by Brian DeChesare

No Investment Banking Summer Internship Offers: What to Do

No Investment Banking Summer Internship Offers

A long time ago, it didn’t matter that much if you applied for summer internships at the large banks but failed to win a single offer.

It hurt, but it wasn’t necessarily a disaster because full-time recruiting still existed, and it was more feasible to win full-time offers without a previous internship.

Recruiting also moved more slowly, and it was easier to find last-minute roles.

But IB summer internship recruiting has become far more competitive, everything starts earlier, and full-time recruiting for non-interns is close to “endangered species” status.

It’s still not the end of the world if you fail to get an internship offer, but it is a much bigger obstacle.

But before explaining your options and suggesting the next steps, I want to define more precisely what it means to “not get any internship offers”:

What Does “No Internship Offers” Mean?

When someone says they “didn’t get any internship offers,” typically they mean:

I’m being specific because this article is not about early-university internships, off-cycle internships, post-graduation internships, etc.

If you don’t win an offer for one of those, it matters much less: keep applying to other firms and try again.

Step 1: Are You Sure About “No Investment Banking Summer Internship Offers”?

First, note that many students prematurely conclude that they didn’t win any offers.

The “application open date” at most banks in the U.S. is more than a year before the internship start date, but it’s later in the U.K. (August-September in the year before), and it’s also later at the MBA level.

Also, even within one level, some large banks might start very early (e.g., February of the year before), while others might start only a year in advance.

Unfortunately, this seems to change each year, with banks moving the start dates backward and forward depending on deal activity and competition for interns.

The best rule of thumb is to go by the application open dates, when you applied, and how many firms you’ve heard back from.

For example, if you applied to 3-4 banks when applications opened, you haven’t heard back after one week, and most banks have not even opened applications, it’s far too early to say anything.

On the other hand, if you’ve already applied to 20+ large banks, 1-2 months have passed, and you haven’t heard anything or have received only negative responses, then you’re edging closer to “no offers at the large banks.”

Step 2: Figure Out What Went Wrong and How You Can Fix It

If you’re in this position, your top priority has to be avoiding the worst-case scenario: ending up with no summer internship offer anywhere.

Even a back or middle office role beats nothing, and a corporate finance or boutique IB/PE/VC internship is much better than “nothing at all.”

So, regardless of why you didn’t win an internship, your next steps/options look like this:

1) Apply for alternate internships so you can gain solid experience, a brand name, or both.

2) Decide on a “Plan B” option to get into the industry:

  • You could delay graduation and apply for summer internships again (undergrad only); or
  • You could graduate as scheduled and attempt to use full-time recruiting, if it exists, to win an offer; or
  • You could focus on related finance roles and use one of them to win a lateral offer.

3) Pick a “Plan C” Option – If one of these options above works, great. If not, you need a “Plan C.” The most common ones are a Master’s in Finance program (near-term) or a top MBA (longer-term). But another one is accepting that IB may not be for you and deciding to focus on other careers for now.

The best decisions here depend on why you didn’t win a summer internship offer the first time around and how long it will take to fix the issue or improve your profile.

The most common issues include:

  • Timing: You started too late or applied too late (i.e., right before the deadlines instead of when applications opened).
  • Numbers: Recruiting is a numbers game. If you only applied to 2-3 banks right after applications opened, your chances of getting an offer are low.
  • Relevant Work Experience: Maybe you interned in medicine, marketing, or engineering, and nothing on your resume seemed useful for finance.
  • Grades/School Reputation: Your GPA is too low, or you go to a non-target school that requires significantly more networking to get results.
  • Under-Preparation: You weren’t prepared for interviews, especially for the technical and deal-related questions.
  • Over-Preparation: You were too “robotic” and didn’t connect well with bankers.
  • Lack of Interest: You didn’t demonstrate a serious interest in the field and couldn’t answer basic questions about the job.

Some of these problems will require more time to fix than others, which is why your problem(s) determine what your Plan B and Plan C should be.

For example, if you were underprepared for technical questions but everything else was fine, it might make sense to delay graduation – if you can afford it – and try again.

On the other hand, if your GPA was too low (< 3.5 in the U.S. or worse than 2:1 in the U.K.), you might need more than another 1-2 semesters to fix it.

In this case, your best option might be to aim for less competitive finance roles, such as corporate banking or corporate finance, and move into IB as a lateral hire.

If your grades were so bad that you need a massive turnaround, you might combine one of these with a Master’s in Finance degree to demonstrate better results.

Finally, if your main problem was a “lack of relevant work experience,” it depends on how much you were lacking.

