Unless you’re a seismologist with a PhD or an equity derivatives professional with Iberian contacts, getting your CV past the recruitment gamekeepers may not be easy. If they’re any good, they’ll receive hundreds of résumés from hopeful candidates every week. And if they’re anything like the recruiters we speak to, they will reject many of them.
If you don’t want to give a recruiter a pretext to disregard your application, you need to avoid the most pernicious résumé crimes. We spoke to a selection of banking recruiters in London. This is what they say they hate.
1. A long description of your character followed by short descriptions of what you’ve actually done
“Recruiters are not interested in whether you are dynamic and ambitious – everyone is to some extent,” says Kathryn Pride, a director with recruitment firm Dartmouth Partners. “They are interested in your current job and what you actually do on a daily basis.”
2. A list of roles without any explanation of your tangible achievements
“It’s like getting blood out of a stone,” says one recruiter in reference to candidates’ brevity when it comes to describing what they’ve actually done at work.
“We are interested in what the application system or library does and how it has affect on the organisation whether it saves money or time or helps increase P&L,” says Dean Looney, head of technology and quant development at NJF Search. “If a candidate has used C++, Java or Python, we want to know have they used it and what have they done that makes them stand out. Having written a real time pricing engine is great but these days it’s not enough just to say that.”
3. Boxes. Boxes. Boxes
Recruiters hate boxes. Don’t use them: there’s no need to give your academic record a nice grey surround. Where you see a pleasant layout, recruiters see more work. Most recruiters will reformat your CV according to their template; boxes are an “annoyance best avoided,” says Looney.
As for boxes, so for logos. “People like to put logos on their CVs,” says Mani Kular at recruitment firm Hudson. “They copy and paste these logos from the internet and list them alongside their qualifications and places of employment. It looks messy and tacky.”
5. Stars. Clip art
As for boxes, as for logos, so for stars and clip art. Anything that’s not text looks bad on a banking CV. “Any kind of over-formatting is best avoided,” says James Findlay, head of risk and compliance at recruitment firm Selby Jennings. “I had a CV the other day which had a red star at the top saying they were available from May 2015,” he adds.
6. Your erratic employment record
There’s not much to be done about it, but an erratic employment record will lead to your CV being disregarded more surely than any number of boxes or summary descriptions of your past.
“When I get a CV, the first thing I look at are the institutions a person has worked for,” says one headhunter in Europe. “They next thing I look at is how long their employment history is with each institution. A CV may list great employers like Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank, but if that person has only spent a year and a half with each of them that’s a massive turnoff both for me and for the banks that might hire them.”
7. Chronological confusion
Don’t put your first job first. Don’t put your qualifications ahead of your work history. Most of all, recruiters want to see what you’re doing now. “Always put your latest job at the top. Always put your qualifications after your work experience,” says Findlay. “Unless you’re just finishing something impressive like a PhD.”
8. Duplicitous job titles
Yes, you’re an analyst, but what kind of analyst are you? If you’re an analyst in IT, don’t give the impression that you’re an analyst in IBD. This happens, says Andy Pringle at recruitment firm Circle Square. “You get people who work in risk who call themselves an analyst and apply for IBD jobs,” Pringle says. “You get people who work in tech who do the same. It’s basically misleading information.”
9. Tangential non-achievements
So a team near you worked on the Time Warner Cable Deal? So you made a suggestion for a pitch book that won a healthcare mandate? This doesn’t mean you can list these things among your accolades. Don’t present things you were only involved with tangentially as your own achievements.
“We joke about Songbird,” says Pringle. “It’s been refinanced three times and I’ve seen it mentioned on 200 CVs. People will say they were involved in the deal even if they just walked past a spreadsheet with the Songbird name on it.”