Resumes: The Yin and Yang
We all fail at things. Even WSO members, most of us being pretty privileged and naturally capable, fail at one thing catastrophically: writing resumes.
I can't say that I'm an expert at this, but having reviewed resumes in the software industry, where people are comparable to Wall Street in a lot of ways, I can say that resumes seem to be super weak for most people, even folks from target schools with good GPAs. There is also A LOT of information about writing resumes on WSO, but there hasn't really been an effort to consolidate this info into a "guide" or at least a "tip book" or something.
Until now (hopefully)...
What you shouldn't do, part one...
I've helped a bunch of people with resumes over the years, helping to take what they had from the brink of disaster to something at least slightly comprehensible, and the first red flag that I notice that for some reason EVERYONE follows is the dreaded "statement of purpose".
I don't know how the statement of purpose gained popularity, and why it hasn't been totally ousted from the workflow of career counselors at ALL universities. In any event, I suppose that if you Google "resume template", there's a good chance that it'll have a statement of purpose at the very top.
My goal is to build a career in M&A investment banking for tech companies, expand my knowledge of valuation methodologies, and apply critical thinking abilities learned through a liberal arts curriculum to the business world.
No shit? You're applying for this job in the M&A division of "X" and you ACTUALLY want to do all of these things? You _must_ be the best applicant ever!
Far from it -- the statement of purpose is a regurgitation of things that ought to be evident from your resume as a whole. If you need a statement to bring it all together, your resume sucks. If your resume doesn't suck and is effective at getting the point across, there is no need for a statement. Not to mention the fact that resume real estate is expensive, and dedicating 2-3 lines to a statement of purpose is just a poor use of space.
What you shouldn't do, part 2...
I read a friend's recently for a software engineer position. This was a friend from high school, who was brilliant, went to a top school, had excellent grades and activities, etc. But the resume was ineffective because this person felt uncomfortable leaving off information, so instead chose to include EVERYTHING.
Understandably, it's hard to remove things you've poured hours into, but if they're not relevant, don't contribute to your pitch, or don't make you seem like a more interesting person, there is no reason to include them on your resume.
This particular friend of mine had a lot of really neat things to include, to the point that the resume was in 7 point Times New Roman font. This is strictly an impossibility in banking, as your resume might get circulated around for lulz, but is also something that absolutely must be avoided in general. For banking, it seems like the magic number of experiences to list is four -- all of them somehow contributing to your decision to enter finance, and banking specifically.
What you SHOULD do...
As someone coming from a non-finance background entirely, I had to wrestle with making all of my bullet points seem at least somehow related to finance. For investment banking in particular, one could argue that the qualities recruiters and senior bankers might look for, in order of importance are: knowledge of valuation, general likability, great work ethic, people skills, attention to detail, among others. Obviously there is no hard and fast rule, but you need to demonstrate through your bullet points that you are smart, can work hard, aren't socially inept, and are someone that would be fun, or at least interesting, to work alongside.
Part of this is using action words as frequently as possible. Instead of:
In charge of maintaining blogs, service hours, and community outreach for organization X
This is far more effective...
Executed blogging strategy that improved traffic by X, increased service hours per member by Y, and collaborated with community organizations to accomplish Z
Neither of these examples is ideal, but it's meant to illustrate a point.
The above discussion is focused mainly on content, but there are a lot of stylistic pitfalls that are even easier to get caught up in. I'll be discussing those later this week, but for now, this is the beginning of what I hope to be a long and fruitful series on resume-writing.
I'd be happy to look over your resume if you'd like. Like I said, I'm no expert, and members of WSO who have been in the industry for a longer amount of time would be better readers, but it never hurts to have a fresh set of eyes.
One senior banker that saw my resume told me "I don't have any openings right now, but if I did, you'd certainly get an interview -- on first glance, there's nothing wrong with your resume, and a first glance is all you'll get." Words to live by. A resume needs to make a quick and effective first impression. It needs to communicate that you're organized, action-oriented, and able -- all of the fluff distorts these points and puts you in the recycling bin.
See part 2 here: http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/blog/resumes-the-yin-and-yang-part-2