The Banker Friendly Resume

In this tutorial we’re going to take you inside the bank and into the head of a tired, disgruntled (and slightly deranged) 2nd year investment banking analyst to see exactly how the banks are going to deal with your resume this recruiting season – and how they decide whether your resume is worthy of an interview.

If you’ve never worked in an IB then this is going to make for an ‘interesting’ read, and will most certainly change the way you go about crafting your 1-page investment banking resume!


BONUS: Download a free reportand watch 2 bankers tear a student’s resume apart from top to bottom (and then rebuild it from scratch), plus find out how 5 of us managed to break into bulge bracket banks without having perfect grades, the best schools or insider connections.


Insider information on the investment banking resume

The investment banking resume is one of the most misunderstood parts of recruiting. Thanks no doubt to the swathe of often conflicting material you’ll find online – much of it from dubious sources too. And it doesn’t help that there are literally 100s of investment banking resume samples floating out in cyberspace that claim to be “perfect examples” – it just overwhelms us.

So we think it’s time to clear up the confusion and give you some serious certainty about what you need to craft a killer resume for investment banking.

Unlike every other article out there on IB resumes though, we’re going to provide you with uncommon advice taken straight from inside the bank.  You see, we’re uniquely positioned to do this because as young bankers we actually know what happens when your resume arrives fresh into the bank.

So get ready for a no holds barred guide to investment banking resumes as we take you into the mind of a banker and show you how resumes are really judged.  Finally you’ll get access to real definitive advice on how to write a banking resume.  


Which bankers actually read your resume?

Usually it’s the analysts that will screen resumes at the first hurdle.  Meaning they are the ones who decide whether you get a first round interview. Banks prefer to allocate your resume to analysts who are alumni of your school. For obvious reasons they are able to judge the quality of your education achievements the best since they’ve been there, done that. 

That point should already be setting off alarm bells in your head; i.e. don’t BS about school related achievements in your banking resume. HR might be involved in the screening process if you have applied outside normal recruiting – and in some countries they may take the role of junior bankers (or so we’ve heard!). The bigger boys (Associates, VPs, MDs) will look at your resume come interview time, but no earlier.

PS Don’t be surprised if these BSDs of the banking world only first pick up your resume just as you waltz into the interview room! 

Oh, and don’t get phased if a grumpy looking MD Larry Larryson sits there silently reading your resume as you’re left to hang.  You see, pin drop silence coupled with weird facial expressions of disgust and disapproval is a favorite intimidation tactic of senior bankers everywhere!!

In banking your resume serves 2 purposes; 1) to get you the interview and 2) to drive the interview questions you get.  Right now, I’m most concerned with showing you how to nail point 1, because it’s far more make-or-break than point 2.

And hey who gives a FF whether your resume drives good interview Qs or not, if you never get invited for the interview in the first place!


How do bankers screen your investment banking resume?

The resume screening process is usually done by one group of bankers – the ‘recruiting team’ for that year. It differs from team to team, but it’s quite likely the whole group will sit down and judge your resume together.  If that’s the case your resume may simply be skimmed over aloud, followed by a chorus of “yay” or “nay”.  Naturally everyone present will be invited to come up with ‘witty’ one-liners. 

[When you start working 7 nights a week fueled solely by cheap ramen and copious amounts of caffeine you’ll find this shit funny too].

Alternatively, each analyst could be in charge of a pile of resumes and be tasked with presenting to the group the 10 second ‘story’ and 3 reasons ‘why’ and ‘why not’ for each resume. Clearly then having a banking resume with an easy-to-decipher story will make you easy to green light in group settings.

Similarly, making your resume readable in the blink of an eye by using cutting edge presentation principles will also ensure your success in group settings. Outside of a group setting there’s the ‘alone time’ review.

Picture an analyst at their desk with a stack of papers sorting through them like they are playing cards – i.e. lightning fast reviews where they simply check off 3 or 4 qualities (school name, GPA, internship experience, and ‘not a nut job’) before moving on.

As you can see no matter how your banking resume is read, it’s read fast.  Knowing how to turn this apparent problem to our advantage is something we’re going to look at further below.


