There are many ways to search for jobs including visiting industry, association, and social-media Web sites; participating in internships (which can often lead to a full-time position); networking; participating in information interviews; and contacting recruiters (although recruiters typically don’t work with those with fewer than three years of experience.).Participate in an Internship
As with any industry, an internship is the best way to determine whether or not a profession best matches your skills, abilities, and interests. It also gives employers a relatively low-cost way to try out potential employees, after which they can hire interns they feel will fit well in their organizations.
The best place to start an internship search is your school’s career services office. Every school does it a little differently, but usually, these offices provide a treasure trove of information. You can use this information to supplement information that you can get from your target firm’s corporate Web site. Be sure to seek out other students who have worked at your target firm to get their perspective on the firm’s culture and what type of summer or full-time experience they had.
Vault.com provides in-depth intelligence on what it’s really like to work in investment banking at the top investment banking firms—and how to position yourself to get the finance career you want. At Vault.com—which is best known for its influential rankings, ratings, and reviews of top employers and internship programs—you can read thousands of verified reviews from employees and interns at the top investment banking firms and see which banking firms rank as the best to work for, best in terms of prestige, and best in numerous quality of life categories, including compensation, hours, training, business outlook, and more. Vault.com also offers essential advice on resumes, cover letters, interviews, and networking to help you during the job-search process. In addition to this guide, Vault publishes numerous other banking-related guides, including the Vault Guide to the Top 50 Banking Employers to Work For, the Vault Guide to Finance Interviews, the Vault Finance Interviews Practice Guide, and the Vault Career Guide to Investment Banking.
On-campus first-round interviews for summer internships are generally held in January and February. The hiring process for summer internships is the same as that for full-time analyst/associate positions (one round on-campus then another at the firm’s office). Some firms may have different schedules, so be sure to visit the Web sites of your target firms for the latest information.
Generally speaking, the pay you can expect for the summer will be the typical analyst or associate salary prorated over the 10-week summer period. Do not expect a performance bonus or sign-on bonus as part of your summer compensation package.
Here are some links to internship programs at major investment banks:
- Bank of America: https://campus.bankofamerica.com/opportunities.html
- Barclays: https://joinus.barclays/americas/internships
- Citigroup: https://features.citi.com
- Credit Suisse: https://www.credit-suisse.com/careers/en/career-opportunities/students-and-graduates/internship-opportunities.html
- Deutsche Bank: https://www.db.com/careers/en/grad
- Goldman Sachs: https://www.goldmansachs.com/careers/students/programs
- HSBC: https://www.hsbc.com/careers/students-and-graduates
- JPMorgan Chase & Co.: https://careers.jpmorgan.com/careers/US/en/programs
- Morgan Stanley: https://www.morganstanley.com/people-opportunities/students-graduates/programs
- UBS: https://www.ubs.com/global/en/about_ubs/careers/students-and-graduates/internships.html
Information interviews are interviews that are conducted to obtain information, not to try to impress someone at a company and get a job. But if in the process of gathering information about breaking into the industry you so impress the information interviewee that he or she offers you a job—that’s even better!
To obtain information interviews reach out to your network to see if anyone knows people working at investment banks, hedge funds, or other companies that hire sales and trading professionals. If this approach hits a dead-end, try contacting sales and trading workers via LinkedIn and other social networking sites, by e-mail, or by telephone.
For this type of information interview, skip the basic questions (such as “What are the most important personal and professional qualities for people in your career?” and “What do you like best and least about your job?”) and instead ask questions about the firm’s investment strategies and potential career paths. Do your research about the firm, its trading and sales strategies, and the overall industry beforehand so that you’re prepared to have a good discussion. Eventually, move on to questions about the job search such as:
- What’s the best way to network in this industry?
- What’s the best strategy for people to land jobs in the industry?
- What advice would you give to job seekers in terms of applying and interviewing for sales or trading jobs?
- How is the industry changing? What can I do now to improve my chances of landing a job?
- Can you recommend anyone else that I can talk to about career paths and the job search?
