20 ways to ruin your investment banking resume
If you’ve decided to apply for an investment banking job you should know by now: your standard resume just won’t cut it. After all, top banks receive thousands of CVs every year.
Recruiter spends on average 6 seconds scanning your CV. Read this sentence again. 6 seconds. That’s it. It’s how much you’ve got until your CV will be tossed away in a bin with hundreds of others.
Even if you have perfect academics and impressive work experience – you will never be able to demonstrate it. One spelling mistake, wrong choice of fonts, questionable document margins – and you’re done.
It’s not because they are assholes. It’s not because they don’t care (actually, forget this one – they really don’t care). It’s mainly because they have too many outstanding candidates. And they know that if someone really wants to get into investment banking – he would put a lot (a lot) of effort on making sure his resume stands out.
For this exact occasion over years I’ve developed a perfect investment banking resume template. When I say over years – I mean more than two years of trial and error. I went from standard we-appreciate-your-application rejection bullshit to dozens of interview invites and quite a few job offers. Back to the point – I will gladly share the template I used at the end of this post. For now – in case you just want to rewrite your own template – scroll down through the mistakes most people make in their resume. And then get rid of them. One by one. Because trust me – you won’t really have any chance of landing that interview otherwise.
Investment banking resume: top-20 mistakes
Mistake #1: Submitting 2-page long resume.
My favourite one. Back when I just started applying I seriously thought I just cannot let any of my experiences go. I mean – the more the merrier, right? How can I get rid of that one consulting project? Or shop assistant experience? I wanted to show the full range of my awesome skills.
That was a completely wrong approach. What I did not realise is that most recruiters never got to the second page. So all that extra text was pointless. I started trimming it down. By the time I was finally getting invites for the interview my CV was a neat 1-pager with only most impressive experiences on it.
Mistake #2: Going creative on your CV.
I know, I also heard incredible stories about people getting into Google or Airbnb because they were so creative. And stood out of the crowd. Well, guess what? Investment bankers are the guys with serious lack of imagination. They will not even comprehend anything in non-standard format. Stick to the basic investment banking resume template. No colours is usually a good start. No crazy boxes, frames or borders is a rule.
Mistake #3: Using fonts below 9.5.
So what happened after I realised two-page CV doesn’t qualify? I moved all the text to one page and decreased the font twofold. As you can imagine, it looks terrible too.
Above all, your CV should be readable. By tired investment bankers who spend 20 hours staring at their desktop screen. If you think they’ll make any effort to see those tiny characters – think again.
If you want to pick the right font size for your resume – don’t go below 9.5. And never above 12. After all, smaller fonts do give resume a more professional feel.
Mistake #4: Writing CV in Times New Roman.
Times New Roman is the most commonly recommended font for resumes. It’s clean, it’s classic. It also has been used so extensively that it will give you an-old-fashioned-grandma feel when applying. Go for something classy but less popular. Georgia and Arial are a good pick. Cambria, Palatino, Calibre, Trebuchet, Garamond or Century Gothic will fit too. Comic Sans, Zapfino or Courier are obviously out.
Mistake #5: Screwing up formatting.
You know what investment banking associates do every day? They look through hundreds of slides. They can spot immediately even the smallest inconsistencies in fonts, margins or alignment. That is why you need to ensure your resume formatting look clean and consistent. A good rule is to align all the text to the left, and dates to the right. Don’t go crazy on mixing up bold, italics and underlined text. And follow the formatting guidelines in the Insider Guide.
Mistake #6: Calling your resume “Resume”.
Why waste your space? The recruiter already knows it’s a resume. Replace it with your name on top. And make it twice the size of body text font.
Mistake #7: Writing a summary or objective.
The most stupid thing ever. Your objective is to get an investment banking job, no?
Mistake #8: Not using bullet points.
Investment bankers’ attention span is terrible. They really just want to get to the point. Break all the information in short bullets. Be concise – and don’t overload the reader with text.
Mistake #9: Skipping on action words.
Words like “grew”, “doubled”, “exceeded” will immediately grab the attention of recruiters. Write in active tense rather than passive one: the active voice indicates you were in charge. Never use the word “tried”. Try to avoid the word “assisted” – both imply that a more passive role, so “direct”, “led” or “executed” are preferred whenever possible.
