Investment Banking is the most popular career choice among our members and the industry attracts top talent from all over the world. As the calibre of students rises year-on-year in an academic arms race, it’s ever more important to make sure your CV stands out. Read on for our top six essential tips.
Plain and simple, a first class degree will mark you out. Firsts are hard to achieve and your university is already pushing you to your academic limits, but getting above 70% in your degree will make your entry into the world of investment banking that much easier. Studies show that a student who scores highly in their first year - especially if it doesn’t count towards their degree – is a student who is more likely to continue those high standards. Basically, start as you mean to go on.
If you're interested in becoming a banker, you should seek out banking and finance societies at your university. And to really prove your commitment to this career path, go one step further and join the society's committee. Then organise a flagship event and invite guest speakers to discuss a current economic issue. The event will not only demonstrate your genuine passion for the industry and give you the opportunity to network with investment banking professionals, it will also help to improve important skills such as organisation and leadership.
3. Commercial awareness
Commercial awareness is all about understanding the sector you want to work in and knowing what's happened, what's happening and what might happen. It’s the competency which is the hardest for students to gain as most degrees don’t touch upon it. You can learn leadership, teamwork, enthusiasm and drive in an Archaeology degree as well as you can in a Mathematics one, but neither will explain what proprietary trading is.
The best place to start is by reading The Economist and Financial Times, as well as business sections of broadsheet newspapers. You will also gain skills from any work experience or internships you take on.
4. Think Outside the Box
In order to really stand out from the crowd, think a little outside the box. Start your own blog with your thoughts on the industry's big news, organise an investment banking-focused event or start a society at university where you can network with like-minded students. Consider how you can best convey your enthusiasm and commitment as well as your creativity.
5. Formatting your CV
Recruiters spend an average six seconds looking at a CV! You need yours to be easy to read and clearly relevant. The best way to ensure your CV fufills these requirements is to share it with your friends and family ask them how much they can glean in that time. They need to be able to easily find out your academic record, your relevant work experience and skills. To ensure they can, use short sentences and clear headings.
While you must avoid paragraphs of prose and waffle, still use full sentences: bullet points lacking in pronouns, indicative verbs and conjunctions will wear down a recruiter's patience.
While it can seem nonsensical that the banking industry requires you to have work experience before you will be considered for an internship or graduate scheme, there is logic behind this decision.
Recruiters want to hire students with previous experience for two reasons...
- You’re 100% committed to the industry
- You have the potential to be able to do the work
If a bank is going to invest huge sums of money in salary and training, they want to be sure they’ll get a great permanent employee at the end of it.
Not only should you be looking to gain experience as soon as you can (some banks have internships for sixth form students) but you should also be looking for off-cycle experience too. If you want to work in finance, every university holiday should be spent studying or interning. Speculatively apply to boutique or local firms for a week’s experience by messaging a senior employee on LinkedIn and asking for a preliminary coffee. If your own LinkedIn looks smart and you word the message properly, you’ll be surprised at the results.
And finally, to make your CV stand out, don’t be afraid to boast a little. We often get CVs which state clearly what a student has done but not what they achieved. If you led a sports team, worked on a community project or delivered a presentation during an internship let us know, especially if you can clearly highlight your achievements. This is particularly affective if you are able to quantify your success, for example you might tell us that you organised a financial conference at university and that this attracted a crowd of 120 people, 85% of whom rated the experience 'expert and informative' when surveyed afterwards. Equally, anacdotal illustrations of your achievements are important - We don’t know if the Durham Rugby League is the most competitive to win, or if a bank’s Vice President almost never praises an intern presentation, but we would like to.
It is all about adding evidence to your boasts. In the same way you can't make a claim in an essay without backing it up with evidence, never write on your CV that you have exceptional leadership skills - unless you can prove it.
It takes a lot of hard work to get into the investment banking industry - but this sector is very rewarding and the effort will definitely be worth it. Best of luck - and remember, if you secure a role with one of our partner firms, you'll be due a bottle of bubbly.