Compare Your Investment Banking CV with the Competition

Résumés for a graduate scheme with an investment bank usually fall into three types: straight-and-narrow, everyman, and wild card. Want to know where your résumé fits and how to improve it?
The gradsingapore Team
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Several banks, including Barclays and Nomura, will ask graduates to submit a résumé along with their application form. Other financial firms, including Credit Suisse, require a cover letter with your application as well.

Since competition for graduate roles in investment banks is fierce, it’s essential that you get your résumé and cover letter right.

Graduate résumés for investment banking jobs generally fall into three types, so compare yours to the three “typical” investment banking candidates below to see what category yours falls into. From there, you can identify areas for improvement!

The straight-and-narrow

The straight-and-narrow candidate simply ticks all the boxes. This type of candidate has directly-related work experience in the financial sector (gained either from an internship or prolonged work experience), and a solid academic track record with an honours degree in some business-related major.

They may also have extracurricular activities showing their potential as a leader and motivator – qualities highly sought by banks including Credit Suisse.

If you’re a straight and narrow applicant, the good news is that you may have already met 80 per cent of the requirements listed in the job description. However, don’t get complacent – there are plenty of other candidates out there who have “ticked off the boxes” like you have.

Inject some of your personality into your résumé and cover letter so that they don’t come across as too “typical”, bland, or rigid. This doesn’t mean you need to come up with a radical style and format, as your application should be legible and look smart!

Rather, incorporate more original examples from your extracurricular activities and work experience, or from times when you took a risk and produced exceptional results to illustrate your skills and experience.

A detailed but succinctly written example can be included in your cover letter. If the employer doesn’t accept cover letters, put it in the work experience segment of your résumé under the appropriate employer instead of simply listing your duties.

Or, you could try incorporating it within the skills or achievements section.

The everyman

The everyman has explored a few different avenues, and has work experience in finance as well as other unrelated sectors. Their résumé doesn’t have any gaps, as they’ve worked throughout all university holidays.

This candidate also has a strong honours degree in a related finance subject. The everyman will usually try to link experiences obtained in an unrelated sector to the role which they are applying for.

While the everyman applicant shows flexibility and adaptability, and has obtained some relevant work experience, their challenge is to ensure the details on their résumés and cover letters are applicable and well-organised.

Many of these candidates attempt to flood their application with every experience or achievement they have, thinking it will look impressive. This is a big mistake.

If you’re an everyman candidate, divide the work experience section of your résumé into “finance” and “additional” sections. Put all finance-related experiences under the “finance” heading (including relevant achievements or projects you’ve worked on).

Then place pursuits within other sectors in the “additional” section.

The key for the everyman is to highlight transferable skills that they’ve gained across their variety of experiences, and to prove how those can be related to a career in investment. Make good use of the cover letter to explain your varied endeavours, and to link them to the role which you’re applying for.

The wild card

The wild card candidate is not the typical applicant, but clearly demonstrates an aptitude for finance and a clear interest in a career in investment or investment banking.

This candidate may have an excellent honours degree in a seemingly unrelated subject – such as English literature – but knows that many banks, such as Morgan Stanley and Nomura, accept applications from all degree disciplines.

The wild card candidate may have a small amount of directly-related practical experience under their belt. Or, they may have completed a trading course after university and joined a financial student society to increase their knowledge and skills.

If this is you, because you have less directly-related experience, you must make sure your résumé and cover letter effectively communicate a genuine interest in the industry and showcase the initiative you’ve used to build relevant knowledge and experience.

Conduct thorough research into the bank and role so you can accurately articulate how your skills and knowledge – finance-related or not – would be an asset to the employer.

Also, turn what might appear to be a weakness into a strength. Take advantage of your degree in English literature, for example, and explain in your cover letter how it’s improved your ability to think critically, conduct research, write reports and communicate effectively – skills investment banks usually favour.

As with the everyman applicant, compartmentalise your résumé so you have related experiences and achievements at the top, and unrelated ones towards the bottom. With all your less directly relevant experiences, make sure you bring out the skills you’ve developed and picked up that apply to the position you’re going for!