Five Ways To Make Your Resume Sink Faster Than The Titanic

183 Comments | Investment Banking - Resumes

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NOTE FOR RANDOM INTERNET VISITORS: If you just landed on this article and you are NOT interviewing for entry-level investment banking or private equity roles, PLEASE IGNORE THIS STUPID ARTICLE.

This entire site, and this article specifically, are dedicated to the finance industry.

Therefore, if you are applying for roles such as marketing, sales, technology, customer service, etc. and you are NOT in the finance industry, this article will NOT be relevant for you.

The standards below describe specifically what employers of entry-level professionals in investment banking, primarily, are looking for. So if that does NOT describe you, please navigate away from this article as it simply does not apply to you.

With recruiting season upon us, I’ve seen a huge increase in resume review volume and general questions on resumes lately. Despite my previous articles on investment banking resumes and private equity resumes, I still see many basic mistakes that can be corrected quite easily.

1) Got Pages?

If you’ve got multiple pages, I’ll tell you one thing you don’t got: an interview. Because if I see more than one page on your resume, it’s going straight to my “not” pile.

I don’t care if you have 10+ years of experience in consulting and finance and even started your own clock manufacturing company; if you’re applying to junior-level positions and your resume is over a page, it’s unacceptable.

I’ve reviewed hundreds (possibly thousands) of resumes over the years and have yet to see a single example of an Analyst or Associate applicant who truly needs more than a page.

In fact, I’ve even reviewed VP-level resumes and in most cases, multiple pages are still unacceptable.

Only if you’re a Managing Director or C-level executive would a multi-page resume be appropriate.

If you can’t reduce your resume to a single page, you need to cut out less relevant experience. If you’ve already worked at Blackstone, no one cares about your part-time job at the library… trust me.

2) Objective: Get Rejected

Whenever I see an Objective section on a resume, I mentally replace “Obtain an Investment Banking Analyst position” with “Reject me! I really don’t want this job!’

Objectives are redundant because everyone knows what your objective is: to get a job in finance.

If you’re from a non-traditional background – a Ph.D student who wants to move into M&A, for example – you might think an Objective is “necessary” to show recruiters what you’re doing.

If you’ve done your job correctly, though, you have already presented your story in-person to recruiters and to your contacts at banks, so there’s no need to reiterate it on your resume. And you should have already “bankified” your experience such that it’s clear you’re not looking for a post-doc research position.

Your experience and interactions with industry contacts should demonstrate what your objective is.

3) Fluent in English

I see this one mostly with international applicants. If your resume is in English, please don’t remind us again that you’re fluent in the language.

For most finance jobs you need to be native speaker-level in the language you’re working in; the precision required is simply too high for anything but absolute fluency to suffice.

If your resume is in English, I assume you are fluent in the language. By writing it on the resume, you raise questions over how good you are and whether or not you know enough to write 50+ page documents.

Of course, if your resume is in Chinese or Arabic or Spanish and you’re applying for a local office that uses a language other than English, feel free to write this.

4) High School Valedictorian

I don’t care whether you were Urkel or whether you were Fonzie in high school, and no one else does either.

Maybe if you’re still a freshman or sophomore and you’re applying to banks you can list high school information. But for anyone older, avoid listing high school information like the jocks avoided the nerds in high school.

It takes up valuable space and prevents you from writing about what really matters – work and leadership experience, and why you’re fit to be a financier.

If you went to a prestigious high school (Andover / Exeter) with many alumni in banking, you might want to list high school information for networking purposes, but in all other cases avoid it.

5) Proficient in Word, Excel and PowerPoint

This is another case where I do a mental replacement – I swap “Proficient in Word, Excel and PowerPoint” for “Proficient in Breathing Oxygen” and then wonder what the person was thinking.

Of all the gaffes listed here, this one might be the most common in resumes I’ve reviewed. This alone is not enough to “sink” your resume, but I do think you look silly listing programs that virtually everyone who has worked in an office before knows how to use.

If you know a programming language such as C++ or Java, go ahead and list those; advanced statistical and financial analysis programs are also fine to list.

Just as with “Fluency in English,” I assume you are “fluent” in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. So don’t re-assure me.

NOTE FOR RANDOM INTERNET VISITORS: If you just landed on this article and you are NOT interviewing for entry-level investment banking or private equity roles, PLEASE IGNORE THIS STUPID ARTICLE.

