Morgan Stanley Assessment Preparation

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The Morgan Stanley Graduate Application Process

Updated 5 April 2021

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Morgan Stanley Assessment Preparation

Morgan Stanley, along with other well-known financial institutions, has a suite of graduate and pre-graduate schemes that are lucrative, competitive and highly sought-after.

Don’t forget to look at our articles on general interview tips, online aptitude tests and how to write a CV to help you in your application to Morgan Stanley.

morgan stanley application process

Morgan Stanley as a Company

Morgan Stanley is an international investment banking and finance organisation based in New York. In 2018, its revenue was $40 billion. The company has headquarters across the world and employs just over 50,000 people.

The bank specialises in investment management, wealth management and institutional securities. It aims to ‘raise the capital that builds the things that change the world’. 

Morgan Stanley positions itself as a game-changing organisation and encourages graduates applying for its schemes to ‘think big’.

The Morgan Stanley Graduate Schemes

The bank has many different types of graduate scheme across multiple divisions, places and types of programme.

Generally, the schemes are divided into three types: full-time opportunities, internships and ‘off-cycle’ internships (which take place outside of the company’s normal recruiting schedule).

For students at university or pre-university, Morgan Stanley offers a programme called Insight. This is a brief, intensive introduction to the world of investment banking, designed to help you decide whether the industry is right for you.

For graduate students, the company offers internships, industry placements, seasonal analyst positions (such as Summer Analyst) and full-time analyst positions.

Each division of Morgan Stanley offers these types of graduate scheme so you will need to consider which area of the business you want to work in before you apply. The different divisions include:

  • Investment Management
  • Company Management
  • Institutional Securities
  • Wealth Management
  • Technology
  • Operations

Additionally, the company’s graduate schemes are divided into four geographical areas:

  • Japan
  • Asia Pacific
  • Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA)
  • Americas

You can apply for any of the schemes, in any company division or any area. However, you must select your scheme carefully as you have a limited number of opportunities you can apply for and you will be quizzed on your choice if you are interviewed.

The company offers a Program Finder to help students select the division that suits them best.

This article will focus on the application process for full-time EMEA positions. For other schemes, you can use the Morgan Stanley graduate careers website to search for roles in specific places and according to your level of education, then follow the advice about the application process for each of these roles.

Most of the schemes for most of the areas follow the same or a similar process as the one outlined in this article.

When to Apply

Each of the graduate schemes with Morgan Stanley has a specific opening and closing date for applications. In general, this is in line with the academic year; for example, the Summer Analyst programme closes on July 7th or September 1st, depending on the division of the company you are applying to.

When you begin your application with the company, you will be able to see all the opening and closing dates for different schemes through your application profile on the Morgan Stanley website.

The company suggests you apply as early as possible to give you the best possible chance of putting in a great submission and being selected for interview.

It’s important to note that Morgan Stanley does have limitations on the number of schemes you can apply for within a recruitment year.

You can apply for nine graduate opportunities in total, consisting of up to three different programmes in each of the Asia Pacific, Americas and EMEA areas.

If you are interested in applying for a graduate scheme in Japan, this will be counted separately, although you should check this information before applying.

After you have applied for the maximum number of opportunities within one recruitment year, you must wait until the next recruitment year starts before applying for any more.

Therefore, you must select the graduate schemes, divisions and geographical areas carefully to give you the best chance of succeeding.

What Qualifications and Skills Does Morgan Stanley Look For?

Like many of the investment banking graduate schemes, Morgan Stanley says it’s not only looking for graduates with a specific finance or accounting background.

In a review of their 2018 graduate scheme participants, the majority were from finance, economics, business or computer science degrees, but many came from engineering, arts and humanities.

The company is more interested in your grades and personality than the specialism you studied at university. Morgan Stanley is looking for high-performing people who enjoy learning; you need to be on track to achieve or have achieved a minimum 2:1 at undergraduate level.

Morgan Stanley is looking for graduates with the following skills:

  • Excellent communication
  • Leadership, teamwork and interpersonal skills
  • Problem solving and analysis
  • Data evaluation and comprehension
  • Time management skills

The organisation is also looking for certain personality traits in the people who apply for its graduate schemes. They are looking for people who:

  • Are friendly and team-oriented
  • Are passionate high achievers and enjoy learning
  • Have a desire to work somewhere inspiring
  • Have great attention to detail
  • Have a commitment to personal integrity

During the Morgan Stanley application process, you’ll be asked questions and given tests which evaluate these skills and qualities.

