Investment banking is a fast-moving, high-stress, ferociously competitive business that requires specialized knowledge and experience - not to mention commitment, focus, and the physical and mental stamina required to work long hours. Career opportunities in investment banking are always available, although in boom years they're more abundant and in lean economic times they're scarce. Read on for tips on how to build a killer investment banking resume. Obtaining a job in this potentially lucrative occupation usually requires a few key skills and qualities – although a strong recommendation from someone of influence may trump all of them.

Building Your Resume
Although there is no perfect format and no infallible content for a resume, the suggestions below have proved effective in securing jobs in the finance sector, including investment banking.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between a resume in application for an investment banking job and an accounting job. The investment banking candidate may have accounting experience, but beyond that a background in financial analysis, mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings, valuations, or experience in both buy side and sell side research tends to be much more important. And, of course, a candidate must be able to demonstrate a willingness to put in the demanding hours the job requires.

The resume format sample suggested below is a standard and widely used arrangement, but you may also want to research other resume formats online or in the many books available on this subject. Also note that the information included in the sample is for illustrative purposes only. Your own resume will, of course, reflect your own education, experience and other pertinent information.

Education
Cite the college or university where you studied, list degrees, honors and achievements and cite special courses relevant to investment banking. For example, computer science, statistical analysis, contract law, management or business administration courses, and business writing may all be worth mentioning in this section.

Employment Background
Include the title of your current and previous jobs, along with the name and location of the company and your duties and accomplishments in a paragraph.

For example:

2008 to Present
Junior Accountant, Business Loans Department,

Branch of Major Bank, New York, NY
Audited books of small business loan applicants to determine cash flow, debt levels and risk factors to assess credit worthiness. Reported directly to VP and chairman of small business loan committee.

Cite previous employment in the same manner as the sample above.

Skills
Cite your relevant skills beneath this heading. For example, beyond your talent as an accountant, you may have written and verbal skills, a knowledge of tax law, managerial abilities and a sharper-than-average understanding of human nature. Focus on the skills with the most relevance and give reasonable proof that you posses these skills.

If you are short on specific skills, you may also cite personal skills. For example, you might say that you are highly motivated, energetic, enthusiastic, detail-oriented and so on. Many of these things will be implied in your investment banking skill set – that is, accounting skills generally suggests a detail-oriented personality – so you can omit overlap for the sake of brevity.

Qualifications
Potential employers in the field of investment banking will look for candidates with the following qualifications in education and work experience.

College or university degrees in any of the following:

  • Accounting
  • Banking
  • Business Administration
  • Business Law
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Tax Law

This is not set in stone, as potential employers will consider and other business, law and technology related disciplines not listed here. Basically, employers want to see that you can bring something to their team.

Unique Qualifications
Employers with special needs may look for candidates with education and experience in government relations, international relations and/or public policy, depending on the type of banking that the office specializes in.

Work experience in the areas cited above, plus any aspect of accounting, banking, finance and mid-level to senior management positions - especially in finance - are particularly attractive to potential employers.

Another area in which investment banks may be hiring is in government compliance. With new banking and financial regulatory laws now in place, there is more demand for compliance personnel. Another critical aspect of investment banking involves raising capital to fund investments. This job requires the talents of a salesperson as well as knowledge in finance.

Entry-Level Qualifications
For junior-level positions, trainee positions or internships in investment banking, qualifications may not be confined to the areas cited above. Education and experience that is less focused on finance may be acceptable to potential employers with a view toward training new hires in investment banking specialties.

Personal Qualifications
The personal qualifications that employers find attractive in a job candidate may include the following:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Communication skills
  • People skills - collaboration, management ability, personality, etc.

Again, you will have to back these up with a short statement in your resume and, assuming you get through, further evidence in the interview.

Your Purpose
Finally, be sure to state your passion for banking and finance and convey your energy and enthusiasm for the business. Often, these qualities help younger and less experienced applicants secure the desired job.

Phrasing Your Experience and Accomplishments
You should try to list all your relevant experience and achievements in succinct, bullet-point format. Use active verbs and phrases such as: managed, supervised, developed, created, invented, organized, assisted, analyzed, raised funds, sold products, wrote, designed and similar words that reflect your specific achievements. This can be integrated within each entry to the employment history section of the resume.

For example:

  • Supervised a team of internal auditors
  • Created and implemented a new debt-tracking software program
  • Raised $5 million in investment capital through cold calling and direct mail advertising, working in collaboration with an advertising agency.

The Applicant's Edge
If replying to a job opening advertisement, the applicant should repeat some key words found in the ad in his or her cover letter. For example, if a job advertisement states that candidates should have marketing and management skills, be sure to include these key phrases somewhere near the top of your cover letter and in your resume.

The Reference Advantage
Positive letters of reference from previous employers are a plus. However, if you don't secure letters of reference and still cite previous employers as references, be sure to obtain their permission in advance. Again, if you have a large pool to pull from, you'll want the references from the posts you've held that are most relevant to investment banking qualifications.

For job seekers currently employed, asking your employer for a reference may not be a good idea.

The Bottom Line
In a competitive job market, a persuasive resume will give the applicant a definite edge among the many who may apply for the position. Relevance should always be your guide in deciding what to include and expand upon in your investment banking resume. Following the suggestions above in drafting your resume may not guarantee that you'll be hired, but if you're qualified, you'll be in the running.

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