Investment banking is a fast-moving, high-stress business that is ferociously competitive. It requires specialized knowledge and experience—not to mention commitment, focus, as well as the physical and mental stamina required to work long hours. Career opportunities in investment banking are always available, although they're more abundant in boom years and scarce in lean economic times.
To help land the big job you seek, you may want to learn about these tips for building 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.
- Investment banking is a competitive industry, which requires extensive knowledge and experience.
- Your resume is the first thing that hiring managers look at when deciding who gets their foot in the door for an interview.
- Highlighting key skills, relevant experience, and education is crucial to stand out among a crowd of other highly qualified job candidates.
- Utilize key phrases and highlight unique qualifications in your resume and streamline your cover letter to get noticed without being too wordy.
- Great references from past employers can help set you apart from the competition.
How To Write the Best Investment Banking Resume
Building Your Resume
Although there is no perfect format and no infallible content for a resume, the suggestions below on how to optimize your resume have proven effective in getting jobs in the finance sector, including investment banking.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between a resume targeted for an investment banking job and an accounting job. While the investment banking candidate may have some accounting experience, having an established background in other areas tends to be extremely important. This includes:
- Financial analysis
- Mergers and acquisitions (M&A)
- Initial public offerings (IPOs)
- Buy-side and sell-side research
And, of course, a candidate must be able to demonstrate a willingness to put in the demanding hours the job requires.
The resume format discussed 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.
To establish your educational background, it's important to list the college or university where you studied, the degree(s) earned, whether you had any special honors designations or noteworthy academic achievements, and cite any specialized courses you completed that are relevant to investment banking. For example, computer science, statistical analysis, business writing, contract law, financial management or business administration courses may all be worth mentioning in this section.
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. The example below demonstrates what it may look like on your resume:
2017 to Present - Branch of Major Bank, New York, NY
Junior Accountant, Business Loans Department
-Audited books of small business loan applicants to determine cash flow, debt levels and risk factors to assess credit worthiness.
-Reported directly to vice president and chair of small business loan committee.
Your own resume will, of course, highlight your own education, experience, and other pertinent information. It should reflect your style and your own voice.
Create a section called "Skills" and list your relevant skills. For example, beyond your talent as an accountant, you may have a knowledge of tax law, previous managerial abilities, and a sharper-than-average understanding of human nature. Focus on the skills with the most relevance and demonstrate that you possess all of the skills you are claiming to have.
If you are short on specific hard skills, you may also list personal (soft) 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 suggest a detail-oriented personality—so you can probably exclude any overlap for the sake of brevity.
Listing Qualifications on Your Resume
Potential employers in the field of investment banking often look for candidates with the following qualifications in education and work experience:
A college or university degree in any of the following:
- Business Administration
- Business Law
- Computer Science
- Information Technology
- Tax Law
This is not set in stone, as potential employers will consider other business-, law- or technology-related disciplines not listed here. Basically, employers want to see that you can bring something valuable to their team.
Employers with certain needs may look for candidates with previous education and experience in government relations, international relations, and/or public policy, depending on the office's type of specialty banking.
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 specialized area in which investment banks may be hiring is government compliance. As banking and financial regulatory laws become increasingly complex=, there is a steady 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 of finance.
One of the first things employers often consider is grades when they're looking for an entry-level hire. So be sure to include this information on your resume, especially if you did exceptionally well. Make sure you list any relevant school-related accomplishments, including your GPA and any honor society memberships you were awarded during college. This demonstrates that you have dedication to any tasks you take on.
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.
The personal qualifications that employers find attractive in a job candidate may include the following:
- Strategic thinking
- Communication skills
- People skills, including collaboration, management ability, personality, etc.
Again, you will have to back these up with a short statement on your resume. Assuming you advance through the process, make sure you can further demonstrate these qualifications during the interview.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conducts research on various jobs. The agency's entry for securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents includes investment bankers. The median annual salary in 2021 was $62,910 and the industry was expected to grow by 10% between 2021 and 2031, which is faster than average.
How to Phrase Your Experience and Accomplishments
You should try to list all your relevant experience and achievements in a succinct, bullet-point format. Use active verbs and phrases, such as managed, supervised, developed, created, invented, organized, assisted, analyzed, raised, sold, wrote, designed, or any similar words that reflect your specific achievements. This can be integrated within each entry to the employment background section of the resume.
- 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.
Use Key Phrases on Your Cover Letter
If replying to a job opening advertisement or posting, the applicant should repeat some key words found in the listing in their 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.
Leverage Positive References
Positive letters of reference from previous employers are a plus. However, if you don't secure reference letters 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 who are 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.