If you’re an ambitious student, you’re probably interested in a career in banking or consulting – or both. If it’s the latter, you need to be aware of the differences in the CVs that will get you a job.
You’ll need to emphasise your academic achievements
In both industries, you’re going to need academics. In consulting, you might also need an MBA. In finance, you might need a finance-related degree.
Make sure your qualifications are prominent. Be exact about the courses, grades and universities you have attended. Include any particularly high grades, prizes, scholarships, awards or relevant project commendations. Every applicant will have an excellent degree: look for other academic achievements to differentiate yourself.
Use your skills and experience to showcase traits that are specific to each industry
Internships are arguably more important in investment banking (as bankers recruit extensively from their summer internship schemes). But consulting recruiters will still be looking for industry knowledge, gained in work experience or intern roles.
Both sectors look for strong analytical, problem solving and communications skills. However, there is more emphasis on critical thinking and the ability to present, influence and persuade in consulting than in banking. This is because you are likely to be client-facing from an early stage in your consulting career. Banks, on the other hand, often need strong quant skills, a good knowledge of financial modelling, number crunching and advanced Excel skills.
Consultancy tends to have a less hierarchical and more informal atmosphere than banking. Even as a junior consultant you will be expected to socialise, network and build relationships with clients. You will often be dealing with companies in trouble or undergoing difficult transformations and you will need to demonstrate an ability to handle pressure and solve problems diplomatically.
You will also be required to travel extensively and collaborate with clients from different cultures and backgrounds. International experience, languages and interests that showcase your stamina will all be viewed favourably by recruiters.
Banking is competitive and the work delivered to clients needs to be of an exceptional standard. The long hours culture is still prominent. Attention to detail, diligence and stamina are important. However, as a junior banker you are likely to be office-based creating financial models in Excel and pitch books in PowerPoint. Client presentations and travel assignments tend to kick in at a more senior level.
With this in mind, refocus your achievements to emphasise the desired competencies of each industry.
Craft a personal statement
The personal statement at the start of the CV is your opportunity to highlight your suitability for either banking or consulting.
If you’re writing a banking CV, this is your chance to write about your experience as a trader – either virtual or real, your passion for financial blogging, or what you learned running the university’s investment club. If you’re applying for a consulting firm, this is where you can impress with your competitive debating skills or history organizing multifaceted projects such as an arts festival or fund-raising initiative.
Use bullet points throughout and be clear about what you achieved
For both industries, add bullet points to the body of your CV and use these to provide information of the tangible achievements you highlighted in your personal statement. Be succinct and specific. Talk about the value you added, the changes you overcame.
In both banking and consulting, all of this must occupy no more than one page. Avoid spelling mistakes and grammatical errors: these are elite industries. Make sure your italics and spacing are consistent.
Victoria McLean is the founder and CEO of City CV, a London-based CV writing service. She was previously a recruiter at Goldman Sachs and the equities division of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.