1. What is an Investment Banking Resume ?
An investment banking resume is a brief summary of your skills, accomplishments, and history as it relates to the IB role you are applying for. The resume showcases your abilities and how your background has prepared you to move forward with the finance industry. It is also a selling tool used to get an interview. For a prestigious and highly sought-after career as investment banking, each firm may receive hundreds of thousands of resumes in a recruiting season. The resume is the first document they see about you. And busy as they are, bankers generally scan resumes for about 10 seconds to determine whether or not candidates are worth a more thorough reading. You are probably thinking how on earth you can make a positive impression in under 10 seconds with your resume.
The good news is that, unlike a job application, the resume highlights only your strengths and related information. Insights such as why you left a job or other potentially negative or damaging points are not included. But how to write your resume in a way that best highlights your experience and promotes your assets is an art. Resumes are not “one size fits all” or even “one template fits all”. If you follow the steps provided here and the instructions listed, you will have a much better chance of creating a resume that will get a second look.
2. What Firms Look for in an Investment Banking Resume
Investment banks generally look for two qualities on your resume.
- Do you have a history of excellence at whatever you do? (i.e. GPA / test scores, awards & honors, brand name work experiences, competition wins)
- Do you demonstrate an interest for finance, specifically investment banking? (i.e. School major, past internships, clubs)
Now you’ll often hear banks talk about the other qualities they look for, like creativity, personal impact, leadership, entrepreneurship, etc. That’s true. But they look for those in interviews. On the resume, bankers are looking mainly for the 2 qualities above.
2.1. Records of Excellence
The bankers don’t know you. They only have a piece of paper to decide whether to interview you. Therefore, the best quality they can look for is a history of excellence at whatever you do. That’s why the recruiting teams focus intently on whether you possess a track record of excellence.
One factor banks use to assess your excellence is the big brand names. Although people like to talk about “the myth of the target school”, and finance has more diversity of educational backgrounds than media or law, the fact can’t be escaped that big banks hire more from elite institutions. Target schools are schools that top investment banks have on-campus recruitment and Some of the feeder schools to Wall Street are Upenn Wharton, NYU, Harvard, Columbia, UC Berkeley, etc. Because of the enormous number of applications every year, firms need a pretty efficient way to screen out candidates for the first round interview. Big brand names are a shortcut. They want to hire high-achievers and assume that if you went to a top school or, you are a high-achiever.
However, if you are not from a target school, don’t assume you can’t get in. It just means that unfortunately it will likely be more work for you than for other people. You have to highlight your strengths in other parts of your resume to make firms focus less on your school name (check out our IB resume toolkit to learn how to tailor your resume with a non-target background and get feedback!). Then, do a LOT of networking with bankers to get your resume push forward to the HR department.
Beside the school prestige, firms care about your academic performance. People usually say score is not everything, but for investment banking, there is huge emphasis on GPA. If you’re in the UK, you’re going to need at least a 2.1 degree (preferably a First). In the US, your GPA should be > 3.6/4.0 to have the chance of breaking in. It’s not so much that the exam results measure real intelligence and ability, more that they demonstrate that you were able to knuckle down and do what it takes. Banks want to know that you have what it takes to work hard.
Strong achievements in other areas of your resume also matter. This could be extracurricular activities where you showed strong leadership and analytical ability. Any scholarships won, any academic prizes and, in particular, any rankings in your class should be emphasised.
2.2. Interest for Finance
Because the analyst and associate jobs are entry-level roles, the investment banks care a lot about your interest in finance. They want to figure out whether this is something that truly interests you. That is why banks will go for candidates who have exposure to investment banking since they have a sense of what the job entails.
You demonstrate interest in investment banking by having finance credentials on your resume. The best proof of interest is having investment banking work experience (i.e. IBD internships). Other finance professional experiences will suffice, but investment banking internships work best. Academic major/ concentration and student organizations, like investment clubs, will also add credibility.
But what if you come from a non-traditional background and you don’t have any of these? Luckily, there are other ways to make your resume seem more finance-oriented.
- Courses: You can take finance courses on your own, like our online finance course. It’ll also prepare you for the interviews. On the resume, you can reference it under the Education or Additional sections.
- Stock Portfolio: Open a brokerage account to invest your own stock portfolio. We recommend Robinhood or Ameritrade, both of which are free. This would go under the Additional section.
- Finance Competitions: You can also participate in finance competitions. The Ira Sohn Conference hosts stock idea competitions every year. This would go under the Education section if you’re still in school, or Additional section.
3.1. The Header (Contact Information)
Have your name and contact information at the top, front and center. Size your name larger than the rest and bold it so it’s easily identifiable and recognizable. For the contact information, we recommend keeping it to one line so everything is in one place. Within that line, we recommend placing either your phone number or email first because that’s the most audience-friendly. Although rarely used, you should still include your physical address on the resume. Some private equity firms might courier interview materials to your physical address
Education is a key section and widely underutilized by many candidates and other finance resume templates. If you have multiple degrees (e.g.: a BA and an MBA), you should write a subsection like the one above for each degree, starting with your highest level of education first (e.g.: your MBA). For each degree, include
- University Name, (expected) Graduation Date, and Degree Name
- Graduation Honors: Next to your degree, include any graduation honors. Honors / High Honors / Highest Honors. Distinction / High Distinction / Highest Distinction. Cum Laude / Magna Cum Laude / Summa Cum Laude.