What about computers – can a freaking PC kill your chances?

Some of you may find out via email or text message whether you have a first round interview within an hour of submitting your application/resume online. 

The question has invariably popped up “Is a freaking PC deciding my fate, and if so how?”.

Well, this one is pretty simple. The bank is deciding who gets a first round interview based only on cut-off academic scores.

Thankfully it’s easy to determine whether this will happen to you. When you apply online if you are asked to manually input your academic units and scores (or simply your GPA) then 8 times out of 10 your first round will be decided by a computer. Although we talk about education requirements more in our free email course, let me make it clear now…

In order to break into banking your GPA needs to be solid (think 3.4+), and if you want to summit the bulge bracket world a GPA of 3.5+ is necessary, especially in today’s world.

That said you can still get into banking with an average GPA because, 1) GPAs are not created equally, 2) all banks do not require the same achievements and 3) alternative entry strategies into banking exist for those of you with GPAs below 3.5.  


What about keyword scans by computers?

This one is rare.  Maybe even an urban legend. After all, what are ‘keywords’ and how do they correlate with quality? Fortunately we’ve never heard whispers about banks using this technique to shortlist resumes, so skip writing “banking internship” 18 times on your resume; it’s just not necessary.

And don’t forget that $22/hour analysts – yes that will be your wage on an hourly basis! – can burn through a pile of 150 resumes in under 40 minutes.  So why would banks even need ridiculous shortcuts like keyword scans?  


How long do analysts really spend reading your resume & CL?

Five or ten minutes? We are after all talking about your entire life on paper and your magical story in letter form. It took you years of study, a life time of work and a helluva lot of sweat to chalk up that track record.  And damn are you proud of it.  No wonder we re-edit our resume 67 times before submission.  


How much attention does your investment banking resume actually get?

15 seconds. Max 30 if you are lucky.

Are we serious?  Extremely. 

Do we think it’s right?  Most certainly.

Think about the bondage filled day of a young banker who’s been tasked with sifting through ‘some’ resumes. After a 12 hour slog through an assortment of ‘random shit’, the young 20-something analyst sits down to a dinner of cold chicken teriyaki whilst scrolling through some emails requesting “one more thing” – it’s going to be a late one.

Come 11pm he (or she!) has finally finished the “will only take a minute” tasks their Associate requested, and now they have a couple pounds of resumes to sort through. 

Say 200.

How long would you spend on each resume if you planned a midnight departure?

You’re sleep deprived, slightly bitter and who cares whether some kid from Wyoming plays club tennis in his spare time.

In other words, when bankers finally do get around to screening your resume they are usually exhausted and not in the mood to read your resume in much detail.  Your ‘audience’ is just like you around exam time…hunched over their desk, caffeinated to the wall, and fatigued as hell.
So take our insider advice and write your resume with your 3am night-before-the-exam Red Bull-crashing self in mind!

PS  As for your cover letter for investment banking…you would be lucky if the analyst physically picked it up.  If they do, maybe one paragraph might enjoy a skim read.  All up though, a cover letter’s lifespan is about 4 seconds.  


Welcome to the little known “15 seconds to bin” rule

Within this new reality I hope you can see that your resume has to, nay must, sell the young analyst within just seconds. It has to scream “yeah this kid looks worth interviewing”. Having seen the resumes of many an aspiring banker I can tell you almost no one knows this harsh reality, or if they do, no one seemingly understands what it really means for them – i.e. how it impacts resume writing and presentation.

But now you know the equation tired + moody + “couple pounds” you should be able to write a banker friendly resume. 

All it takes to make a banker smile at 2.13am and green light you an interview is to craft a resume that is readable within seconds; and this comes down to you abiding by the IIB’s investment banking resume format guidelines.  


Why the “15 seconds to bin” rule is actually great for you and how to beat it

We love the rule because since most students don’t follow it, when you do you will stand out for all the right reasons.  Plus you’ll make the analyst’s job to green light you so painless. What should you do in order to pass the test?

