The One Rule Of Resumes

I actually just got done polishing up my resume. I do it about once a year. No, I am not quitting the Dirtnap and going to be a working stiff at some broker-dealer. In fact, I don't plan on working for anybody ever again. But it's nice to have around, like the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency thing, because, well, you never know. And if you need one fast, you don't want to be scrambling around trying to remember everything you did for the last five years.

So when I started as a new guy at Lehman Brothers back in 2001, in the MBA class, they took everyone's resumes and bound them all together in a book. There were about 80 of us in capital markets, maybe less. Then they had a picture of us up in the upper right hand corner of the page. It was like an actual "face book," before Facebook.

Well, the first thing I noticed was that my resume was pretty crappy. I had a gmat score that was slightly lower than the class average, my college grades were poop, and I had literally just come from the Coast Guard, so nobody's resume made any sense to me, and mine certainly didn't make sense to anyone else. I thought people would think that it was pretty cool that I was a federal law enforcement officer and carried a gun, but nobody seemed to care.

Like most students, I was busily trying to fill up that resume with every trivial accomplishment, like getting "Most Improved" in the intramural racquetball league my sophomore year in college. I'm exaggerating, but not by much. I was trying to fill up space, and the reality is, when you're 22 or even 27 years old, you just haven't done all that many interesting things. In fact, at that age, everyone is pretty much alike. Everyone has gone to good schools and gotten good grades and taken good classes. When you're on the other side of the desk, conducting the interview, all the resumes start to blend together after a while. They do. Trust me.

So anyway, back in my associate class, I became friends with this guy Dave. You might remember him from STREET FREAK-Dave Lane. You wouldn't know much about Dave Lane from reading his resume. Went to Dartmouth, English major-wait, it says here he had his own magazine for a couple of years. That's interesting. And he played Ultimate Frisbee. But you would look at this guy's resume, and it kind of left you hanging, like, you wanted to know more. It was just a teaser.

As it turned out, there was a lot more to Dave Lane than meets the eye. The guy was a total stud, and ended up being the unofficial leader of our class. And he's gone on to become even more successful-he runs billions of dollars. So I asked him, what's with the resume? There's nothing on here.

He said, "Less is more."

And it was like someone hit me over the head with a frying pan. It's totally true. There is no bigger turn-off than trying to read some resume that has .005 inch margins, with 8-point font, going on and on about winning Most Improved in the sophomore intramural racquetball league. Guys. People are realistic. Everyone knows that you're a dweeb out of college and you haven't done anything. And if you have done something interesting, put it down. But be brief about it. Keep it simple, and elegant. Use the full one inch margins. Times New Roman only. It's not a contest to see how much shit you can cram into a single page, like writing up a formula cheat sheet for a math exam.

One more thing. After you've read fifty or a hundred resumes of people from the same schools, taking the same classes, getting the same grades, the first thing you start to do is let your eyes fall to the bottom of the page, where it says "Interests" or "Other." Do you ride a unicycle? Do you write erotic literature? Please, let me just find somebody interesting.

I recruited one guy who was the World Memory Champion for being the fastest to memorize a deck of cards. He was in the Guinness Book of World Records. Needless to say, that guy was hired on the spot.

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