Mergers And Inquisitions Sales And Trading Cover Letter

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“Ok, I’ve followed your resume templates, but I don’t have any real work experience and I’m applying to internships… what do I do?

How do I compete with the guy who already has finance internships on his resume?

This one is very common if you’re still in school and you’re going for internships or even full-time offers.

And it applies even if you’re more experienced – but you don’t have much in the way of finance experience.

So here’s how you spin your resume to win investment banking interviews – even if you don’t have much “real” work experience.

Get the Templates Right Here

Wait, Resumes Still Matter?

You might be wondering why this matters at all: doesn’t networking trump polishing your resume?

Yes, any day of the week. And spending dozens of hours “perfecting” your resume is still a waste of time.

But you still need a solid – if not perfect – resume. That’s especially true if you’re not coming from a well-known school and you don’t have brand-name internships.

And if you use cold-calling or cold-emailing to contact banks, they will judge you heavily based on your resume – so it needs to be good.

The Tutorial

To make all of this more concrete, we’re going to do a “resume makeover” and show you exactly how to change this university student’s resume to make it far more effective.

You can watch the video tutorial below:

And here’s the text version:

Key Mistakes

This resume is certainly not “terrible” – but there is one big problem:

Nothing on here indicates any interest in finance or desire to do a finance internship.

What’s wrong specifically?

  • He lists too much experience, and most of it isn’t relevant. 2-3 solid entries is far better than 6 thin experiences.
  • He does not highlight what’s most relevant to finance here, and instead treats everything as equal.
  • He fails to list a highly relevant entry that should be counted as “work experience” rather than an “activity” at the bottom.
  • He’s not specific enough with the finance-related experience.

So how do we fix all that?

Magnify Tiny But Relevant Experiences

Repeat after me: relevance trumps time when it comes to work experience.

This student should focus on just 2 experiences:

  • JP Morgan Investment Banking Case Competition
  • Investment Fund

And then he can briefly write about his retail job over the summer and the student newspaper.

Unlike the others, the retail job is “real” work experience, in an actual workplace – which shows banks that you’re capable of functioning in the real world.

Right now this student barely mentions #1 and #2 above, but he should expand on both and pretend they’re work experience.

Even if the case competition only lasted a week, you need to draw attention to it because of the brand-name and because it’s more relevant than anything else on there.

Turn Your Hobbies and Clubs Into “Work Experience”

Examples of hobbies, clubs, and activities you could turn into “work experience”:

  • Day Trading / Your Personal Portfolio (works better for Sales & Trading)
  • Professional Organizations (e.g. Society of Securities Analysts)
  • Finance Website You Started
  • Case or Investment Competitions
  • Student-Run Investment Funds or Finance / Consulting Clubs

What if you’ve racked your brain and you really can’t think of anything that seems remotely related to finance?

Your best bet is to re-position some of your experience as “consulting,” emphasizing the recommendations you made and the results rather than the technical details.

Remember, anything could be called “consulting” – and if you never had a formal title, all the better. More on that one here.

Cut Out “Work Experience” If It Won’t Impress

Forget about telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: there’s no “law” that you have to list every last detail on your resume, and most of the time you shouldn’t.

What should you cut?

  • Part-time experience at the library, student center, etc.
  • Retail/restaurant work.
  • Anything you’re listing just to make a “laundry list” of activities – move this to the bottom instead.
  • Anything over a year old that’s not relevant.

One exception: you may want to leave on retail/restaurant-type work experience if that’s all you have aside from activities.

Don’t focus on it, but it’s good to keep at least 1 entry on there to show banks that you have some real world exposure.

Forget Chronological Order

While you should usually use reverse chronological order for your resume, there’s no “rule” that says you have to strictly follow it.

So if you have “JP Morgan Investment Banking Case Competition” please put that at the top of your Work Experience no matter what the date was.

If you’re no longer in school this gets harder to justify and you should stick more closely to chronological order.

Move Your School to the Bottom

In the case where you have brand-name companies on your resume and a non-brand-name school, you could move Work Experience to the top and put Education below it instead.

That may raise some questions if you’re still in school – but it is an option if you’ve recently graduated and you feel that your work experience looks more impressive than your school, GPA, or major.

We’re not using this strategy here because this student is applying for summer internships and because his university – while not a “target school” – is also far from unknown.

The End Result

You can see for yourself right here.

We’ve using the exact same experience, but we’re presenting it differently, focusing on different points, and excluding what doesn’t matter.

And this student now has a much better chance of getting interviews and landing offers.

What to Do When You’re Out of School

If you’ve already graduated or you’ve been working for a few years, you can still apply some of these strategies.

