ANSWERED: Most Common Resume Questions

Having helped hundreds of monkeys fix up their resumes, I've found that a few questions come up again and again. These questions account for over 90% of the major mistakes people make on their resume. While these topics are geared towards newer monkeys, if people one day start fixing these errors, I might just share with you my expert advice ;)

A lot of the confusion regarding resumes exists because Wall Street has its own list of unwritten rules you must follow in the form of resume etiquette. Essentially, this list is another barrier to entry to weed out people that haven't learned enough about the industry to be aware of them. All of these rules exist for a reason and can largely be attributed to the fact that HR / recruiting team wants to be able to skim through resumes as quickly and uniformly as possible and during that time they want to be able to gain an objective idea of your experience and background. Essentially, they only want RELEVANT information and they want it to be presented as CONCISELY and UNIFORMLY as possible.

1. Does my resume have to be one page long?

With almost no exceptions, your resume should be one page long. I know that you are a star athlete in seven sports and a genius and won every award in the world and founded a billion-dollar business in high school, but you still need to condense your resume down to the information most relevant to the job you are applying for and fit it onto one page. The only real exceptions for this are candidates who have very extensive AND relevant careers. For example, many Directors or MDs will have multi-page resumes because a lot of space is required to highlight the larger transactions they've been involved with or their many responsibilities across different roles.

To simplify the above, I've prepared a simple logic sequence. Are you a BSD? No => your resume should be one page. Yes => your resume should be more than one page.

2. What order should the sections on my resume be in?

As a general rule, the most relevant sections should come first and the items within those sections should be in chronological order with items you are currently participating in coming first.

To simplify... If you are in school, education should come first. If you are done with school and are working, your work experience should come first. Interests / skills / certifications should come last.

3. Should I include a mission statement / objective / summary / yada yada yada?

No. Absolutely not. Please stop arguing with me. While these are very common in the more artistic fields, it is not appropriate for a Wall Street resume. These statements tend to be very subjective and full of fluff. All the person reading your resume wants to read is relevant objective skills / experience. They don't want to read four sentences about why you think your "synergies" align with the industry and how your supposed "attention to detail" is exactly what the firm is looking for while you "build a strong foundation as you break into the industry". All subjective fluff, keep it off.

4. Should I include this one high school experience / award / scholarship / job / extracurricular?

When deciding whether to include an item or a bullet point, you must always ask yourself the question: "is this directly relevant to the job I am applying for / demonstrate skills they are looking for?" If the answer isn't a clear yes, keep it off. So many people have cool or interesting accomplishments that aren't relevant, but are too stubborn to exclude them. Remember, being concise and relevant is super important to someone skimming your resume. So you might have won some huge case study or some awesome scholarship or are a renowned painter or help feed the hungry, but only include it if you can demonstrate skills used that relate to the job. High school experience is with almost no exceptions not relevant and should be excluded since it wasn't recent (if you developed an algorithm that at age 17 that crushed the markets and made you $200k and ignited your passion for algorithmic trading, please include).

5. Should I include this detail / that detail / some other detail / my love for bananas?

Similar to the above - don't include details if they don't highlight relevant skills. Learning about marketing and corporate social responsibility as a side project during your S&T internship is probably NOT a relevant detail that you should include. Talking about how you assisted traders and learned how to make decisive decisions in a trading floor atmosphere IS relevant. Do include your love for bananas.

6. Why did I get dinged the second someone opened up my cover letter?

Your cover letter was WAYYYYYY too long. Don't write me an essay or a fluffy love letter about how you will work 200 hours a week for this job. I want to be able to skim this super quick and get an idea of who you are and what makes you a good choice.

Intro: 2-3 sentences about what job you are applying for and how you heard about it

Skill 1: 2-3 sentences about how Skill 1 makes you qualified.

Skill 2: 2-3 sentences about how Skill 2 makes you qualified.

Skill 3: 2-3 sentences abut how Skill 3 makes you qualified.

Conclusion: For the reasons listed above, you think you are qualified and are appreciative of their consideration.

King Kong


Happy to hear your thoughts / feedback. Any experienced monkeys agree / disagree?

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Comments (31)

Sep 5, 2014 - 7:41am

Agreed. Everyone seems to think a one page plus resume is justified. It is never justified, format it properly, cut the crap and make it relevant and I guarantee you that you will have one page.

Remember to always stay on point - being concise is key in any industry. Think about how much you'd want to read when you're screening something at 2am in the morning, or 8am in the morning (after leaving the office at 4am).

