As COVID-19 has thrown the semester into turmoil, some students are pondering the uncertainty surrounding their prospects of finding internships during the summer. Notwithstanding these daunting circumstances, students will continue asking themselves the age-old questions — “Is my GPA high enough?”, “How can I stand out?”, or “Am I even qualified enough for this position?”
Frances Pak, executive director at JP Morgan, said, “It is getting increasingly difficult to distinguish yourself with so many applicants doing so much, so early, these days.”
The Sun sat down with Pak and asked her about the recruiting cycle and some tips for future applicants.
How should students sell themselves to recruiters and companies, relating to their GPA, degree/school, or other experiences?
Pak: You have to make sure your GPA is strong. I would be given roughly 250 resumes and would have to pick out 75 to be invited for video interviews. One pile is for those that proceed to the interview stage and the other for those that don’t. Recruiters like to see candidates who possess musical and athletic talent, or a good work experience to accompany a strong GPA. So, the first stage is just making sure you have a strong resume or something that’s strong on paper and doesn’t contain any errors or typos.
How should students prepare for interviews?
Pak: For us, having interviewed tons and tons of college students over the years, we really have heard it all and can see past all the canned responses. I just like genuine responses. If you can make a natural connection with the person across from you, I think that is the best thing. And part of this is going through your story, letting the interviewer hear it and help you build that story. You’re going to hear common questions that come up all the time — “What are you interested in?”, “Why are you interested in JP Morgan?”, “What led you to where you are today?”, “Why did you decide to go to Cornell?” Through responding to a lot of these questions, you should be able to tell a good story.
What are some major turn-offs for recruiters and interviewers?
Pak: Someone that is not prepared is a major turn off. I think, in all settings, this is a major turnoff. Put simply, you have to be prepared. You have to study for it, as if it were a test. You should be reading the paper every single day. You should be understanding what’s going on in the market. You should be researching the organizations that you want to work for. It’s a lot of work to prove to someone that you really want to be there. It can’t be something you do the day before.
Is a lack of finance-related courses, such as Excel or Financial Accounting, a disadvantage when recruiting?
Pak: I don’t think it should negatively affect your chances of getting an internship. Personally, I like to see diversity in terms of what people are focused on. I don’t think it’s a big problem not knowing how to use Microsoft Office. I mean you can come here and learn all that. In fact, JP Morgan has its own very specific program which we use to do a lot of our work. Excel, you’ll learn to do it [at the company]. Learning how to do shortcuts — all of these skills you are going to learn over time. For me, it’s about being detail-oriented. Maybe that’s from my start in investment banking, where attention to detail is critical. I don’t care how proficient you are at Excel, but if you’re putting the wrong numbers in or there are misspellings, that is a turnoff, and you will be penalized for that.
Are internships from companies like JP Morgan attainable for underclassmen? And what can they do to attain the necessary experience to warrant consideration?
Pak: We don’t have internships for freshmen, but we definitely do have internships for sophomores. So they are attainable, but the most important thing is that you have to know what the deadlines are. The minute you miss a deadline, there’s no opportunity or there’s very little opportunity to come back from that, because there are such strict schedules when we’re dealing with hundreds of schools. Also, there’s a big alumni network at JP Morgan, and I think it’s important to reach out to them. Networking is something you should all be doing, especially if you have connections here through your network.
Then how important are referrals and networking?
Pak: I would say they are still very important. If you make a good impression, that can get you pretty far. Again, we’re seeing thousands of resumes and it could be that one meeting where I can say, “I remember her from this recruiting event.” Then she gets into the yes pile for getting an interview.