How to Write an Investment Banking Resume When You Have No Real Work Experience

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“Ok, I’ve followed your resume templates, but I don’t have any real work experience and I’m applying to internships… what do I do?

How do I compete with the guy who already has finance internships on his resume?

This one is very common if you’re still in school and you’re going for internships or even full-time offers.

And it applies even if you’re more experienced – but you don’t have much in the way of finance experience.

So here’s how you spin your resume to win investment banking interviews – even if you don’t have much “real” work experience.

Get the Templates Right Here

How to Spin Non-Finance Experience: “Before” [Download]

How to Spin Non-Finance Experience: “After” [Download]

Wait, Resumes Still Matter?

You might be wondering why this matters at all: doesn’t networking trump polishing your resume?

Yes, any day of the week. And spending dozens of hours “perfecting” your resume is still a waste of time.

But you still need a solid – if not perfect – resume. That’s especially true if you’re not coming from a well-known school and you don’t have brand-name internships.

And if you use cold-calling or cold-emailing to contact banks, they will judge you heavily based on your resume – so it needs to be good.

The Tutorial

To make all of this more concrete, we’re going to do a “resume makeover” and show you exactly how to change this university student’s resume to make it far more effective.

You can watch the video tutorial below:

And here’s the text version:

Key Mistakes

This resume is certainly not “terrible” – but there is one big problem:

Nothing on here indicates any interest in finance or desire to do a finance internship.

What’s wrong specifically?

  • He lists too much experience, and most of it isn’t relevant. 2-3 solid entries is far better than 6 thin experiences.
  • He does not highlight what’s most relevant to finance here, and instead treats everything as equal.
  • He fails to list a highly relevant entry that should be counted as “work experience” rather than an “activity” at the bottom.
  • He’s not specific enough with the finance-related experience.

So how do we fix all that?

Magnify Tiny But Relevant Experiences

Repeat after me: relevance trumps time when it comes to work experience.

This student should focus on just 2 experiences:

  • JP Morgan Investment Banking Case Competition
  • Investment Fund

And then he can briefly write about his retail job over the summer and the student newspaper.

Unlike the others, the retail job is “real” work experience, in an actual workplace – which shows banks that you’re capable of functioning in the real world.

Right now this student barely mentions #1 and #2 above, but he should expand on both and pretend they’re work experience.

Even if the case competition only lasted a week, you need to draw attention to it because of the brand-name and because it’s more relevant than anything else on there.

Turn Your Hobbies and Clubs Into “Work Experience”

Examples of hobbies, clubs, and activities you could turn into “work experience”:

  • Day Trading / Your Personal Portfolio (works better for Sales & Trading)
  • Professional Organizations (e.g. Society of Securities Analysts)
  • Finance Website You Started
  • Case or Investment Competitions
  • Student-Run Investment Funds or Finance / Consulting Clubs

What if you’ve racked your brain and you really can’t think of anything that seems remotely related to finance?

Your best bet is to re-position some of your experience as “consulting,” emphasizing the recommendations you made and the results rather than the technical details.

Remember, anything could be called “consulting” – and if you never had a formal title, all the better. More on that one here.

Cut Out “Work Experience” If It Won’t Impress

Forget about telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: there’s no “law” that you have to list every last detail on your resume, and most of the time you shouldn’t.

What should you cut?

  • Part-time experience at the library, student center, etc.
  • Retail/restaurant work.
  • Anything you’re listing just to make a “laundry list” of activities – move this to the bottom instead.
  • Anything over a year old that’s not relevant.

One exception: you may want to leave on retail/restaurant-type work experience if that’s all you have aside from activities.

Don’t focus on it, but it’s good to keep at least 1 entry on there to show banks that you have some real world exposure.

Forget Chronological Order

While you should usually use reverse chronological order for your resume, there’s no “rule” that says you have to strictly follow it.

So if you have “JP Morgan Investment Banking Case Competition” please put that at the top of your Work Experience no matter what the date was.

If you’re no longer in school this gets harder to justify and you should stick more closely to chronological order.

Move Your School to the Bottom

In the case where you have brand-name companies on your resume and a non-brand-name school, you could move Work Experience to the top and put Education below it instead.

