In this tutorial we’re going to drill down to the work section of your resume, because it’s the most important section of your resume, the first section bankers look at and also the one students mess up the most.
We’ll walk through a collection of cheeky tips to help you take your work history from good to great – including telling you exactly what to write and how to present it. And just as importantly, we’ll dispel some resume myths and point out the one mistake approx 90% of students make when writing about past jobs.
Investment banking internship resume vs. the rest
Why will any investment banking internship resume always get priority over a normal resume?
Well, in a word ‘differentiation’. You see, banking resume piles are awash with prominent schools, sublime grades and quality degrees. A 3.8 GPA from Wharton is great and all, but it’s not a drastically unique selling proposition.
There’s plenty more where that came from! What resume piles are not in oversupply of, nor by the very nature of the banking industry will they ever be, is final year college kids with bulge bracket banking internships and even boutique banking internships (or similar high quality work experience).
So if you’ve managed to complete one, then scrawl it in size 40 font – Copper Black styles! – because an investment banking internship resume will take you to the top of the pile every single time.
The point here is that your work section will be A+ by mere mention of a competitor they respect.
PS Apart from a banking internship, any experience in a relevant field will get you on the ‘mini Masters’ pile.
For example, if you are applying to FIG and you have worked at a commercial bank, or if you are applying to TMT and you worked in a tech start up or did an internship at Microsoft, you will find yourself on the experienced pile. In other words, absent a banking internship, quality experience in an industry player relevant to the group you are applying to will work just as well.
What if you have no investment banking internship?
If you are in fact applying for summer internship programs then it’s no biggie.
But you’ll still want to have some work experience to write about – and I’m going to show you how to do that next. By contrast if you are applying for analyst programs then you’re going to struggle without an investment banking internship resume or other high quality internship on your resume.
I’m not going to look at how you can turn an internship-less resume into a winning application in this tutorial, because it’s a whole tutorial in and of itself. If this is you checkout the email course because we tackle it in-depth there.
In passing I need to note that the advice that follows is universally applicable; ie it can be used by someone with an accounting internship or banking internship or store clerk job equally effectively…well, almost!
What is the #1 mistake most students make here?
They start their work section with a boring, vague and downright useless summary sentence, or some other general pitter patter about ‘role’, ‘background’ etc. I’m almost angry just writing that sentence, because it conjures up so many memories of being hit by BS opening lines on resumes past. In case it’s not clear, avoid opening your resume the same way!
Especially when you want to create a 1-page spaced-out normal-typeface resume in order to beat the ’15 seconds to bin’ rule which we talked about in the previous tutorial on writing your resume for investment banking. Instead try to kick off this section straight below company name and your position with the bullet points describing what you achieved.
And for those risk averse amongst us, within these ‘results’ bullet points you can still talk about what the job and role was – ie you won’t really ‘lose’ anything. But if you still want to explicitly mention the specific responsibilities and tasks you performed it’s okay to allocate the first dot point to read something like “Responsibilities included; cold calling, meeting clients and managing Project Oslo”.
This is short & sharp, doesn’t involve Shakespearean language and gets the job done; bankers can stomach this!
How to write a 10/10 work experience section
Right now I’m going to show you how to write about your achievements so your work experience section goes from 4/10 to 10/10, even if the job wasn’t that impressive itself.
Didn’t we just mention that above? Well, yeah, but it needs to be repeated and put in context so no one ever again writes a laywer-style resume. Let me explain… Bankers are not increment fiends like lawyers. MD Larry Larryson for example doesn’t get paid for hours, ie for the things he simply does. No, he gets paid strictly for results, ie things he achieves – for making it freaking rain!
And so unsurprisingly that’s what bankers want to hear about you too. What you’ve achieved, not what you’ve simply done in past jobs.
When listing your achievements make sure they are…
- Real results – although bankers aren’t expecting million dollar achievements from a 20-something student, they do want to see sizeable results so don’t be afraid to stretch the truth a little here. To help you decide how far (i.e. whether bankers will believe you) we’ll take a look at an extract from an investment banking resume example below.
- Extremely specific – adding in details like numbers, dates, project names etc. will make your achievements look 10 times more believable than every other student who simply fills their dot points with Ben Stiller esque words like “a lot” or “for a project”. But be sure to keep everything succinct per the ‘15-seconds to bin’ rule. Getting this balance right is part of the riddle of the resume and something we will help you solve in the special report, which you can sign up for at the top.
- Client or employer focused – banks are in the ‘people as resources’ / ‘enrichment of stockholders’ business and want to see what return they would get on you; what value you would add. So when you’re writing about results you achieved in past jobs be sure to hammer on about how you increased profits, turnover, morale, insight, strategy, ideas, or how you saved time, money, made things easier, more convenient, innovated, increased efficiency, brought in more business, new customers, or otherwise rocked the joint. This way you are not simply telling them just what you did, but also why it mattered…ie it enriched your former employer’s clients or the former employer themselves.
- NOT ‘you’ focused – no banker wants to hear about how you learned lots of ‘awesome lessons man’, unless it’s directly relevant to banking. I mean can you think of anything more contrary to the previous point than writing “I learned so much, me, me, me”. So just like any good car salesman slinging busted up Dodges on some highway near San Diego make sure you talk about “them, them, them” (former employer / client), not you.
- Laced with banker-friendly and business-y terms – littering your resume with terms like ‘the space’, ‘competitive landscape’, ‘return on investment’ and other financial dirty talk will endear you to bankers instantaneously. You will subtly showcase insider knowledge, and probably above all that you are a student who actually cares about business. But please avoid turning into a freaking management consultant who fires more BS lingo around than a CNBC talking head – ie don’t let your resume get too BS-dense!