- GPA & Test Scores: If you are still an undergrad or < 5 years out, it is a must to write out your GPA. If you are in MBA or have > 5 years of experience, you can choose to include your GPA if it’s not disastrously low. Also include your test scores, like SAT, ACT, GRE or GMAT if it is high. For those of you who have a low cumulative GPA, consider using your major GPA instead if it is higher. You can also slightly package it by rounding it (eg., 3.46 becomes 3.5). In any case, rounding the GPA will give you a little extra boost. These are ways to present your academic credentials in the best possible light.
- Awards & Honors: This is important. If you’ve won academic awards (i.e. Dean’s List), scholarships, competitions, or other recognitions, write them down here. The big ones are Phi Beta Kappa, Beta Gamma Sigma (business), and Tau Beta Pi (engineering). If you won any competitions, make sure to write them down! We see candidates neglect this section too often. This will add so many points to your candidacy. Quick tip on how to write competition winnings: Don’t write “First Place”. Write “1st Place”. The numeric unit in a line of text makes it visually stand out from a mere glance.
- Relevant Courseworks: If you have just finished your first year or you want to break into IB from a non-finance major, you should mention some finance courseworks to prove you have relevant technical knowledge and you are capable of the job.
3.2. Work Experience
Work Experience is the documented progression of your roles and tasks at professional firms. It is the bread and butter of your IB resume. Can you cut it as an investment banking analyst? You must prove that in your experience section – show you have what it takes to succeed in a competitive, rigorous environment.
The section on Work Experience should be short on description and long on verifiable accomplishments. Think of this as the results section of your resume. Mention the type of work you’ve done and the industries in which you have experience, but all in the context of what you’ve accomplished backed up by quantitative data. If you are a financial analyst, how big of portfolios did you analyze? After all, in this business, it’s all about the numbers.
Use keywords and action words
Investment banking analyst jobs require experience in quantitative analysis, statistics and information modeling. Showcase your ability to do research, write reports, make presentations, aid clients in making the best decisions possible. It’s best to rewrite your CV for every application, lifting buzzwords from the advertised job description.
Never use general terms to describe your experience or achievements. After all, you’re trying to stand out, not blend in. Be as concrete as you can. Use numbers and hard facts wherever possible. Instead of saying “managed many important client accounts”, say “managed 30 accounts averaging more than $200k each”. To evaluate your job qualifications, the recruiters need a clear picture of what you’ve done. Using fuzzy descriptors such as “some”, “many”, and “very” will not help them visualize your accomplishments.
Do not simply list job responsibilities. Instead, tell recruiters what problems you faced, what actions you took to solve the problems, and what the results of your actions were, quantifying with numbers wherever possible.
This is a vague description:
“Performed financial modeling using quantitative and qualitative analysis.”
Adding a little detail can turn a basic responsibility into an achievement:
“Modeled 5 potential deals ranging from $10M to $80M based on quantitative and qualitative analysis to determine viability and extent of debt leverage possible.”
Remove Articles and Helping Verbs
To save space and prevent wordiness, remove articles (a, an, the) and helping verbs (have, had, may, might, and forms of “to be”: am, is, are, was, were) from your resume. This is resume protocol.
All the articles make this statement is too long:
“Assisted the faculty ò the Economics Department with its research for publication in academic journals.”
This revision is much better:
“Assisted Economics Department with research published in various academic journals.”
Examples of Experience section entries:
3.3. Extracurricular Activities
Academic achievement is hugely important for recruiters, but they also want to see that you are a well-rounded individual and you can juggle other commitments whilst attaining top grades.
Note: EC section is for undergraduate students and non-MBA graduate students without full-time work experiences ONLY. MBA students and career switchers shouldn’t have a whole section on this. You should use the space for your work experiences instead. Resume reviewers will place far greater importance on your professional work experiences than your campus involvement.
For college freshmen and sophomores, this section can take up a big part of your resume. By junior year, however, you should have 2-3 internships under your belt and student organizations should take up less space. Now some of you may be overachievers with a ton of meaningful internships. Nonetheless, we still recommend you to have a section on campus involvement. That’s because resume reviewers are used to looking for extracurricular activities for college students. Overachievers with 3-4 finance internships are rare and most college students have extracurricular activities on their resume. So the resume reviewers often become accustomed to look for it. They might assume you’re not active on campus if you don’t have anything.
Similar to the Work Experiences section, not all extracurricular activities are created equal. Involvement in finance-related student organizations are far more important than other clubs. You need at least one. However, additional finance clubs beyond the first one won’t add much incremental credit. You’re better off including other student organizations to round out your profile.
Aside from finance clubs, three other types of organizations are also beneficial. Sports teams, social fraternities / sororities, and activities that provide impact beyond yourself. And charitable activities that have an impact beyond yourself, like helping the homeless or raising cancer awareness, are always good.