Sales & Trading Internships: The Top 9 Ways to Go from Internship to Full-Time Offer

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Sales & Trading Internships to Full-Time OffersThis is a guest post from “DerivsTrading,” who founded S&T Careers.com to teach you how to win bulge bracket trading interviews and offers and ace your assessment centers. He’s an experienced flow options trader currently working at a bulge bracket bank in London, and he defied the odds to break in coming from a non-target school.

Six years ago I had beaten the odds and managed to secure a trading internship at a bulge bracket bank in London coming out of a proper non-target.

I thought I was done: after all, the networking and interview prep to win the internship was the hard part, right?

Wrong.

An internship means nothing if you can’t convert it into a full-time offer, and it’s arguably even harder to do this in sales & trading than in investment banking.

You might be competing against 15-20 other interns who are just as qualified as you, if not more so.

And you cannot underestimate the importance of rocking your internship to win a full-time offer – in the “post-financial crisis economy” there are very few spots for graduates who were not previous interns.

Winning an offer doesn’t just get you a full-time job at the bank you interned at, but it also gives you an automatic reference for other places you want to apply to and a “Plan B” option.

There are already tons of articles on this site on how to succeed in your internship, but most of them are focused on investment banking or corporate finance roles – so I wanted to detail some of the smaller details that go into making a sales & trading internship successful.

We’re going to look at everything from your wardrobe (Brian’s favorite topic) to pre-internship preparation, food orders, networking, trading games, and more:

Point #1: Wardrobe

This has been covered to death, but some things are important enough to repeat.

There is really one wardrobe rule to follow: if you have any doubts, then do not do it.

The rule of thumb is not to stick out until you are more ingrained with a team. So, be as conservative as possible for your first day (i.e. suit and tie) and then see what everyone else there is wearing and adjust accordingly.

You may end up settling on business casual, but it never hurts to be conservative on the first day / first week.

Point #2: Pre-Internship Preparation

Most people will tell you, “Everything you need to know will be taught on your desk – enjoy your summer!”

Do not listen to these people.

There is a huge difference between interns who come in with zero prep and interns who have clearly read around the subject.

You only have a couple weeks with each desk – so if each desk needs to teach you the basics, then you won’t stand out and you’ll be less likely to win a full-time offer.

For example, if you are on an equity derivatives desk, you do not want to be spending time learning what delta hedging is – you want to be discussing with the trader how he optimizes his delta hedging.

Knowing the basics allows you to use the time sitting with the trader to actually discuss ideas and trading strategies, rather than asking questions on basic information.

You don’t need to know as much as a full-time trader, of course, but knowing the basics of each different product is a very wise idea.

Point #3: Asking for Work

As an intern, you need to avoid one mistake above all else: annoying someone.

Yes, you have to be keen and eager to do as much as possible, but there is such a thing as crossing the line and asking for work too much.

Everyone has times when they’re receptive to helping and times when they’re busy – you need to learn to read the traders in your team and pick the best times to ask them for help (hint: if they look stressed out or it’s right around the open or close, you’re better off staying away).

Whenever you sit with someone and ask questions, always:

  1. Bring a notepad and take notes on everything they say.
  2. Resist the temptation to go off and spend hours on some task without asking the trader whether or not it would be useful first.

#2 is a very common mistake – some interns think they’ll be more impressive if they “surprise” the traders with all the work they’ve done on their own as they present a complex Excel / VBA template…

But this is a horrible idea.

There is probably a reason why the trader does things in a certain way, so if you come up with an idea to improve a process always ask the trader about it, create an outline of what you’re thinking about, and explain how it will make HIS life easier first.

If he says no or doesn’t seem to care, try again – if he says yes, great, go and create what you pitched.

Once you’ve done this a few times and have proven that you won’t screw up, traders will start handing off more and more work to you – full-time traders always have ideas on the backburner, but are rarely comfortable giving them to interns because it will require more time than just doing it themselves.

So instead of asking for work in the beginning, propose specific ideas to help them and keep doing that until they start trusting you and handing off work to you.

