Get the Job Dec 01 2010

How to Write the Perfect Investment Banking Resume

By alina dizik

With tough competition for investment banking jobs, a stellar resume that gets you past that first layer of scrutiny is key. And getting the details right is crucial.

For instance, firms want to see specialization in a specific discipline within investment banking and skills that are specific to that area on your resume. For those breaking into the field, MIT Sloan School of Management career advisors typically recommends its graduates to write their resumes geared toward where they want to fit in within a bank before going through the recruiting process in the bulge bracket. Decide whether you are "interested in a more mergers and acquisitions sort of job focused on building relationships versus a much more intense atmosphere on the trading floor where you have to be a lot faster in terms of thinking on your feet," says Glenn Cunningham, master of finance advisor at the business school.

Here are additional ways to build a strong i-banking resume:

Demonstrate Work Ethic

No matter where you end up working within investment banking, notoriously long hours are part of the deal. Companies are eager to see experience of how you've previously handled extra long workweeks. "Investment banking is a full-speed 'energy' business," says John Crant, a career coach and founder of New York-based "These firms are successful, in part, due to the energy of their focus -- long hours, [and] sometimes brutal workloads." Using resume terms like "quick turnaround" or "limited resources" can allude to your success when working long hours and within a tight deadline.

Convey Tolerance for Risk

Especially if you're interested in a spot on the trading floor, demonstrating willingness for risk is a must. Companies are looking for candidates who demonstrate they have handled uncertain outcomes in the past. Military officers, for example, should mention the stress and risk of combat situations. Even highlighting that you started a business school poker club (under the interests heading) can signify a temperament for risk, says Sue Kline, MIT's director of MBA program career development.

Don't Overstate Accomplishments

Recruiters will pass on a resume that seems too good to be true or seems to somehow misrepresent a candidate. For example, if a candidate has spent years at a specific bank in several capacities, it's important to list all of the roles, not just the last one that seems most prominent, says Laura Cantatore, Americas head of professional resourcing at Deutsche Bank. "The resume...should not ever include something that the individual cannot demonstrate factually," says Cantatore, like four years at a bank as a senior associate perhaps only one or two of those years was spent in that particular role.

Tailor Your Past Experience

As you write each bullet point, consider what new and needed skill it conveys to your employer. "It's important to try to get out relevant experience, not just using the resume as a chronological data dump," says Cunningham. For example, if you point out your global experience by highlighting an international project four years ago, use the space allotted for your most recent position to highlight quantitative experience. While some redundancy is necessary to show career progression, there's no need to include all of the skills you learned at each job if they overlap.

List Deals

If you've worked on the deal side in the past, add as much specific information about the deals you've worked on where appropriate. You may not be able to mention the details, like the name of the company or the size of the deal, but list as much information as you can. In a related article on M&A resumes, FINS spoke with Wendy Enelow, author of "Expert Resumes for Managers & Executives," who advised listing deals on your resume in this way:

-- $22 million acquisition of Company A

Led financial due diligence, contract negotiations and final deal transaction for acquisition that propelled Company B into the rapidly expanding B2B logistics market in Northern Europe.

-- $40 million acquisition of Company X

Orchestrated complex 2-year due diligence for proposed acquisition. Advised Board of Directors and CEO not to proceed with transaction based on significant risk exposure and poor corporate credit rating.

Tout Accounting Skills

"It's often overlooked, but having a CPA and working knowledge of financial statements is critical to this job," says Amy Wittmayer, director of the MBA Career Management Center at University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School. Companies are eager to see accounting experience because it typically demonstrates mastery of financial statements, she explains.

Related: How to Get a CPA

Highlight Your Business Education

"Investment banking especially likes certain educational institutions in the backgrounds of their most desired candidates, so if you went to one of 'those' schools -be sure it jumps off the page," says Crant. Additionally, if you're just working towards a CFA designation add it to the resume and state when a specific level was completed. Even if you're not a CFA, this will show recruiters that you're serious about becoming one.

Find Out Preferred Format

Most large financial institutions have a stringent recruiting process and therefore have preferred formats for resumes. For instance, Deutsche Bank's Cantatore says that there's no need to limit an investment-banking resume to one page -- anything up to three pages is acceptable. Additionally, you should provide less information for each successive job in your work history, with jobs you held in your distant past receiving the least detail. More importantly, she prefers candidates keep an objective off the resume. "An overall objective on a resume is a personal choice, but can be restrictive," she says.


As you continue to tweak your resume, pay attention to all of the details. It can be easy to include irrelevant details that were once pertinent to your job hunt, says Crant. Pay special attention to listing your hobbies and interests. Mentioning you are a marathon runner may help you standout to a hiring manager who is also an athlete. Subconsciously, slightly quirky interests can help differentiate you to recruiters.

Write to Alina Dizik here. Be sure to include the headline of the article in the subject line of your email.

Related: The M&A Resume

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