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The Unapologetic Financial Services Resume

Resumes that achieve results don’t simply set out a candidate’s experience and skills, but hone in on an employer’s unique challenges, says recruiter Alan Geller.

A common occurrence at our firm is that someone will e-mail their resume along with a note of apology which goes something like this: “Attached please find my first attempt at an updated resume. As it’s been awhile since my last career move and I’m not a professional resume writer your input would be greatly appreciated.”

A well-known author of self-help investment books was once asked what advice he had for the average investor. His response was, “Don’t be an average investor.” This mirrors our view on financial services resumes. Don’t market your professional capabilities with a general resume that contains a “Here’s what I’ve done, now you figure out what to do with me” value proposition. C’mon, jazz it up! Play to win! Put some skin in the game! Over the years we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to resumes. If you want to stand out from the pack read on.

1. Does the resume include a Professional Summary? – It should.

2. Where in the Professional Summary have you defined with exact precision the competitive market landscape you intend to engineer solutions for? If you can’t define what the competitive market landscape is, how can you position yourself as a candidate who will satisfy its needs?

The most serious mistakes candidates make are usually the result of poor planning. Going after the wrong market, with the wrong value proposition at the wrong time, is a classic recipe for failure.

3. Where on page one of your resume have you made mention of the simple proposition to a known competitive market landscape pain that you’re uniquely positioned to tackle the real-world -issues inherent within that pain?

Historically many of our ball-park qualified candidates with likeable personalities have, after multi-week interview cycles, lost out on receiving formal offers due to too much perceived ramp-up from the client’s perspective. Consider this: If you needed a heart surgeon and were referred to a brain surgeon, would you be comfortable having that individual perform surgery on you? Our clients wouldn’t be either, and we’ve seen this type of thinking time and time again applied to their hiring decisions.

Load your resume for bear. Don’t leave it to the other guy to figure out how you’re going to fit into his or her environment.

4. Are your accomplishments presented in a way that will satisfy the demands of a reader looking at tangible decision criteria within their domain? Hard decision criteria can include domain expertise in credit derivatives, proven implementation experience in distributed C++ and java architecture/development environments; attainment of $3 million in annual sales revenues, proven experience in increasing account revenues from $10 million to $20 million in one year; P&L responsibility for a $30 million, 400-person division; an actual 360 degree case study documented in a paragraph on the resume that would constitute a strategic win in the eyes of the reader; or contacts and relationships you’re bringing to the table (heads of buy-side trading desks, evaluators of infrastructure technology, chief compliance officers, etc. that the reader should be concerned about, etc.

5. Have you honed in on the heart of ROI concerning your particular candidacy? For every position that you’ve being considered for, the big question in the minds of the hiring managers is “Will this individual pay off for us?” Have you included your past accomplishments’ ROI on the resume in terms of hard numbers?

6. If not, could someone reading your resume say , “I see the high salary requirements/cost associated with bringing someone like this on board, but I don’t clearly see the benefit of this individual as it relates to our needs.”

7. Does the resume reflect someone with a stake in the forward progress, innovation and top-line growth of a specific business category/market segment? Where have you detailed a unique approach that you took to solve a business problem which should interest the hiring managers?

8. Have you laid out your case in such a way that the people reading the resume will feel the pain you can heal, or get excited about going after missed opportunities you’re capable of bringing to fruition? If not, what’s the readers’ compelling reason to fast track you to a hiring decision?

9. Does the resume highlight you to be an individual transacting profitable business in the reader’s specific world?

10. Is the resume helpful in clearly and simply facilitating a positive reception from the reader, or will it be perceived as a hindrance as it’s too general and not granular enough to pique his or her interest?

11. Does the resume use the words managed, maintained, business development, liaison and relationship often and as central themes to your candidacy? While individuals who execute on what those words mean are employed by every company, they are not words that fit into the particular area of the value chain that we or our clients are focused on – namely building viable solutions and driving profitable results. Replace them with built, led, sold, drove, lead, executed, spearheaded, catalyzed, architected, developed, negotiated, innovated, accelerated, etc.

Alan Geller is Managing Director of AG Barrington, a financial services technology sector search firm representing global market impact players at the forefront of the industry’s global strategic build and drive priorities.

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