If asked, be ready to discuss your educational background, skills, and career goals. Providing this information gives the interviewee an idea of who you are and what you might bring to the firm via an internship or if hired for a full-time position.Check Out Internet Job-Search Resources
Many Web sites provide information about industries where sales and trading professionals work, firms, and job leads. At some sites, you can even apply for jobs. Some popular Web sites and publications include:
- The American Bankers Association (http://aba.careerbank.com) offers job listings and comprehensive information on the U.S. banking industry.
- LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com) provides job listings, information about employers, interest groups for those interested in investment banking or hedge fund careers, and networking opportunities.
- The Global Association of Risk Professionals (http://www.garp.org) provides job listings and information on networking.
- Vault (https://www.vault.com) provides in-depth intelligence on what it’s really like to work in investment banking at the top investment banking firms—and how to position yourself to get the finance career you want. At Vault.com—which is best known for its influential rankings, ratings, and reviews of top employers and internship programs—you can read thousands of verified reviews from employees and interns at the top investment banking firms and see which banking firms rank as the best to work for, best in terms of prestige, and best in numerous quality of life categories, including compensation, hours, training, business outlook, and more. Vault.com also offers essential advice on resumes, cover letters, interviews, and networking to help you during the job-search process. In addition to this guide, Vault publishes numerous other banking-related guides, including the Vault Guide to the Top 50 Banking Employers to Work For, the Vault Guide to Finance Interviews, the Vault Finance Interviews Practice Guide, and the Vault Career Guide to Investment Banking.
- The Association for Financial Professionals (http://www.afponline.org/pub/cs/career_services.html) offers job listings, career tips and articles, and Futures in Finance, a career e-newsletter for job seekers in the fields of finance and treasury.
- The International Association for Quantitative Finance (http://www.iaqf.org/job-board) provides job listings and useful career-planning resources for students.
- The Gateway: business and careers newspaper for students (http://thegatewayonline.com) provides a wealth of information about careers in finance, law, banking, and consulting. It also offers information on internships and graduate jobs.
- CFA Society New York (https://www.cfany.org/career-center) provides job listings, career advice and events, and career coaching (exclusively for society members).
- Jobs4Banking (http://www.jobs4banking.com) offers job listings that you can search by job title or company.
- The CFA Institute (https://www.cfainstitute.org/membership/careers) provides job listings and a career resources library.
- The Hedge Fund Jobs Digest (https://www.jobsearchdigest.com/hedge-fund-jobs) offers free job listings and career articles. For a fee, subscribers receive access to exclusive job listings, job openings posted directly by hedge funds, and career planning and salary guides.
- Hedge Week (http://www.hedgeweek.com) features articles on industry trends and snapshots of hedge fund (HF) firms.
- 100 Women in Finance (https://100women.org/initiative/job-board) offers a job board for members.
- Institutional Investor’s Alpha (http://www.institutionalinvestorsalpha.com) provides comprehensive articles on the HF industry and lists of top firms.
- The CMT Association (https://cmtassociation.org/development/career-development) offers a job board and networking opportunities for members.
- Women in ETFs (https://womeninetfs.com/page/WECareerCenter) offers job listings and other resources to student and professional members.
The front-door hiring process for analyst/associate programs is on-campus recruiting, which for most campuses and firms takes place in October and November. Most investment banks conduct on-campus interviews at their target schools for their sales and trading analyst and associate programs. Students who do well are invited for a second (and generally final) round of interviews at the firm’s headquarters.
Students attending non-targeted schools should forward their resumes directly to the human resources departments of banks or other companies that employ sales and trading professionals. Know that to be considered for the associate/analyst candidate pool, you may have to be willing to wait until the next incoming analyst class is fully assembled unless you start extremely early in the school year. It is very rare that banks will hire you even in December for the class whose training program begins in July.