Point #4: Networking with Other Desks / Getting Placed on the Desk You Want

Placements are 80% at the hands of HR, with the exception of your first placement – which is 100% in the hands of HR.

Do NOT think you can slack off just because you didn’t get the desk you wanted to be placed into.

In fact, the single best way to move to a new desk is to become an outstanding performer on your current desk – too many interns think it’s all about “networking” and meeting people on other desks at the expense of their actual work.

Network as much as you want – every boss will be open to it – but make sure you are performing, because once you are seen as a high performer other desks will want to take you.

There is always a scramble over perceived talent.

Point #5: Food Orders

There are 3 types of interns when it comes to food orders:

  • Type #1: The Arrogant Type – He thinks he’s too good to get food for someone else. After a while, he won’t be asked to get lunch orders… but he also won’t get any real work and no one will like him. Don’t think that you’re being “tough” by resisting – just like joining a fraternity, you have to pay your dues when joining a trading desk.
  • Type #2: Poor Attention-to-Detail – He’s really eager to take orders and impress everyone, but he keeps screwing them up and missing small details like how they want their bread toasted. He has the right attitude, but if he can’t get results it will be the same outcome: no real work and no full-time offer.
  • Type #3: The Professional – He’s the intern who takes food orders very seriously and asks what all the traders want 15 minutes beforehand. As a trader, there is nothing worse than being hungry and not being able to get food.

An extra tip: do NOT write anything down – just remember it and then write down the order as you walk away. Yes, they will notice this.

Do it with a smile, do not make mistakes, and you will get more interesting work.

After all, if you can’t even order food correctly what are the chances that you can create a complex VBA program correctly?

Point #6: Face Time

Many firms / desks / traders say there’s no such thing as “face time” and there’s no point in staying late for the sake of staying late.

They’re half-right: no, don’t stay if you really have nothing to do… but don’t leave when everyone else leaves, either.

What worked well for me: I would spend the day networking and sitting with various people, and then after the close I would review what I learned during the day and finish off any Excel work or other tasks.

It requires more time on your part, but if you want an offer it is an effective way to get project work done and meet people.

So yes, avoid face time, but stay and finish your real work – even if it’s after hours.

Point #7: Trading Games

Trading games are quite similar across the major banks. It’s an open outcry game where there are two sets of players: market makers and market takers.

You’ll have to make markets on some random variable, like a consecutive dice roll, and then you’ll have to trade options/other derivatives on it.

In each session, there will be a couple traders to observe. You must make a solid impression in these games by performing well and understanding the rules.

There will always be a few interns who cannot handle the open outcry game, and it is quite funny to see people swarm on these guys.

I go over a full breakdown of how to beat the open outcry game in my interview guide, which covers all the arbitrage opportunities and how to price the options.

Point #8: End of Internship Project

Most internships will culminate in a final project that you’ll have to present to HR, your line managers, and most of the guys you worked with.

Do not underestimate the importance of this presentation.

Many interns feel they have impressed their team “enough” and that it won’t mean much since they’ve already impressed their teams – they could not be more wrong.

I’ve seen many interns close to getting an offer fail to receive an offer by blowing off the final presentation – and sometimes interns who had mixed performances manage to win offers with spectacular final presentations.

In many cases, the desk you were on might not have the headcount to make you an offer – so the end of rotation presentation will be your chance to impress other desk heads that might potentially hire you.

Point #9: The #1 Thing You Need to Do During Your Internship

There is one thing that all successful interns do: get to know as many people as possible.

Getting an offer often comes down to a vote, and you never know which desk will have the room to expand its headcount when decisions are made – so you want as many people as possible to have a good opinion of you.

Too many interns simply get on their desk and only get to know the people they work with directly: 2-3 MDs, couple of VPs, and a few junior guys.

This isn’t enough if you want a good chance at a full-time offer.

When I started my internship I got placed on a sales desk, which I hated at first because I was interested in trading – but it was the best thing that could have happened because one of my projects there allowed me to get to know traders on all the different desks.

