A lot of students and strangely even some of my seniors asked what Spring Insight Programmes are. Perhaps, a reason behind this could be the fact that these are offered only by a handful of companies, almost all of them being major banks, consultancies or law firms only and any adverts about them tend to get lost amidst the hundreds of job opportunities that seem more promising, like summer internships, placement year and graduate schemes. However, these are opportunities worth considering.
Spring Insight Programmes, also called Spring Week or Pre-Internship programmes, are offered by some companies mostly for areas like technology, banking, law, consultancy and sometimes education and media, though they are open to everyone, irrespective of your academic background. As the name suggests, these are designed for first-year undergraduates (and second-year undergraduates on a four-year course) to give candidates an insight into the real-world industry, spanning over 3-5 days and in few cases, two weeks. These are not really internships since they are just a week long, nor are they just employer presentations as people might confuse them. Spring Insight Programmes offer students to work-shadow one of their teams, network with executive directors and senior-most staff members of the company and delve deep into the functioning of the industry, which could help you evaluate your interests and charter the future course of your academics and career.
I managed to get into two of the world’s largest banks – JP Morgan and Citibank for a spring week into their technology division. Certainly, getting into them isn’t as competitive as a summer internship; however it isn’t too easy either. The process may vary from industry to industry and company to company, but for a major bank, the application process generally has the following stages:
- Online Application: You fill in your details and answer essay-type questions like a recent technological invention that captured your attention, the impact of technology on investment banking or what makes you suitable for this role.
- Online Assessments: Often taken along with the first step, there are typically three kinds of assessments – Numerical Reasoning, Verbal/Logical Reasoning and Situational Judgement Test. Numerical reasoning obviously requires working with numbers, verbal reasoning involves facts and conclusion kind of tests, logical reasoning tests your ability to identify patterns and sequences and situational judgement test presents a business scenario and asks for your response in that situation.
- First Round Interview: Often a telephone interview, this is heavily competency based. Competency based interviews aim at figuring out how well you can apply the key competencies like teamwork, crisis management, networking etc. in daily life. They may ask questions like Tell me about a time when you failed to deliver a task by the deadline and how you dealt with it or Give me an example where you made relations with someone outside your immediate social circle (family, friends, colleagues, classmates) etc. and expect you to come up with examples from school, university, family functions etc. They may also include a question or two that touch on the division you apply to (technology, finance etc.) but not in much detail. This may also be replaced by a recording interview where you get a question on screen and record your response on your webcam, which is quite similar to a one-on-one interview.
- Final Interview: This round varies from company-to-company. It may be a telephone interview, a one-on-one interview with their executive director in their shiny office in London or even an assessment centre! It focuses on all aspects – competencies, business division and general problem solving skills. I went for the final round interview with Morgan Stanley and I had to sit for both one-on-one interview and a boardroom activity – where a group of students carry out a boardroom negotiation and try to convince others of their point, observed by a group of passive observers (who are actually senior members of the company).
- Offer: If you manage to get through all of these, you get an offer for an all-expense paid week-long opportunity of a lifetime.
The process might sound intimidating but it is worth the effort, because if you do a spring week with a company, in most of them you get fast-tracked onto the final interview of their summer internship next year, saving you from the enormous application process that would be even more competitive.
Even if you do not make it to any of those, I can say from my personal experience that preparing for it teaches a lot. Not doing a spring week wouldn’t affect your chances of a summer internship next year, but doing it would make your CV more impressive! I got rejected from the first few companies I applied to, but every time I got a clearer idea how to go about interviews, what to improve in my answers etc. And there are plenty of resources to help you prepare for these – the university offers practice tests from Assessment Day and there are many more websites like SHL Direct that help you prepare for the assessments and interview questions. In fact, the companies themselves offer guidelines, tips and handbooks to prepare for their assessments. Think of it in the way that preparing early and meticulously for interviews and assessments in your first year itself regardless of the outcome would equip you better when you appear for your summer internship which is way more crucial. You would then have a better idea how to prepare and face interviews and more confidence.
There is not an iota of doubt that the skills you would gain from this opportunity would be an impetus to your career.To put it simply, wouldn’t lose anything if you don’t do a spring week, but you would gain a lot if you do it. I would therefore recommend to stay alert, utilise the university careers portal and so many others out in the market, check company websites regularly and give it a shot!