Sep 8, 2014 - 9:23am

Very nice. I would like to include that many people think a resume is a list of responsibilities. While that may be a small part, it is not the focus. The focus is on your ACCOMPLISHMENTS at your workplace, and obviously they should be relevant as discussed above.

Ex. BAD - Work on deals reporting monthly activity.
GOOD - Saved $10M for the division by identifying and streamlining blah blah blah.

Best Response
Sep 8, 2014 - 11:48am

Great points. Something I always do is have a collection of different points for each job that I had in the past, so if I'm applying for a PE job I'd emphasize relevant bullets for that position, if I'm applying for a consulting role I'd emphasize more client experience etc.

obscurity is forever, and so is interest
  • 2
Sep 9, 2014 - 10:50pm


Great points. Something I always do is have a collection of different points for each job that I had in the past, so if I'm applying for a PE job I'd emphasize relevant bullets for that position, if I'm applying for a consulting role I'd emphasize more client experience etc.

Spot on @"empx". It is very important to target your resume to the job you are applying for.

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Sep 8, 2014 - 5:09pm

Would you put letter of recommendation in the same file after your resume, or in a separate file?

Sep 10, 2014 - 12:57pm

To add to your thought about the recommendations, I've always been told, and definitely agree with, that you should never waste space on a resume with "References available upon request." I used to have that on mine, then was told by multiple recruiters and HR professionals that every company knows you have specific references, and you would be dumb not to provide them on request. If they want to know who they are, they will contact you for their contact information.

"Decide what to be and go be it." - The Avett Brothers
Sep 9, 2014 - 10:53pm


Thanks a lot for the insight. I just have two questions. 1) Is this type of resume for IB in particular, or would it be expected from applicants looking for jobs in Equity Research or corporate finance? 2) I've seen some a corporate finance job which requires a 2 page resume. What would be different with that? Thanks!

This is relevant for financial services as a whole. Not just IB. Maybe a VERY select few jobs might ask for a 2-page resume, but for 99% of monkeys, this advice holds true. There will always be exceptions.

I suppose the difference is certain firms might just want additional detail if say they are screening an initial 20 people rather than 200.

Sep 14, 2014 - 11:41pm

@lbreitst Thank you. I was fixing my resume for FT applications and this is wonderful. I had a quick question about my Cover Letter, as per your advice, it should focus on Skill 1,2 & 3. Should I also include where I picked up these skills or that doesn't matter as it is on my resume? Also I am applying for ER and have had 2 internships in that area, any specific key words recruiters like or should I just write the skills I feel are relevant to the area?

Thank you for your help

If you fall down, make sure you get back up with a vengeance!
Sep 15, 2014 - 12:17pm

Any input on listing your undergrad GPA after working full-time? Been working FT for close to a year and I'm not sure if I still need to list it

Next stop: Flavortown!
Sep 15, 2014 - 6:28pm

Another post that should be required reading for everyone looking to get into the industry. Excellent post.

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."
Sep 15, 2014 - 9:20pm

Very welcome.

Yes, it is reasonable to include where you developed the skills. And I don't have any specific keywords for you to use, but match up keywords / skills based upon the job posting and the skills that they say they are looking for (or that hold true for the job as a whole).

For example:

Strong Quantitative Skills - Having interned at XYZ Capital, I was able to gain firsthand experiencing performing valuation analysis and learn how to forecast company earnings. Having focused on the technology sector, I also developed a grasp for how various companies in the industry monetize their business models. These quantitative skills and the ability to conceptualize business models would help me succeed as an Equity Analyst at LMN Bank.

Sep 16, 2014 - 12:25pm

RE cover letters. These only hurt you. Don't try to be a hero and have the best cover letter of all time but also don't neglect them completely- do the bare minimum, just use the standard format mentioned above and keep it short. Just reemphasizing.

For OCR recruiting, we get a stack of 400 resumes to go through with cover letter attached for each school. Personally, I don't read them but there was an instance of a VP who read through each and every one and the kid accidentally put the wrong bank in his cover letter. auto ding).

This is the case 99.9% of the time, unless you have an actual personal relationship with an MD or higher (or your dad can provide the firm with actual business), in which case it doesn't matter how garbage your resume/cover letter are.

May 15, 2017 - 5:08am

Very nice. I would like to include that many people think a resume is a list of responsibilities. While that may be a small part, it is not the focus. The focus is on your ACCOMPLISHMENTS at your workplace, and obviously they should be relevant as discussed above.

May 31, 2017 - 5:38am

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