• Jagraj Singh

Building a Successful CV and Cover Letter

As we approach deadline season for graduate/summer internship/spring week applications, felt this article is much needed!


Firstly, this is just going to be based off my own experiences, so don't take this as professional careers advice!



The 2 main components we're going to be covering are:

  1. Structure

  2. Content

If both are done well, add them together nicely and you should have a very solid CV and Cover Letter!



Structure


For students at least, 1 page for your CV is more than enough. I learnt this the hard way, my CV just a year ago was 2 pages long!


A rough template should be:

  1. Name (sounds obvious but I've seen CV's which don't have the person's name!)

  2. Education (University + Modules studied maybe, A Levels/BTECs, GCSE's)

  3. Professional Experience (Any finance related or other job you've had)

  4. Skills/Achievements/Interests (Coding experience, Languages, Awards/Certificates and your personal hobbies!)


A CV is meant to be a 1 page summary of yourself, so it's very important to come across articulate and professional. Spelling and grammar errors are a big no. Cut them out.



A cover letter should have 3 main paragraphs:

  1. Why you're applying to the company (commercial awareness comes in real handy)

  2. Why you're applying for the specific role (what's your interest in IB or Sales & Trading)

  3. Why you're ideal for the position (why are you and your skills suited to the job?)


Cover letter's aren't easy. They take time and a lot of research on the company and position is needed. Some banks, such as Goldman Sachs, have specific word limits on cover letters to make things even harder! Don't try to recycle material either, copying and pasting generic sentences will not make you stand out in the eyes of a recruiter.



Content


Like we've discussed before, your CV is a 1 page summary of yourself. It therefore makes sense that every word should be meaningful and have substance behind it. This is one of the key ideas that should be reinforced, do not write anything on your CV which doesn't add to the big picture you're trying to create.


Everything should flow in an orderly manner, and the recruiter should come away having a positive first impression after having read your CV.


Key points:

  • For each work experience you add, bullet point what you did specifically during the experience. (Start sentences using adverbs to make your statements stand out)

  • Make sure you can back up any claims you make (You can code in Java, do you have a basic skills certificate proving this?)

  • Tailor your CV to suit the positions you apply for (A CV for IB should not look the same as a CV for Sales & Trading)


The central takeaway is that all content should be relevant and to the point. One of the first things I did was delete my personal statement between the name and contact info, and my education section! There's no need for it, and it's taking up space that can be used for better purposes!



Following the 3 paragraph rule for cover letters, the first should highlight why you're applying to the company/bank you're applying to. Why JP Morgan? Why Barclays? Why BlackRock? This is where it becomes attractive to attend campus open days/virtual webinars/insight events where a representative of X firm and Y bank essentially give an overview about the culture and environment at the institution. These events are a great way of gaining an insight, which you can then reference in your cover letter! Another way to approach this paragraph is by researching the company and any recent news there's been surrounding them. Have they got a YouTube channel? I prefer videos to reading, so will always check out whether there's any info I can get from YouTube first!


Next, why the position? Why do you want to work in investment banking? You might love to conduct a DCF analysis (discounted cash flow) of a company's financials, or have a knack for IPO's and how to successfully pitch to investors. For sales and trading, you could really enjoy fast paced environments, or thrive under extreme pressure. Either way, this is where you outline your passion for the role, knowing the role inside out should be bread and butter for you. Perhaps you've had some brief experience in the role before and want to expand your knowledge?


And finally, the paragraph which some may say is the hardest. Known to have given plenty of people nightmares, it's the infamous why you? Here you've got to sell yourself as a person and a package with your skills. How's your customer service experience from Tesco applicable for global markets? What's the correlation between being the Treasurer for the Finance Society at university and corporate strategy? It's good if you have any external work that you've done that you can reference, maybe you've started a side project, or undertaken some free online courses to boost your skills and knowledge.


So yeah, no pressure.




Remember, practice makes perfect! If you're unsure still about some things, drop me a message and I'll try help out as best I can!


You can also email me your CV if you really want and I'll give it a free, impartial review with some good tips and tricks!



Hope all of that was useful, leave a comment if I missed anything out and make sure to share the website with friends and family!

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