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The 9 worst things to include on your banking CV

Don't rend your resume toxic

Unless you're a seismologist with a PhD or an equity derivatives professional with Iberian contacts, getting your CV past the recruitment gamekeepers may not be easy. If they're any good, they'll receive hundreds of résumés from hopeful candidates every week. And if they're anything like the recruiters we speak to, they will reject many of them.

If you don't want to give a recruiter a pretext to disregard your application, you need to avoid the most pernicious résumé crimes. We spoke to a selection of banking recruiters in London. This is what they say they hate.

1. A long description of your character followed by short descriptions of what you've actually done

"Recruiters are not interested in whether you are dynamic and ambitious - everyone is to some extent," says Kathryn Pride, a director with recruitment firm Dartmouth Partners. "They are interested in your current job and what you actually do on a daily basis."

2. A list of roles without any explanation of your tangible achievements 

"It's like getting blood out of a stone," says one recruiter in reference to candidates' brevity when it comes to describing what they've actually done at work.

"We are interested in what the application system or library does and how it has affect on the organisation whether it saves money or time or helps increase P&L," says Dean Looney, head of technology and quant development at NJF Search. "If a candidate has used C++, Java or Python, we want to know have they used it and what have they done that makes them stand out. Having written a real time pricing engine is great but these days it's not enough just to say that."

3. Boxes. Boxes. Boxes  

Recruiters hate boxes. Don't use them: there's no need to give your academic record a nice grey surround. Where you see a pleasant layout, recruiters see more work. Most recruiters will reformat your CV according to their template; boxes are an "annoyance best avoided," says Looney.

4. Logos

As for boxes, so for logos. "People like to put logos on their CVs," says Mani Kular at recruitment firm Hudson. "They copy and paste these logos from the internet and list them alongside their qualifications and places of employment. It looks messy and tacky."

5. Stars. Clip art

As for boxes, as for logos, so for stars and clip art. Anything that's not text looks bad on a banking CV. "Any kind of over-formatting is best avoided," says James Findlay, head of risk and compliance at recruitment firm Selby Jennings. "I had a CV the other day which had a red star at the top saying they were available from May 2015," he adds.

6. Your erratic employment record  

There's not much to be done about it, but an erratic employment record will lead to your CV being disregarded more surely than any number of boxes or summary descriptions of your past.

"When I get a CV, the first thing I look at are the institutions a person has worked for," says one headhunter in Europe. "They next thing I look at is how long their employment history is with each institution. A CV may list great employers like Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank, but if that person has only spent a year and a half with each of them that's a massive turnoff both for me and for the banks that might hire them."

7. Chronological confusion 

Don't put your first job first. Don't put your qualifications ahead of your work history. Most of all, recruiters want to see what you're doing now. "Always put your latest job at the top. Always put your qualifications after your work experience," says Findlay. "Unless you're just finishing something impressive like a PhD."

8. Duplicitous job titles 

Yes, you're an analyst, but what kind of analyst are you? If you're an analyst in IT, don't give the impression that you're an analyst in IBD. This happens, says Andy Pringle at recruitment firm Circle Square. "You get people who work in risk who call themselves an analyst and apply for IBD jobs," Pringle says. "You get people who work in tech who do the same. It's basically misleading information."

9. Tangential non-achievements 

So a team near you worked on the Time Warner Cable Deal? So you made a suggestion for a pitch book that won a healthcare mandate? This doesn't mean you can list these things among your accolades. Don't present things you were only involved with tangentially as your own achievements.

"We joke about Songbird," says Pringle. "It's been refinanced three times and I've seen it mentioned on 200 CVs. People will say they were involved in the deal even if they just walked past a spreadsheet with the Songbird name on it."

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Fo
    3 June 2015

    I was fortunate to enjoy a quick career trajectory as an analyst, modeler, manager and VP in asset-backed securities back in the days when it was a new, cutting-edge field (and risk was managed prudently!!), and over the course of 20 years I worked for 7 of the top financial institutions of the day. If you do the math, that's less than 3 years per company. But here's the thing: I was sought out and recruited for every one of those positions, and each time wooed away with significantly more money and a chance to up-level my job title, skills and professional profile at every turn. I left jobs I LOVED - and where they loved me! - when I just couldn't in good conscience turn down a great new opportunity.

    So it's a little discouraging to hear you say that today's recruiters will - and should! - automatically discount anyone who has similar short-term tenures at multiple jobs, without doing any homework to discover WHY that was the case for that individual. Sometimes it's not that the employee is a problem; sometimes it's that they're highly sought-after and fought for - and GREAT at what they do!

    I hope recruiters at least look at the companies the person has moved TO in each instance, and understand that if it's another large, great company that the odds are the person was being hired away because they're a great resource that company wanted to grab (you wouldn't assume that a major bank makes stupid hiring decisions, or doesn't do their homework about potential employees, would you??), and not leaving a job in disgrace because they were a sub-standard or flighty employee! Every situation is unique, and people deserve to be given that consideration without being rejected out of hand - a rejection, I might add, that would have the recruiter missing out on some of the BEST people!

    Also - there are some jobs where your impact just can't be measured, other than to indicate you kept that function running smoothly and your staff were great and happy to work for you, or that you showed up and worked hard through multiple nights without complaining to get the budget presentation done perfectly so the CFO would shine in front of the board. I wish people who give career advice would stop telling people that they have to have a measurable "achievement" for every job - it's just NOT realistic!

    At least offer your great advice for what exact "achievement" people should use to describe having mastered those jobs where just satisfying the job's challenging requirements competently day in and day out kept that organization functioning and succeeding! Ask yourself: what would a GREAT janitor, whose honest hard work and great attitude everyone at that company values highly, put down as a measurable "achievement" ? EVERY job matters, and any CEO will tell you that being able to count on people to perform even the most mundane roles makes a HUGE impact on that organization!

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