While most financial services professionals must now surely be savvy enough to avoid generic CV clichés like “entrepreneurial”, “innovative team-player” or “dynamic problem-solver”, there’s a chance you could be inadvertently be including hackneyed phrases when attempting to demonstrate your prowess for your particular business area.
The key, say exasperated recruiters, is to be as specific as possible. If it’s not tangible, or something that can demonstrate your real achievements, it’s probably bunkum.
1. Tired technologist terms
A dab hand with programming languages they may be, but coining a phrase is not generally a gift technologists possess. In a world where technologists must also demonstrate an understanding of what IT means to the bottom line, the potential for cheesy one-liners has never been greater. Here are a few choice phrases to avoid:
“I’m the bridge between technology and the business.”
“I simplify technology and can talk to the business in a language they understand.”
“A technology visionary and evangelist who can bring the business on a journey of discovery.”
“I cut my teeth coding on a ZX Spectrum.”
Paul Bennie, managing director of IT in finance headhunters Bennie MacLean, adds: “A general frustration is technologists claiming to be all things to all men with their technology knowledge, only for it to become apparently clear during interview that they know very little.”
2. Risk management ruminations
Risk management in banking has, of course, become a more desirable skill-set in recent years, as firms bolster their control functions in order to comply with more stringent regulatory requirements. It remains the case, however, that only the best, strategic-minded, risk managers can command a significant salary premium, so most candidates tend to overstate their tactical nous. Avoid the following:
“Strong ties to the risk team, partnering with them to ensure there is a joined up and forward view of risk management.”
“Driven change and efficiencies across the bank’s risk management functions.”
“Client-focused, resourceful and analytical.”
“This type of jargon is pointless. It’s far better to tell us specific examples of what you have achieved and the impact this has made,” says Tim Allen, operations recruitment consultant for investment banking at Morgan McKinley.
3. Operational utterances
In investment banking operations it’s all about creating efficiencies – hence Goldman’s embracing of the term “higher-value locations” when referring to nearshoring and offshoring – and highlighting a client-centric approach, despite having little or no contact with clients. This is a goldmine for phrases that use the words recruiters want to hear, without backing them up with actual examples.
“Created processes that significantly improve efficiencies and drive change.”
“Full ownership of strategic initiatives.”
4. Investment banking bunkum
Advisory functions have once again become more important in investment banking as trading revenues slump and institutions highlight the importance of deep client relationships for bringing in business. Not everyone’s a super-star, of course, so there remains an element of fudging it over outlining specific deal experience. Victorian McLean, managing director of City CV and former recruitment manager for Goldman Sachs, and other recruitment sources say the following often crop up.
“Decisive collaborator with proven success in building lasting relationships.”
“Able to conduct ‘deep dive’ financial and strategic diligence.”
“Forged strong relationships and facilitated discussion.”
5. Trading tales
The reality is that recruiters only want to know two things from potential trader recruits – which bank they’ve worked for and what their track record is. Unfortunately, in a world where every CV is spruced up for HR, softer qualities inevitably creep in, says McLean.
“Strong core values, ethical, strong communicator.”
“Able to work well in a high-pressured, fast-paced environment.”
“Effective team member as well as strong individual contributor.”
6. Project management pontification
Project managers, particularly those who can deliver change projects, remain hot property as banks looking to overhaul their processes and procedures. Unfortunately, considering much of the job involved managing people, expectations and being very process-driven, there’s a tendency to veer towards the corny, says McLean.
“Proactive team-player with a collegiate approach.”
“Positive approach to challenges, open to change.”
“Re-engineering processes to enhance the client experience.”