Creating a resume for an investment banking (IB) job without any experience can be a daunting task.
But you don’t need to fret too much: you can ‘bankify‘ your resume so that it sounds interesting to recruiters, despite not having seen the inside of a bank.
How do you recreate your resume so that I-Banking recruiters give you their six seconds?
Before we dive into the details, read how we help you with our career coaching for investment banking jobs.
How to create an investment banking resume without experience
A little resume theory first
Perhaps it is useful to know that three types of resume formats are normally recommended by expert resume writers:
- The Combination format: ideal for job-seekers who would like to place equal emphasis on their work experience and their knowledge and skills;
- The Chronological format: preferred by those who would like to highlight a glowing career record and consistent employment;
- The Functional format: suitable for those with little experience who would like to put the spotlight on their achievements (educational, personal) and transferable skills.
Take your pick based on the skills and accomplishments you already have in your profile.
Let’s look at the various steps you can take to create an investment banking resume without experience.
Give the resume an I-banking spin
Because recruiters don’t have much time for you, you need to quickly impress them with your skills and your personality traits that they can use. Recruiters’ biggest fear is hiring someone who wouldn’t be able to do the job out of a lack of interest in the field or lack of skills. Your challenge is to reassure them that there need to be no concerns on that score.
Since you have no experience, you can highlight whatever even remotely connected with finance that you have done. Spin your activities or interests so that they sound as close to “experience” as possible: for example, participation in a case competition conducted by a leading IB, management of an investment fund at college, or work related to finance modeling or valuation. This is better than mentioning any experience in a non-finance field.
A disclaimer: remember we are talking about “spinning” in the sense of repackaging your resume so that it looks relevant to IB. It is not lying, which you should never do. If you falsify your information, your job offer may get rescinded.
Stand out from the crowd
As an IB applicant with no experience, you need to stand out from the crowd of candidates with everything going for them. Your rivals will be showing off their finance internships and work experience at big banks, while you may have next to nothing.
How do you stand out? As an expert puts it, you need to “disrupt” the IB hiring process, no less. It would help if you could mention a finance-related newsletter or blog that you have started, which featured, for example, the top ten weekly news items and events from the world of finance. Now how many of your rivals would have done that?
But perhaps the most impressive way of standing out, this expert writes in a blog, would be to prepare and send a “pitch book” or a “deal model” along with your application. This is a good tip, and surely, not many applicants would have thought of it. But be sure you understand the assumptions and double-check everything—one error, and your gambit will have the opposite effect, the blogger warns.
So, be different. If it takes standing outside the bank’s corporate office and handing out coffee wrapped in your resume, so be it. If you want IB badly, you may have to use some desperate measures to be noticed, suggests the blogger. However, we’d recommend using some discretion here and not going overboard with it.
Emphasise your education and skills
You need to provide a detailed picture about your education background. Remember that even for job-seekers with experience, their school brand, GPA, and internship experience are what count the most.
If your GPA is not generally considered good enough for IB, provide a global GPA along with a major GPA. Do you have good SAT scores? Then give them, as bankers take them as a measure of your intelligence.
But don’t go back too much to your high school days. Start with graduation and the courses you took and the takeaways that make you particularly suitable for IB.
Convey to the recruiter that even though you may not have any experience, you have grasped the fundamental principles of the finance sector and the position you are applying for. Refer to your coursework in, say, corporate finance, portfolio management, or international finance and accounting. Highlight your degree: you’re likely to be hired if you are a business, economics, or finance major.
If you have an interest in software that is connected to financial and data analysis, database reporting, administration, and customer relationships, mention it. It is not really necessary to include experience in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc., as this is pretty common among candidates.
List your technical skills under a separate heading, so that they are easily noticed. Show that you have a head for numbers and analytics. Any training or internship that you have attended will look good on your resume.
Present your personal qualifications
It doesn’t matter if you have all the experience in the world but can’t work with people. That’s just no good for IB, where you need to interact with your team members and clients. Are your communication skills good enough? Can you collaborate and work as part of a team? Do you have a personality that would make other team members want to work with you? Do you have leadership skills that would make your team want you as their leader?
You could also write a section about your soft skills in your resume. Turn the spotlight on your personal advantages: “detail-oriented,” “energetic,” “enthusiastic,” “highly motivated,” etc.
Show how interesting you are
Give brief descriptions of your hobbies. This will show that you are an interesting person and throw more light on your personality. Mention any volunteer work that you have done for the poor, elderly people, and children.
Are you engaged in any activities related to investment? Did you start a savings syndicate in college (showing your early interest in finance)? Have you launched a finance website? If yes, turn these hobbies into relevant experience.
Did you play a team sport or were you team captain (highlighting your people skills that bankers want)? That would look good. You can also mention any really rare experiences: we have in mind a Himalaya expedition or white water rafting in New Zealand (showing that you are not afraid to push your limits).
Write a good introduction
Write a concise introduction describing who/what you are, what you are looking for, and where you wish to go. Try something like “Analytical and result-oriented professional with promise, who can excel in a challenging fresher role that requires in-depth knowledge of investment banking and strategies and interest in international markets.” This will show you really care for the job.
It would help to include words from the job description in your resume to indicate that you understand the responsibilities of the position and what the recruiter is looking for in an ideal candidate. Say how the recruiting company would benefit from hiring you.
Bring out your other experiences
Your ability to complete tasks will be a major concern to any recruiter. You may be a newbie to IB, but you may have some work experience in an unrelated field. Think of what type of work in a previous job may help you in IB.
For example, if you worked long hours in a position, your IB recruiter will know that you are capable of working hard. If you have worked with many customers face-to-face on a daily basis, that will show that you may have good people skills. If you were responsible for completing processes or projects, that will indicate that you can manage various dimensions of a project and see it through from start to finish. It will also point to your initiative and sense of self-reliance.
Use words that matter
In your resume, go for words that work for bankers. Use “created,” “designed,” “developed, ” “managed, ” “assisted, ” and “supervised,” etc., in your resume and cover letter. Remember that bankers also love words of measurements, such as “dollars,” “percentages,” and dates. Try business phrases such as “competitive environment,” “bring to the table,” “hit the ground running,” and “the big picture.”
Don’t forget the basics
Of course, experience or no experience, all investment banking applicants just have to take care of the quality of their resumes. The first requirement is that your resume should have no spelling or grammatical errors. The document should also be in a readable language and format.
Crucial information such as your name and contact number and address should be clear and placed right at the top of the resume. Keep your resume short and sweet.
Use a simple design, keeping away the desire to be too creative. Multiple fonts, artistic typefaces, borders, divider bars, and colors make recruiters frown. This is a time to be conservative.
After preparing your resume, read it several times. Read it again the next morning with a fresh pair of eyes and when you have new perspectives. If you can, get your resume reviewed by an insider. Persuade a friend or family member to go through it.
In the end, you need a perfect resume, particularly if you didn’t go to Harvard or Cambridge / Oxford. Of course, a rival candidate who did will always trump you no matter how well your resume reads. But if you are successful in putting out your best resume, you may very well get a foot in the door.