How Investment Bankers Read Your Resume

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Investment Banker Reading a ResumeThere are plenty of resume tips out there – and even investment banking resume templates and tutorials for all levels, whether you’re an undergraduate, a current banker, or you’re at the MBA-level.

But one question that rarely gets addressed is who reads investment banking resumes in the first place.

Who actually takes time out of their day to read what you scribbled down? How much time do they spend on it?

And how can you get selected for an interview?

Who Reads Your Resume

If you’re applying for analyst-level positions, other investment banking analysts will review your resume.

If you’re from a “target school” that many banks recruit at – such as the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, Duke, and so on – then analyst alumni from your school will review your resume.

Otherwise it’s more random and HR might just hand it off to whoever “has bandwidth” at the moment.

For associate-level positions – at the MBA-level and beyond – Associates will review your resume and decide who gets an interview. Once again, alumni from your school will do it if they’re available.

Who Does NOT Read Your Resume

HR is rarely involved – they just hand off resumes to bankers. So when you’re networking into investment banking, go for the bankers rather than HR.

Senior bankers such as Managing Directors, Vice Presidents, and Directors are also not involved – their time is too valuable to waste pouring over 500 resumes each week.

The Cold, Hard Numbers

How many resumes a bank receives and how many interviews they conduct are highly dependent on the bank, the region, and the specific group.

Financial centers like New York, Hong Kong, and London tend to receive more resumes than regional offices, and bulge bracket banks tend to receive more resumes than boutiques.

As a rough estimate, banks might grant 20 interviews for every 100 resumes they receive. The odds may decrease at larger banks and may increase at smaller firms.

Large banks might hire anywhere from 100 new analysts per year on up.

If you assume that only a few of those 20 interviewees actually land offers, you can get a sense of the rough numbers: large banks receive thousands of resumes each year, conduct hundreds of interviews, and then give offers to a small percentage of those interviewees.

Timing, Timing, Timing

There are 2 questions here:

  1. When do bankers read your resume relative to when they receive it?
  2. How long do they spend reading it?

#1 is easy: at the last-minute.

In investment banking, everything is done at the last-minute and bankers rush around hours before the deadline to select interviewees.

#2 is also easy: 30 seconds.

As Anna writes on her Investment Banking Resumes blog, you have a golden 30 seconds to impress the analysts reviewing your resume.

With thousands of resumes received each year, no one has time to spend scrutinizing every last detail.

The analysts and associates who read your resume do so in sleep-deprived states when they’re behind on other work – so they focus on the main 2 or 3 points that you convey.

What Bankers Look For In Resumes

There are numerous resume templates and tutorials on this site already, so I’m not going to repeat everything here – take a look at the links below for some inspiration:

Those links should answer 99% of your questions. But since we’re talking about how bankers actually read your resume, I’ll add the following points:

They Scan For Names, GPAs, and Interests

When a sleep-deprived banker is looking at your resume, he wants to make things as easy as possible.

If you’re an undergraduate, your university name, employer names, and GPA all stand out because you usually make them bold or use larger-sized text.

So having a brand-name university and brand-name internships helps a lot – as does a good GPA.

Bankers also pay attention to your Interests because it’s at the end and therefore easy to skip to – and because they’re often bored themselves and want to interview “interesting” people.

Don’t Revise Your Resume 537 Times

Resist the temptation to edit your resume hundreds of times – it’s just not worth it because bankers spend so little time reading it.

Use one of the templates I linked to above, then make 2 or 3 rounds of edits to create a finished draft.

Your time is much better spent networking.

…But a Second Pair of Eyes Is Always Good

On the other hand, you do not want typos or other mistakes because those stick out like a sore thumb.

Bankers are trained to “catch” tiny mistakes – it’s what they do all day.

So before submitting your final version, print it out, let it sit, and have a friend look it over.

Closing Thoughts

Bankers spend barely any time reviewing your resume, but you need to have a good one to get interviews.

So use one of the templates offered on this site, focus on the 2 or 3 key experiences you want to highlight, and get another pair of eyes on it before you submit anything.

After all, you only have 30 seconds to impress.