It’s a good idea to prepare some answers beforehand, particularly for competency and skills-based interviews, so you have a range of examples you can provide which demonstrate your abilities and personality to the interviewer.

The Application Process

There are four parts to the Morgan Stanley graduate scheme application process:

  1. Online application 
  2. Online aptitude tests
  3. Interview
  4. Assessment centre including interview, group exercises and a presentation

1. Online Application

The first step in the process is your online application, which requires you to upload your CV and a cover letter to the Morgan Stanley system.

Your CV should demonstrate the quality of your academic credentials so make sure to note any particularly high grades that you achieved in specific modules on your course.

The organisation also wants to see that you have an interest in the finance sector and are a well-rounded, intelligent individual, so take some time to include any extra-curricular activities you may have done which demonstrate the skills and qualities the company is looking for.

Your cover letter needs to be tailored to the specific graduate scheme you are applying for, including the role, division and geographical area. You should include clear information about why you want to work for Morgan Stanley and why you want to work in the division you are applying for.

We recommend you edit your CV and cover letter for each of the applications you make to the company. For example, if you are applying for a scheme in the Technology division in EMEA, plus a scheme in the Operations division in Asia Pacific, you should write two different cover letters for these positions.

You should also edit your CV for each one so that you include the information about your education and career which is most relevant to the role and geography.

Depending on the division to which you are applying, you may also be required to answer some open-ended questions as part of your online application.

These questions are likely to be broad, competency-based questions to help the recruitment team understand what you have already done that is relevant to the division. For example:

  • Describe a project you have completed which you found interesting

  • What interests you about [X] division?

You are likely to have around 150 to 200 words to answer these questions, so make sure to include only relevant information and try not to waffle.

You can practise writing answers to these beforehand by using our example competency questions as a starting point.

2. Online Aptitude Tests

Within 48 hours of submitting your online application for Morgan Stanley, you will receive a notification to take part in a series of aptitude tests.

Depending on the scheme, area and division you are applying to, you may be asked to take:

As with other graduate schemes, these aptitude tests are a way to assess your capabilities in fundamental numerical, logical and verbal skills.

It’s highly likely these aptitude tests will include questions equivalent to GCSE level knowledge, but it’s still important you practise them before you start your application.

This is because the tests may be timed, which can add extra stress that may lead to mistakes. The logical reasoning and accuracy tests may also be different from the sort of exams or assessments you have taken before, so practising them will help you feel more confident when it comes to the real thing.

Online aptitude tests are designed to examine whether you can take in, evaluate and use data effectively. Be careful to pay attention to the information you’re given in the question and respond accordingly.

For example, in the verbal reasoning questions, you will be asked to read a passage of text and answer questions with ‘true’, ‘false’ or ‘cannot say’. If it’s unclear from the text whether it’s a true or a false answer, put ‘cannot say’ – even if from your own knowledge you know that the statement may be true or false.

In the logical reasoning tests, you may be asked to predict the next shape in a series. The shapes are likely to have several elements which change as they progress through the series, forming a number of different patterns.

Take your time and be sure to look at each element in the shapes carefully so you can correctly predict the next one in the series.

After you have completed the online application, it could be up to a month before you hear whether you’ve made it to the next stage.

3. One-To-One Interview

If you are successful after the online application, you will be invited to attend a one-to-one interview with a member of the Morgan Stanley team. Depending on your location, this may be face-to-face but is likely to be over the phone or via video.

In this interview, the Morgan Stanley recruitment team wants to know more about who you are and what motivates you. They are likely to ask you general interview questions as well as competency-based questions. Some example questions might be:

In this interview, the recruiter might also ask you situational interview questions to see how you might respond to specific scenarios. The interviewer is assessing whether your skills and personality traits are a good fit for the division, scheme and the company itself.

Take some time to prepare answers to the questions above and more general interview questions which you may be asked.

Think about your education and career – what have you done which demonstrates the desired skills and qualities most clearly? What results have you achieved which you can talk about?

You can use the STAR Technique to talk about what you’ve done:

  • Describe the situation
  • Explain the task you were required to do
  • Talk about what actions you took
  • Describe what the result was

You should also research Morgan Stanley carefully so you fully understand the organisation’s mission, values and culture. This will help you answer questions like “Why do you want to work for Morgan Stanley?” more confidently.

If you are asked to have a telephone interview, make sure you are in a quiet area without any distractions. The same applies for a video interview. You should also wear something appropriate for the interview (like a suit) and ensure the room you’re in is clean, tidy and noise-free.

