What If You Don’t Get a Return Offer From Your Investment Banking Summer Internship?

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no_return_offer_panic“Don’t panic.”

Or should you?

As summer internships finish up and full-time recruiting begins, this is one question that always comes up:

What should you do if you don’t get a return offer?

A lot of what you should do is obvious – so first, let’s take a look at what not to do.

Lie About It

The problem here is that you can be caught very easily – especially if you worked at a large bank, where your offer status is just a phone call to a friend away.

Yes, people do lie about their offer status and sometimes they get away with it.

But is it worth the risk?

No.

Tell the Whole Truth

If you didn’t get an offer – whether it’s because no one got offers, or because you watched YouTube all day and never did anything – you will need to learn how to spin what really happened.

Some ideas:

  • “The market was bad” is actually a weak excuse unless you can truthfully say that absolutely no one received offers, or that your bank just doesn’t take on full-timers for whatever reason.
  • It’s usually better to say something like, “I did well, got good reviews, and enjoyed the work, but wanted to be put in such-and-such group instead…”
  • Another approach is to cite the culture and say you performed well, but would fit in better with the people you’re interviewing with right now.
  • If the bank never told you one way or the other, you have a very easy way to spin the truth – just say that they are not telling interns for now, and while you enjoyed working there, you think you’d be better off in the group you’re interviewing with because…

In all cases you should focus on the positive aspects of whatever you actually did, and then also link in the positives of the place you’re interviewing at.

Apply to the Same Firm Again

This only works if you worked in one group at a large bank, didn’t get an offer there, and know people elsewhere really well and are certain that news won’t spread to their group.

Sometimes banks are actually disorganized enough to let this happen, and I’m sure there are some people who have won offers like this.

But if you worked at Goldman Sachs Investment Banking and didn’t get a return offer, you shouldn’t bother applying there once again.

What are they going to learn in 4 hours of interviews that they wouldn’t already know from 10 80+ hour weeks?

Think You’re a Failure and Dwell On It

Not getting a return offer after a summer internship is one of the least serious setbacks you’ll ever experience. Other setbacks that are worse:

The whole process can be very random and political, especially in certain groups – so don’t take it personally, unless it really was your fault (you kept screwing up your comps repeatedly).

Wait to Hear Whether or Not You’re Actually Getting an Offer

This one is counter-intuitive, but consider the following:

  • Traditionally, banks tell interns about return offers on the last day or in the last week, and sometimes earlier than that.
  • Some banks (Goldman being the most famous example) like to delay telling people for months, even when the market is good.
  • These days, a lot of other banks are adopting the same approach – so you may not know definitively for a few weeks to a few months.

You need to be very careful about relying on hearsay. Until you sign the dotted line, anything could happen.

Rather than waiting to hear, you need to hedge yourself by applying to other places and then making “Plan B” scenarios in case nothing works out (see below).

Rely on On-Campus Recruiting

If you go to a school that actually has on-campus recruiting, you might be tempted to just rely on this process to get another offer.

The problem: everyone else – including those without banking internships – is doing the same thing.

If you want to stand out, you need to go around the standard channels and speak directly with recruiters at other banks (more on this below).

So What to Do Then?

Ok, so those are a couple of the more common mistakes to avoid with return offers.

Now for what to do in case you already know, or anticipate, that you won’t get a return offer:

Find Out Why

First, you need to find out why you really didn’t get a return offer – not just the story that your MD or HR told you. These days it’s very common to say that it was due to “market conditions,” when in reality it might be because you kept screwing up.

Rather than going through recruiters, it’s usually more helpful to go to your friends and anyone you know well and do some reconnaissance to figure out why you really didn’t get an offer.

This helps you in 2 ways:

  1. You can then come up with more stories / support during interviews to explain your situation and address any “objections” that interviewers might have.
  2. It shows you who might actually be a good reference for you (see below) and who would be useless.

Get References

If you actually did well and everyone liked you, but you just didn’t get an offer for political reasons or anything else outside your control, getting references will be huge.

Finding bankers who can back up how good you are, tell others about it, and then also refer you to their friends is huge and is often the difference between getting a job somewhere else and getting nothing.

Of course, you can’t do this if you didn’t get an offer because you really did watch YouTube all day at work.

