Investment banking and investment management are competitive areas of work, so it’s important that you use every opportunity to give yourself an edge. Covering letters give you a chance to demonstrate your commitment to a career in investment and to show that you’re genuinely interested in the employer, so don’t underestimate their significance. Among the reasons many employers ask for a covering letter is to weed out the blanket applications and give the most enthusiastic and suitable candidates a chance to shine.
How to structure your covering letter
- Why them? Explain why you are interested in the job and employer
- Why you? Tell them why they should hire you. Describe how you would fit into their organisation
- Break your letter down into logical, manageable paragraphs – make it easy for the recruiter to read
- Some employers will give you a word count limit but if they don’t, one side of A4 should be your limit
- Make sure you keep it concise – recruiters hate ploughing through waffle. You won’t have space to go in depth about all of your relevant skills, so take care to pick out the most important points
Check out our annotated graduate investment banking covering letter for an idea of how yours should look. To convince the recruiter of your motivation and suitability for the job, you'll need to:
Show your enthusiasm for the employer by doing your research
Before you start writing your covering letter, spend a considerable amount of time reading up on the bank you’re applying to. You should research its business strategy and culture, and familiarise yourself with the list of services it provides.
You can do this by looking at the employer’s website, the graduate profiles in TARGETjobs Finance and our employer hubs. It would also be a good idea to reflect on relevant work experience (if applicable), presentations you’ve attended, conversations you’ve had with employees on insight days, or to speak with friends or colleagues who have done a placement there.
Keep it specific to the bank or firm
Avoid generic statements such as, ‘I’m applying to you because you are a dynamic, international, leading business’. Sentences like this could apply to most of the large banks and firms in the UK. Try to pick out something unique or unusual that you like about your potential employer. It could be that there’s something about the training scheme, business structure or support for professional qualifications that particularly appeals to you, for example. Things to write about could include:
If the employer talks a lot about its international footprint on its website, you could explain that you’d be excited about working for a global firm and finding out how the business operations will differ across different cultures.
Attitude towards client relationships
If the bank or firm stresses the importance of long-term investments (in a previous edition of TARGETjobs Finance Baillie Gifford claimed to prioritise ‘stability and a long-term time frame’), you could show awareness of this point – many clients will be particularly concerned about the stability of their investments following the recession. If you have space, you could briefly describe a time when you’ve demonstrated excellent customer service skills.
Pace of work
If your potential employer emphasises its fast-paced, energetic work environment, you could explain that you thrive under pressure, and talk about your resilience and work ethic. Likewise, if you’ve been balancing numerous extracurricular activities alongside your studies, you can use this to demonstrate your time management skills. These are important points to raise, as investment bankers in particular work long hours and it’s not a profession for the faint hearted.
Why should they hire you? Selling your skills
Different roles will require different qualities; if you’re applying for a maths-based or technical role, for instance, you’ll need to emphasise your relevant technical skills. However, it’s also important to identify the soft skills that the employer wants as well. M&G Investments, for example, has previously stated that it ‘rewards individuals who display ambition, independent thinking and professionalism’.
It’s not enough to simply state that you have these skills. Don’t just tell the recruiter, ‘I am an enthusiastic and motivated candidate’, for example. Evidence your commitment and experience by mentioning internships, spring insight days and relevant academic projects or extracurricular pursuits.
You should also try to provide examples of a time when you have demonstrated the skills that they’re looking for, but make sure you keep it brief and don’t waste space by repeating points you’ve already made in other parts of your application. You won’t be able to cover everything, so be sure to emphasise the skills and experiences that you know the recruiter will be most interested in.
Why the particular division?
Explain why you have chosen the division you’re applying for and why that area of investment management or banking is most appealing to you. Ask yourself, 'am I more excited about providing international financial analysis to clients, managing risk or overseeing mergers and acquisitions'? 'How does the bank or division meet with my particular interests'? 'Are they particularly strong in my preferred areas'? If you can answer these questions, it will show that you’ve fully considered and understood your career options.
Before you submit your covering letter
When you’ve written your covering letter you should get a friend, family member, or staff member from your careers service to check it for sense, style and grammatical mistakes. Error-strewn covering letters leave a bad impression and will cast doubt over your attention to detail and professionalism.
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