The main difference is that you can’t get away with turning all your activities into “work experience” as a student might be able to.

You can still list them on your resume, but you need to focus on “bankifying” your real work experience by focusing on the business results and the big picture.

All of This Helps, But…

Also note that while the strategies here will help you get interviews and will make your resume look more substantial, you’re still not going to “beat” the guy or girl with a Goldman Sachs internship and an Ivy League school on his/her resume.

So you won’t be able to level the playing field completely, but you can give yourself a boost and reduce the gap between yourself and everyone else applying.

What Now?

If you’re applying for internships or full-time positions and you don’t have much real work experience think about what you could spin into sounding relevant: Clubs? Activities? Your Own Portfolio?

What are the 2-3 most relevant experiences to focus on? What could be omitted to make room for more relevant entries?

Think about all that, and then re-write your resume and spin your way to success.

Still Need More Help?

Introducing: Premium Investment Banking-Specific Resume/CV and Cover Letter Editing Services

We will take your existing resume and transform it into a resume that grabs the attention of finance industry professionals and presents you and your experience in the best possible light.

When we’re done, your resume will grab bankers by the lapels and not let them go until they’ve given you an interview.

Specifically, here’s what you’ll get:

  • Detailed, line-by-line editing of your resume/CV – Everything that needs to be changed will be changed. No detail is ignored.
  • Your experience will be “bankified” regardless of whether you’ve been a student, a researcher, a marketer, a financier, a lawyer, an accountant, or anything else.
  • Optimal structuring – You’ll learn where everything from Education to Work Experience to Activities should go. Regional badminton champion? Stamp collector? You’ll find out where those should go, too.
  • The 3-point structure to use for all your “Work Experience” entries: simple, but highly effective at getting the attention of bankers.
  • How to spin non-finance experience into sounding like you’ve been investing your own portfolio since age 12.
  • How to make business-related experience, such as consulting, law, and accounting, sounds like “deal work.”
  • How to avoid the fatal resume mistake that gets you automatically rejected. Nothing hurts more than making a simple oversight that gets you an immediate “ding”.
  • We only work with a limited number of clients each month. In fact, we purposely turn down potential clients in cases where we cannot add much value. We prefer quality over quantity, and we always want to ensure that we can work well together first.

FIND OUT MORE

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

If you're new here, please click here to get my FREE 57-page investment banking recruiting guide - plus, get weekly updates so that you can break into investment banking. Thanks for visiting!

This is a guest post from a reader who broke into Sales & Trading (S&T) coming from a non-target school. In Part 3 of this series, you’ll learn all about how to write sales & trading resumes and how to use them to win interviews and offers.

I still remember the beginning of my freshman year and my first visit to the career office…

I was eager and determined to craft the perfect resume that would land me a summer internship in Sales & Trading at a bulge bracket bank.

After spending hours and days working with an advisor going back and forth, I sent it over to a buddy of mine who was a trader at Citi, who had promised to help me with it…

In less than 5 minutes, he emailed me back with his assessment: “This is sh*t.”

And that was my welcome to the world of trading – blunt, rude, and to the point.

Ultimately, I completely revamped my resume and used it to land an offer at a bulge bracket bank – coming from a non-target school with absolutely 0 on-campus recruiting.

Here’s how I did it, and how you can do the same:

The Template & Tutorial

Let’s jump right in:

Note: You should always submit your resume in PDF format unless they tell you otherwise.

Here’s the tutorial video:

Your Resume Template Starting Point

Let’s not waste time with the basics: you need to use the existing resume template on this site as your starting point.

Yes, it says “investment banking resume” but it works equally well for Sales & Trading, and you save time by eliminating the need to format everything.

Forget about multi-page resumes (unless you’re in Australia, maybe), and resist the urge to write a laundry list of halfhearted experiences: still focus on the top 3-4 work/leadership experiences you have.

You still use the same sections: Education, Work & Leadership Experience (or “Professional Experience”), and then the section at the bottom with your Skills, Activities and Interests.

And the same advice about quantifying experience and going into the details and results of what you did still applies.

What’s different with Sales & Trading is the input to this resume template.

Above all else, S&T recruiters look for these 3 characteristics on your resume:

  • Quantitative Ability
  • Analytical Skills
  • Passion for the Financial Markets

Note the contrast between what they’re looking for in IB vs. S&T: in investment banking they care more about your ability to work long hours, leadership / teamwork skills, and general passion for business and finance rather than the markets specifically.

Those characteristics can still be important in S&T since it’s far from a 9-to-5 job, and since you do interact with salespeople / traders.

