Finding a position in investment banking is a highly competitive process, which gives you a very small margin of error when it comes to your resume or CV. While there is no such thing as the perfect investment banking resume (banks will not expect you to have perfect scores, be the president of every club in your school, and speak five languages), nevertheless applicants do make common mistakes that you should avoid.
This is my thoughts of investment banking CV common mistakes.
1. Typos / grammatical errors
Typos and grammatical errors simply show that you did not spend enough time on your CV, and therefore, you do not take your applications seriously. Also, a large part of your job as an investment banking associate or analyst will be to check for people’s mistakes, so typos in your CV are a good indicator of whether you’ll be good at your job! Banks do tend to be reasonable though, and if there is just ONE typo and the rest of your application is outstanding, you should not worry. But why take the risk for such an easy fix? Read all of your applications three times and run a spell-check before sending out anything!
2. Formatting issues
This goes together with the first point. You may think this is trivial, but formatting that is not consistent (company name bolded in one place, italicized in another) or wrong words or paragraphs misaligned, text going over one page will be spotted immediately by whomever is reviewing your CV. Depending on the organisation you are sending your CV to, they will keep an eye open for all the little details or possibly be a little more lenient. However, if you are applying for a role which requires reporting skills then the way your CV is formatted is of utmost importance. At KS we format all CV’s so they look professional and will give your text a once over to ensure there are no mistakes but the emphasis still lies with you to ensure it is perfect. The only solution to avoid this is to print a copy of your CV once you’re done with it, see what it looks like, and get at least one friend to review it. Do not start adding graphs an pie charts.
3. Listing EVERY small job you ever had during your studies
Do not forget that a CV is meant to be an advertisement for yourself. Space is precious, so limit yourself to what sells ‘you’ best to the investment bank. For example, you don’t need to list your job as a sales assistant or as a waiter during your studies if another work experience is more relevant. Expand in detail the relevant experiences, and delete entirely what does not sell you best. Your most recent experience is the most important, however if there are previous roles that highlight why you are good for the role you are applying, for then you should add it.
4. Describing your courses in too much detail in the education section
It is fine to mention some of your courses, ONLY if they are relevant (corporate finance, private equity, economics) or stand out and show some very specific interest. Do not overdo it – your courses should never take more than one line in your CV and should be limited to three or four courses at the absolute maximum, and you do not need to describe those.
5. Being descriptive and highlighting your achievements
Bankers don’t want to know all the details around what you did on a day to day basis. One of the best pieces of information you can put in a CV are your achievements and what you have learnt through your experiences. There are a lot of you out there so you need to distinguish yourself, not only from the guy or girl who sits next to you but all those others in the competitor banks / organisations around the world!
Do write: “Led the valuation of a $700 million technology company under associate supervision, which involved building a complex operating model from scratch, full WACC analysis, and bench-marking of 25 companies in four countries.” What is the difference? The good version gives more concrete details and clearly demonstrated the complexity of what you were doing. More interesting details will catch the banker’s attention and also prove that you understand what you were doing.
6. Too long or inappropriate level of detail
Give a good, concise overview with some details, but do not go too deep and try to make a job sound more interesting that it was on your CV. This is what the interview is for. You should highlight your achievements then expand on them in the interview.
7. Team work or My work
This is important – being a strong individual is just as important as being good team player. You need to emphasize what you have personally achieved (shows leadership and that you can contribute individually) and also how you can work with and in a team.
Founder and Managing Partner at KS International, UAE and Singapore