Photo: kevynjacobs via Flickr
With recruiting season upon us, I’ve seen a huge increase in resume review volume and general questions on resumes lately. Despite my previous articles on investment banking resumes and private equity resumes, I still see many basic mistakes that can be corrected quite easily.
1) Got Pages?
If you’ve got multiple pages, I’ll tell you one thing you don’t got: an interview. Because if I see more than one page on your resume, it’s going straight to my “not” pile.
I don’t care if you have 10+ years of experience in consulting and finance and even started your own clock manufacturing company; if you’re applying to junior-level positions and your resume is over a page, it’s unacceptable.
I’ve reviewed hundreds (possibly thousands) of resumes over the years and have yet to see a single example of an Analyst or Associate applicant who truly needs more than a page.
In fact, I’ve even reviewed VP-level resumes and in most cases, multiple pages are still unacceptable.
Only if you’re a Managing Director or C-level executive would a multi-page resume be appropriate.
If you can’t reduce your resume to a single page, you need to cut out less relevant experience. If you’ve already worked at Blackstone, no one cares about your part-time job at the library… trust me.
2) Objective: Get Rejected
Whenever I see an Objective section on a resume, I mentally replace “Obtain an Investment Banking Analyst position” with “Reject me! I really don’t want this job!’Objectives are redundant because everyone knows what your objective is: to get a job in finance.
If you’re from a non-traditional background – a Ph.D student who wants to move into M&A, for example – you might think an Objective is “necessary” to show recruiters what you’re doing.
If you’ve done your job correctly, though, you have already presented your story in-person to recruiters and to your contacts at banks, so there’s no need to reiterate it on your resume. And you should have already “bankified” your experience such that it’s clear you’re not looking for a post-doc research position.
Your experience and interactions with industry contacts should demonstrate what your objective is.
3) Fluent in English
I see this one mostly with international applicants. If your resume is in English, please don’t remind us again that you’re fluent in the language.
For most finance jobs you need to be native speaker-level in the language you’re working in; the precision required is simply too high for anything but absolute fluency to suffice.
If your resume is in English, I assume you are fluent in the language. By writing it on the resume, you raise questions over how good you are and whether or not you know enough to write 50+ page documents.
Of course, if your resume is in Chinese or Arabic or Spanish and you’re applying for a local office that uses a language other than English, feel free to write this.
4) High School Valedictorian
Maybe if you’re still a freshman or sophomore and you’re applying to banks you can list high school information. But for anyone older, avoid listing high school information like the jocks avoided the nerds in high school.
It takes up valuable space and prevents you from writing about what really matters – work and leadership experience, and why you’re fit to be a financier.
If you went to a prestigious high school (Andover / Exeter) with many alumni in banking, you might want to list high school information for networking purposes, but in all other cases avoid it.
5) Proficient in Word, Excel and PowerPoint
This is another case where I do a mental replacement – I swap “Proficient in Word, Excel and PowerPoint” for “Proficient in Breathing Oxygen” and then wonder what the person was thinking.
Of all the gaffes listed here, this one might be the most common in resumes I’ve reviewed. This alone is not enough to “sink” your resume, but I do think you look silly listing programs that virtually everyone who has worked in an office before knows how to use.
If you know a programming language such as C++ or Java, go ahead and list those; advanced statistical and financial analysis programs are also fine to list.
Just as with “Fluency in English,” I assume you are “fluent” in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. So don’t re-assure me.
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