But the overall focus is more on quantitative / analytical ability and passion for the markets.

It’s trickier than it looks to convey these skills on your resume, but you must get them across if you want a good shot at winning interviews and landing offers.

Quantitative Ability

This is one of the most important skills required to land a job in S&T. Whether you’re in fixed income or equity, you must be able to work quickly and efficiently with numbers.

You’re constantly calculating prices to quote to clients, and one tiny little error can end up costing your firm or your client millions of dollars…

…and in some cases even your job (I’m looking at you, fat finger traders).

So you should emphasize anything related to math on your resume:

  • Math or math-related major or minor
  • Quantitative coursework
  • High math SAT scores (750+) or math A-Levels (if you’re in the UK)
  • Math club / Math-related competitions
  • Previous internship or experience where you did a lot of quantitative work – think number-crunching, engineering, anything with spreadsheets, and so on.

If a trader glances at your resume and sees that you’re an English major with no math-related coursework and no quantitative work experience, he’ll (rightfully) be skeptical of whether you can do the job.

So if that’s you, get relevant experience right now: take a more quantitative class and write about an extended project you worked on, or get a part-time internship doing something that involves numbers.

It doesn’t even have to be finance-related: it just needs to demonstrate that you’re comfortable working with numbers.

Analytical Skills

Wait, isn’t this the same as quantitative ability?

No, not quite.

“Quantitative ability” refers specifically to numbers, whereas “Analytical skills” refers to any type of analysis you do, whether it’s quantitative or qualitative.

If the central bank raises interest rates, what does that mean for your positions or your clients’ positions?

You may not be able to answer that with a number, but you can come up with qualitative guesses for what might happen and how you should react.

If you’re from a liberal arts or mixed background you might be tempted to demonstrate this one via your analysis of Moby Dick or Hamlet, but that would be a mistake: find something that’s more relevant to business, even if it’s qualitative.

The best way to demonstrate this is via coursework or previous work / internship experience:

  • Write about how you analyzed a company’s strategic position vs. competitors as part of a case competition or a business class.
  • Write about how you analyzed your firm’s marketing efforts and found ways to save money and improve the ROI of their spending.
  • Write about how you analyzed a stock and decided to invest via your personal account based on valuation metrics and value investing criteria.

There’s no such thing as over-using the word “Analyze” when you write your bullet points for this one (Ok, maybe keep it to one mention per bullet point…).

Passion for the Financial Markets

If you don’t have some experience with the financial markets, don’t even bother applying for S&T roles.

You might be able to get into IB or PE without trading or following the markets very much, but it’s almost impossible to do that here.

Unlike bankers, most traders actually enjoy what they do – at least when they first start out – so they want to see that you will also enjoy it.

You could demonstrate this passion with:

  • Your major – Being a finance major helps.
  • Previous work experience – Anything where you traded or dealt with the markets.
  • Mock trading accounts – Even if you didn’t trade real money, you still have to be passionate to actively invest via a mock account.
  • Clubs in school – Think of any type of finance or investment society where you present your ideas, talk about possible investments, and so on.

If you don’t have much experience investing or dealing with the capital markets you should do two things right now:

  • Get a subscription to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Open a mock trading account.

Traders take mock trading accounts very seriously, so don’t overlook them.

They understand that you are likely in school or just out of school and don’t have much money to invest…

…but back when they were younger, they likely had mock trading accounts as well.

There are also tons of websites that you can use to stay on top of the markets and research different stocks and trading ideas.

Three of my favorites are:

You need to follow the markets and at least start doing mock trading ASAP so you can point to this on your resume and talk about it in interviews.

Got Education and Work Experience?

That covers the main points for your Education and Work & Leadership Experience sections on your resume.

But traders like to have a good time, too, so the last section of your resume is also important.

Skills, Activities & Interests

Not too much is different here from what you see on IB resumes: note any language skills you have, any organizations or activities beyond what you’ve already written about, and any certifications such as the CFA (no, it won’t help much for S&T, but it’s worth noting especially if you don’t have much experience).

The most common question here: should you list “Interests” like gambling and poker?

Short answer: yes, they can definitely help because sales & trading is all about risk management, probability, and keeping your emotions in-check… just like gambling.

I know an analyst who made a deal with his boss that he could use the boss’s money to play poker and take 25% of the profit…

Sounds crazy, but it’s true – anyone on the public markets side of a bank loves to take calculated risks, or they wouldn’t be working there.

Just make sure that you don’t come across as overly obsessed with gambling / poker – don’t devote huge portions of your resume to it, and don’t spend half your interview talking about your poker winnings.