That may raise some questions if you’re still in school – but it is an option if you’ve recently graduated and you feel that your work experience looks more impressive than your school, GPA, or major.

We’re not using this strategy here because this student is applying for summer internships and because his university – while not a “target school” – is also far from unknown.

The End Result

You can see for yourself right here.

We’ve using the exact same experience, but we’re presenting it differently, focusing on different points, and excluding what doesn’t matter.

And this student now has a much better chance of getting interviews and landing offers.

What to Do When You’re Out of School

If you’ve already graduated or you’ve been working for a few years, you can still apply some of these strategies.

The main difference is that you can’t get away with turning all your activities into “work experience” as a student might be able to.

You can still list them on your resume, but you need to focus on “bankifying” your real work experience by focusing on the business results and the big picture.

Wait, Is All of This Legal?

You might also be wondering if everything I’ve suggested here is “legal.” Will you be flagged during background checks? Get your offer rescinded because you omitted something?

No.

While you shouldn’t omit major summer internships, leaving out part-time, unpaid, or informal experience is fine.

And spinning experience into sounding bigger than it really was is not lying – it’s just spinning.

All of This Helps, But…

Also note that while the strategies here will help you get interviews and will make your resume look more substantial, you’re still not going to “beat” the guy or girl with a Goldman Sachs internship and an Ivy League school on his/her resume.

So you won’t be able to level the playing field completely, but you can give yourself a boost and reduce the gap between yourself and everyone else applying.

What Now?

If you’re applying for internships or full-time positions and you don’t have much real work experience think about what you could spin into sounding relevant: Clubs? Activities? Your Own Portfolio?

What are the 2-3 most relevant experiences to focus on? What could be omitted to make room for more relevant entries?

Think about all that, and then re-write your resume and spin your way to success.

Still Need More Help?

Introducing: Premium Investment Banking-Specific Resume/CV and Cover Letter Editing Services

We will take your existing resume and transform it into a resume that grabs the attention of finance industry professionals and presents you and your experience in the best possible light.

When we’re done, your resume will grab bankers by the lapels and not let them go until they’ve given you an interview.

Specifically, here’s what you’ll get:

  • Detailed, line-by-line editing of your resume/CV – Everything that needs to be changed will be changed. No detail is ignored.
  • Your experience will be “bankified” regardless of whether you’ve been a student, a researcher, a marketer, a financier, a lawyer, an accountant, or anything else.
  • Optimal structuring – You’ll learn where everything from Education to Work Experience to Activities should go. Regional badminton champion? Stamp collector? You’ll find out where those should go, too.
  • The 3-point structure to use for all your “Work Experience” entries: simple, but highly effective at getting the attention of bankers.
  • How to spin non-finance experience into sounding like you’ve been investing your own portfolio since age 12.
  • How to make business-related experience, such as consulting, law, and accounting, sounds like “deal work.”
  • How to avoid the fatal resume mistake that gets you automatically rejected. Nothing hurts more than making a simple oversight that gets you an immediate “ding”.
  • We only work with a limited number of clients each month. In fact, we purposely turn down potential clients in cases where we cannot add much value. We prefer quality over quantity, and we always want to ensure that we can work well together first.

FIND OUT MORE

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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312 Comments to “How to Write an Investment Banking Resume When You Have No Real Work Experience”

Comments

  1. lady zee says

    Hey

    I just wanted 2 know,what would happen if I put ‘none’ under work and leadership experience when applying for an internship.would that work negatively against me or is it fine?

  2. Ryan says

    Hi Brian/Nicole,

    I have a quick question regarding work experience on the resume section, and would be grateful for your advice.

    I am doing a Master’s in Business and while I do not have internships in finance, I have spent the past year contacting companies and doing business research projects for them using research from my course that is relevant to finance and specifically tailored to those companies, which in some cases has been sponsored by such clients. On my resume, how would you recommend I list this? Under a heading of “Independent Consulting Projects” or something similar?

    Thank you in advance.

