is far better (or less painful) to read than a laundry list of achievements that some students tend to give. One good story beats ten bullets points of achievements. In a word, make the reader like you and your application, instead of trying too hard to impress.
Step 2: Pass the Tests
Once you pass the first stage, the bank will send you a link asking you to complete an online test. (Or this can happen right after you submit your application). The timed tests usually consist of numerical test, verbal reasoning and logical deduction. Depending on your strength, you may find certain type of tests more difficult.
In numerical tests, you need to be able to interpret table and Pi charts, work with percentage or currency conversion. In verbal reasoning, you will be able to make inferences from the paragraphs given. In the logical deduction, you need to be able to find out the pattern of changing pictures and predict what the next one is going to be like. You will only be able to proceed to the next stage of application once your score pass certain marks (which are unknown). So aim for perfection.
Step 3: Conversation over the Phone
If you pass the test, things get more real. If the HR likes your application, you will be invited to have a phone interview. Normally an HR or a manager will have conversation with you for twenty to forty minutes. The interviewer will ask you questions based on your experiences on your résumé and also questions relating to your motivation of applying. Since you are talking over a phone, you can have some pointers on a piece of paper in front of you when talking. That helps a lot in reminding you of the things you want to share; it acts as a backup CPU in case you mind suddenly goes blank.
As your interviewer cannot see you, the only source of body language is your voice. Do control your emotion and avoid having a shaky voice. Students inexperienced with interviews tend to speak fast and may end up stuttering. A steady, cheerful and energetic voice speaks volume about your case than any scripted interview answers.
Step 4: Final Stretch at the Assessment Center
If you proceed to the last stage, you are already one of the few lucky ones for an assessment center. The so-called center is really a series of face to face interviews and activities you need to complete at the company’s office. Banking interview is usually divided into technical interview, where you are drilled with questions on accounting, finance, business news and brain teasers, and behavioral interview, where you have a conversation with the interviewer about your experiences, values and aspirations. If there is only one thing that you need to do to excel, that is to make sure your interviewer likes you. But to do that, much preparation work needs to be done.
Then you also need to have a group exercise where a few of you in a room will come together and work as a team, or two teams, and solve a problem or a conflict. While you are discussing, your interviewers will be sitting silently at the back and observing how you talk to people. Are you too timid to talk? Or are you too dominant? Do you respect your teammates? Can you move the discussion forward? Digital Senior knows it is a bit strange to act as if it is for real, but just take it as a reality TV show. Your aim is to come across as someone who can work effectively in a team. There is no better way to discover a team player than having someone actually work in a team.
Now you have an overview of the whole process and the unique challenges along the way. As you can tell, it is not quick and easy. But if you really want to work in a challenging banking career, the applications process is just a starter of the main course to come. Read other sections in the blog to learn specifically how to play each step well in the application process, with a Singapore focus.
Author: This author is an economics student in NTU. Passionate about finance, he interned in a sales team at Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as in the asset management department of Deutsche Bank. He understands the breaking into the finance industry is not easy, but it’s always possible with hard work and advice from people who went through the same path. He benefitted tremendously from the help from his seniors. Now he’s glad to give back, by getting behind the Digital Senior and providing tips to juniors on resume, networking, interviews and more!
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