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Resume keywords bankers must include – and those they should avoid

A great resume can help you to get your foot in the door for an interview, whereas a CV gaffe can disqualify you.

A great resume can help you to get your foot in the door for an interview, whereas a CV gaffe can disqualify you.

While many candidates have a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ attitude to their resume, as the initial screening tool for most roles, the quality of a CV can make or break your application.

Filling your resume with keywords just to get through banks’ applicant tracking systems (ATS) and beat the robots is a big no, but you should still be looking to pull key phrases from the job description you’re applying to. Weaving job titles, software programs and priority job functions throughout your resume will ensure that recruiters’ must-haves are hit without creating the appearance of having been stuffed keywords for the sake of it.

“When we work with candidates to help them land the most competitive jobs in banking or hedge funds, the first thing we ask for is the job description of their ideal role so we can clearly capture the skills and experience in that person’s background on their CV,” says Francis de la Cruz, the founder of The Write Resume and The Private Placement Group.

Getting the jargon right 

Candidates should search for job postings of similar roles across the industry and make notes of what keywords other similar roles are using. While using jargon for the sake of it is unlikely to impress, sometimes a well-placed buzzword can resonate with decision-makers.

“If everyone says ‘analytics,’ then don’t say ‘analysis,'” said Jane Cranston, the president of ExecutiveCoachNY.com. “Every sector of every industry has its own lingo, and you have to sound fluent by using it in the right way so that the hiring manager says, ‘This person gets it.'”

Show achievements 

You should also strive to include clear, active, and descriptive phrases in your CV to show tangible achievements.

“We tend to favour words like ‘generated,’ ‘delivered’ or ‘achieved,’ followed by a succinct description of what was accomplished by that individual,” de la Cruz said.

It cannot be stressed enough that job-seekers should always use active verbs – in fact, Cranston recommends starting every sentence or bulleted phrase with one. Her preference is for present-tense verbs.

“Some words that work well are ‘collaborate’ and ‘initiate,’ things that show that you are a thought-leader, but that you can work well with people,” Cranston said.

Finally, communicate your qualifications and past successes using numbers whenever possible. After all, financial services is a numbers-based industry. Be as specific as you possibly can to showcase your accomplishments.

“Everything that can be numerated or dollarized – that is, expressed in terms of numerals, percentages and dollars – should be,” Cranston said.

CV phrases to avoid 

Candidates should avoid superfluous descriptor words such as “savvy,” “dynamic” and “engaging,” as these are subjective and also clichés.

Other examples of overused or awkward phrasing include “passionate” and “seasoned” – they don’t differentiate candidates from the competition and might even carry unexpected negative connotations.

Stick to the facts and speak in achievement-driven language and results-focused stories, said Lisa Rangel, executive resume writer and managing director of Chameleon Resumes.

“These latter items will be great foundations for interview questions, allowing your interview to be more engaging,” she said. “Responsible for…” is another oft-used phrase that may send the wrong message. Nannies and dogwalkers are responsible for children and dogs, respectively, but the rest of us do something,” Cranston said.

As a general rule of thumb, candidates should avoid passive language whenever possible.

“We see plenty of bullet points that start with words like ‘worked’, ‘helped’ and ‘supported’ – phrases like these are lazy and really don’t add any value to a CV, especially when you compare a resume before and after it’s been properly thought out and proofed,” de la Cruz said.

Analytical skills

Whether you’ve been a banker or not before, you’ll want to show that you have analytical skills and are comfortable with numbers.

“Action verbs that suggest these skills include analyzed, assessed, synthesized, valued, quantified, calculated, audited, reconciled or priced,” said Janet Raiffa, https://www.resumemama.com/ a former recruiting manager at Goldman Sachs who currently works with MBA candidates at Wharton and Yale School of Management and as a resume reviewer for Columbia Business School alumni.

Job performance

If you’ve worked for a large bank, then the hiring manager or recruiter knows that you’ve been through a number of performance reviews. You can thus differentiate yourself positively by showing top-quartile rankings or inclusion in programs for high-performers.

Keywords included mentions of rankings, ratings or terms like ‘selected for’ or ‘tapped for’ when mentioning performance-based programs.

“If you’re a long-term banker sometimes just showing survival in down markets is impressive when others have lost jobs,” Raiffa said. “It thus makes sense to add words like ‘retained by’ and discuss the environment and the percentage retained if you know it.

“You’ll want to make sure to list all titles on your resume, not just your last title, and highlight if any promotion is fast or unusual,” she said.

Photo credit: Creatas via Thinkstock

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