  3. Ryan says

    Brian,

    On my resume, I want to place emphasis on my year of study abroad in China and also the fact that I have a knowledge of various languages. To make this stand out, would you recommend I include an “International Experience and Language Capability” section on my resume, in addition to the ones you outlined on the sample CV? Thank you in advance.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Sure, or you can just highlight your experience at the bottom of your resume under Skills, Activities & Interests (We change the title of this line around a/c to candidates’ resumes)

  4. Bhaven Mistry says

    Hey,

    How can I present my work experience at an insurance company that I did for a week when I apply for spring weeks and internships at IBs? There, I shadowed some underwriters/actuaries, shadowed a broker for a day, and spent a morning with an underwriter in the Lloyds Building in London. Is there a good way that I can link it to the skills I’ll need at an IB? Many thanks

  5. Victor says

    Hey,

    Great article. I just have one question. For various reasons I have no work experience at all (literally nothing). I have lots of ECs and have done some volunteering though. Do you think that I could swap the work experience section for extra curricular activities section and just list it all there? Thank you so much.

  6. Matthew Shuck says

    I just read your pdf and noticed that as far as the resume part goes I have nothing that can be reasonably spun to sound like banking experience, I’m not going to request your service for free but if you have 2 minutes to quick skim my resume would you mind helping? (I’m sorry I work at a very low end job and $300 is two weeks of my pay that I need to just survive)
    Well I do currently have a 2nd interview at a completely unrelated “professional” job coming at the end of this week, and that (may) offer something to work with if I would take the job but it would just push the search back a year (and being as I just graduated with my undergrad it feels like a critical time)

    Thank you for any assistance or for reading.

      • Matthew Shuck says

        I have read the article (along with the large majority of the website, still reading when I have available time) but my degree is in something so obscure that it is unrelated, and my most recent (and relevant) job experience is working at 1 of those horrible part time stock shelves retail jobs (with no ability to word it so it sounds like it deals with making money or sales) but because of how my work/school lined up I was unable to spend time volunteering or any other beneficial bonuses.

        My current best lead for a job is through networking *yay networking* a major bank (noninvestment but at least still financial experience)

  7. Maurice says

    Besides having a Bachelors in Finance and serving 1 year as student government president in college I have no relevant work experience. How would I spin working 6 years as a sales consultant at an auto
    dealership? I negotiate deals, make recommendations, and process the paperwork to secure loans. Is this enough?

  8. Lei Pei says

    I am appying an internship at the present. Just because I m going to do MBA in a target school later this year should I highlight this. Or am I better off just concentrate on Magnify tiny but relevant experiences. Many Thanks

  9. Patrick says

    I m networking for a intern at present. I m also going to do my MBA at LSE in London this Oct. Should I put this on my resume.

  10. Patrick says

    I m 32. I m networking for a intern at present. I m also going to do my MBA at LSE in London this Oct. Should I put this on my resume. Thanks

  11. CC says

    As a career changer, albeit with an MBA, I have been told by an MD that gaining a certification in Financial Modeling or Valuation would help with some of the technical requirements that could be inhibiting me. The modeling course you guys offer looks fantastic, but is there an appropriate way to weave this into the resume/interview process? Thank you, love the site

  12. Rifki says

    Hi Brian,

    One quick question, I am currently working in a Corporate Advisory division and has been working for 6-7 months, under Corporate Banking. I have assisted my senior manager in providing market analysis, due diligence for M&A deals and of course pitching presentations, but valuations or financial modeling. So question is, am I considered as someone with experience or not?

    Thanks,
    Rifki

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes you are considered as someone with some experience – more experience than a fresh grad and will still be considered a junior (first year analyst in an IB). If a bank (most IBs do) specifically wants someone with solid valuation experience, you may have to start building up your financial modeling foundation before applying to such roles. You’ll have to convince your interviewer that you have solid valuation skills despite your lack of financial modeling experience. Chances are, if the interviewers really like you, you might start off as a first year analyst given your lack of valuation experience.

  13. Natalie says

    I’ve downloaded your template and wanted to ask: is it worth listing study abroad on your resume? Would you list it as a bullet point under XYZ University, or separately? If I list it separately, is it okay to only write the name of the school since one semester of study abroad does not give out a GPA or honors?

    By separately, I meant:
    Home university name (in bold)
    -GPA, Honors, Coursework

    Study abroad university name (in bold)

    Thanks so much.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes you can list your study abroad experience on your resume, and not list your GPA/honors. What you listed is fine.

