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11 top tips for your graduate investment banking application
Make a stellar first impression with a cover letter & CV that stands out from the rest by using these top tips in your graduate investment banking application.
We know that first impressions aren’t everything but they do matter. Your CV and cover letter will probably be the first time an investment bank gets to know you, so it’s crucial you do everything to try and impress. Here is what recruiters will be looking out for when reading your CV and cover letter.
While we know academics isn’t everything, with so many applications flooding in, grades will often be used as an objective measure to sort through candidates.
If you’re worried about your grades not reflecting as well as you’d like, think about either including your average for your major, or even just for your final years of uni (of course only if they are in fact better!)
When you’re writing your CV, keep in mind that the person reading it likely has a big pile of applications they need to sort through. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to tell that you’re awesome.
The way you format your CV can make a huge difference to how easy it is to read and understand. Make sure you use subheadings, and as often as possible embrace dot points. Be careful putting boxes around certain pieces of information, as it may prevent it from being properly read by screening software. While we all love a party font, your CV really isn’t the time to ironically use Comic Sans or Corvisa.
The other key thing to keep in mind with your CV is length. Again, the principle here is to make it as easy as possible for the person reading your CV to know you’re great and move you to the next stage. So don’t write an essay, or include that time you won a state gold medal in under eight athletics, even if you are proud of it (rightly so by the way).
As we mentioned, applications will often be scanned and then go through some fancy algorithms to search for keywords and phrases. While it’s hard to know the exact things you should include to make sure the technology falls in love with your application, a solid place to start is by going through the job description and identifying the keywords used when describing the skills or experiences you’re looking for. If you can then use this language in your own application, you should be onto a winner.
It’s easy to say you’re a strong leader, or passionate and experienced in strategy, but how will a recruiter know you’re legit? As often as you can, include concrete examples in your CV. This might look like data or statistics proving your success on a project, or it might be being super demonstrative about where you have exhibited a particular skill you’re claiming to hold.
Cross your i’s and dot your t’s
Attention to detail is a crucial skill in investment banking, and the first place that you can show you look out for the little things is in your CV. You can’t afford to include a mistake in your CV, so make sure you take the time to proofread it carefully.
Much like a huge uni essay, a fresh set of eyes can be key in picking up mistakes your eyes are glossing over. Make the time to print your CV out and hand it over to a friend or family member with a red pen and permission to be ruthless.
One thing that can help you stand out from the crowd is a sense of the global outlook that is so treasured in investment banks. Definitely mention if you’ve gone on exchange, speak another language or grew up in a different location.
As we said, subheadings make it waaaaay easier for a recruiter to quickly get a sense of who you are and why you’re a perfect fit for their bank.
The key subheadings you might want to include are:
- Header: with your personal details and contact information
- Education: university is most important here but depending on how long it’s been since you’ve finished school, you might want to include this too.
- Work and leadership experience: you don’t need to mention everything you’ve ever done, or give equal weight to every experience. Instead, flesh out and provide a good amount of context to the roles that really prove why you’re qualified.
- Activities and interests: Show some personality and try and give off a sense of you as a person (although maybe focus on the best parts of you, rather than the ‘bingeing Netflix’ or ‘ripping up the dance floor’ sides of you).
And the cover letter
Generally, less time will be spent reading your cover letter compared with your CV. It’s still key though that you use the opportunity to show off who you are and why you’re passionate about joining the bank.
Cover letters provide a bit more flexibility to show off who you are and stand out from the crowd. While there are a few crucial things to make sure you include, it’s definitely possible to have success with a cover letter that doesn’t follow all the usual rules.
That being said, here are some guidelines:
Keep it brief
Same thing goes as your CV, you want to appreciate that the person reading your cover letter doesn’t have hours on their hands, and you can respect that time by being succinct and focused in your writing.
Make it personal
The three big questions you should try and answer in your cover letter are 1) Who you are 2) Why you want the job and 3) What you’ve done that makes you a great candidate for the job. If you take the time to answer these questions truthfully, properly reflecting on what you’re motivated by, your cover letter will stand out from the pack.
Keep your writing well structured
While you can have a more personal tone in a cover letter, it shouldn’t read like the stream of consciousness thoughts of a sleep-deprived student, or the tumblr blog you kept when you were 14. Demonstrate you’ve got the writing and communication skills you need for the job by writing clearly and appropriately.
Address the selection criteria
When in doubt, talk about how you can meet the selection criteria listed on the position description. This is a chance to translate clearly how your CV has prepared you for the job you’re applying for. Don’t waffle on, but for each selection criteria highlight how an experience or qualification you have puts you in the best position to do the job.
Up next, find out what to expect at an investment banking assessment centre for graduates.