Resume and cover letter - a reviewers perspective
I just read through a stack of cover letters and resumes to prepare for a summer intern interview day. Here's some comments from the perspective of a late 30s banker on the interviewer side of the table.
- Every cover page and resume looks the same. I skim read the cover letter looking for anything that jumps out at me - which is usually grammar or punctuation errors or ridiculous claims like my bank is an "outstanding market leader" in some area that it's not. I ignore outrageous claims about how willing to learn you are, how much money you raised for charity (likely just to build your resume) etc.
- Average time spent reading each letter and resume - about 45 seconds.
- On the resume section, I mainly look at coursework (how closely does it relate to technical skills) and interests. If there is something highly relevant in the work experience section, I'll spend 5 seconds thinking about that. For example, one resume had experience packing at a UPS store as the oldest work experience. That interested me far more than an internship at some private wealth firm, as (a) logistics is an interesting industry, (b) working in customer service teaches you a lot about human nature and (c) I have contempt for the private wealth business.
- President of some finance club or finalist in some competition? Eh, whatever. I don't give a crap about that sort of resume-padding activity. I assume when you start as an intern or grad, you know nothing but have an aptitute to learn and do grunt work. If you start thinking you actually know something, you're a liability to yourself and others.
- Second to the education section, "Interests" is what interests me most. I want to get a flavour for what sort of person you are - someone I'd actually like to have a conversation with? Partly this is about what you are actually interested in, partly (and more so) this is about what interests you choose to present as your interests
- I saw "Pokemon" and "Tetris" listed in some people's interests. I was incredulous. What would motivate someone to think that was worth listing?
- "Magic: The Gathering" listed by one - why not just list "Dressing up in a Fur Suit"? Listing this indicates you have no sense of how the mainstream population who is aware of that game perceives those who play it.
- People who put "Managing my portfolio" or "Finance" as an interest - I assume either you're a psycho or you're trying too hard to please me.
- Languages - some applicants listed "Chinese", but no dialect, which suggests they don't know Chinese language as well as they think they do. I've worked in China and speak a functional level of Cantonese and Mandarin. I'm looking forward to testing these ones. Don't list it if you aren't ready for that, or at least attach an adjective like "basic".