Mod (Andy) note: elected by you - the monkeys of WSO, this is the 2011 Finance-forum post of the year (from Jan 28, 2011). I'm reposting it here on the homepage for any monkeys who have yet to see it. Thanks Marcus_Halberstram for a great post!
Since it is recruiting season, Im posting a multi-part series on how the whole process works to help the prospective monkeys better navigate the process, hopefully with a higher degree of success.
Lets start with the first time a bank sees resumes.
HR takes each target school and sets up resume drops. Each of those schools are then assigned a basket of analysts and associates to review resumes, decide who gets an interview and to conduct first round interviews.
I recently got 75 resumes from a target school of which, at most, 20 will get interviews. Of those 20, 8-12 will get superdays. Of those 8-12, 3-5 will get internship offers, of those 3-5, 1-3 will get full time offers. So of the 75 resumes, 1-3 will actually get a FT offer. To give yourself the best shot, it helps to know the way the process works and how a resume turns into an interview. Obviously those are approximations.
A team of 6 of us (4 associates, 2 analysts) receives an interview pack of cover letters and resumes neatly indexed and sorted in alphabetical orders. From the 70-80 resumes, we're to come up with a list of 20-30 interview candidates. 20 we'd like to interview and 10 back-up and to rank the 10 back-ups from 1 to 10, so if a slot opens up, the top ranked alternate candidate will get an interview.
These are all Ivy league kids... resumes as low as 3.2 as high as 3.9 with a dual major in some ridiculous combination (think applied mathematics and chemistry). Almost every student was HS valedictorian or something along those lines. I quickly flip through the book circling GPA and majors... and ding any GPA under a 3.4, 3.4 to 3.5 I look at for an extra 4 seconds before before deciding if they have something else to make them well rounded (+2 senior level positions in clubs, varsity athletics, obvious interest in finance). I also immediately kill any resume with a typo. I only look at cover letters very briefly to see catch any obvious typos as a reason to ding. (i.e. cover letters do NOTHING for you). I will note, I saw some shorter cover letters that had numbered bullet points, no more than 3. Why I want to work in banking, why I think Ill excel at Your Firm, etc... I actually skimmed through these, and this format/style is very effective in actually getting read (for better or for worse). And found that the other people in my recruiting team had the same reaction.
I only dinged about 15... still need to ding another 30 to get to the 20+10 back-ups. I go back again, too many asians, too many guys, I narrow the field down a bit more. Ding another 5-10. Still need to cut another 20 resumes. Now I read the resumes a bit closer... finance case competitions, internships, club-involvement, does this resume tell me he/she wants to be a banker? I end up not finishing before our recruiting committee meeting, but I have starred the resumes I like (high GPA 3.7+, some sort of past finance intership, varsity sports, and/or any other uniquely impressive/interesting aspect (e.q. interests: Thai slap boxing).
In the meeting: we like candidates with high GPAs that communicate a strong interest in finance even if they are comparative lit majors with no finance experience, did they do case competitions? Do they list interests in-line with an inclination to banking?
We cut candidates with high GPAs irrespective of major who have no aspect of an interest in banking on their resume. We cut candidates who can't highlight/explain their experience properly/impressively. We cut candidates who don't list interests outside of working/studying. We cut candidates with low GPAs (sub-3.3-ish). We cut candidates who are on the line and could have arranged/presented their resume in a more impactful manner... the thinking being #1- you're probably using one resume for all internship, which means you didn't tailor your resume for this position, which means you dont want this internship enough to warrant spending extra time making your resume as attractive to us as possible; #2- poor judgment call to list your 3 RA stints as independent experiences and place them above your finance case competition runner-up.
Candidates we're lukewarm on, or one person likes and everyone else is indifferent on, we look at like this: we say this person has X, Y and Z that we really like. If we can't get an X, a Y and a Z (i.e. 3 strong, compelling points) we cut them. We don't even read poorly formatted resumes, they are auto-dings. We end up getting to 18 interview candidates and 10 alternates. From time to time I hear a "this format is just horrible, I didn't even want to read it, its a shame though because they were a pretty strong candidate content-wise."
So if you want to give yourself a leg-up in getting an interview:
- it helps but is not a guarantee if you have a high GPA
- you SHOULD absolutely address the question of "is he/she interested in banking?"; if you've never interned in finance and are a non-traditional major, you should be actively involved (pref. at a senior level) in the finance clubs, you should participate in finance/modeling training seminars sponsored by your school, you should have a section under interests with "Readings" or "Favorite Books" that have a finance tinge to them (more When Genius Failed or Fooled by Randomness or Barbarians at the Gate, less Monkey Business or Liars Poker)... Wall Street Journal, DealBook, FT, etc... I wouldn't advise adding that section if the rest of your resume already sells your finance interest... otherwise its overkill and you seem uninteresting and boringly uni-dimensional. You want to be well rounded.
- formatting is EVERYTHING and there is absolutely NO excuse for typos or inconsistencies in formatting
- cover letters, if at all, should be minimalist, the main purpose of a cover letter is to address an obvious shortcoming that is apparent from your resume
- a few other takeaways, if there is an over arching theme in applicants from your school... i.e. asian, indian, male-heavy (more-so than usual), etc... it helps if your last name starts with an A... since by the time we get half way through the pack, if we saw 10 male, indian Economics majors with 3.8 GPAs with heavy finance-oriented club involvement and varsity athletics and you're the 11th, you probably wont get an interview... it was impressive the first one or 2 times, less so the 11th. So some of it is, just the luck of the draw.