I have seen a lot of resumes and cover letters as of late. Some very impressive ones and some that are extremely cringeworthy. If you stand out in a bad way, your resume and cover letter are almost certainly due for a forward to several other bankers – possibly at different firms. An egregious breach of professional duty by the forwarder, no doubt, but also detrimental to your candidacy.
With that in mind, keep the resume simple. We aren’t offering a template here (there are 40 more sites for that), but I will give a quick walkthrough of what I want to see.
1. Your name, phone number, email and address – For the name, if your name is noticeably foreign (you do not have an English first name), you may be displeased to know that a lot of professionals may have a subconscious or conscious bias against you. This is not a defense of such biases – but it behooves you to put in an anglicized first name and have your given name as per your passport in brackets. For your email, one would think it goes without saying, but I am still seeing far too many email@example.com. If the other components of your resume are strong, this will be discounted – but it is still a negative, never a positive.
2. Assuming you are not an experienced hire (you are a student, undergrad or graduate), school and GPA are important. Not all schools are created equal (check out our schools section) – if you have a 4.0 at Ryerson, that will be looked at as a 3.0 from Ivey (i.e. not well). Again, this isn’t a justification of biases, just a heads up.
3. Your major is important. “Hard” majors will receive less scrutiny for a lower GPA (engineering, physics, math). Economics, finance and physical sciences are par for the course. Anything on the social sciences other than economics demands a high GPA (and we understand that getting the top mark in philosophy is not easy – too bad, you made a conscious decision).
4. A GPA right under your school and major. If you don’t have one, we will assume it’s awful and you have something to hide. If you write something like major GPA instead of cumulative, that is ok, provided your major is finance or economics. Anything 3.7 and above and you should have this box checked off by the reviewer. 3.6 you will probably get a few interviews. 3.3 – 3.5, you will need a fairly strong extracurricular profile to land interviews (or if you are a girl, there is a push to hire more women in capital markets – for good reason). Sub 3.0, you had better know someone.
5. GPAs across target schools are not distributed in the same way. Bay Street USUALLY knows that an 82 at Rotman is not bad but an 82 from Ivey is not good. The street also knows that an 85 from Rotman is pretty good but an 85 from Ivey is very good. Alumni from your university will have a good idea of what GPAs mean and what certain awards distinguish. If your grades are good, it is prudent to show what percentile you are against your peers so no one will be confused.
6. If you have any sort of finance work experience, your internship at World Vision holds less prominence. Do not make the ubiquitous mistake of having the same amount of lines for every job. If you have TD Securities – Summer Sales & Trading Analyst, I do not want to see Leslie’s Cat Emporium taking up the same amount of lines, even if you build robust LBO models on taking Dog World private at a 35% levered IRR while you just took coffees and smoke breaks at TD. An easy way to look at this is that with TD, someone in a similar spot as the person reading your resume already vouched for you. You have experience working in an office and you probably know a thing or two about the markets.
7. Don’t try to be funny in your resume. You can be funny elsewhere, but unless you are actually funny and you can live without the job, you are taking on unnecessary risk. I have seen a lot of these resumes and if you list Pokemon Go as one of your hobbies you will be told to fly a kite.
8. Keep it to a page – you are not that important. Size 12 font with normal margins, black text and appropriate spacing. Should be common sense but you would be surprised.