I’m back again – in the next couple of weeks, we will walk you through every step of the job search journey to secure career in finance. In today’s episode: how to write a killer CV and cover letter. Let’s face it: the job market is very competitive, especially in the world of corporate finance and private equity. A first impression is paramount, so a résumé and cover letter are the prime marketing tools. Don’t panic! Again… We’ve got you covered!

The résumé

Think about it; a résumé needs to provide the employer a self-portrait of your strengths, weaknesses, prior experiences and achievements. However, corporates may have to sift through dozens or even hundreds of résumés, so they will most likely only catch a glimpse of this piece of paper. As a matter of fact, they spend only six seconds reviewing a résumé! So… Therefore, it is important to present a strong and fresh impression… Get your foot in the door! I will guide you through each step!

1. Style
Let me start of by saying sorry, but it’s a typical woman thing: too much design! Let’s keep everything black and white in the world of finance. Less is more! Use an academic type of letter, an appropriate size, a dark colour and a minimum page margin of 1 centimeter (Times New Roman; 11). Don’t make it too crowded! Your HR-manager wants to be able to write comments without a hassle. Secondly, the hiring -manager loves bulletpoints! Bulletpoints are important for scanning. Like this!

Last but not least… The big question! Should you include a picture? It is a school of thought that a picture distracts the hiring manager from being objective. Again: a résumé needs to provide the employer a self-portrait. Also, they will probably look you up on LinkedIn. If you decide to include a picture, make use of a clear headshot. No mirror selfies or holiday photos! Yes, I’ve seen them a lot.

“It is a school of thought that a picture distracts the hiring manager from being objective.”

2. Layout
Okay! We get it: a clean design. What should the layout include? Short and sweet. Remember they spend only six seconds on each résumé. Your CV must be a maximum of two pages! Also, make a clear structure with headings and a reversed chronological order. The chronological order is a common mistake! Hiring managers wants to see a solid line. From high school to education and explain any gaps! For example, explain a gap year otherwise it will be regarded as a missed opportunity.

3. Structure
Use the following key structure: personal details, education and qualifications, work experience and extracurricular activities, skills, and interest. Again: keep the information short and sweet. Don’t include irrelevant experiences. For instance, don’t put ‘started as a bartender’. Another common pitfall; too many clichés. A lot of people write down: ‘team player’ or ‘creative’. Don’t! Use detectable skills!

4. Extra tips & Tricks!
Wait! We are nearly done. I want to give you some tips & tricks! First of all, look at the vision of the company and art the words they use. Secondly, show your interest in the financial sector! For example study associations, trading stocks or attendance of events (London Banking Tour). No background in finance? Show interest in the financial sector and attend a lot of events (student cases).

Cover letter

Résumé, check! The second part will be a cover letter. Remember the main objective is to introduce yourself and to briefly summarize your professional background. A good motivation letter says a lot of professionalism. Keep in mind that a cover letter is a supplement of your résumé. In brief, a cover letter should explain the match between your background, organization, and motivation. Don’t tell your life story!

1. Structure
First of all, one page of A4. Again: short and sweet. Briefly start the cover letter with the job opportunity. Next, write about the gained interests in the field, the experience, and the affection with sector. Companies love themselves! Write about the affection with this company in particular. For instance, talk about the company culture. Also, write about the job. Show that you know what you are applying for! Furthermore, prove to them that you are skilled! Interest the recruiter in hiring you by telling something interesting.

2. Avoid!
There are some big and common mistakes! Yes, it happens a lot: the wrong job and/ or company. The result: exit! Again: companies are unique and love themselves. So don’t go off-topic and don’t talk about yourself too much. Also, avoid the words ‘I hope’. Keep in mind you are the best candidate and pro-active!

3. Extra tips & tricks
I know you’re thinking it and I will say it… You love me! Here are some useful tips and tricks to write a killer cover letter! Firstly, small details can make larger impact. Avoid the common phrase: “Dear hiring manager”. Do prior research and try to address the hiring manager. Also, add big public actual announcements! Maybe they had a part in it. Lastly, sports show stamina and is a good conversation starter!

P.S. Ready to send your CV and cover letter? Let your roommate do a last minute spelling and grammar check, and don’t forget to send you CV and cover letter in PDF! I’ve got your back.

Wow! You’ve made it! Congratulations. I am proud of you! See you next week!

–  Dave van der Heiden