  14. Natalie says

    Sorry for adding another comment, but I wanted to add onto my previous question. I’m trying to “bankify” my PWM internship, but since I have a vague memory of the terms my supervisor used and did not know what a lot of them meant, I’m having some trouble.
    I want to say:
    -assisted a team of advisers and client service associates with maintaining client data and creating performance reports for high net worth individuals
    -took charge of creating monthly cashflow reports for about 50 clients

    what kind of words or phrases should i use to bankify this experience?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      What you listed is decent, though you’ll have to focus on the analysis you’ve done (i.e. what kind of analysis have to done to create the reports and what did your analysis show?) and quantify your impact. The words you’ve used are decent.

  15. Harry says

    Spring Weeks seem to be quite important in the UK, especially when someone has little work experience. How would you portray these experiences on a CV?

    You can’t take a project/results approach, as that’s not what they are! But more presentations, shadowing, extremely great exposure to the industry.

    What would you suggest?

    “Learn about FX trading – exposure to . . .” etc?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      You can just list them at the category below your education under Internship Experience and use our M&I format:

      [Firm Name] [City/State]
      [Spring Week Intern] [Month, Year - Month, Year]

  16. Archy says

    Hello Brian and Nicole,

    I´ve a question regarding how deep you must go in extraacademic merits, for example, if I recruited a lot of people for a business event in the university,

    Would it be ok just to mention that I was the one who recrutied most people of all the recrutiers or should I remark the achievement with the specific numbers/percentage? (I´m struggling with the space, otherwise I wouldn´t think twice)

    Do you think that would be an impressive enough merit to include in the CV?

  17. Harvey says

    I will be a senior at a non-target University of California in the orange county area. I’m hoping to break into a BB iBank or top middle market firm. These are my work experiences so far
    2nd year summer – small middle market ibanking summer analyst
    3rd year school year – corporate finance intern at F500 company
    This summer I’ll be working at another middle market ibank as a summer analyst. Should I forgo this internship and apply to the NY School of Finance if I want to land a job at a top tier bank?
    Also a note, my GPA is only at a 3.3 range.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think your summer experience should help with your goals. I’m not quite sure if forgoing your summer internship for NYSF is a great idea. While the program offers candidates experience at an investment bank, private equity firm, venture capital fund, or hedge fund, it isn’t guaranteed that you will land a job at a top tier bank. If your GPA is 3.3, you’ll probably have to network quite a bit and get your name out there this summer.

      • Patrick says

        Dear Brain
        I m 32. I have been working as a general manager in medical clinic for 7 years. I don’t have any IB experience. I m going to start a top MBA course from this Sep. Do you think I should do the 15/07-23/08 NYSF internship. Or should I wait for now and do a autum session next year after I graduate from my MBA course.
        Which way do you think it gives me a better chance. Thanks a million.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          I think you can wait and do it next year so you can do your internship right after the course.

  18. Will says

    Hi Brian,

    You mentioned that it’s okay to avoid listing your work experiences in chronological order–Is this generally acceptable for someone who graduated from university 3 years ago? My work experiences thus far have not been impressive due to the recession, and would like to put my leadership/internship positions in college (very heavily finance related) at the top of my resume. Please let me know if this is fine.

    Thanks,
    Will

    • M&I - Nicole says

      You can do that though I think its best to list your work experience first because employers will doubt why you’ve changed around the chronological order.

  19. dave says

    hey great site by the way.
    I was wondering what is more prestigious. informal work experience at a bank where you did usual crap like fetching coffee and work shadowing someone or another amazing company in a completely different field to finance but you had real responsibility?
    thanks

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think the bank name maybe more relevant to finance roles. You can always try to spin your shadowing experience. While your experience in a different field maybe useful, it may not be relevant to finance.

  20. Nick says

    Hi,
    I graduated from top UK university last year and starting a Master in Finance at top school in the UK this September. Have a previous internship in back office for top american bank (GS/MS/JP…). and spent the last year working for another bulge bracket…doing the same(not very happy I ended there)
    I was in the Financial Reporting function both times dealing with accounting stuff only. Literally…even posting double entry journals in the systems from time to time.

    How can I make this sound even remotely related to finance and banking? My work had nothing to do with modelling, the market environment etc. The closest to analysis and modelling was the review of the PnL & BS of the company itself.

    I am struggling to bankify the experience for my CV.