No firm wants to hire a rogue trader that will lose them a billion dollars.

Putting It All Together

As I mentioned in the beginning, the same resume template still applies for S&T, so there’s nothing new there.

What’s different is how you write about your experiences and what you emphasize.

More Questions?

I know, you still have a few lingering questions so let’s go through them…

What’s the Difference Between a Sales Resume and a Trading Resume?

Nothing! Or at least, very little.

When you apply, you apply for S&T, not a specific group… during the interview you can stress your preference for one or the other.

So you still need to write about your quantitative and analytical abilities and your passion for the financial markets…

…but if you’re more interested in sales, you must also be a “people person,” a good communicator, and a team player.

Sales is all about making your client feel special and making sure that they are sending your bank business.

You take your clients out 3-5 times a week, and you’re on the phone with them all day.

So you should emphasize a few points more strongly if you’re planning to join the sales side:

  • Social Clubs (fraternities/sororities).
  • Sports Teams – S&T recruiters love athletes (it shows you are a team player, and that can handle stressful situations).
  • General involvement in extracurricular activities / non-work-related activities.

What About High School / Secondary School Experience? Can I List It If It’s Really Impressive?

Normally it’s not a good idea to write about high school, especially if you’re already several years into university or you’ve already graduated.

If it’s something truly amazing – placing well at the International Math Olympiad, a national math competition where you placed well, etc. – you can make an exception and list that.

But if you’ve already been working full-time for several years, you should not devote much space to it unless you have absolutely nothing else to demonstrate your math skills.

No, Seriously, What About Certifications, Degrees, and Series Licenses?!!

Sure, list them if you want to but don’t kill yourself getting them.

It’s far better to spend that time 1) Networking or 2) Getting experience trading / investing on your own.

Series 7 and 63 and so on are more helpful for S&T than they would be for banking, but they still won’t make or break your chances of winning interviews.

What If I Really Have Nothing Related to the Financial Markets?

Then you have a problem. You need to get some experience ASAP, and the fastest way to do that is to join a student-run fund or professional organization, or to start trading your own personal account, whether simulated or real.

Of course, this begs another question: if you don’t have any markets-related experience, are you sure Sales & Trading is even right for you?

It’s like aspiring to become a novelist but having no writing experience.

What About S&T Resumes for Those with Full-Time Work Experience?

To be blunt, you don’t have much of a chance of getting into S&T at a large bank if you’ve already been working full-time in another field.

There are fewer spots available, and traders rarely even hire from the MBA pool, let alone experienced professionals elsewhere.

If you have your heart set on this, your best bet is to aim for a sale role instead (experience elsewhere is more transferable), or to go for prop trading or something else where results are valued more than pedigree.

Your actual resume will not be much different: focus on all the points above, but put your Education section at the bottom, keep your experience to work-related experience, and leave out student clubs and activities.

You should still list professional organizations and your own investing track record, but you can’t eliminate real work experience in favor of those.

Anything Else?

The floor is yours. Ask away.

This is a guest post from a reader who broke into Sales & Trading (S&T) coming from a non-target school. In the upcoming features in this series, we’ll continue to explore the sales & trading recruiting process with coverage of interviews and more.

Still Need More Help?

Introducing: Premium Investment Banking-Specific Resume/CV and Cover Letter Editing Services

We will take your existing resume and transform it into a resume that grabs the attention of finance industry professionals and presents you and your experience in the best possible light.

When we’re done, your resume will grab bankers by the lapels and not let them go until they’ve given you an interview.

Specifically, here’s what you’ll get:

  • Detailed, line-by-line editing of your resume/CV – Everything that needs to be changed will be changed. No detail is ignored.
  • Your experience will be “bankified” regardless of whether you’ve been a student, a researcher, a marketer, a financier, a lawyer, an accountant, or anything else.
  • Optimal structuring – You’ll learn where everything from Education to Work Experience to Activities should go. Regional badminton champion? Stamp collector? You’ll find out where those should go, too.
  • The 3-point structure to use for all your “Work Experience” entries: simple, but highly effective at getting the attention of bankers.
  • How to spin non-finance experience into sounding like you’ve been investing your own portfolio since age 12.
  • How to make business-related experience, such as consulting, law, and accounting, sounds like “deal work.”
  • How to avoid the fatal resume mistake that gets you automatically rejected. Nothing hurts more than making a simple oversight that gets you an immediate “ding”.
  • We only work with a limited number of clients each month. In fact, we purposely turn down potential clients in cases where we cannot add much value. We prefer quality over quantity, and we always want to ensure that we can work well together first.

FIND OUT MORE

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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