Be aware of your body language during a video or face-to-face interview as this can indicate your level of nervousness whether you are conscious of it or not.

Sitting slightly forward on your seat, keeping your hands in your lap and maintaining eye contact with your interviewer are all good ways to demonstrate you are calm, collected and interested in the role.

graduate application process morgan stanley

4. The Morgan Stanley Assessment Centre

If you are successful following your interview, you will be asked to attend an assessment centre.

This is a half-day with the Morgan Stanley team and other potential graduate scheme candidates.

You’ll be ‘on show’ from the moment you step in the door to the moment you leave, so be aware of how you’re behaving at all times – dress smartly, be courteous and make the effort to speak to people.

At the assessment centre, you could be asked to:

  • Attend multiple interviews
  • Prepare a short presentation
  • Take part in a group exercise

You may also be asked to take written tests during your time at the assessment centre. These are likely to be similar aptitude tests to those you have already completed online.

We recommend continuing to practise these sorts of tests even after you have completed the online aptitude test stage of the process so you can be as confident as possible at the assessment centre.


During your time at the assessment centre, you will be required to attend between one and three face-to-face interviews of around 45 minutes each. These will either be skills or competency-based. It’s important to demonstrate the following key competencies during these interviews:

  • Team building
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Proactiveness
  • Assertiveness

You can prepare for the assessment day interviews by considering your CV and educational history. What examples from your life can you use to demonstrate skills in these areas? Select two or three for each competency so you feel confident you will have plenty of options to talk about with the interviewer.

You may also be asked questions like those in the first one-to-one interview, such as why you want to work for the company or your interest in a specific area.

Spend some time researching Morgan Stanley and the wider industry before your assessment centre day, including the latest news and events, so you can talk with confidence.

This will show the interviewer you are interested in the organisation and keep up to date with what’s happening in the world.

Individual Presentation

As part of the assessment day, you will also be required to prepare a short individual presentation. You will be given a brief which you’ll be required to read, make notes on and then present your findings.

The preparation and presentation time may be relatively short, so focus on the key details you need to look at to answer the brief.

We also recommend practising your presentation skills beforehand, as this is an area in which many people can get quite nervous. Practising short presentations in front of friends or family may feel awkward, but it will help you feel more relaxed and confident when it really counts.

Group Exercise

Finally, you’ll be asked to take part in a group exercise with other potential graduate scheme candidates. Morgan Stanley is interested in high-achieving individuals with leadership potential who are also able to work effectively in a team.

Therefore, the assessors will be paying close attention to how you interact with other candidates during this exercise.

The group exercise is likely to be discussion-based; for example, you might be told about the budget and requirements of a department in Morgan Stanley and then be asked to discuss and decide how you would allocate the funds.

The assessors might add extra pressure to the task by changing the brief half-way through – for example, by cutting the budget by 50%.

While your choices about the budget do matter, the outcome is not as important as your thought-process. The assessors will be looking more at how you reach a final decision than what the final decision is.

Think about how you want to interact with the other members of your team and how you will balance team and leadership skills. Some of the ways you can do this are:

  • Managing your time effectively at the start of the task

  • Ensuring each person has their say

  • Asking someone to make notes so nothing’s forgotten

  • Keeping your tone calm and measured

The assessment centre is the final stage of the Morgan Stanley application process. As such, it’s particularly intense and will require you to stay alert and proactive for several hours in very different settings.

We recommend getting a good night’s sleep the day before and giving yourself enough time to get to the centre so you don’t feel rushed or exhausted when you need to be performing at the top of your game.

Receiving an Offer

If you are successful in each stage of the application process, you will receive an offer of a place on the graduate scheme with Morgan Stanley.

Because the opening and closing dates for applications are different, there is no definite date for when you will hear back from the organisation about whether you have been successful or not.

The recruitment team recommends you regularly check your online profile for updates and you can also get in touch with a member of the Morgan Stanley team if you’re concerned.

Final Thoughts

Morgan Stanley offers several interesting graduate schemes across its entire global workforce, making it an exciting and desirable programme for graduates with an interest in finance and a passion for creating big change in the world.

Correspondingly, it has a rigorous application process which will test all your skills and abilities. Practise each stage of the process beforehand by using articles from WikiJob, asking friends, family or your career advisor for help, and making sure to stay up to date with the company, its work and the financial industry as a whole.

Morgan Stanley Assessment Preparation