The back door into the business is through connections. Some firms have a very strict “no nepotism” policy, but this shouldn’t discourage you from picking up the phone and calling a friend or friend of a friend on a desk. You may be able to meet someone and get an interview. Generally, though, this avenue only works for lateral hires moving from another firm, not entry-level hires graduating from college. Whether you’re an entry-level or lateral candidate, if you’re networking for a sales and trading job, be mindful of the fact that you are asking for a favor. For example, don’t call your contact at 9:29 a.m. or 3:45 p.m. if you’re thinking of an equity position—calling when the market is opening or closing is sure to create an extremely poor first impression. E-mail is a better, less-intrusive way of getting someone’s attention. If the contact is interested in having a conversation, an appointment can be set up over e-mail.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a potential employer. These include industry sector (investment banking, hedge funds, etc.), size of company, workplace culture, geographic setting, and trading strategies. You can learn more about companies through “best company” lists, league tables, social media and other professional organizations, internships, career fairs, information interviews, student organizations, and networking.
Annual industry rankings compiled by Vault.com are also a very valuable resource. Each year, Vault surveys thousands of professionals at the top investment banking firms, asking them to rate their firms in terms of prestige and several workplace categories. Vault averages these ratings and ranks the firms accordingly. In addition to a Best 50 Investment Banks to Work For ranking (https://www.vault.com/best-companies-to-work-for/banking/best-banks-to-work-for-top-50), Vault compiles a 50 Most Prestigious Banking Firms ranking, Best Banking Firms for Diversity ranking, and rankings of the Best Banking Firms for Quality of Life categories such as Business Outlook, Client Contact, Compensation, Culture, Hours, Formal Training, and more. In Vault’s most recent Best 50 Investment Banks to Work For ranking, here are the banks that ranked in the top 10:
- Goldman Sachs
- Centerview Partners
- Morgan Stanley
- Moelis & Company
- Perella Weinberg Partners
- Guggenheim Securities
- Bank of America
Global Finance (http://www.gfmag.com) publishes an annual ranking of top investment banks in various categories. Below are some highlights from its 2018 list:
- Global Best Investment Bank: J.P. Morgan
- Best Boutique Investment Bank: Allen & Co.
- Best in Emerging Markets: VTB Capital
- Best in Frontier Markets: Renaissance Capital
- Best Up & Comer: Raine Group
- Best Bank for IPOs: Credit Suisse
- Best Bank for Securitization: Citi
Hedge funds also employ sales and trading professionals. Bloomberg Markets (http://www.bloomberg.com) publishes an annual ranking of the world’s richest hedge funds. Institutional Investor’s Alpha (http://www.institutionalinvestorsalpha.com) publishes an annual list of the top 100 hedge fund firms in the United States with the highest amount of assets under management, as well as rankings of the top firms in Europe and Asia.
American Banker, a daily digital newspaper and Web site (http://www.americanbanker.com), has a directory of the 500 largest U.S. banks, ranked by assets, available to subscribers.
And then there are the “league tables,” which are rankings of investment banks in several categories (e.g., equity underwriting or M&A advisory). The most commonly referred to league tables are published by Thomson Reuters, a major multinational mass media and information firm. Thomson Reuters collects data on deals done in a given time period and determines which firm has done the most deals in a given sector over that time period. Essentially, the league tables are rankings of firms by quantity of deals in a given area. However, readers should be aware that the only truly unbiased source of information comes from these independent firms, such as Thomson Reuters, and not from the investment banks themselves. League tables are merely a compilation of the volume of transactions (either by deal size or by number of deals) and can be easily manipulated by the investment banks for bragging purposes. For example, in just about every pitch made to a client, there will usually be a page with tombstones (icons of previous deals done by an I-bank), along with league tables, showing the firm’s expertise in a given area. Many times, analysts and associates will find themselves creating favorable league tables at late hours of the night to show how their firm is truly the best in a particular market segment, for transactions of a certain size, and so forth.
When analyzing these rankings, there are several factors to consider. First, you want to see how the particular bank that you’re interested in ranks in the product area that most interests you. Consistently high rankings over a number of years (i.e., not just a one-year wonder) should also be considered positive. Typically, these rankings are derived through extensive client polling. Beware of firms’ trumpeting of any individual ranking. These rankings are sliced and diced innumerable ways—three months vs. six months; announced mergers vs. completed mergers, and so on. So, any one ranking isn’t your best guide to who’s tops in the field; the aggregate picture when looking at many rankings is a much more solid comparative study.