    Any advice?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      This experience is not be directly relevant to front office IBD roles. Perhaps you can focus on the accounting and analytical skills you’ve gained. Remember to quantify your impact (i.e. how you saved costs) if possible.

  21. Mellissa says

    Hi,

    I’m aiming for a IBD summer internship but I did a trading internship this summer – back then I thought I wanted to be a trader and completely changed my mind after this internship.

    Now I’m trying to bankify my trading internship on my resume but I rly dont know how to.

    What I did apart from fetching coffee:
    - summarized key daily news and macroeconomics data that might affect interest rate markets (i’m interning at rates desk);
    - booked the trades for three senior trades on my desk;
    - compiled derivative desks day end commentaries and sent them to the trading floor
    - initiated a detailed report on a new financial product and distributed it to the sales team so they can refer this report when talking to clients
    - random admin stuff like update their holiday calendars for the next 10 yrs

    As you can tell,
    it doesn’t look that technical and it’s really hard to use NUMBERS to show the RESULTS, which I know, is the key.

    Any insight would be helpful!!!

  22. Anas B. says

    Hello,

    I’m a Masters student at UK target-school without any banking internships. I do have previous experience in Real Estate Investment working in my Family’s business, but no brand names.

    I was wondering if I could include the events I have attended which are branded. For instance – a Financial Markets Conference sponsored by all the major banks. Or a ‘skills informational session’ delivered by BlackRock at my school. Can attendance to these events be included in my resume?

    thanks,

    Anas B.

  23. Bryan says

    I noticed that the case competition was used as a work experience, Should I do the same thing for workshop such as training the streets – investment banking bootcamp?

    Regards,
    Bryan Fong

  24. Crawford says

    I am a 17 year old currently in my first year reading English Literature at the University of Leeds in the U.K. I have little relevant work experience (Administration at a Golf Club for 5 months and then working in the pro shop for a further 2 months), good academic results from school, and am track to get a good grade at University.

    I would like to land an Internship or even insight week at literally any bank I can just so I can have something on my résumé that would make bankers think seriously about employing me.

    Have you any advice on what I could do to make them notice me at the moment without previous finance experience?

    Thank you for your time

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If you can gain some experience, even at clubs in school, that may help you. If you don’t have any previous finance experience it can be hard to spin your resume. You can still discuss your work experience and focus on the impact you’ve made. With the above being said, you’re still very early in the game so I wouldn’t worry too much.

  25. RK says

    Hi Nicole/Brian,

    Thank You so much for creating such a amazing platform for IB aspirants.

    I have just completed my MBA (Finance). I am seeking an internship program to get experience in financial analyst job. I have no real time work experience but I have excellent command over corporate finance, Valuation (Public and Private companies) and Excel. Unofficially I did valuation for dozen companies for value investment and even I made handsome money by doing so. Could you help me that how can I present above skills and knowledge in MY CV.

    I would really appreciate your kind help.
    Thank You

  26. BJ says

    Hi M&I,

    I am a rising senior at a target school with a GPA just above 3.45 (major finance and minor in economics and international business). I’ve had 4 internships through my undergrad years (2 of them international: one in europe and one in the middle east). The summer after my freshman year I interned at a European investment bank with an office in NY (not bulge bracket, more middle market). I also interned as an oil and gas summer analyst at a research and consulting firm, a VC firm in the Middle East and at the OECD headquarters. I also have limited working experiences in Arabic and French. I am looking to apply for bulge bracket firms in the fall and I am worried that my lack of IB experience and my GPA. What is your advice?

    Thank you very much for your help. Your website is very useful!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d network a lot and try your best to boost your GPA if you can. Your previous experiences can help, and I’d leverage your network from such experiences if possible.

  27. CP says

    Hi M&I,
    I have been out of school for two years in a teaching program but have no real financial experience. Although not relevant, the experience on my resume is high quality. My biggest concern is my GPA (around 3.2). Through networking I have gotten in touch with and maintained contact with people at several middle market, boutique, and bulge bracket banks. Without finance experience, is it mandatory to include GPA on a resume even with several years of other work experience? Would not including it at this point seem bizarre/hinder my chances?
    Thank you!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No, many people include their GPA and they may ask you to fill it in during applications. You can choose to exclude it, if they didn’t specifically ask for it on applications

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