This entire site, and this article specifically, are dedicated to the finance industry.

Therefore, if you are applying for roles such as marketing, sales, technology, customer service, etc. and you are NOT in the finance industry, this article will NOT be relevant for you.

The standards above describe specifically what employers of entry-level professionals in investment banking, primarily, are looking for. So if that does NOT describe you, please navigate away from this article as it simply does not apply to you.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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183 Comments to “Five Ways To Make Your Resume Sink Faster Than The Titanic”

Comments

  1. Scott F says

    How many times should I put a resume out to a job site ?

    Like, once a week ?
    Or, once a month ?

    Thanks, Scott .

  2. Elizabeth says

    Hi, I’m a college freshman who is applying to a finance summer internship. Is it alright if I list a few significant accomplishments from high school? Like valedictorian, National Merit, NASA internship, etc. I’ve only been at college for a semester.

  3. says

    The last job I applied for emphasized proficiency in Microsoft Office–Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I don’t generally say that I’m proficient in them, but I did list those along with at least one accounting program at the bottom of my resume. But this is only since the job description made it seem important. Do you think if the company emphasizes it that they want to see it on your resume?

  4. John says

    I’m a PhD/nonfinance. What if your work experience takes you to 2 pages? Is it still inappropriate? If I eliminate some nonrelevant descriptions, there will be gaps in my resume and isn’t that worse?

  5. adeline says

    I found your article very interesting and straight to the point. However, if we send our resume through internet, it’ll be screened and we need to put “key word” in it such like fluency in english or proficiency in ms office, needn’t we?

    thanks for the answer

    adeline

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No, I don’t think they would screen resume based on those key words. However, I believe they’d screen resumes based on your GPA

      • adeline says

        ah ok thanks! well that’s another problem. I’m not following an english type of studies: understand I’m doing a master in a french Business school (we call it Programme grande ecole). Therefore, my marks are on 0-20 points range. Do you know a method to transform them in a GPA ? I tried to find a sort of table but didn’t find it. Thanks a lot

          • Tim says

            Try this (from wikipedia):
            U.S. Grading Scale Scale U.S. Grade Equiv. 14-20 = A ; 12-13.9 = B+; 11-11.9 = B; 10.5-10.9 = B-; 10.1-10.4 = C+; 10 = C; 9-9.9 = C-; 8-8.9 = D; 0-7.9 = F;

            I took courses in France and my school converted 16-20 as A, etc so the scale was bumped up a bit. It is far from an exact science.

  6. DB says

    Thanks for developing such a great website. Can you provide a equity research university student template (I have 1 year eq reseacrh exp from India)

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes, but highlight your experience selling to institutional investors if you want to do sales, and experience trading/investing if you want to do trading

  7. John says

    Hi, thanks for all the tips! I wanted to know if I can use some of the same sentences and words used in a sample resume I found online (because most of it actually applies to what I’ve done in the past and doing right now). Please let me know. Greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d suggest you to reword it based on your experience/your “wordings” because I believe quite a few readers will be using a similar template/language structure and there’s a risk that interviewers might be able to tell

  8. Marie says

    If I am taking a break from school, should I still put my school on my resume? (I have attended two Universities but am taking a break. I am a sophomore.)

  9. Nadine says

    I agree with the whole limiting your resume to one page. However, I always hear that employers want you to explain gaps in your resume. Or when filling out the application and it asks for the most current employment that may include three crappy short lived restaurant jobs just to get by and hardly any of actual resume experience and references are listed. Advice?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes, employers want you to explain gaps on your resume, and you usually do so on interviews. You might want to include brief explanations for the gaps on your resume too.

  10. Tom says

    It’s interesting how every other site posts something contrary or somewhat similar to other sites like this on the subject of what to do and not to do on a resume.
    I guess it’s one of those things where you try it and see if it works for that particular employer or not. I say that because I’ve attended resume workshops where they tell you to do some of the things some sites say would not do you well and vice versa and yet I’ve landed jobs nonetheless based solely on my experience not how well I wrote my resume.
    It would appear that since you don’t know how the employer might react to any certain method that it’s safe to say the whole ordeal would be a gamble of chance.
    The unfortunate side of this would be that if you use whatever suggested advice in constructing that would be wining resume is that it might not really do the trick and you are out of a good chance for a great job.

    Hey you win some and you… yip you got it.