Be careful to note when the survey was performed and be sure to keep current on the latest news within the industry. If Merrill’s listed trading desk won top honors for 10 consecutive years but then the managing director and a group of traders left Merrill for Morgan Stanley, chances are good that Merrill’s ranking will drop the next time the survey is conducted. Also, be sure to note how a firm’s overall research effort is ranked. Although the research department is often referred to derisively as a “cost center,” when all other things are equal, a strong research effort is accretive to the overall sales and trading effort. A well-established research department leads to more commission dollars and investment banking revenue which increases the firm’s visibility and prestige in the marketplace. In this hyper-competitive business, the importance of analyst coverage and name-brand research analysts cannot be overstated.
If a firm you are interested in is conspicuously absent from the rankings for the product area you are interested in, you might want to ask your contacts or interviewers there why. The most common answer is that the firm is building its capabilities in that particular product area. This is especially true of European investment banks that have always coveted the U.S. markets, but that have made very little progress. But you should investigate further. Is the firm leveraging a core strength? Is the management fully committed to riding out the ups and the downs of the market cycle to build this business? What is the background of the managers of this desk? As an analyst or as an associate, you want to know that if you’re not playing for the Yankees, you are at least playing for a team that is striving for greatness.
As an analyst you want satisfactory answers to these questions. As an associate, these questions are even more important, since your promotion and future success depend on a stable organization with decent growth potential.
You can also use social media and other Web sites to learn more about investments banks, hedge funds, and other companies that employ sales and trading professionals. Check out the following social media sites to learn more about employers:
- At LinkedIn, you should, of course, create your own profile to attract the interest of hiring managers, but this very-popular professional social networking site has much more to offer. You can follow investment banks, hedge funds, and other companies that employ sales and trading workers to learn about industry developments, companies, and key players. You should also join interest groups such as Equity Options Sales & Trading Group Sales; Traders & Trading-Opportunities and Events; and Investment Banking Careers to connect with aspiring and current sales and trading professionals. Use the group feature and LinkedIn in general to connect with recruiters and people who are already employed at your target employers.
- At Twitter.com, you can follow investment banks, hedge funds, industry experts, and recruiters to learn more about specific companies and the field in general. Many people create a Twitter account, but end up just being spectators in the Twitter-verse. That’s a bad idea. To really utilize the benefits of Twitter, you need to create an account and begin tweeting to raise your industry profile. You should also follow industry leaders and up-and-coming companies in your target sector (e.g., investment banking, etc.) to stay-up-to-date regarding industry trends, internship programs, job openings, and much more.
- SumZero (https://sumzero.com) is a social-media site for buy-side hedge fund, mutual fund, and private equity professionals. Members receive access to networking opportunities, research, industry networks, job listings, and other resources.
- MeetUp.com allows you to locate networking groups in your area. You can use these meet-ups to obtain and share information about potential employers and the job search, internship programs, and other resources.
Here are a few other ways to research companies:
- Internships: Participating in an internship allows you to obtain hands-on experience in one or more positions, build your network, and learn about the daily operations of an investment bank, hedge fund, or other employer. If you excel during your internship, you might even be offered a job. A good place to begin is Vault.com’s list of the Best Investment Banking Internships: http://www.vault.com/internship-rankings/best-investment-bank-internships.
- Information interviews: Use them to collect intel on potential employers, types of careers, job-search strategies, and anything else that will help you to be successful as a sales or trading professional. Use your network (e.g., professors, internship coordinators, friends and family members with contacts in the industry) and social media to find potential information interviewees.
- Career fairs: These events, which are hosted by college and sometimes companies, will allow you to learn about many potential employers in one day, interact with recruiters, and network.
