The one thing you need to know about cover letters when applying for a banking job

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So, you're applying for a banking job? So, you've spent long hours crafting a beautiful covering letter?

You have probably wasted a little of your life. Banking recruiters tell us they read cover letters almost never.

"A cover letter is just a PR exercise from candidates," says Christian Robbins, director of banking search firm Cherry Bull. "I very rarely read all that stuff about someone being a 'smart, ambitious trader,' it's just a waste of time. I look at the CV and if I like them, I'll find that stuff out in the interview."

"I'll be honest with you, I never really read a cover letter," says David Schwartz, a former head of recruitment at Goldman Sachs and banking headhunter in New York City. "When I get a resume and a cover letter, I'll always read the resume first. I don't really pay much attention to the letter."

The head of recruitment at a European bank in London confessed that she ignores almost all cover letters too. "Cover letters are about self-promotion and are of very little use to an employer. Candidates spend hours and hours on them and they add very little value. We'd much rather look at an individual's current situation via their CV," she says.

(Related articles:

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Dangerous questions to ask when you interview at Barclays, BNP, RBS, Credit Suisse or UBS)

This doesn't mean that you should drop the cover letter entirely. Recruiters say you will still need it as a formality, just don't shed blood over it - it will almost certainly be ignored. Your real effort needs to be saved for crafting a fine financial services CV. 

The only situation when it's worth sweating over a cover letter

This isn't to say that it's always advisable to scrimp on the cover letter. If you're a student and you're applying to a bank that demands a cover letter as part of the application process, then the cover letter will be extremely important and will merit hours of gruelling labour.

"Some banks ask for detailed cover letter in place of the online graduate application form," says Victoria McLean, managing director of City CV. "In this case, graduates needs to demonstrate very clearly what their motivations are to work in that particular role for that particular bank. They need to say something original - not something they've ripped from the bank's website. It's worth putting a lot of time into."




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