With economic uncertainty not going away soon, those eager to land a sales and trading role must show that they can navigate an unpredictable market at lightning speed. While there are fewer job openings at bulge bracket firms than five years ago, more finance professionals are putting their sales and trading skills to work in smaller boutique firms.
No matter where you end up, a less-than-perfect resume will automatically knock you out of the running. Even before the face-to-face interview, hiring managers want to see that you have a thick skin when it comes to financial ups and downs, says Missy Bailey, a senior associate director of MBA career services at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business who works with students eager to work in financial services. Your resume “needs to show that you can change course really quickly and that you can focus,” Bailey explains.
Here’s how to craft the perfect sales and trading resume:
Since the financial crisis, showing prospective employers that you’ve had experience deciphering complicated financial products is essential. Your understanding of risk and an unwillingness of being excessively leveraged is another important skill to convey. “This could take the form of framing trading results in terms of allowable risk limits and demonstrating a thoughtful approach to deciding when to unwind,” suggests Jeffrey Fischer, a Chapel Hill, N.C.-based leadership consultant who works with M.B.A.s and clients like Goldman Sachs.
Resumes are often parsed electronically before being delivered to hiring managers or recruiters, says Robyn Feldberg, a resume expert and founder of the Abundant Success Coach. “If you know they are looking for a Series 7 license [and you are getting one] you can include it under a section on your resume and indicate you are studying for it and will test for it [at a later date]. You want to get the keyword in there,” says Feldberg who is based in Frisco, Texas.
While an MBA is not a requirement for a position on a trading desk, industry-specific certifications (like a Series 7 and 63) can show employers that you’re serious about your career track and are willing to make the necessary investments.
Sales and trading is all about numbers, and employers are eager to see you have those skills right off the bat. “You have to be good at basic, good old-fashioned math — the numbers in and of themselves and the ability to analyze them,” says USC’s Bailey. Cite examples to convey how you were able to quickly make decisions that incorporated your mathematical knowledge.
Let your resume bullet points speak for themselves by highlighting quantifiable accomplishments rather than describing what you did at your previous employer, says Feldberg. “The ratio should be five parts accomplishment to one part job responsibility,” she says. Include details that are easily comparable across candidates such as earnings estimates or sales records.
For many, sales and trading is synonymous with intense 90-hour work weeks and that’s exactly what hiring managers need to see before they will bring you on board. While you can’t staple your time card to the back of your resume, it’s possible to drop subtle hints, explains Feldberg. For example, “comment on a former performance appraisal that’s praising you for working 16-hour days,” she says.
At more senior levels within sales and trading, it’s important to demonstrate leadership skills from a previous position. “Managing trading types is difficult in any market, but in an environment of stricter controls, reining in people who are incredibly independent becomes much harder,” says Fischer, whose clients have gone to bulge bracket firms like UBS and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. For example, include specific performance metrics on a team or project you managed.
Regardless of the position, a resume is all about details. Before throwing your hat into the ring, make sure to really do a thorough edit: check for typos, align spacing, highlight applicable achievements, and make sure your job descriptions fit the position that you’re going for. In most finance roles, stick to a traditional resume format which includes a one-page description of previous experience and details your applicable skills and education. In many investment banking roles it’s a good idea to leave the objective off your resume, says Bailey.
When writing your resume, it’s important to come across as sharp and hard-working as you pursue a sales and trading career. Most managing directors are more impressed with work ethic than high-level degrees and your resume should convey your intense interest in this type of career path. If you’re making a career change, consider getting an unpaid internship or short-term consulting assignment to add relevant experience to your resume.
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