After 3 weeks, I sat with pretty much every desk on the floor – and successfully won my full-time offer at the end of the internship.

S&T Conversion 101

Assuming that the hard work is over once you’ve been through months of networking and interviews to win your sales & trading internship is completely the wrong approach to take.

It’s actually tougher to convert an S&T internship into a full-time offer than it is in many other fields, because as an intern you won’t have the opportunity to do as much “real work” – and because there are fewer slots to begin with.

But if you follow everything above and succeed where other interns slack off and screw up, you might just defy the odds and find yourself with a full-time offer at the end of the summer.

This is a guest post from “DerivsTrading,” who founded S&T Careers.com to teach you how to win bulge bracket trading interviews and offers and ace your assessment centers. He’s an experienced flow options trader currently working at a bulge bracket bank in London, and he defied the odds to break in coming from a non-target school.

He offers a comprehensive S&T interview guide that includes 100+ technical (equities, credit, FX, interest rates, and options theory) and behavioral questions, a guide to generating trade ideas, secrets on how to beat the intern “trading game,” and full support and access to a forum where you can ask all your questions and receive answers from professional traders.

Click here to check out the S&T interview guide and sign up.

NOTE FROM BRIAN: As I’ve I said before, this interview guide is great if you’re looking to prepare for the technical side of S&T interviews and want something more in-depth.

It goes well beyond the simple fit and markets-based questions we’ve covered on the site before, into possible interview questions on more technical and product-specific topics.

This is the best S&T interview guide I have seen if you are already comfortable with the fundamentals and want to learn even more.

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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34 Comments to “Sales & Trading Internships: The Top 9 Ways to Go from Internship to Full-Time Offer”

Comments

  1. Michael says

    With regards to FT employment background check:

    What should I do if I have couple self-employed summer experiences (swimming instructor out of personal backyard, tutor, started couple websites that failed etc.)? Could I still list these under “work experience” of my resume?

    There are no records of these in my tax returns as they were paid by cash. However, I can probably get a couple references for each.

    What should I do?

  2. damile says

    Hi, I just got an internship offer from the Chicago board of trade, but my final goal is to get into IB(specifically merger and acquisition).should I take the offer since I have nothing lined up until maybe nov/december? Or how can I spin that on a resume for an IB internship

    • says

      If you have no other internship lined up, then yes, I would still take that one even if you want to do IB in the future. How to spin it: Focus on the sales aspect (if there’s anything there) and talk about how you gained some exposure to valuation and/or fundamental analysis, both of which are important in IB. This is really dependent on what the internship consists of, though – some S&T internships are easier to spin than others (the more technical and S&T product-specific it is, the harder it is to spin).

  3. Fred says

    Hello,

    I just completed my sophomore year in college and i’m majoring in accounting and finance. I have had two accounting internships. this summer i’m working in the accounting dept of a major regional bank and then this winter I’ve been accepted to intern in a regional (mid-Atlantic) accounting firm during their busy audit season.

    I was just wondering how to use these experiences when looking for an internship in finance related fields. any specific fields that they look for accounting and finance majors?

    thanks

    • says

      Most IBs will like your background because banking is mostly accounting rather than finance. You could also consider valuation or internal M&A teams at Big 4 firms as well, or independent valuation / advisory firms.

    • says

      To be a trader you dont need to know VBA at all. However to get to the point senior enough to not have to know it usually requires knowing it :). Basically as a junior on any desk part of your role will be to help build tools, in fact before you get a book this is really the only way you can add value to the desk, and really VBA is the best medium with which to do that,

  4. MS says

    Hi

    I am trying to break into either S&T, research or banking through networking. Turns out I know an MD at a bb but he’s in the PWM division. Any tips on how to leverage this connection? Or is it better to get into PWM first and make a transition?