If you have no internships by Year 3 of university, it’s unrealistic to get into IB right after graduation, so you’ll have to focus on related finance roles for your Plan B.

But if you have had some experience but nothing specifically related to deals – for example, private banking or corporate finance – you have more options.

If everything else in your profile is solid, and you just need a boutique IB internship to make yourself competitive, you could potentially get that internship and then keep networking to apply for full-time roles.

If you’re not quite as confident, you could delay graduation and apply for summer internships once again after you get the deal experience.

Step 3: Apply to Other Internships

Regardless of your “Plan B,” you’ll have to apply for alternate internships.

The main question is which internships are best: IB/PE-related roles at boutiques or roles at big companies in corporate finance, corporate banking, or even audit/accounting.

There’s no universal answer, and it depends on your time frame, networking, and existing experience.

But in general, it’s best to get a mix of brand names and relevancy with your internships.

So, if you’ve already done an off-cycle internship at a boutique bank, PE firm, or search fund, it would be more helpful to work at a large, well-known company, even if the work itself is less relevant (and vice versa).

However, you need more lead time with big companies because applications tend to open and close at least 3-6 months in advance.

Therefore, if you’re on a short time frame, such as 1-2 months or less to find something, you’ll probably have to rely on cold emailing and cold calling boutiques.

And if you have almost no relevant work experience, you should target boutique firms for off-cycle internships using the guides on this site (see the links above).

Whatever you do, do not spread yourself thin by applying to 10 different types of internships across hundreds of companies.

Pick 1-2 focus areas (e.g., boutique banks in your region and corporate finance rotational internships at tech companies) and stick with them.

It’s “easier” to win these internships, but they still require time and effort, and it will be tough to keep your story straight if you’re applying to a huge range of roles.

Step 4: Reassess Your “Plan B” After the Alternate Internship

Hopefully, you were able to win an alternate internship and gain relevant experience, a solid brand name, or both.

As the internship finishes, you need to plan your next move.

You have the same options mentioned previously: delay graduation and try again (if you’re an undergrad), network aggressively for full-time roles at banks, or apply to related finance roles and eventually move in as a lateral hire.

What’s different is that the best plan now depends on how much you could “fix” over the past 6-12 months.

For example, if you got a boutique IB/PE internship that filled in a work experience gap, and everything else in your profile is solid, it’s more realistic to delay graduation and apply to internships again or target full-time roles now.

The same applies if you used the time to get more experience and build your network, and your main problem the first time around was a lack of either one.

On the other hand, if you still have a 3.0 GPA, these are probably not good options because you’ll be at a disadvantage no matter your work experience and interview prep.

I also want to point out that applying for full-time IB roles without a previous “large bank internship” normally ranges from “very difficult” to “impossible.”

Most full-time roles go to interns, so you’ll have to rely on a combination of:

  • Luck – Find a bank or group that had a lot of underperforming interns who did not receive offers.
  • Regional Offices and Non-EB/BB Banks – You’re more likely to find these opportunities outside of major centers like NY and London, and they’re also more likely at firms like HSBC, Wells Fargo, RBC, etc., than they are at GS, JPM, or Evercore.
  • Networking – You’ll have to be aggressive in your outreach and, ideally, already know quite a few bankers in the groups you’re targeting.
  • Favorable Market Conditions – Your chances are higher when deal activity is rising and banks have under-hired.

There is a great account from one reader who followed this and won a role at the last minute here.

No Internship Offer: The End of the World?

While it’s disappointing not to receive an IB internship offer, it’s far from the end of the world.

The recruiting process is quite random, and it is a numbers game: your chances of winning at least one offer nearly double if you get 10 Superday interviews rather than 2.

If you don’t win a summer internship offer, you’ll need more time to get into the industry, and you may have to spend extra money if you delay graduation or go for another degree.

Instead of panicking, it’s better to reframe this problem as: “What is my next-best internship option, and how can that help me get into the industry via other means?”

If you reflect and get some honest feedback from interviewers and networking contacts, you should have a good idea of what went wrong, how to fix it, and what you should do next.

I’ll close with one final suggestion here: if you have completed many interviews and come up empty-handed, it may be that investment banking is not for you.

Even if you answered the technical questions, told a decent story, and came across as personable, interviewers might have detected that you were not committed.

And… there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you don’t care that much or were peer-pressured into it, this is good news because you’ll be able to focus on other careers without even more exhausting IB recruiting.

If that’s you, then “no summer internship offers” might be the first step toward a more fitting career path.

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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