Network… Aggressively

Forget about trying to build relationships and asking about your friend’s ski trip to Colorado – if you need a full-time offer ASAP, then you have to be more direct with your networking.

The best way to do this: contact recruiters at large banks directly, say you interned at such-and-such bank, and that you want to know how to position yourself for an interview at their firm due to looming deadlines.

Leave it vague and avoid discussion of whether or not you got an offer until it actually comes up in interviews – and when that happens, justify it by using some of the reasons given above.

If you’re looking at smaller banks as well, you can just cold-call / cold-email them and explain very briefly where you interned and that you want to interview with them.

And if you already have decent relationships with bankers, you should ask about an accelerated interview process given your internship.

But Hedge Yourself, Just In Case

You stand a significantly better chance of getting a full-time offer if you’ve already done an internship… but things don’t always work out, so you always want to hedge yourself just in case:

One reason I recommend starting to recruit ASAP rather than waiting for on-campus recruiting is that these methods are all time-consuming (ok, except for the last one), and you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with options… focus on what you actually want first.

Don’t Panic?

You might be tempted to press the “panic” button if you don’t get a return offer, but you should resist the urge to do so (or anything else similarly drastic) – it’s not the end of the world, and it’s easier to overcome compared to other setbacks.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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149 Comments to “What If You Don’t Get a Return Offer From Your Investment Banking Summer Internship?”

Comments

  1. Hector says

    I’m confused.

    In this article I read “internships that might turn into full-time offers.
    Look outside banking and consider trading, consulting, and other fields that could get you into business school.”

  2. Hoa says

    Hi,
    Thanks for uploading it, It helps tremendously. I have a question though. I am doing my 1 year program MBA and this summer Im interning for finance department but it’s a media company so basically what I did was paperwork (more accounting related). I m looking for getting into M&A,PEI,IB,etc but I dont really have much of experience in real financial world. Do you recommend anything?

    Even IB internship is looking for previous experienced intern.

    Thanks

  3. Eric says

    Hi,

    I interned this summer at a BB and did not get offer. I am studying abroad next semester (senior Fall) in London but would like to find a BB or Mid tier job in NYC. I am studying in London from mid Sep thru mid Dec, and my home school is a non target, top 3 biz school.

    What’s the best way to find a job in NYC? Can I ask for accelerated process in aug or early sep, or should I just do my phone interview in London and fly into NYC for super days?

    Thanks very much in advance!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’m not quite sure because I haven’t studied abroad. But I’d speak to HR at banks re your situation. I presume you’ll go through the standard recruiting procedure though I may be wrong

  4. zizou says

    Hi Nicole,
    I just interned at ST at a BB over the summer and it was a rotational program. I only liked 1 of the desk out of 4 desks I rotated at, 2 others were more operational, and 1 is a misfit. THe desk that I really like and I think people there like me too, they weren’t hiring.
    How should I spin this? should I just say the truth about how 2 out of 4 weren’t trading, 1 was misfit and 1 wasn’t hiring? Does this sound too muh like an excuse, but it actually exactly what happened.
    THanks

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If people ask you why you didn’t get a return offer, just say that the desks you really wanted weren’t hiring.

      • zizou says

        Hi Nicole,
        Thanks for the quick reply. So I shouldn’t mention the misfit? I was thinking that if I didn’t fit in with one desk, I might have same problems at the firm I am interviewing with.
        Sincerely,

        • M&I - Nicole says

          You can if you want to but I’d just keep it simple. Interviewers may ask you why you didn’t fit in and probe. As long as you are comfortable handling their questions, feel free to tell mention that. If you think you might have fit problems with the firm you’re interviewing with, I’d suggest you to ask interviewers from that firm a lot of questions on their culture, their way of doing things and what they expect from newcomers

  5. Maria says

    Hi, I was at GS IBD – liability management and didnt get a return offer. I reapplied for another country and got an interview there. For the interview, should I just tell them that I didn’t want to work in liability management and so I told off everyone I didnt want it and wanted IBD product groups instead? If they ask why I didnt get an offer, do you have any better suggestions? Thanks!