    Much appreciated

  5. E says

    Hey M&I,
    Can you speak to the caliber of UCSB as a feeder into investment banks? If it really is as bad as various forums have informed me, I suppose you will tell me just that. Thanks for any info. Also, I just want to note that I am very impressed by and thankful for recent articles on this site, they have all been very relevant, comprehensive, and informative.
    Thanks – E

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I don’t think UCSB is a target school. I’m not quite sure about what the forums you’ve read said, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Just focus on your application.

      Thank you for your kind comment!

  6. King Kong says

    Hi,
    Sometimes when I sit with the traders, no matter how much I prepare by reading the primers, and udnerstanding the materials, I still find it hard to understand exactly what they are doing, especialyl when they don’t take out the time to teach you.

    So my question is, how can I make traders talk more? Is sitting behind them not saying anything considered very awkward? IF they don’t say anything, does it mean they don’t like me?

    What can I do to ask them better questions besides reading books and news alot? They can’t expect new hires to understand alot of what they are doing right?

    Thank you so much,

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Good question. It can be challenging to learn on the trading floor especially since it can be chaotic. Traders generally don’t have the time to teach interns because they’re too busy and stressed out trading. Unlike IBD, S&T hours are condensed and intense. In IBD, the hours are stretched out and people have more time to teach you. You can’t make traders talk more when they’re trading, but you can try to get to know them better after work during drinks – quite a lot traders love to socialize so I’d do so through socializing /grabbing a beer with them after work. Just because they don’t say anything doesn’t mean they don’t like you… they’re just busy! Try to understand the market and jot down trends/questions you don’t understand. In casual conversations, you can bring them up though I’d suggest you to get to know them casually first and then ask them questions – show your enthusiasm and interest in the industry but not be annoying…

  7. King Kong says

    Hi,

    I have one more question. I have been trying to sit with 2 traders for several times and each time has been turned down not very nicely. I get discouraged after those times and don’t know whether I should be coming back still or that it is a signal and I shouldn’t bother them anymore. One of the traders was very nice the first time I sat with him but the 2nd time he was very cold, and has been keeping like that since then.

    Thanks so much

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I can’t say because I haven’t seen the interactions between you and the traders. They may may have been busy, or perhaps you may have approached them at a time when they were busy/moody etc. I’d try your best to socialize with them after work and really catch them when they’re not busy trading and are in a good mood – and you’ll have gauge the above yourself.

  8. King Kong says

    Hi Nicole,
    What is the best way to impress traders? Asking very intelligent questions? Since all the products are very new to me, and despite me trying to learn as much as possible by reading the primers, I feel like only some of my questions are good while the rest is very basic. Is this very standard? What are the traders looking for in an intern that they would like to extend a full time offer for?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      The best way to impress traders is to be genuinely passionate about the markets, be a good learner, be “hungry”/driven, be able to think of your feet, and trade your own portfolio. Yes, asking intelligent questions help.

  9. King Kong says

    Hi, since sometimes I have to I am put in a desk that I am not interested in, what is the best way of asking them for you to go and sit with other desks without making them angry?

    Moreover, my program is nearing the end and I feel like I am not making enough moves toward the desks that I want to be in. What do you think is the best strategy? Try and go sit with them at least an hour everyday till the end of the program?I guess before I sit with them, read market news and ask smart, technical questions about the products? And keep asking for work and do the best?

    Moreover, I find that I have trouble doing an excellent jobs on really boring projects along with time management since there are always so many tasks. Do you have any advice regarding this?

    Thank you so much. This is my only opportunity so I would love to make the best out of it.

    • says

      I would just say that since you’re approaching the end of the internship, you wanted to see if it was OK to work on another desk you had been interested in since there isn’t much time left anyway.

      Focus on 2-3 desks at most rather than working with every one that you’re interested in… maybe alternate and spend a day with each one if possible and do what you’ve been doing.

      Time management: you have to prioritize the projects people care about the most and the projects for the desks that are most interesting for you. If something is unclear or someone has given you multiple assignments, ask which one is the highest priority.

