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Compare your investment banking graduate CV to the competition

CVs for a graduate scheme with an investment bank usually fall into three types: straight and narrow, everyman and wildcard. Want to know where your CV fits and how to improve it? Read below.

Research the bank and role to accurately articulate how your skills and knowledge would be an asset.

Many investment banks ask graduates to submit a CV along with their investment bank application form. Since competition for these graduate roles is fierce, with the industry having seen highs of 141 applications per position, it’s key you get your CV right.

To do so, compare yours to the three example investment banking candidates below to identify areas for improvement. Any one of these candidates could be forwarded to interview. Each has skills that are relevant to a graduate investment banking role. However, they will reduce their chances of getting the job if they don’t make it clear how these experiences relate to the role they’re applying for.

Also check out our annotated final year graduate investment banking CV and our TARGETjobs sample template CVs.

Graduate investment banking candidate one: the straight and narrow

This candidate simply ticks all the boxes. She has directly-related work experience in the financial sector, gained from an internship or prolonged work experience, and a solid academic track record in her honours degree in business.

In addition, she has shown, through her extracurricular activities, potential as a leader and motivator. This candidate meets at least 80% of the requirements listed in the job description.

*While the straight and narrow applicant has plenty to offer the employer because she meets most of the requirements, she has to ensure her CV and covering letter don’t come across as ‘samey’, bland or too rigid.

If you’re a straight and narrow candidate, inject some of your personality into your CV and covering letter. This doesn’t mean radicalising style and format, as your application should be legible and look smart. Rather, incorporate more original examples from your extracurricular activities and work experience, or when you took a risk and produced exceptional results to illustrate your skills and experience.

A detailed but succinctly written example can be included in your covering letter. If the employer doesn’t accept covering letters, incorporate it within the skills or achievements section of your CV. Alternatively, you could put it in the work experience segment under the appropriate employer instead of listing your duties.

Graduate investment banking candidate two: the everyman

This candidate has explored a few different avenues and has gained work experience in finance as well as unrelated sectors. His CV doesn’t have any gaps, as he’s worked throughout all university holidays. His experiences are detailed and even those obtained in an unrelated sector are smartly linked to the role he’s applying for. This candidate has a strong honours degree in a related subject.

*While the everyman applicant shows flexibility and adaptability, and has obtained relevant work experience, he has to ensure the details on his CV and covering letter are applicable and organised.

If you’re an everyman candidate, divide the work experience section of your CV into ‘finance’ and ‘additional’. Put all finance-orientated experiences under the ‘finance’ heading, including your achievements and projects you’ve worked on. In the ‘additional’ section, include pursuits within other sectors – but ensure you highlight transferable skills. The covering letter is also a good opportunity to explain your varied endeavours and bring them back to the role you’re applying for.

Graduate investment banking candidate three: the wildcard

This candidate is not the typical applicant but clearly demonstrates an aptitude for finance and a clear interest in a career in investment or investment banking. He has a small amount of directly-related practical experience under his belt, and has completed a trading course after university and joined a financial student society to increase his knowledge and skills. He got an excellent honours degree in a seemingly unrelated subject – such as classics – but knows that many banks, such as HSBC and Goldman Sachs, accept applications from all degree disciplines.

*The wildcard applicant, who has less directly-related experience, has to make sure his CV and covering letter effectively communicate his genuine interest in the industry and the initiative he’s used to build knowledge and experience.

If you’re a wildcard candidate, conduct thorough research into the bank and role so you can accurately articulate how your skills and knowledge, finance-related or not, would be an asset to the employer. Also, turn what might appear to be a weakness into a strength; take advantage of your degree in classics, for example, and explain in your covering letter how it’s improved your ability to think critically, conduct research, write reports and communicate effectively – skills investment banks favour.

As with the everyman applicant, segmentalise your CV so you have related experiences and achievements at the top, and more unrelated towards the bottom half. And ensure with all less directly relevant roles that you bring out of them the skills you developed and picked up that apply to the position you’re going for.

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