It's the last day of your internship at Big Bank, and you're preparing to speak with the MD in charge of your office.
"We appreciate everything you've done for us over the summer. I think everyone here really appreciated what you did for the team."
Then he continues, "But due to market conditions, we won't be able to give you a full-time offer this year. Best of luck with your efforts to find a position!"
So, what went wrong? Or was it not your fault at all?
Why banks don't give interns return offers
Most people think that the "competition is very tough" and that the high calibre of other interns prevents them from getting return offers.
If top banks only take the top students from around the world, they must all be well-qualified, driven, and equally deserving of offers, right?
On paper (and in interviews) many candidates "seem good" - but once they start working, that changes completely.
In most cases, getting a return offer has nothing to do with how everyone else performs, and is instead 100% linked to how you perform and how well you work the system.
"Market conditions" is a commonly cited reason for not getting a return offer - but it's usually not true, or at least not the whole truth.
There's a simple way to see whether "market conditions" really prevented you from getting a return offer: did any of the interns in your group actually receive offers? If so, then "market conditions" were not as bad as they told you.
If your firm is going bankrupt or your particular group has seen almost no deal flow, then this excuse might be more legitimate.
But in most cases, "market conditions" is just a polite way of saying, "Sorry, you weren't good enough."
If your bank really isn't hiring any interns, get referrals from the senior bankers or recruiters to banks that are hiring - this only works, of course, if you performed well.
Attitude is another reason why many summer interns don't receive return offers. Interns typically make two mistakes here:
1. Being lazy and never offering to help full-time analysts (or showing up late, never doing work, not fixing mistakes, etc.).
2. Being over-eager / trying to seem too smart and annoying the full-time analysts and associates with constant questions and asking for something to do incessantly.
You want to aim for the middle ground here: don't just show up to the office and watch YouTube all day, but also don't ask the analysts at your office for work every five minutes.
Asking a few times per day to see if anyone needs help with anything is ok, but keep it to that or you run the risk of alienating everyone in your office.
Similarly, making mistakes by itself is not a deal-breaker. The real problem is when you fail to fix them in the future.
One time an intern completely messed up a valuation I asked him to help out with, and then kept making the same mistakes on future projects. You can bet that I did not push for him to get an offer.
Some over-eager interns make the mistake of too much networking.
Wait, isn't more networking always a good thing?
In the job or internship search process, it pays to know more people and to expand your network constantly - but once you actually start working as an intern, it's better to get to know your team very well.
That's because return offers are awarded based on a roundtable discussion, and those you worked with most closely will tell everyone else about you and why you deserve (or don't deserve) an offer.
Some interns try to get to know 20 senior bankers, but this is a poor strategy - it means you'll never develop meaningful relationships with any of them.
And it also means that none of these 20 bankers will push very hard for you to get an offer at the roundtable discussion.
But if you spend most of your time with only 2-3 senior bankers, you'll have a longer history and more interactions with them - and most importantly, you'll have strong support when it comes time to decide who gets offers.
Why you didn't get the offer
There are many reasons you might not have received a return offer, but it's usually a variation of one of these three: the economy, your own attitude, or not getting to know the right people.
If it really is the economy or your firm's imminent collapse, there's not much you can do about that. But you can certainly adjust your attitude and re-focus your networking efforts.
Be positive, be helpful but not annoying, fix your mistakes, and get to know the 2-3 senior people on your team well - rather than the entire office - and Goldman might just change its mind and decide to give you a return offer.
This is a guest post on eFinancialCareers, written by the author of the Mergers & Inquisitions, a website dedicated to helping you break into investment banking, and to maintaining your sanity while doing so.