You work in risk management and you have solid experience and a well-crafted CV. In theory, you should be a shoo-in for getting a job interview.
However, one thing still stands in your way – your cover letter. Recruiters and hiring managers will often read this before they even bother to open your resume, so it’s vital that you get it right.
Here are some expert tips to help you perfect your risk management cover letter.
Make it easy for hiring managers and recruiters to see your level of experience by stating the number of years you’ve worked in your field of risk towards the top of the cover letter, says Yimin Lam, a manager of financial services risk at recruiters Robert Walters. “Hiring managers may not pay much attention if you write ‘worked as a credit analyst in three global banks’ – so instead write that you have ‘eight years of experience’.”
Once you’ve stated the length of your risk career, you then only need to provide details of the past four or five years, says Andrea Mak, a manager of banking and financial services at recruitment agency Randstad. “Any experience or knowledge that spans longer than that may be outdated given tighter risk control and changing guidelines.”
Your risk resume should already be full of achievements, but you’ll also want to more briefly mention the top two or three most significant ones in your cover letter, says Mak. “This is especially important if you’ve accomplished something outstanding in preparing risk frameworks or risk controls. Highlighting these will help your potential employer identify your strengths and differentiate you from other candidates.”
“Careers in risk are increasingly dictated by current and upcoming financial regulations, so articulating your in-depth understanding of regulations and your direct experience in dealing with them goes a long way,” says James Findlay, head of risk and compliance at recruitment firm Selby Jennings.
“Make sure you inform the reader of your risk management cover letter about all the areas of the bank you have dealt with,” advises Findlay. “Risk is now instrumental to the whole bank, so an ability to face off and communicate effectively to all functions is crucial, as is an understanding of how different departments operate.”
“List the level of senior management interaction you’ve had – this is particularly important if the new risk job requires working with anyone close to or in the front office,” says Findlay. “Your ability to confidently report and regulate front-office traders is something a potential employer will want to see in a cover letter.” Lam from Robert Walters adds: “Be specific here – instead of saying ‘I have interacted with senior stakeholders’, say ‘stakeholders at director, MD and head-of-department levels'. And state your actual involvement in any risk committee – participating and presenting is very different from just preparing the decks.”
“In credit risk be sure to highlight your client and sector coverage – for example ‘TMT and commodities companies in Southeast Asia’ – and documentation experience. Use numbers and state your approval authority if any,” says Lam.
“Recent changes in financial regulations demand that operational risk professionals move from a reactive to a more proactive approach,” says Claudia Dumitru, a risk and compliance consultant at recruiters Astbury Marsden. “So on your cover letter demonstrate not only in-depth knowledge of ORM, but also broader exposure to different facets of risk management and related functions in the bank that are relevant in this new ORM era.”
“The cover letter is a great tool to highlight your technical skill-sets in market risk, so incorporating product knowledge is essential,” says Dumitru. Lam adds: “Market risk managers should share a full view of their asset class coverage. And also, as regulatory demands increase, highlighting project work can add more substance to a market risk CV, especially in areas like stress testing.”
As banks expand their risk departments, it’s becoming more common for candidates to move between different risk function, says Mak from Randstad. “If you’re changing roles, you should indicate why you’re interested in moving, highlighting that you want to learn new skills and that you also possess some transferable skills.”
Recent regulatory upheavals mean risk management now offers broader and more dynamic careers than it did in the past – and employers want to hire candidates who show long-term commitment to the sector. Mak recommends including a forward-looking statement in your cover letter outlining what you aim to achieve in the role over the longer term.
A sentence (or two at the most) is enough for each of the above recommendations – you only need to summarise your skills and achievements. “Make sure your letter is succinct,” says Chris Haynes, associate director, risk and compliance, at recruiters Taylor Root. “An alarmingly high percentage of risk cover letters read essentially like a version of the candidate’s CV – rambling on and repeating the obvious.”