In order to sell an analyst in just 15 seconds your resume has to be an 80-20 version of your original 6 page life story. That means writing a freaking investment banking resume objective (the biggest douche bag thing you can do on Earth!) or talking about swimming medals won in grade school is a no go. We exaggerate for effect. 

But seriously the end product can’t be more than one page long – and you have to achieve that with normal margins, proper spacing and a readable size font.  This may sound easy but selectively eliminating past successes and not resorting to squashed size 6 font never is.

All the advice on how to achieve this 1 page killer resume can be found here, but the main point to heed now is…

Less is more.  Throw out the BS riddled career center guide book that says “stuff your 1 page resume to the max”.  Instead 1) select only your most powerful achievements/experiences, 2) write about them in a succinct results-centric way and 3) harness the power of white space, beautiful typography and smart formatting.  Think Apple style, not Microsoft.


What are the 2 major exceptions to the “15 second to bin” rule?



This first exception is thanks to the class system in the banking candidate world; experienced v virgin.  It’s two tiered with the experienced at the top and the virgins at the bottom.

Any investment banking internship counts – from bulge bracket to 10-man boutique.  By ‘investment banking’ we mean summers spent in M&A or capital markets etc.  S&T and research will suffice, but expect to show up at the bottom of the ‘experienced pile’.  Meanwhile back office internships barely count. Other high quality finance experiences count too, eg hedge fund internship. 

Whilst 5-star names like McKinsey, Microsoft, Newscorp (provided you weren’t phone tapping it up!) work too – i.e. management consulting and F500 corporate. If you possess this experience you are “pre approved”. That means your resume (especially those of you with an investment banking intern resume) will get preferential treatment – think top of the pile and 20 extra seconds of consideration.  Or perhaps – ironically – less attention since you’re such an obvious candidate!  



The second exception is thanks to nepotism, ass-kissing and cold hard cash.

Aka the Resume Pass, this involves emailing your resume to an interested banker outside of the normal recruiting process. You could be asked for it at a networking event by a Credit Suisse Associate (eg me) or your Daddy who’s on one of MD Larry Larryson’s boards could slip it into Larry’s bag at the next meeting of Giganticfuknconglomerate Inc (eg my friend).

The power of a resume pass is that the banker who asked for it will take significant time to review it.  I mean, they will actually take 40 seconds to read it from top to bottom.  And if the banker likes it, they will pass it on to the bankers in charge of recruiting along with a note “like this kid”.  Can you spell ‘guaranteed interview’ you nepotistic rich kid?!

I need to pause us for a second here to talk about networking & resumes.

Your chance of getting an interview from a ‘warm’ resume submission like this is literally 1000% greater than submitting it into the cold, unforgiving vacuum that is official recruiting.  So please make sure you master networking in banking – a topic we’ll talk extensively about in a later tutorial.


The #1 thing bankers are looking for in your resume

It’s not your smarts, hard work or kite surfing adventures in Playa Grande, Costa Rica, that they’re interested in most. Instead it’s your mistakes.  Bankers will look at your resume in a glass half empty kind of way, because they desperately want to find even the smallest of mistakes.

Why the sadistic bent? 

Well, in a world of 100 hour work weeks and seas of 1000s of resumes, bankers will always resort to the fastest elimination method. 

And spotting petty mistakes, as opposed to identifying quality achievements is brilliant at this.  A banker with attention to detail can whittle down a 500 resume pile to the top 10 within an hour this way.

Resume screening in the fast paced world of IB is thus about elimination, not selection – at least when we’re talking about the first round of screening; as compared to final rounds. This approach also makes perfect sense because with a Godlike appreciation for attention to detail bankers will wonder to themselves;

“Well, if you can’t turn out a perfect resume with the study load of a college kid – 14 contact hours a freaking week – how could you ever spruce up a pitch book for MD Larry Larryson at 6am in time for an 8am meeting?” i.e. mistake-riddled resumes are not indicative of bankers-in-the-making.


BONUS: Download a free reportand watch 2 bankers tear a student’s resume apart from top to bottom (and then rebuild it from scratch), plus find out how 5 of us managed to break into bulge bracket banks without having perfect grades, the best schools or insider connections.