First, is a cover letter necessary for investment banking jobs? In many cases, no, but in some cases, yes, as it turns out.
At bulge bracket investment banks, the recruiters are unlikely to read a cover letter for just-out-of-school positions; they may only see your resume. But some insist on cover letters for graduate positions for a sort of first assessment.
Generally, a cover letter is more likely to be read in smaller or local banks. If you can write a good cover letter and it gets read, you have made an impressive start.
But if you have drafted a poor cover letter, you have already ruined your chances before you’ve even started.
If you’re applying to investment banks in New York, London, Mumbai or Singapore- or if you’re hoping to get into Citi, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley or any other investment banking team – we hope this article helps you put your best step forward.
Investment banking cover letter for candidates without experience
For candidates who are only completing their business school programs or recently completed them with internships but have no work experience, the investment banking cover letter consists of four parts: Introduction, Background, Fit, and Conclusion.
The introduction is best written in three or four sentences. Introduce yourself, and mention where you’re studying or doing your internship.
You should give the school name regardless of whether it is well known (you may give your GPA if it is really great), and the name of the company/group where you did your internship, especially if it is well known.
How did you find the company? Did you attend a campus seminar organized by them? Did you read an article written or presentation made by the company CEO or an interview with her? Mention names. What position are you applying for? Be specific, especially with smaller firms.
In the paragraph giving your background, focus on your relevant internship experience and how the knowledge and skills that you picked up would help the company you are applying to.
If you have had a half dozen internships, don’t mention all of them but only the relevant ones.
As far as possible, try to relate any experience that you have to banking skills such as financial modelling and valuation. Here, too, four sentences may be your maximum limit.
Explain, in the next paragraph, how your personality and abilities make you a good fit. Show that you understand the bank’s work culture and its people and will get along with them. You may mention any relevant extracurricular activity.
Winding up the cover letter, you should express thanks, remind them that your resume is enclosed (a call to action), provide your phone number or email once again for quick reference, and indicate that you would love to hear from to discuss your qualifications.
Cover letter for emailed applications
If you are emailing your cover letter or resume, it is perhaps not a good idea to attach a separate cover letter, as it might not be read at all.
If you are forwarding your resume by email, the body of your email can itself serve as the cover letter.
But you should remove the addresses on top and make the cover letter much shorter, say, three or four sentences in all.
If you’re applying on the website of companies, and there’s provision for “Optional cover letter,” you could still write a short letter.
Investment banking cover letter for experienced candidates
For most positions for which experience is required, most recruiters may see only your resume. But for graduate positions, some recruiters do like to see cover letters.
In fact, some banks, such as Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, insist that candidates send their resumes along with cover letters. Goldman Sachs, for example, required a personal-statement-type cover letter in 300 words or less.
The best cover letter for positions that require experience uses a narrative structure, giving your story and your life choices, and numbers that show your achievements.
The worst looks like it has been written with SEO in mind, and contain factual, grammatical, or spelling errors along with irrelevant information.
You should write a cover letter separately for every company or position, but you can have a basic template.
An expert suggests the sequence “Why they should hire you,” “Why you want this job,” “Why this bank,” and Conclusion.
As mentioned, if you can say you came to know about the recruitment through a company program or a presentation made by a company official or the recruiter himself, or an article or interview by the CEO, nothing like it. Names-dropping works.
Why they should hire you
In the second paragraph, you explain your personality in a nutshell. Keep away from inane phrases such as “I am a motivated, hard-working person.”
Use words or ideas from the job description for the post without making this obvious. Say why you feel you have these attributes.
Provide factual figures from your current job/s to support your achievements, such as, “ensured 20 percent return for a $50-million investor and revamped her investment portfolio”).
Among the crucial words to use are, of course, the names of well-known companies that you may have worked for (Fortune 500 companies, bulge bracket banks, large PE firms).
If you can mention projects that have had an impact on your company, you should mention those and what role you played.
The other good words to use that bankers like to see are “financial modeling,” “analytical ability,” and “leadership and team-building skills.”
You can also mention any relevant academic achievement. For example, if you studied relationship management but not finance, narrate your success dealing with a client.
Mention an award that you won for an activity relevant to an attribute required for the position.
Why you want this job
As you are an applicant with experience, you should say why you want to move on to a larger canvas or take on more responsibilities.
Do you feel you have excellent leadership and team-building skills? What about people skills and your power to communicate effectively?
Provide specific instances where the keywords mentioned in the job description resonate in your cover letter. You should also know your sector thoroughly.
Why this bank
Here, the key is to say good things about the recruiter bank without denigrating other banks. Show that you understand their strategy and plans and why these appeal to you. Mention some of the bank’s recent achievements or a positive analysis about the bank by an expert.
Have you also read an article explaining why this bank is a great place to work? Did you meet some of the bank’s employees at a conference or seminar? Say that and how they came across as a positive team. You need to impress upon the recruiter that you would love to work with this team.
The basics of writing cover letters
Finally, let’s tackle the typographical aspects. Don’t use a font size less than 10 points or a margin less than three-quarters of an inch.
Stick to a readable font such as Calibri, Times New Roman, Ariel, Verdana, and Cambria, rather than a stylish one. Don’t go for bold; prefer normal.
How long should your cover letter be? Don’t write multipage cover letters that say in long form all that you are mentioning in your resume. So, limit it to just a single page.
In any case, don’t expect the recruiter to flip the page and go to a second page. If you’re emailing your cover letter and resume, make your letter even shorter.
Start with your name, contact address, phone number, and email address, which should be at the top, right-aligned or centered. In the next line, below, mention the date, the name, designation, and contact information of the person whom you’re writing to, left-aligned.
Here, try to find out the name of your intended recipient as far as possible, as this would help strike a personal touch at the start.
If you can’t do that, just the designation and the company name and contact address will have to do. If you have the name, start with “Mr. (Name)” or “Ms. (Name),” or else, say “Dear Sir / Madam.”
Giving it a spin
Applicants with no experience such as an internship may not get a second look.
Those who have done internship at a bank but have no relevant work experience could make any exposure to finance work, such as running a school investment fund or analyzing businesses (for a financial blog), useful, and thereby get noticed.
You could write a great cover letter, but remember to give the same attention to your resume. In the end, people land jobs not for writing a good letter but for what they have done with their lives and for thinking outside the box.