- Supplemented with metrics – whether it’s $, %, fold, units or amount, you have to use numbers to quantify your achievement, because they are the language of bankers and also add further authenticity to your achievements. To make the numbers ‘pop’ time frame them; i.e. how long they took to achieve. Numbers when used right will also hypnotically draw bankers eyes to your resume, which is crucial for gaining their attention and interest – and beating the ’15 seconds to bin’ rule. Also numbers will help a banker understand your achievements even when they are in an unfamiliar industry (eg reading about your part time engineering job!). PS It might be worth verifying ballpark numbers with your current or former employer in case the bank wants to ring your old boss as a reference.
Here is a quick investment banking resume example to help illustrate
Say you interned at a small accounting firm. Then one results-centric dot point could be;
In this answer you’ve managed to mention;
- A specific example of a task you did – and best of all you’ve managed to do this succinctly
- The tangible real world result achieved
- 4 metrics to make it real and ‘touchable’ for the banker
- Business/finance terms like “rev”, “analyzed”, “financial statements” and “accounts receivable”
Bankers are guaranteed to understand exactly what you did and what the impact of it all was. Perfect.
The true art of writing about banking internships
Armed with the rules above there is only one more tip you need to write about your IB experience (or other business experience) to an A+ level… Knowing which achievements to actually cover in the resume.
The answer; write about any and all your achievements racked up during client-focused work…which in the world of banking is known as transaction work, or if you will, live f**king deals!
In other words, try as hard as you can to avoid writing about achievements accrued doing pitch work or ‘random shit’ – which I know is difficult when most of you probably spent all your time undertaking this and not live deals.
Although you’ve got to talk it up, don’t lie, because you’ll get drilled in the interviews about everything and if you can’t talk about it intelligently you’re done for. If you had a quiet summer you can still find ways to pack your resume with transaction-relevant bullet points, because almost every investment banking intern we know has had a go at some part of a live deal.
From one day spent analyzing numbers fresh from a data room, to a week of primary research for a client on investor sentiment – it counts.
Sure it ain’t “modeled the shit out of an LBO”, but hey you ain’t Kohlberg and this ain’t the freaking 2006 heydays anymore, so bankers won’t be too disappointed! And believe it or not, even mock transaction summer projects will do; ie those hypothetical M&A competitions many banks put on during summer to give students a taste of real IB work.
If you resort to this sort of experience in your investment banking internship resume please don’t try fool a banker by leaving out the word ‘mock’ or ‘competition’ – this will come back to kill you. For ideas on how to generate Live Deal talking points during a slow summer we’ll take you through all the common tasks banking interns perform in a later tutorial.
But if you’re as impatient as us then you can read about what tasks will count during your investment banking internship now. One last point of advice here, if you are writing your investment banking internship resume make sure you use the title “Summer Analyst”, not “Summer Intern” or “Intern”.
It may seem insignificant, but it can make a huge difference within the banker subconscious!
How writing about management consulting or similar work experience can kill your chances
Writing about these directly competing and similarly prestigious graduate jobs will not always endear you to bankers, because you are basically saying you’ve worked for the enemy (yes we really are that petty!).
But the real danger is that the banker reading your resume will immediately wonder; “does this kid really want to do banking – I bet he’ll trot back to McKinsey the minute he works north of 60 hours?”.
And then come interview time your consulting-experienced ass will face a wrath of fiery questions about “why investment banking and why not just stick with consulting?”. We talk about this in the interview tutorial, but it’s worth mentioning here since it relates equally to resumes.
Now you may have done a MC or law internship or engineering stint, and you’re going to want to write it on your resume since it is ridiculously prestigious and/or otherwise took you a life time of hard work to rack up.
But if you do, you must make sure you show your passion for investment banking is now exclusive. Not split. If you are able to include enough I-Love-Banking evidence on your resume – e.g. active membership of a finance club, mock M&A college competition, or finance subjects studied – then you should be able to assure a banker that you’re done with 35-hour-a-week McKinsey! Obviously, where you place your achievements, how expressively/passionately you write about them and for how long, will also help you convince a banker you’re ready to become a made man!
Deciding whether to merge work and leadership into one
It’s not a bad idea.
But I would only recommend it if your work section is by itself average (i.e. no investment banking internship or equally tasty experience) and your leadership experience involves an impressive position within a relevant and prestigious organization – oh, and you produced plenty of results/achievements in this leadership role. A board level position at your college’s finance club is a good example.
So as with the “education vs. work” debate (i.e. which section goes first?), you should make the decision of whether to merge your work and leadership experience into one by looking at your strengths and playing to them. Apart from your personal circumstances, the space available in your resume will of course be a driving factor.
If your work experience is poor you may need to pull out the emergency kit
What most students don’t fathom is that even the poorest work track record can be turned into something that looks freaking impressive. All it needs is a little emergency surgery and it will be good to go.
In order for you to achieve this check out our free email course, because in it we’ll take you through 11 creative ideas and techniques for creating an A+ banking resume out of nothing.
By the end of it you should have a work section that kicks ass.
20 of the most powerful words to describe past jobs
When I was in college I thought it was important to be humble and modest about your achievements. But the minute I broke into investment banking I realized it was all about being The Man.
Or at least about acting more like Alec Baldwin’s Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross and less like Jack Lemmon’s wimpy Shelley Levine. In order to Blake it up when writing your resume try describe your work experiences with any one or more of these words;
- Managed, implemented, initiated, oversaw, organized, developed, led, anything GI Joe styles or in an Alpha male who Gets Things Done kind of way (even you gals!).
- Analyzed, researched, investigated, reviewed, anything monkey like, will also work.
- Advised, projected, evaluated, and anything banker like too.
By contrast avoid the Shelley Levine trademarks like assisted, prepared, helped or anything pink-panty like.