- Company Web sites: Visit the sites of investment banks, hedge funds, and other companies that employ sales and trading professionals to learn more about a company’s history, products, and services; available internship and job opportunities; and much more. Major investment banks typically offer extensive information at their Web sites, including tips on interviewing and resume-writing and videos of workers discussing their careers and the work of the company. Hedge funds are much more secretive about their work. The Web sites of many hedge funds are pretty bare-bones, but the top firms—such as Bridgewater Associates (https://www.bridgewater.com)—offer good information.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that networking plays a role in two-thirds of successful job searches. This fact is even more pertinent in the investment baking, hedge fund, and other financial sectors where sales and trading workers are employed because competition is so strong for jobs. It’s extremely important to use networking as a tool to get a sales and trading job because:
- The top firms typically target those who attend or recently graduated from prestigious colleges and universities in their established employment pipeline. These are Ivy League schools and large public colleges and other schools with strong finance or quantitative finance programs. If you are not enrolled in or have graduated from one of these schools, it’s much harder—but not impossible—to land a job in the field.
- The number of sales and trading positions has declined due to the emergence of automated trading—so more people are competing for fewer jobs.
There are two main ways to network:
- Open, face-to-face networking at information sessions offered by investment banks and other employers, during internships, through information interviews, and at conferences and other events.
- Informal networking through social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, industry job boards, etc.).
Most job-seekers use a blended approach to obtain the best results.Reach Out to Family, Friends, Professors, and Other People in Your Network
If you’re still in college, the first thing you should do—as early as your sophomore or junior year—is to contact your friends and family members to see if they know anybody in investment banking, hedge funds, or other financial sectors that employ sales and trading professionals. Perhaps your aunt has an investment banker friend who would be willing to talk to you about her career and direct you toward other contacts in the industry. Or, perhaps a contact is aware of a local financial firm that is seeking an intern. When you reach out, be sure to have a 30-second “elevator speech” ready that tells the contact where you go to school, your major, what type of job you want to learn more about, and other details that will help the individual assist you. As you build your network, expand your network to include the following people:
- roommates/classmates in high school/college
- fellow athletes
- fraternity/sorority members
- current and past employers
- neighbors/community members
- members of your religious community
- people you volunteer with
- members of social organizations you’re involved in
- members of professional associations
- your family’s financial planner or banker
- people who work in personnel departments or for placement or search agencies.
Be sure to also build and maintain your network even if you’re already in the workforce. You never know when you might want to change jobs, and having an established network (which will also include many sales and trading colleagues) will come in handy.Participate in Information Interviews
If you don’t have a top-tier finance or business program on your resume, participating in an information interview is an excellent way to obtain information and get noticed. At this point, you may already know about information interviews. But if you don’t, an information interview simply involves gathering information about a particular company or career path from people who are already working in the field. Everybody says that an information interview should be used just to get intel, but your ultimate goal is to wow the information interviewee so thoroughly that he or she will consider you for an internship or a job. If an internship or a job isn’t available, the information interviewee can connect you with others at the company or in the industry whom you can talk to and try to impress. Check out the following resources to learn more about information interviewing:
- Mergers & Inquisitions: How to Use Investment Banking Informational Interviews to Break In: http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-informational-interviews
- Fortune: What to Ask in an Informational Interview: http://www.fortune.com/2013/04/04/what-to-ask-in-an-informational-interview
Many large investment banks—such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs—schedule information sessions on the campuses of colleges and universities in their recruiting pipeline. These sessions allow students to meet company representatives from sales and trading departments (for example, fixed income and institutional equity) and learn more about the company, career paths, and internship opportunities. There are pros and cons to using information sessions to network.
- You get a chance to directly interact with and impress a company’s representatives; some people call these sessions “speed dating for investment banking.”
- You get the opportunity to learn more about companies, career paths, and internships.
- You will meet fellow classmates that you can add to your network.
- Information sessions are usually jam-packed and it’s tough to get one-on-one time with company representatives.
- With limited face-time, there is a lot of pressure to impress, and an increased probability that you might make a mistake that could eliminate you from consideration for internships, etc.
- Information sessions held for college seniors may occur so late in the year that you do not have a chance to take advantage of internships or networking. (On the other hand, those geared toward sophomores and juniors are perfect for these goals.)