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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149 Comments to “How Investment Bankers Read Your Resume”

Comments

  1. Friedrich says

    Hello. I´m a german student, currently enrolled as undergraduate at a new japanese university, called ritsumeikan asia pacific university. The university is roughly 10 years old, thus in no rankings. I went there because i wanted to learn fluent japanese and mandarin, not only because i want to break into IB, but also because i love both languages. In school i was lazy and it was during my last year that i realized that i want to get into IB. Currently my GPA is around 3,7. I had 1 exchange year at a chinese university and consider doing a internship at nomura holdings.
    Im also in the universitys investment club.
    Do i have any chance to get into an IB like Goldman or JP? (i´m studying business administration with accounting and finance as major).

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d say your chances are less than 50/50 so I’d really focus on networking and yes, if you can get an internship at Nomura that will most definitely increase your chances.

  2. Maggy says

    Hi, I am about to graduate with an Msc. in Finance from a non target French school (equivalent to GPA of 3). I have accumulated two years of internships (4x 6 months) in Equity Research (notably at a large French investment bank) and in PE (largest fund in France). My long-term objective is to work in PE and I don’t know the better way to get there between M&A, leveraged finance or TS at a Big4.
    What would you recommend?

    With my background do you think I have a shot at landing an M&A or leveraged finance position in the City or NY despite the fact nobody there has head of my school and my GPA is low compared to what they expect (eventhough french grading system is harsh and the french equivalent to a GPA of 3 is pretty good)? Will my experience be an advantage?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d say leverage financed and M&A are the best bets.

      Are you based in France or NY? I think you’d stand a decent chance at French banks given your experience so I’d focus on those. If you need a visa to stay in NY, that maybe an issue.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes it can help, but you’ll still be competing against people from target schools with high GPA and solid internships. If you get an internship from a BB then I don’t think the school matters as much. Otherwise, I think it does matter to a certain degree.

      • J Hall says

        From your experience, do I have a fighting chance of getting an internship from a BB with the aforementioned credentials and some early on experience at a middle market IB firm? Thank you for the quick reply btw. I just stumbled upon this website and am really enjoying it.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          It is hard to say because I’ve not met you before but based on what you said you should have a chance. It really depends on how you interview etc etc.

  3. Derek says

    If I transferred from UW-Milwaukee to UW-Madison, should I include by UW-Milwaukee GPA on my resume.? UW-Milwaukee GPA is a 3.8 and UW-Madison is a 3.0.

      • Derek says

        Wouldn’t banks look down upon that because it is a lesser school?
        Also, If I am an Econ major and my goal is to break into investment banking, am I better off to taking accounting and finance courses that could hurt my GPA, or should I focus on easier Econ/liberal arts classes that could potential increase my current GPA.

        Thank You!

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Perhaps. As long as you can get your GPA above 3.7 it doesn’t matter. If you can’t, I’d choose Econ/liberal arts

  4. Sarah says

    I have an investment banking internship offer for this summer at a regional boutique. I currently don’t have any brand names on my resume (did a marketing internship last summer at a well-known cell phone company, also did an asset management internship at a small firm on Sand Hill Road).

    In order to prepare for next year’s internship recruiting for Bulge Brackets and passing the resume screen, is it a good idea to cold call and try to get a PWM internship at Morgan Stanley? Or is that not necessary?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes you can try connecting with people on LinkedIn and email first. I’m not sure if cold calling is necessary assuming you have a decent response reaching out to people online.

      • Sarah says

        Thanks, Nicole! What I meant to ask is, is it necessary to have the Morgan Stanley PWM internship during the school year if I’m going to do IBD at a regional boutique this summer? How helpful will the Morgan Stanley PWM be to my resume, if I want to pass the resume screen for Bulge Bracket IBDs next year?

        Also, if I to best set myself up for getting IBD offers at Bulge Brackets next year, what’s a better internship after sophomore summer: IBD at a regional boutique, or PE?

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Yes it will be very helpful given MS’ name, especially if you don’t have other experience on hand. Unless it’s PE at say Blackstone, Carlyle or KKR, I’d say IBD at a regional boutique.

          • Sarah says

            Hi Nicole,

            Thank you very much! By next year, I will already have had an asset management internship and regional IBD boutique internship. For right now, should I still invest the time to try to get the MS PWM name? Or is my IBD boutique experience already so much better than MS PWM that MS PWM would only add marginal benefit to my resume?

            Thank you!!

          • M&I - Nicole says

            Yes the MS PWM name would be useful, especially if you want to branch out into PWM, AM down the line. I think having both would be useful because you’ll then have IB as well as PWM experience (at a BB). But if you just want to do IB, perhaps the boutique experience is sufficient, though the MS name can potentially help you open quite a lot of doors.

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