      • King Kong says

        Hi Brian,

        Thanks so much for your reply. Since I probably don’t get much time sitting away from my assigned rotation, how can I make the best of the time sitting with the desk I am interested in? I am thinking preparing 2-3 hours before with them and try to ask smart questions. What is the best way of impressing the traders besides this? Attitude and personality matter as well?

        Moreover, should I ask more questions about the market or the products? Or as long as I keep asking questions, they will notice my interests?

        Would bad feedback from one of the other desks ruin my chances with the desk I am interested in? One of my previous desks, I found it extremely hard to click with several of the people and couldn’t find myself trying to work hard on the projects.

        Thank you so much.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Yes they matter. Try to go out for drinks with them and do sports/other activities and bond with them. Then you can start asking a few questions here and there. Bad feedback may work against you but it also depends on how close the traders are w that team.

  10. King Kong says

    Before I got sit with them, esp now I am rotating with a different desk, I should always prepare questions right? This put a constant pressure on me since I am starting to run out of intelligent questions to ask.

    Moreover, how should I go about directly expressing my interests with them? Should I tell them directly when I am sitting with them on the floor or I should try to grab them outside of the trading floor and in a more private setting?

    So I should go like: I am very interested and here are the reasons….. How should I best position myself?

    Thanks so much,

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d try to grab them outside of the trading floor especially since most of them would probably be busy when they’re on the floor.

      • King Kong says

        Hi Nicole,

        I emailed a trader last week and he hasn’t replied yet, so I wasn’t sure whether he forgets or that he just chose to ignore. Should I come directly to the desk asking whether I could meet with him later in the day or in the week? I figured that during the meeting as well, I should explicitly express my interests and ask them whether they might need help in the upcoming years (since I am not sure whether they are looking hire) and ask whether I could help out on any project? And also ask for constructive criticism and how I can perform better?

        Is there anything else I am missing?
        Thank you so much. The program is coming to an end and I am just making sure I am doing all the things I need to be doing.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Yes you can do that though if he doesn’t want to meet you, you may not be viewed favorably. Do you know of other traders on the team you can speak with? Yes, it is good to explicitly state your interest. I don’t know if you need constructive criticism from them because you are not at the same desk.

  11. Bulbasaur says

    Hi Nicole,

    What are your thoughts on starting on a repo trading desk versus a structured product trading desk in terms of pay, growth and opportunities, esp for someone straight out of college? I have always been interested in structured products since they are more complicated and quantitative. However, prospects are not looking great right now. ‘

    How easy is it to move internally from one desk to another (both trading desks), esp when I had already expressed my interests to the head traders of the structured products team explicitly near the end of the internship?

    Any input is much appreciated.

    Thanks,

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I am not 100% sure though I’ve heard you can move from repo to macro hedge funds. Assuming you’re at a good team, the macroeconomics knowledge you gain from repo can help you on the trading floor. I am not quite sure of the mobility between the two desks, and I believe this will depend on their hiring needs and the structure of the bank. I’d suggest you to speak with the traders and ask them if you can rotate between the two, assuming you already have an offer. You may also want to grab coffee with individuals from the two desks separately to gain in-depth understanding of the 2 teams.

  12. Bulbasaur says

    Thanks so much!

    What do you think about the exit opps of a structured trading desks. Are the two desks vey much different in this aspect along with growth and pay?

  13. Reiley Higgins says

    Hello,

    I did not get a bulge bracket S&T internship my junior summer (right now), but I did get a less formal S&T with a boutique back home that does not offer interns. I was wondering if I still have a chance at getting a fulltime position at a bulge bracket. I go to an Ivy and have a 3.7 and a wealth management internship the summer before this one. I guess my final question is about what % of the full-time S&T class is hired from internships?, and about what % got an offer without that previous summer internship? Thanks, a lot.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes you still have a chance though you’ll be competing against people who have had IB experience. I’d say over 50%+ of full time S&T class is hired from internships. I’m not sure about the stats of your second question. I would focus on perfecting your pitch, networking through LinkedIn and cold emailing and get a solid recommendation to prepare for full recruiting.

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