  11. benben says

    You mention at the end of the article that if we know C++ or another programming language, we should include it. I believe I am at a basic level of C++, but am reluctant to put it on my CV because i am not advanced. How advanced must i be for it to be appropriate to put ‘Basic C++’ on my CV?

  12. Ludovic says

    Hello,
    I love your website and your articles. They are really true guidelines for me !

    Just a question: I am relocating from France to Singapore and I am looking for a job there. I asked to Alumni of my schools, headhunters and friends there and the resume in Singapore seems to be (almost always) more than 1 page (I know it is shocking for me to). Do you heard about that to ?
    What do you think about that ?

    Many thanks for your advices!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Haven’t heard about that. We recommend candidates to keep their resumes to a page as discussed on this article.

  13. Rose says

    I liked your article! 100% agree with what you wrote. I am a VP with 15 years of experience and my resume is one page.

  14. Frank says

    “If you went to a prestigious high school (Andover / Exeter) with many alumni in banking, you might want to list high school information for networking purposes, but in all other cases avoid it.” I just graduated from Belmont High, a public high school that got #111 in US and World Report’s ranking of public high schools. It also got 4th in their ranking of Massachusetts public high schools. I am going to attend an Ivy league college; when I apply for my job after graduation, should I state I graduated from Belmont on my resume? If so, what information should I say about it?

  15. Peter says

    I understand that putting “proficient in MS Office” can look stupid. Does this advise apply to UK too?

    Also, is it worth putting MS Access on the resume? Or is that pointless too?

    Thanks!

  16. Ally says

    Well now I understand why so many great candidates don’t get the jobs.
    They have people like you rejecting resumes based on silly criteria.
    No one is trying to get a job as a resume writer, they are simply trying to tell potential employers why they would be eligible for the job.
    The fact that someone is not proficient in coining a ‘great’ resume, doesn’t mean as much as you think.
    It’s really a very narrow-minded approach to finding great employees.

    I don’t think that your pointers reflect the vast majority of employers out there — there many employers who are more intuitive than you think.
    I can tell you that the only turn off I have had is bad grammar.
    I want to know if you have been valedictorian. It’s all very important to me, everything you have done gives me insight into who you are and your potential. How else can I know if I want to meet someone in person if all they have are just a few sanitized words on a piece of paper.

    Tell me who you are — there are no rules. I wish more people would think like me — sure would make it easier on everybody!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Thanks for your input. Everyone has their own views & criteria. A resume isn’t the be all and end all but it certainly gets one’s foot in the door when chances of breaking into banking are slim (thousands of candidates applying for handful roles). The purpose of this post is to provide tips for people so they have solid resumes to break into banking. Having a solid resume will increase one’s chances of landing interviews at ibanks significantly. After all, interviewers won’t have the time to get to know all candidates and the most-common & time-effective way they can filter through candidates is via a resume or referral. Until someone gets an interview, that person won’t even have a chance to show that he/she is a “valedictorian” etc etc. Anyway, we have to agree to disagree on this one.

  17. Dillon Lounsbury says

    Hello Brian,

    Just one comment for you. Many people list Excel, Word, and PowerPoint on their resume because these are keywords that recruiters are looking for. Especially when the resume is being submitted online with many others as the recruiters sort resumes using keywords such as Excel.

    -Dillon

  18. Shashank says

    Some Good Info. And your article is really funny! I have a view on the keyword part: (Lazy) Recruiters are increasingly putting in keywords to retrieve matching resumes. Maybe not “Word”, “Powerpoint” or “Excel”, but it is a good idea to put the skills you know (and you think are really relevant for your next job) on your resume..

  19. Christine says

    I have to disagree with you on two accounts.

    First off, I ran into a an acquaintance from high school and we discussed graduate school applications. She e-mailed me hers, and I was shocked. She only has about two years solid experience in her intended field, took her eight years to finish college with a BGS, and random other jobs, all short-term. And her CV was 11 pages, including her high school accomplishments. I was shocked! I disagree with her that high school demonstrates any relevance to her CV due to her having at least a college degree now. Plus, it ages her. So after doing some research on CVs, this is how I came to your site.

    I have about five years work experience at different places as I do defense research for think tanks. My native language is English, but I am also dual citizen. I also speak four languages. Half of my studies have been overseas, and I have three college degrees, one BA, two MA. I will soon be applying for a doctorate. The last consulting project I did, I tried the whole one-page résumé and had a recruiter told me in my field and with my experience and education, two pages is acceptable. She also works with C-Level Management in Washington DC.