    • Maria says

      Sorry, I meant to say that I applied to another country for GS as well. Meaning, I somehow got through the gates and got another interview :)

  6. Chris says

    Hi, I was at a bulge bracket investment bank. My group was the derivatives group and I didn’t get a return offer. I did however interview with the bank’s IBD and I got rejected there as well. I have a final round coming up in a week. If they ask if I got a return offer, can I say that I talked with the group and wanted to lateral, and so that is why they didnt give me an offer?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes, if that is true. And I think there’s some truth to it because you interviewed with the bank’s IB division

  7. Miriam says

    Hi M&I, thank you so much for posting this encouraging article! I interned at a BB’s regional office for an industry group I wasn’t too interested in and wasn’t given a return offer. I was told that they loved my personality but preferred someone with a more technical background (I am a social sciences major since my school does not offer finance or business majors for undergraduates). I’ve always wanted to work in a BB’s IBD in NY, but as someone from a non-target school (but top 20 in the nation) and didn’t get a return offer from a regional office, I’m not really sure where to start. Other than asking my former bosses for NY referrals and studying finance on my own, do you have any suggestions?

  8. Value says

    I interned at an elite boutique this summer, but didn’t get a return offer for political reasons. Went through full time recruiting and got an offer at a top middle market boutique in NYC. Can I still go to a good HF/PE fund afterwards? Will I be asked in HF/PE interviews why I didn’t go back to the elite boutique / if I got a return offer from the summer?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes you can. Yes you may get that question, and you can always spin that there were headcount issues. Focus on your current role. As long as you do well and get good references, I don’t think you need to worry too much!

  9. JD says

    Where to go from here – an unusual circumstance:

    1. Went to top law school
    2. Internship at BB IBD instead of law firm
    3. No Offer
    4. 1 year later: in Compliance / Audit

    Is it pretty much done at this point? Is there any real chance of moving forward or would you just work on getting into law firms / throwing yourself off a bridge at this point.

    Also relevant: I am 30.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      There’s chance though it maybe easier to move into corporate law at a top law firm and transition from there to IB, versus going directly to IB,

  10. JR says

    I interned at a BB bank, didn’t get an offer, and ended up at a MM bank. I got a good mid-summer review at the BB bank and VPs helped me reach out to other banks after I didn’t get offered, but I think most banks during full time recruiting dinged me for not getting the offer despite that. For PE interviews, would you try to avoid the fact that I interned at a bank because it’ll raise red flags about why I didn’t get an offer and just focus on my full time experience/other internships?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Not necessarily I think it depends on how you spin you not getting an offer. If you said something along the lines of “yes VP loved me, he made solid recommendations but there weren’t enough headcount.” I think that’s fine.

  11. Omar says

    I am currently interning at a BB and am worried I might not get an offer and even if I did would most likely want to recruit. Is it too early to start reaching out to other banks recrtuiting teams now? When should I start? I am about to start my 4th week.

  12. J says

    If I don’t get a re-offer from a MM bank, is it almost impossible to get an FT offer from a BB? Should I focus only on boutiques? Rising Senior from a top lib arts school semi-target (?).

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No, not necessarily, you just need to have a good explanation.

      Boutiques may give you better chance but I’d still apply to BBs if you can

  13. NoOfferAndSad says

    Hello,
    The summer after my sophomore year, I had an internship at a 2nd-tier BB (UBS/Citi/Credit Suisee) and did not receive an offer. They said my technical skills (i.e. Attention to Detail) improved but not enough, but I think it’s because of a more political reason. I have since been invited to two accelerated interviews for top-tier BBs, but haven’t gotten offers. Was it because I didn’t get a return offer from my sophomore internship? How should I spin this in further interviews? I go to a target school and am good at networking, but don’t know how to get over this hurdle. Any ideas?

    • NoOfferAndSad says

      Also, I did not like the culture in my group…at all. No one was impressive and most people were lateral hires meaning that most people who could get out, did.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No, I don’t think so, otherwise they wouldn’t have given you the interviews.

      I may focus on honing your pitch and presentation skills, and I’d just say that there was a headcount issue which is why you didn’t get an offer. May or may not be true…

      • NoOfferAndSad says

        Hi Nicole. Thanks for the response. The problem with that is a headcount issue isn’t really a possibility because even in the worst years, banks hire summer analysts (which is what my return offer would be for). When I said there wasn’t a cultural fit, I got too many follow-ups. Is it better to say that I needed to work on my accounting and valuation skills and then encourage the interviewers to “test” me?

        Thanks!

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