GUEST COMMENT: What happens when your investment banking CV sends the wrong message

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Sarah Dudney

Mixed messages in CVs usually derive from the writer's own mind set and that rule applies to investment bankers, fund managers, private bankers, traders of any age or nationality.

From my City experience I find there are usually two mind sets which create mixed messages: Superhero and scarecrow.

What are these and how can they be resolved?

The superhero and his CV

His (the mindset transcends gender) CV overpromises and under-delivers. This applies in the interview and – if you have the misfortune to hire a superhero – it applies in the workplace.

You can spot a superhero and his CV by the copious references to me, myself and I. Every bullet point holds a superlative.  Superhero CV details enormous empires, impossibly lucrative deals and golden revenues being brought to the bank's coffers.

Hiring managers and HR directors frequently tell me that they want to, “explore the substance behind the CV's claims".  Superhero CV labours unhappily under the curse of expectation as the interviewer gets so excited by the CV that the disappointment on meeting the physical reality behind the CV is impossible to mask.

Superheroes emerge when they have been in job search for a prolonged period, or sometimes in the very immediate aftershock of redundancy. The superhero is a grandiose but ultimately defensive persona. The CV is the billowing cloak.

Superhero CV can be given a balanced reality check by reading through with a close friend or mentor.  How did the superhero collaborate with both senior and junior colleagues? What actual revenues did he produce for Mega Bank?  Superheroes need specifics and context.

The scarecrow and his CV

The second mindset is the scarecrow. Scarecrows have limited self-esteem. Scarecrows’ CVs transmit the notion, "I don't care so why should you?"

Scarecrow CVs contain many typographical errors and many grammatical mistakes. These could easily have been corrected by thorough proof reading. Often the actual CV content is valuable and relevant but the HR manager at Barclays, Goldman Sachs or indeed any other bank will not waste more than 2 minutes of their time reading it.

In the event that make it to interview, scarecrows can easily be spotted as they look unkempt. They benefit from advice with their physical presentation as well as their CV.

Scarecrows can be more easily redeemed than superheros. Once their external image has been transformed they often start to register positive feedback from interviews and networking attempts. This is their light bulb moment. They start to care about themselves and how they present.

Are you a scarecrow? Are you a superhero? Remember this: We all live and work in a rapid response world. We only get one shot to get it right first time.  No one can afford any mixed messages in today's job market.

Sarah Dudney is a City career coach at Ignite Career. You can get in touch with her at, or through

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