Internship selection step 6: Assessment centre

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Your chance to go head to head with fellow candidates.

The final step towards a summer internship is likely to be the assessment centre. Not all banks use them, but some, such as Citigroup, JP Morgan, Barclays Capital and Morgan Stanley do - for at least some of their divisions.

Assessment centres are a process rather than a place. They sometimes replace simple second round interviews and typically include (yet more) interviews, numeracy and verbal reasoning tests, presentations, case studies, role plays, and group exercises. It is the presentations, case studies, role plays and group exercises that set assessment centres apart.

The conundrums you're given will relate to the area of the bank you're applying to. Role plays are often used to assess the abilities of potential equity or bond sales people. One recruiter says case studies for would-be corporate financiers might involve a company trying to raise money to finance an acquisition. Equipped with information on its balance sheet, candidates could be asked to judge the best way for it to raise funds. "We will be asking people to make a considered decision," she says. "Evidence of a logical thought process is more important than getting it right."

In group exercises, you will be given a problem to solve with other interviewees, and will then have to present your findings as a group. Derek Walker, head of graduate recruitment at Barclays Capital, says the people who fail at this point either say nothing at all, or make their point too forcefully: "People who don't contribute don't do well, but if you are overpowering you can also be marked down."

Finally, don't let your guard down. It's worth noting that, even if banks don't appear to run assessment centres or group exercises, they may be judging your behaviour with others more covertly. One bank said it places hidden video cameras in the room where its interviewees wait to be called for interview: "Be aware of the need to be professional at all times," warns the head of graduate recruitment there.

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