Here are some tips to keep in mind when you attend information sessions:
- Prepare a 30-second sales pitch. Be prepared to quickly tell the representative about yourself (your major, career interests, achievements, membership in finance-related clubs, etc.). This will help the representative quickly understand who you are without having to ask a series of questions, and doing so demonstrates that you have strong communication skills.
- Don’t ask obvious questions. For example, every representative is asked “What’s it like to work in sales and trading?” You can glean this information from company Web sites, information interviews, and other sources. Your approach should be to learn as much as you can about the companies that will be attending these events, and ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge of these firms and their trading strategies. Your goal is to ask questions that help you learn more, but that also make you stand out and get noticed.
- Listen closely to the answers. A real conversation involves give-and-take, so you want to show the representative that you’re not just there to toot your horn, but also to learn.
- Make a personal connection and appear likeable. You certainly need technical skills and knowledge to be a sales or trading professional, but companies also want to offer internships or full-time positions to those who seem like a good fit for the firm.
- Don’t spend more than five or 10 minutes with any one individual. Try to wrap up your conversation in that time span, exchange business cards, and move on to the next representative. Your goals are both quality (although that’s hard to get in a scrum of students who have the same goals as you) and quantity during these sessions.
- Follow up quickly. The goals of participating in these sessions include building your network, getting noticed, and getting a job or an internship. Within a day or so, send an e-mail or call those with whom you had promising conversations. Reference the opportunities that you discussed and restate your interest in having further discussions. If you didn’t discuss an internship or job opportunity, thank the individual for his or her time, mention a topic you did discuss, and strongly convey your interest in future opportunities at the company.
In addition to in-person events, some companies—such as Goldman Sachs—offer virtual events, skill-building workshops, conferences, panel discussions, and other opportunities. Visit https://www.goldmansachs.com/careers/students/prepareto sign up for updates on events offered by Goldman Sachs. Check the Web sites of other companies for similar opportunities.Use Social Media and Social Networking Sites
In 2017, 52 percent of graduating college seniors used social media in the job search, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Nearly 78 percent of those who utilized social media used it to learn more about potential employers. More than 50 percent used it to post a resume on a publicly accessible profile, and 40 percent used it to communicate with friends and/or family to discuss job openings and potential employers. LinkedIn is the most-popular social networking site. If you don’t have a profile on LinkedIn, you need to create one. LinkedIn is useful in many ways, including:
- It helps you to get noticed by recruiters.
- It helps you to quickly and concisely present your qualifications and achievements to hiring managers and recruiters.
- It allows you to network with people in the industry.
- It allows you to stay up-to-date with industry developments and trends by following companies and well-known people in the field, by joining interest groups (such as Recruitment for Traders, Equity Options Sales & Trading Group, and Brokerage, Sales & Trading Careers), and by networking.
Other recommended social media sites for aspiring sales and trading professionals include:
“Truth be told, not all jobs need cover letters, but for the times when they’re required, it needn’t be so complicated to get them right,” advises Morgan Stanley at its career Web site. Some job-seekers tend to overthink cover letters—believing that they need to overpower hiring managers to help them get the job. That’s unnecessary. The key is to understand what the goal of a cover letter is and its key components. “The point of the cover letter is not to rehash your resume,” advises the staffing firm Robert Half International. “A cover letter can accomplish what a resume cannot, including explaining why you want this particular job; describing how your skills and experience make you ideal for the position; explaining traits you possess that would be useful for the role, which are not mentioned on your resume; establishing a connection with the company to which you are applying; and explaining job gaps.” Additionally, it can help you stand out and grab the attention of a hiring manager if you are not about to graduate from or are an alumnus of a top-tier colleges that serves as a hiring pipeline for that particular company.
According to Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and other industry sources, an effective cover letter has three sections:
- The opening paragraph states why you’re writing the letter [i.e., the job or internship you’re applying for, and how you became aware of it (contact at the company, contact at the company, etc.).
