Investment banking is a fast-moving, high-stress, ferociously competitive business that 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're looking for, 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. 

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 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 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. Your own resume will, of course, reflect your own education, experience and other pertinent information.

Education

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.

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:

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 chairman of small business loan committee.

Skills

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 suggests 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 will look for candidates with the following qualifications in education and work experience:

A college or university degree 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 other business-, law- or technology-related disciplines not listed here. Basically, employers want to see that you can bring something valuable to their team

Unique Qualifications

Employers with special needs may look for candidates with previous 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 specialized area in which investment banks may be hiring is in government compliance. As banking and financial regulatory laws have gotten increasingly complex over recent years, there is 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 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 advance through the process, further demonstrate these qualifications in the interview.

How to Phrase 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 or any similar words that reflect your specific achievements. This can be integrated within each entry to the employment background 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.

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 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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