If you open LinkedIn and enter the keywords “2023 summer,” you will find yourself with 6,438 job postings, as of mid-February 2022, regarding intern positions for Summer 2023. If you proceed to filter down openings by the following industries — “financial services,” “accounting” and “business consulting and services” — the number drops down to 3000. Financial services opportunities comprise many of the positions hiring for interns with a start date in 1 ½ years, and their deadlines are approaching fast.
This is a crude way of demonstrating the point that big finance firms are pushing recruiting timelines earlier; the truth is they are. Companies now rely on summer interns in their junior year to turn into potential new hires after graduation, allowing students to enter their “pipeline” as early as the following summer through early insight and diversity programs. Using programs geared towards college students with minimal industry knowledge, banks like HSBC have kindly provided rising junior positions that target young sophomores who are trying to get their feet wet in different industries.
What is one to do, with as little as two years of college education, in investment banking companies and management consulting firms? Human resources may find their value astounding. As “we hire talent, not skills” becomes a new mantra for hiring, recruiters have been strategizing their interview formats, even reinventing the structure of recruiting processes so that their favored college candidates would come first on their lists. In this working world where required skills for a given position are constantly renewed year to year, companies strive to stay within close proximity to their potential college hires who are more willing to learn new skills on the market, often in return for lower pay.
Recruiters lay their eyes first on their companies’ target school candidates, then their attention goes to other students in the pool. Students from non-target schools may have voluntarily chosen to push their own timelines even earlier, starting off by networking with alumni and cold emailing associates, hoping to get a referral that could put their resume on the top of the candidates pile.
Kevin Du is a sophomore at Tufts who is working towards a career in finance and referenced the early start to the internship process.
“I [started] to prepare for the … internship early … last summer,” Du said. Having already applied to several 2023 summer internship positions, he has found networking as a sophomore at Tufts to be immensely beneficial to his job search. However, it came with the cost of possibly straining other involvements in life.
What does it mean, for a student fresh out of high school, to participate in a rush for internships in the finance and management consulting career? In a school like Tufts that promotes a liberal arts education, many may not realize the ‘shortcuts’ and the extra effort it may take for an average finance student until participating in on-campus finance organizations. However, that means the student may need to express interest in the finance industry as early as freshman year to be on par with the rest of their peers.
Early recruiting timelines may also be stressful for lower-income students. For an industry that relies so heavily on networking among people in your close community, it can quickly translate into a problem for students coming from historically non-white colleges and HBCUs;as recently as 2018, only around 40% people of color took on entry-level jobs in finance. International students may also find themselves facing institutions that do not sponsor their employment, which is something that networking may not be able to solve.
It seems antithetical to the basis of a diverse liberal arts education to push young students to participate in careers that require long-term commitment early on in higher education. With the goal of encouraging an exploratory mindset among students, Tufts has done a good job in making transfers among the three undergraduate colleges as smooth as possible, and many students may not take classes that count towards their major until sophomore year.
With that being said, industries like finance do not treat everyone equally — it seems to have grown more important for college students to explore their interests early, if financial services and management consulting should sound like an interesting enough career option.
There should be no such thing as ‘breaking’ into the industry, though it summarizes the current state of the industry correctly. Financial services and consulting firms should not merely limit their radar to top colleges if they truly value talent. Talent acquisition teams need to realize that, with a recruiting timeline as early as that of now, there is an urgent need for increased accessibility in finance for underrepresented students. Higher institutions need to be warned of the same; there should be ample and visible resources for students interested in finance, regardless of the presence of a business major within the school.