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The All-Rounder – What clients look for in a fresh Graduate in Financial Services

It is that time of year when students start applying for the graduate schemes. So, what is it that these corporate financial services clients looking for?

Having run Graduate Programmes in the UK and having assisted clients with recruiting graduates for roles and graduate programmes here in South Africa in my experience you need to be an all-rounder if you want the great jobs or to join a graduate programme.

Market Competition

The market is fierce, having a degree no longer sets you apart from the thousands of other graduates finishing every year. Unemployment in SA is high and there are just not enough great jobs for every person that thinks they deserve to be the Analyst or Researcher or all the other jobs the graduates deem to be sexy these days in the Financial Services market.

Clients can pick and choose who they want to work for them based on the sheer number of applications they receive. If you imagine each company that runs a grad programme could take anything from 0-50 graduates at a time. Those 50 will come from thousands of graduates all applying for a place.

So, what are our clients looking for in a graduate?

An All-rounder; this means they want strong academics, leadership ability, involvement in the community, cultural involvement etc.

To establish this a client will request you complete some form of application; this normally involves submitting full academic transcripts, detailing your involvements at school and University level (leadership, sport, culture & community) as well as a motivation as to why you chose to apply.

What’s Important to know:

·        The aggregate of your results matter; 60% is average, the top grads are consistently getting 70-90% grades;

·        Matric results matter; Maths is normally a prerequisite for most Financial Institutions

·        List your achievements clearly: Head Boy at High School; Hockey Captain for 1st Team; Hockey full colours at provincial level, treasurer of Investment society etc.

·        Your motivation is important; if you want to join a top Investment Manager, Bank etc. you need to show you have done the research through various means. They need to know you want it and know more about the industry than your competition which is thousands of other graduates. This about how you can make yourself stand out. For example, have you completed extra courses or enrolled on a course that is relevant to your field? Do you read the financial papers, have a trading account, done an internship, spoken to individuals in your fields, chosen specific majors? These are all important to write about; it shows passion for the industry you are applying for.

·        PLEASE CHECK FOR SPELLING AND GRAMMAR ERRORS – I have marked so many applications where graduates have used lower case “i” instead of “I”…..what kind of impression does this give. (spelling and grammar is not my strongest either)

·        Follow instructions on the application; don’t expect the “marker” of your application to search your CV because you were too lazy to type out an application form. 


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