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GUEST COMMENT: How to put together a perfect CV for a graduate trading job

When I was a student, I tried putting together a CV that would get me a job in sales and trading at a bulge bracket bank. I worked on it for hours and says with a careers advisor at university and eventually sent it to a friend who was a trader at Citi.

In less than 5 minutes, he emailed me back with his assessment: “This is sh*t.”

And that was my welcome to the world of trading – blunt, rude, and to the point.

Ultimately, I completely revamped my CV and got a job, even though I wasn’t at a target university.

If you want to do the same, this is what you need to know.

Firstly, forget about multi-page CVs and resist the urge to write a laundry list of half-hearted experiences: focus on the top 3-4 work/leadership experiences you have.

As with any standard CV, divide your page into sections: Education, Work & Leadership Experience (or “Professional Experience”). Add a section at the bottom with your Skills, Activities and Interests. Make sure you quantify your experiences. Make sure you go into the details of what you did and the results you achieved.

These are the three characteristics sales and trading recruiters look for on your resume:

  1. Quantitative ability
  2. Analytical skills
  3. Passion for the financial markets

Note the contrast between what they’re looking for in IB vs. S&T: in investment banking they care more about your ability to work long hours, leadership / teamwork skills, and general passion for business and finance rather than the markets specifically.

Those characteristics can still be important in S&T since it’s far from a 9-to-5 job, and since you do interact with salespeople / traders.

But the overall focus is more on quantitative / analytical ability and passion for the markets.

It’s trickier than it looks to convey these skills on your resume, but you must get them across if you want a good shot at winning interviews and landing offers.

Quantitative Ability

This is one of the most important skills required to land a job in S&T. Whether you’re in fixed income or equity, you must be able to work quickly and efficiently with numbers.

You’re constantly calculating prices to quote to clients, and one tiny little error can end up costing your firm or your client millions of dollar, or you your job.

So you should emphasize anything related to maths. This might be: quantitative coursework, participation in a maths club, any previous internships with quantitative experience (spreadsheets etc).

If a trader glances at your CV and sees that you’re a liberal arts student with no maths coursework and no quantitative work experience, he’ll wonder whether you can do the job.  If you fall into this category you will need to redeem yourself now by attending a quantitative class, or gettng a part-time internship doing something that involves numbers.

It doesn’t even have to be finance-related: it just needs to demonstrate that you’re comfortable working with numbers.

Analytical Skills

Isn’t this the same as quantitative ability?

No, not quite.

“Quantitative ability” refers specifically to numbers, whereas “Analytical skills” refers to any type of analysis you do, whether it’s quantitative or qualitative.

If the central bank raises interest rates, what does that mean for your positions or your clients’ positions?

You may not be able to answer that with a number, but you can come up with qualitative guesses for what might happen and how you should react.

If you’re from a liberal arts or mixed background you might be tempted to demonstrate this one via your analysis of Moby Dick or Hamlet, but that would be a mistake: find something that’s more relevant to business, even if it’s qualitative.

The best way to demonstrate this is via coursework or previous work / internship experience:

  • Write about how you analysed a company’s strategic position vs. competitors as part of a case competition or a business class.
  • Write about how you analysed your firm’s marketing efforts and found ways to save money and improve the ROI of their spending.
  • Write about how you analysed a stock and decided to invest via your personal account based on valuation metrics and value investing criteria.

There’s no such thing as over-using the word “Analyse” when you write your bullet points for this one.

Passion for the Financial Markets

If you don’t have some experience with the financial markets, don’t even bother applying for S&T roles.

You might be able to get into IB or PE without trading or following the markets very much, but it’s almost impossible to do that here.

Unlike bankers, most traders actually enjoy what they do – at least when they first start out – so they want to see that you will also enjoy it.

You could demonstrate this passion with:

  • Your studies: studying a financial markets related course will help.
  • Previous work experience – Anything where you traded or dealt with the markets.
  • Mock trading accounts – Even if you didn’t trade real money, you still have to be passionate to actively invest via a mock account.
  • Clubs at university – Think of any type of finance or investment society where you present your ideas, talk about possible investments, and so on.
  • If you don’t have much experience investing or dealing with the capital markets you should do two things right now:
  • Get a subscription to the Financial Times.
  • Open a mock trading account.

Traders take mock trading accounts very seriously, so don’t overlook them.

Skills, Activities & Interests

But traders like to have a good time, too, so the last section of your resume is also important.

Not too much is different here from what you see on investment banking CVs: note any language skills you have, any organizations or activities beyond what you’ve already written about, and any certifications such as the CFA (no, it won’t help much for S&T, but it’s worth noting especially if you don’t have much experience).

The most common question here: should you list “Interests” like gambling and poker?

Short answer: yes, they can definitely help because sales & trading is all about risk management, probability, and keeping your emotions in-check… just like gambling.

I know an analyst who made a deal with his boss that he could use the boss’s money to play poker and take 25% of the profit…

Sounds crazy, but it’s true – anyone on the public markets side of a bank loves to take calculated risks, or they wouldn’t be working there.

A version of this article first appeared on Mergers and Inquisitionsa website dedicated to helping people break into investment banking, and to maintaining their sanity while doing so.

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