While there’s no secret recipe for creating a perfect résumé or nailing an interview, there are a few simple things that can set you apart from the crowd in the finance industry. As a recent graduate, you need to be proactive to separating yourself from hundreds of other candidates. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Every industry has its unique hot buttons when it comes to résumés. These quick tips are simple but make a big impact during the tiny window of time when a recruiter is looking at your résumé.
1) Quantify, quantify, quantify.
I can't stress this enough. It's simple but so important in finance résumés. Finance professionals love numbers and constantly quantify everything – it's how we think, and should be how you promote yourself. This tip applies to the obvious (including dollars saved and book balances managed), but the possibilities are endless. Try to turn every achievement or accomplishment into a number. Have you coordinated an event for an organization? How many people attended? How many total volunteer hours did that result in? It’s also nice to show how your involvement impacted these figures where possible, this could be reflected in growth in attendance, returns, etc. Did you receive an award or get inducted into an exclusive organization? Try to quantify how many people you were competing against. It makes your accomplishment that much more impressive or valuable. As discussed, it's a simple trick but will differentiate your résumé and be appreciated by the hiring manager!
2) Keep it simple.
Some people like to provide a high level description of their work experience in paragraph form for each role. I believe this is dangerous regardless of industry. Your résumé is typically reviewed for six seconds or less and your goal should be to make the reader’s life easier. Get to the bottom line with bullet points. These points should be teasers to give the reader enough information to understand your accomplishments, but simple enough that they want to interview you to learn more! It’s a tricky balance but here is one example to illustrate:
- A vague description: Provided financial advisory solutions to corporations in the financial services sector
- Rather, use specifics: Performed corporate valuation using discounted cash flow (DCF), comparable public company and precedent M&A transaction methodologies for firms in the financial services sector.
3) Use our jargon.
The finance industry's lingo is varied but revolves around numbers and action impacting the bottom line. Don't be afraid to use buzz words for the industry as they show your comfort with the industry from previous experience and/or your own research or knowledge. When a hiring manager sees a term like Net Present Value that they use daily in their own roles, it automatically gives you some credibility and helps them visualize you in the role. While this should go without saying, don't pepper these buzz words or verbs throughout your résumé if they don't apply or make sense. Be careful as wrong use of a finance term or activity could be a deal-breaker. Another word of caution is using uncommon acronyms. That could confuse an interviewer or, more importantly, cause them to discount that section completely.
Interviews can be an intimidating part of any application, but these tips are incredibly easy and unbelievably effective.
4) Do your research.
In reality, you may be applying to multiple companies and roles, but it's important to portray that this one is your first choice. This is easily done with a little research and enthusiasm. Prior to the interview, dig into the company’s story. Start with the website followed by a simple Google search for recent news or accomplishments. Know the basics like their revenues and performance last quarter but try to take it a step further by poking around a little more. Since basic information is easily available, strive to learn something about the company that you couldn't find using your smart-phone while waiting for your interview in their lobby. Did they recently publish some research you found interesting? Have they possibly acquired a company recently or hired a new management team? Once found, do not feel pressured to share this knowledge as it can hurt a candidate when it's forced. Since this can be tricky when you're already concerned about selling yourself, you can prepare by tying the information to an answer you know will come up. For example, when talking about a certain accomplishment, you can link it to the company’s recent news, goals, etc. Another trick is to work your knowledge into the Q&A by saying something like "I saw that Barclays recently made some new senior level hires in high yield trading, is this going to be a growth area of the firm going forward?"
5) Exude confidence.
This can apply to any industry and is a best practice for daily life in the workplace. Confidence is unbelievably important in the business world. This can be conveyed in multiple ways ranging from your body language and eye contact to your approach to answering a question and comfort with your own résumé. You’ve made it to the interview stage, so see it through by being comfortable with yourself and your achievements. Speak clearly and don't be afraid to toot your own horn. Attempt to use this advice in your daily life and make sure to ask for feedback from others – you don't want to venture into a cocky attitude. It’s incredible how many people don’t get the second interview due to a lack of confidence in their self and work. Use tricks learned over the years and never forget the power of a firm handshake and solid eye contact!
6) Know your numbers.
While this may sound silly or obvious, but mistakes can happen to anyone, including finance majors. Nerves and anxiousness can make interviewing hard but give yourself a crutch by studying applicable numbers (primarily about the company and your performance) thoroughly before walking into the interview. Since your new role will obviously revolve around figures, you want to be confident and correct with anything discussed. While there is plenty of leeway in any interview, you don't want to blunder on the basics, so just take an extra second to study any relevant numbers and know them cold prior to the interview.
7) Turn the tables.
This is a maneuver that has worked 99% of the time for me. Truth is, most managers are proud of their company, group, and themselves. How do you make this work for you? Simply flip the interview on them. This obviously should be tempered through the body of the interview, but is definitely the way to close. When asked if you have any questions for them at the end, NEVER say no. Use the research you've completed to ask anything about their company, the role, their structure, etc. The list of questions is infinite but the point is to get them talking. You've already proved that you did your research about the company, so don't force your questions into tight boxes in an attempt to show you know about them. Instead, keep it broad and high-level. Open-ended questions allow them to brag and make the interview more of a conversation. Make sure to flip your role as the interviewee by listening and making notes when or if necessary. Demonstrate your manners and don't cut them off. Honestly the more they talk the better you are doing. By closing this way you have fed into their ego by allowing them to boast or share and you've almost flipped the power and roles. This, combined with the pointers above, will go a long way in making you memorable. Assuming it’s backed by strong previous experience and a great attitude you've got a significant leg up on your competition.
Are you looking for advice on breaking into the finance industry? Need help with your resume and interview prep? Connect with Kari on Evisors.
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Kari Parekh graduated from the University of Florida in 2006 with a BSBA in Finance and a minor in Communication Studies. She now works as an Asset Manager in the Other Real Estate Owned group of Wells Fargo and manages a $75 million+ portfolio throughout the Central Region.