If you're going to get a job in banking, then you're going to need a brilliant resume. You're also going to need to make it past banks' applicant tracking systems (ATS), which check to see whether you have the skills necessary for a role, and this is an art in itself. If you're going to get past them, then you'll need these words on your CV.
“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 who has worked at UBS, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and BlackRock.
Candidates should search for job postings of similar roles across the industry and make notes of what keywords other similar roles are using.
"If everyone says 'analytics,' then don’t say 'analysis,'" says 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.'"
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 and priced,” says Janet Raiffa, a former recruiting manager at Goldman Sachs who currently works as a career coach and resume reviewer.
You should also strive to include clear, active and descriptive phrases in your CV to show tangible achievements.
“We tend to favor words like ‘generated,’ ‘delivered’ or ‘achieved,’ followed by a succinct description of what was accomplished by that individual,” de la Cruz says.
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 says. She advises communicating your qualifications and past successes using numbers whenever possible. "Everything that can be enumerated or dollarized – that is, expressed in terms of numerals, percentages and dollars – should be," Cranston says.
Stick to the facts and speak in achievement-driven language and results-focused stories, says 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 says.
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 says. “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 was fast or unusual,” she says.
If these are the words to include, what should you avoid?
"'Responsible for...' is another oft-used phrase that may send the wrong message," Cranston says. "Nannies and dog-walkers are responsible for children and dogs, respectively, but the rest of us do something."
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.
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 says.
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