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Fluent in English?

Fluent in English?I assume the answer is “yes” if you’re reading this right now.

But I’m not asking you a question – I’m quoting one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen on investment banking resumes.

It’s not just listing “Fluent in English” on a resume written in English that’s problematic, though – you get lots of other mistakes when you try to be “creative.”

In some industries (technology, advertising), creativity is great and there are no hard-and-fast rules.

But finance is old-school and typically 10-20 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to hiring, so throw your creativity out the window if you want to be a banker.

Here’s a list of everything you should stop doing right now if you want to break in:

Got Pages?

If you’ve got more than 1 page, I’ll tell you one thing you don’t got: any job offers.

If 20-year veteran CEOs can condense their experience into 1 page, what’s stopping you?

Most things don’t matter.

What are your 2-3 key work experiences? Where’d you go to school and how’d you do? What are the 2 best projects to talk about in interviews?

Think about all your experience and apply the MAX function in Excel to it. Your resume should not be the AVERAGE of your experience, but rather the absolute most impressive items you can name.

Exception: Australia. There are a couple other regions where 2+ page resumes are acceptable, but Australia is the key exception.

There, everyone uses 2-3 pages even for entry-level positions because recruiters want to read everything – but if you’re applying elsewhere in the world, keep it to 1 page.

Pretending to Be Picasso

No matter how “artistic” you are, resist the urge to color your resume, use different font colors, add pictures, or make it look “cool.”

Similarly, don’t put a photo of yourself on there – even if you’re a supermodel.

Exception: In some regions, pictures are common – just be careful and do your own research first.

But if you’re in the U.S., keep photos off – and no matter where you are, pink font colors and clip art are always horrible ideas.

A Little TOO Much Information

Where did you go to school and how did you do? What are the 2-3 key work experiences you want everyone to know about? What are a few interesting tidbits about yourself?

That’s all your resume needs to do.

So, please look at your resume right now and cut out the following:

  • Those 5-10 resume-padding activities where you did nothing.
  • Your 4-line description for “Relevant Coursework.”
  • Your marital status or measurements.

Less is more.

A Forgettable Name

No, I’m not making fun of you if your name is “John Smith.”

And I’m not suggesting that you change your name to Don Draper.

But when a banker reads your resume, will he remember your NAME?

Chances are “no” if it’s the same font size as everything else on the page.

Make your name at the top of your resume twice the font size of everything else there. If you use 12-point font, use 24-point font for your name.

Objective: Failure

You’re applying to an investment bank, do you think someone reading your resume will wonder why you’re applying?

Your “objective” is simple: Get an investment banking job.

So please don’t include an Objective line on your resume.

Maybe if you’re a 10-15 year veteran of another industry and you’re changing careers right now, you could include it – but otherwise keep it off.

Spacing & Alignment

Please make sure that your company and position names are left-aligned and that your dates and locations are right-aligned – and do it the real way instead of just hitting the space bar a bunch of times.

Also make sure you use single-spacing throughout and that you actually insert a space between different work experience entries and between different sections.

You can check out exactly how to set everything up in this template.

Anything else just looks sloppy.

Too Much Text

Your resume is NOT an essay, and you should not be writing paragraphs or huge blocks of text.

You need to use bullets rather than paragraphs, and you need to keep these bullets short.

One or two lines is ideal, three is fine but pushing it, and when you go over 3-4 lines you get into paragraph territory.

Bankers reading your resume are scanning for highlights, and if you write an essay rather than a resume, they’ll never be able to tell what’s important.

No Numbers

As a corollary to the point above, you want to include as many numbers as possible on your resume.

  • “Led team of five to optimize ad spending by fifty percent”
  • “Led team of 5 to optimize ad spending by 50%”

Which one stands out more? Which one will catch bankers’ attention more?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Rocket Science

“Introduced carbocyanide-78 into dwysterfloculation to assess quantum flux capacitor superposition potential”

OK, I made up some of those words – but that was intentional.

99% of people do not understand scientific, economic, or political jargon, so please do not include it on your resume.

The other problem is that writing a sentence like the one above makes you seem like a science nerd rather than a financier.

Yes, smart is good – but nerdy is bad. Keep the jargon to a minimum and focus on simple, easily-explainable results.

Exception: Banking and finance jargon is fine to include because bankers know this stuff.

“Created Sum-of-the-Parts Valuation and DCF to account for changes in deferred tax liabilities and NOLs and properly reflect company’s value” would not make sense to anyone outside finance, but this type of jargon is fine for finance / investment banking jobs.

No Interests

I don’t care how boring you are, you must have some interests or hobbies, right? Right?

If not, it raises serious questions over how personable you are and whether or not you’d pass the “airport test.”

Yes, you do have to reduce your Work Experience space to include 1-2 lines on your hobbies and interests, but it’s well worth it.

Exception: If you’re at the MBA-level or beyond, feel free to leave this section out.

Mispelled Words

Did you catch the intentional typo here?

If not, then you might need some spelling and proofreading help.

Please, please, please do NOT let your resume contain spelling or grammatical errors – bankers can catch them in about 2 seconds, and those mistakes make you fail the “attention to detail” test automatically.

Two solutions to fixing typos:

  1. Print out your resume, let it sit for a day, and then comb through it looking for mistakes.
  2. Get a friend or family member to review it and look for typos.

Out-of-Date Contact Information

OK, so you went through dozens of investment banking interviews and now you finally have a job offer lined up.

The Managing Director goes to call you… and he gets the wrong number!

I learned this lesson the hard way: I had listed my “home” contact information on my resume when I was applying for jobs, and investment banks and hedge funds kept calling my family in New Jersey to notify me that I got offers.

Please make sure your name, phone number, email address, and physical address are correct and that you can actually be reached on each one.

High School Valedictorian

After your 1st year in university, no one cares what you did in high school anymore. So even if you were valedictorian and an all-star athlete, keep that off your resume.

Exception: In the U.K. and a few other regions, it’s common to list secondary schools and A-Levels results even at the university level – so you can get away with it there.

Fluent in English / Proficient in Word

If your resume is in English, I hope you’re “fluent in English.”

Similarly, if you can breathe oxygen, I hope that you know how to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other common programs.

Don’t waste space with these meaningless skills – you only have 1 page to make a strong first impression, so don’t squander your chances with irrelevant information.

If you are fluent in a non-English language and your resume is in English, just make an entry at the bottom for “Native speaker of [Language]” or “Fluent in [Language.”

For Even More

For even more resume tips and tricks, check out the links below from M&I and Management Consulted:

Investment Banking / Private Equity / Hedge Funds / Other Finance Resume Tips:

Consulting Resume Tips:

And please, don’t go to one of the articles above and leave a comment asking whether you should list “Fluent in English” on your resume – or I might track you down in real life and karate chop you to death.

-Brian
Mergers & Inquisitions
Breaking Into Wall Street

P.S. Get here from an email forward, a friend’s link, or a random Google search?

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