- The middle paragraphs (two or three) detail what attracted you to the job or internship; why you’re interested in working for the company, why you think you’d be a good match based on your education, performance in past internships or jobs, or other qualifications. “Be specific with your reasons and refer to people you have met or information you have read that draws you to the company,” advises a recruiter at the Citigroup careers Web site. If you attended a prestigious college or worked for an industry leader, be sure to mention this in these paragraphs. Also, if you have a stellar GPA (3.50 or higher), list it here. Finally, use these paragraphs to show your personality and your ambition and drive that aren’t easily conveyed in a resume.
- In the last paragraph, thank the hiring manager for his or her time and say that you will be in contact shortly to request an interview. Tip: If you say you’re going to follow-up, do so; otherwise you will send a message that you don’t keep your word.
Here are a few tips from Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and other employers for creating a quality cover letter:
- Be sure to incorporate keywords and skills that appear in the job ad—with examples from your past internship, prior work, or college investing club experiences—into the description of your skill set and achievements.
- Take it seriously. Unlike the overanxious job-seekers discussed earlier, some people underthink the creation of their cover letter—resulting in a generic cover letter that sends up red flags as soon as it’s read. “Cover letters can end up being deal-breakers if they have mistakes in them, and most mistakes are made when a generic letter is used for every application,” advises Morgan Stanley. “You’d be surprised by how many times people forget to switch out the name of one firm for ours. Not only do we know you’re applying elsewhere, but it shows lack of attention to detail.”
- Don’t repeat yourself. “Don’t use the cover letter to repeat skills you’ve already outlined in the resume which speak specifically to the requirements in the job description,” advises Morgan Stanley.
- Keep it short. Eighty-three percent of hiring managers surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management reported spending one minute or less reviewing cover letters, so get to the point quickly.
- When possible, address the cover letter to an actual person, not “To Whom it May Concern.” You can usually find the name of the head of human resources, the recruiter assigned to your college, etc. online. Using “To whom it may concern” sends a message that you’re not detail-oriented or that you could even have created a generic cover letter that’s being sent to dozens of investment banks, hedge fund firms, or other employers.
Your resume is your “single most important marketing tool,” according to Citigroup. “It should present an accurate snapshot of you…and we’ll use it to decide whether we offer you an interview.”
Resumes are organized pretty much the same regardless of your industry, although many resumes are now submitted digitally, rather than through regular mail. But your goal is to create the perfect resume to land a job in sales and trading. It’s much harder to land a job in this industry than it is in commercial banking, so it’s important to have a top-quality resume that meets the recruiter’s expectations. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Citibank, Robert Half Finance and Accounting, and other banks and recruiters offer the following tips for creating perfect cover letters and resumes:
- Tailor your resume to the role that you’re applying for. JPMorgan Chase & Co. advises applicants to “highlight specific examples of attributes (e.g., perseverance, self-discipline, collaboration) that you’re particularly proud of. Read the program info and job description carefully, and then emphasize the experiences and skills you have that match.”
- Use keywords that match those featured in the job ad. For example, if you’re applying for a trading position, then your resume should include terms in the job advertisement such as “proprietary model construction” and “algorithmic trading strategies.” Using keywords will help you to get past resume-scanning software, which is used to reduce the number of candidates who are eligible for consideration for the position.
- Use action words. “Provide the basic details about each milestone, such as the name of the organization, position, location, and dates,” advises Credit Suisse. “Then provide relevant details about what you accomplished or how you contributed using action words such as ‘researched,’ ‘produced,’ or ‘identified,’ with a different word for each bullet.”
- Create different cover letters and resumes for different job listings. Each resume should emphasize specific education, skills, or experience to help you land that specific job. “Just as you would with a cover letter, think about the role you’re going after and how the information you’ve offered answers the big questions that are being asked,” advises Deutsche Bank. “It might be that changing the focus to emphasize some projects more and others less makes you a better fit.”
- Use numbers and hard data. If you’re already working in the industry, then support your success on the job with statistics. For candidates with no prior industry experience, highlight any stock market experience that you have had. If you’ve managed a personal portfolio, be sure to mention this on your resume.
- Be conservative with design elements. Don’t overdo it with boldface type. Bank of America recommends that applicants “skip italics, underlining, shadows, or other fancy treatments.” Citibank says that your CV/resume should “appear well-ordered, readable, with sections and headings clearly marked…and use a standard typeface in at least 9 point font.”