    I think you have a valid point in objectives. They are completely outdated. It’s like trying to get a date at a pub dressed, well, not dressed at all. The intent is obvious, and it’s casting a line without specifying which sort of fish you’re after.

    In regards to being proficient in MS Office, I think for Americans they will slowly catch up, but certifications in things like Apple or ECDL is on the rise and hopefully will replace the desired need to state your estimated ability.

  20. Tanh Tran says

    Hello,

    In terms of certificate and training, should I include stock trading course “technical analysis” when I applying for investment banking?

    Thanks
    Tanh

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Sure, not sure if it is too relevant/helpful but you can include it if you want. I have not seen your resume before so not quite sure how big of an impact that will be on your cert/training

  21. smoothopia says

    About the ms office thing:

    I took the official courses on word, excel, acess and power point and have the official certificates. Shouldn’t I include them?

    • says

      You can if you want but it makes 0 difference in competitive fields like investment banking. Most people assume that if you can breathe oxygen, you know how to use those programs these days…

  22. Bob says

    Regarding listing proficiency in Excel, Word and PP, if they are taken for granted, why do banks ask for proficiency in these programs when submitting an application online? Same applies for language skills in fact – if it is taken for granted that you speak English fluently why ask for your fluency on their application page?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Because this is standard application procedure. Once you list them on the application form, we think it is redundant to list them on your resume again.

  23. karen says

    THANK YOU FOR MENTIONING THE OFFICE/EXCEL/PP PART!!! omfg if one more job listing asks to tell them my level of experience in each of those I’m gonna shoot myself. I’m like…….. I just graduated college… what do you THINK I used those 4+ fucking years! It’s such a joke. and even during interviews they’re like are you comfortable using these programs? I want so ask them if they’re comfortable breathing. UGH! /rant

  24. Maria says

    This article gave me brain ache. I am working on my resume right now and according to your article I should print it and throw it in the bin. Maybe jump in there myself..

  25. Anis says

    Hi,

    Once again a great read as always.

    Im starting University this coming September and have already had one insight program and two summer internships. During Uni I expect to continue that…would I only put in the most recent internships on my resume just to keep it 1 page?

    Thanks,
    Anis

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes focus on your summer internships though you can still list your insight program briefly. And make sure your resume fits one-page.

  26. Andrea says

    Hi,

    I’m currently a sophomore at a un known state school. My college is located in a small town, but I live in the city. I’m a double major in finance and international business. I will travel abroad my senior year in Spain for a internship or to take classes. Im in my school’s international business, finance, marketing and global ambassador organization. My current gpa is a 3.1. I only taken one class for my major and liberal classes thus far. Im a semester behind due to my late choice in declaring a major. I want to break into IB, but I have no experience in financing! Currently, I am searching for finance and accounting summer internships in my city. My goal is to graduate with atleast a 3.7 and attend Univeristy of Penn, Rutgers or Carneige Mellon for graduate school. Do you have any suggestions on how I can break into IB? Do you think I have shot if I complete a summer internship in my city?

  27. Jay says

    Hello,

    I was recently laid off from my Equity Analyst position at a small PE fund. The Fund Manager is currently being investigated for alleged fraudulent activity by the SEC, and the fund itself has been “suspended”, with all of its employees being “released”. I was at the fund for about eight months, and it was my second job after my undergrad. I know most people in the industry generally go from IB to PE, but I’m trying the opposite. My question is, should I omit the time spent at this fund, while revamping my resume for IB positions. Obviously, when it comes time to interview, the interviewers will do some background research of their own on me. Will my association with the fund during this investigation, overshadow the very useful valuation and modeling techniques learned during my tenure there. Thank you for any advice you can provide.

    Side-note,
    I, myself had no involvement with any of the alleged fraudulent activity, and I am not included within the case.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I would not omit your time spent there because of the valuation work you’ve done. I’m sure that people are aware that you weren’t involved since you weren’t at a senior level.

  28. Nath says

    Hi Brian

    I received the ASEAN Scholarship by the Ministry of Education in Singapore to pursue my pre-university studies there. Is this information still worth including in my resume?

    Context: I am entering my final year of a 3-year-bachelor’s program. In addition, I am currently doing an Investment Banking internship in a boutique advisory firm.

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