Mistake #10: Including your smiling picture at the top.
Never – ever – do this. Unless you are applying to become a model.
Mistake #11: Not highlighting key achievements.
The biggest mistakes most applicants make is writing up the duties they had at their job.
Was responsible for sending daily updates. Helped seniors to gather information.
This does not convey a message on why the firm should hire you. If you want to get the job – you need to show the impact of your work. It is understandable that during one or two internships you probably had little chance to achieve something impressive. But you have to frame your experiences in the way that show you are able to deliver results.
Mistake #12: Using non-finance related jargon.
Investment bankers know finance. That’s pretty much it. Don’t stuff in your resume industry-specific terms will be difficult for recruiter to understand.
Mistake #13: Squeezing everything in your CV – including that first job as a baby-sitter and subsequent summer career as a waiter.
Please include only the most relevant – and recent experience. Highlight your achievements at the job. Make sure your experience is fit for investment banking – or just “ibify” it. Don’t put in your whole life story in one resume. And don’t list each and every course you have taken in school. It won’t help your case.
Mistake #14. Not using numbers.
Investment bankers love numbers. Every sentence that has % or $ sign in it will be much easier spot on. Quantify your experiences whenever you can. Turn vague statements like “increased sales” to “increased sales by 5% per week from x to y”. Highlight relevant numbers in bold – if your GPA is good, you really want it to stand out.
Mistake #15: Sharing confidential information.
Tough one. I know how much you might want to brag about your work on Facebook IPO or merger of Coca-Cola bottlers. But be very careful not to disclose any confidential information. Bankers are extremely sensitive about this – and sharing more than you should will immediately disqualify your application.
Mistake #16: Excluding interests.
There is only one thing worse than not listing your interests. Including boring ones. Reading, jogging, movies. Travelling (under 20 countries) goes here too: these days pretty everyone has already been to 30 at least.
Think about your interests in the same way as you think about your education and experience sections. Your extracurriculars and hobbies should be interesting. They have to demonstrate either interesting personality or at least some desired investment banking skills. You can always say you wrote a novel, ran 5 marathons or spent one-year travelling around the world on a yacht.
Mistake #17: Being Mr Obvious.
Proficient in Excel, knowledgeable about valuation concepts, expert in PowerPoint. These are job requirements. And the recruiters assume you possess those – otherwise you shouldn’t apply.
Mistake #18: Oversharing.
For all those people who can’t wait to tell the recruiter their gender, age, marital status and whatever more. There is NO POINT. The reader does not give a damn. All this information just takes space from the actual things you should be emphasising. And, of course, it also helps the recruiter to quickly disqualify you on the basis of his stereotypes. A married 21-year old girl? No, thanks.
Mistake #19: Using your favourite email address [email protected]
Or any other obscure and non-professional email. Grow up. You are applying for the job. Get yourself another email address.
Mistake #20: Not checking for grammar – and not printing your resume.
50% of resumes submitted have typos in them. 97% of hiring managers reject on the basis of 2 typos.
You can’t afford to let this slip – proof, proof and proof it again. Good tip is to read your resume in reverse order at least once (bottom to top). Carefully assess formatting – does everything look consistent? And always ask someone else to have a final look. Chances are, they will notice something you’ve missed.
Finally, always print your CV before sending it out. I know you think your CV looks perfect on screen. Chances are – once printed it will look like a hot mess. Margins squeezed, font size too small, text not aligned properly. Always do a final check and print out the resume.
These are the general rules of investment banking resume. Keep in mind, they can differ country-by-country. That is, in Australia they don’t mind CVs of over 1 page, and in Germany a photo on your resume won’t automatically disqualify you as a candidate. However – better just stick to the rules mentioned above. Just to be on the safe side.
A perfect investment banking resume template
If you want to save some time and get a winning investment banking resume template right away – just download it here. Tweak a little, add text – and you are done. If you have questions – just leave a comment and I’ll be glad to help out. You can also use CV Insider Guide – I cover everything from A to Z on how to format your resume, what to write, which action words to use so on. Or just ask us for a help in rewriting and tailoring your CV and cover letter. In any case – good luck with drafting your perfect resume. You will definitely need to spend some time on it.