- Proofread your documents until they’re perfect. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s advice: “Ask a few trusted friends or advisors to review the documents to ensure they read well…Do a final review to make sure your application is free of all spelling and grammatical errors.”
- Tell the truth. “Don’t be afraid to tell us about your achievements, but don't exaggerate either,” advises Credit Suisse at its Web site, Many companies conduct background checks and fact-check statements you make on your application materials. If it’s discovered that you lied on your application materials, you could lose your job or be disqualified as a candidate.
- Don’t despair if you have little or no professional experience. “Have your resume focus on your education and the things you’ve done outside the classroom,” advises Goldman Sachs. “Were you on the dean’s list? Did you graduate with honors? Were you active in campus organizations or the local community? Were you involved in athletics? Include any extracurricular activities you participated in, especially if they involved leadership skills, and list any and all awards you’ve won. These will help demonstrate your determination and ability to thrive in a team—which are valuable skills in any company.”
If you’re an experienced sales or trading professional, use the standard reverse chronological format. List your current, or most recent, job first, then your next most-recent job, and so on. Then list your education, skills, and other information that you believe will help you to land the job. Some applicants place a brief summary at the top of their resume that uses a short paragraph or a bulleted list detailing three or four of their most-notable educational and professional achievements. Consider it the resume version of a 30-second elevator speech. Since studies show that hiring managers typically spend less than a minute reviewing resumes (and many companies don’t require cover letters), the summary section may be your only chance to make an impression. But let’s hope that the hiring manager takes the time to read your entire resume.
If you’re still in college or have just graduated, the reverse chronological format is not a good fit because its organizational format spotlights your lack of work experience. In this instance, use the functional resume format. This style allows you to tout your educational background and paid and unpaid experience (internships, co-ops, volunteer positions, etc.) and your personal skills (such as teamwork, leadership, and communication). Here’s how you should arrange the format of your functional resume:
- Name and contact information.
- Education section: List your education (major, minor, GPA, etc.) and achievements (leadership in clubs, awards, stellar performance in investment competitions, etc.).
- Work and Internship Experience section: List your job, internship, and co-op experiences in reverse chronological order. Include skills and duties that are pertinent to the job for which you’re applying.
- Community Involvement section: List your volunteer activities. Any experience related to investing and sales will be most useful.
- Other Skills section: Include applicable skills or talents such as computer and Internet skills (including programming or software development skills), knowledge of or experience with trading platforms or strategies, foreign language proficiency, etc.
For more advice on resumes and cover letters, visit the following Web sites:
- Bank of America: Recruitment Tips: http://careers.bankofamerica.com/us/working-here/recruitment-tips.aspx
- Citigroup: Frequently Asked Questions: http://careers.citigroup.com/Careers/index/#/faq
- HSBC: Application Hints and Tips: http://www.hsbc.com/careers/application-hints-and-tips
- JPMorgan: Advice Center: https://careers.jpmorgan.com/careers/US/en/advice
- Credit Suisse: Tips for Students and Graduateshttps://www.credit-suisse.com/careers/en/career-opportunities/students-and-graduates/how-to-apply/recruiting-tips.html
- The Cover Letter Template That Will Get You a Job in Banking” http://news.efinancialcareers.com/us-en/186319/cover-letter-template-will-get-job-banking
- Goldman Sachs: Resume Tips: Making Yours Stand Out: https://www.goldmansachs.com/careers/blog/posts/resume-tips-from-goldman-sachs.html
- The Absolutely Perfect Investment Banking CV: http://news.efinancialcareers.com/us-en/22239/the-absolutely-perfect-investment-banking-cv
- For Dummies: Reverse Chronological Resume Format: Focusing on Work History, Growth: https://www.dummies.com/careers/find-a-job/resumes/reverse-chronological-resume-format-focusing-on-work-history-growth
- For Dummies: Functional Resume Format: Focusing on Skills and Experience: https://www.dummies.com/careers/find-a-job/resumes/functional-resume-format-focusing-on-skills-and-experience