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Investment Banking Trading Cover Letter

Investment Banking Cover Letter Template

NOTE FROM WSO:
Attached at the bottom of this post is an investment banking cover letter template that is sometimes used for WSOcover letter review clients. WSO has decided to make it free in order to help those of you that can't afford a more tailored service.

This particular cover letter template uses bullets to keep the points succinct and the format easy to read. You'll also notice that the header matches the WSOinvestment banking resume template format.

IB Cover Letter Advice from the WSO Community

Here's what you need to know about the cover letter, courtesy of @CompBanker.

The cover letter holds almost no weight, other than to put you at risk for being dinged. Make it very simple, very bland, and just say all the usual things. If you have mistakes in it or make outrageous claims, your cover letter will be circulated and laughed at.

Why Does it Matter?

Like @CompBanker said, you won't get the interview with your cover letter. Your goal for your cover letter isn't to single-handedly land you an interview with your eloquence and grandiose; it's to check the box and make sure it's proper enough that it doesn't get you dinged.

Less Is More

Great input on why 'less is more' from @bkm125.

What you really want people to be looking at is the resume. The longer your cover letter is the larger the chance that you'll have a typo or say something stupid. Just tell them what job you're applying for, who you've been in touch with at the firm, and maybe a few sentences about your qualifications and lock up the deal with a solid resume.

K.I.S.S: Keep It Simple Stupid. Mention who you've talked to at the firm, your interest in the job, your qualifications, and briefly (very briefly) explain any gaps in your resume. (Avoid excuses, more on this later). Two or three paragraphs is all you need for that. Any more than that, and you're giving them potential reasons to ding you.

Here's some great advice from @blackice.

The best thing you can do is name drop people you have talked to. That way I know you have done your homework, and I can ask the person you talked to how your chat was. I think cover letters are better when they are focused on your past work experience as opposed to general and arbitrary sentiments about how you are a "hard worker and team player with a strict attention to detail".

If you've talked to someone at the firm and they'd remember you, DO namedrop them in your cover letter.

Common Cover Letter Mistakes

From @qonnect.me

Here are mistakes I have seen:

1) Using phrasing like: "After my summer analyst stint, I learned the entire deal execution process..."; "I am extremely proficient in Excel and financial modeling...". You get the idea. Be confident, but don't over-emphasize anything out of the scope of your ability to speak to it.

2) Not enough emphasis on teamwork. This is important. People should know that you are able to work with others. This is easy to incorporate, just give a brief two sentence overview of what your team structure was and why it made sense.

Some additional analysis from @SirTradesaLot on cover letter mistakes:

I received a cover letter, resume, and some other related collateral (a supposed 'research' report) relatively recently from a cold emailer that I thought was worth highlighting. It has some prime examples of what not to say/write to anyone ever. I'll post some excerpts below that will preserve the anonymity of the applicant:

Excuses:
"I realize my professional experience is more in technology and lacks in finance. I believe that was just bad luck due to graduating from my MBA program at the height of the "Great Recession". However, I am 100% committed and motivated to prove myself in a finance position."

Bad luck? No, it's the shitty and difficult-to-read resume, cover letter, and 'research reports' that are the issue. I'm almost certain you would be a terrible employee just by the quality of the work you sent me in a cold email. You graduated from college 10 years ago, by the way. I remember at least a few of those as being pretty good years. If you were halfway decent, you could have squeaked in the industry in more than a few of those years.

Please do not pin all of your circumstance on luck, especially in a cover letter. Even if the reader is a big believer in luck, you're telling him you're unlucky. Who wants to hire someone who's unlucky? It seems the bad luck streak started in utero, if you ask me.

Revealing Your Ignorance:
Even worse than just plain ignorance, the below quote was from an attached research report that this guy wrote. Since he thought it was worth including, I assume the report was something he was proud of, but it was cringe-worthy.

"I am placing a STRONG BUY recommendation on [company]. ("ticker") and believe that [the company], at the current price of $10.00, trades at a 123% discount to my estimated fair market value of $22.30" (Both made up numbers to scale to the actual numbers listed in the 'report').

123% discount? C'mon man. Don't you think about the stuff you write before you blast it out to hundreds of potential employers? Anyone that reads it will certainly never hire you.

The report should have never been attached. It made a weak applicant look even worse. He's clearly never done anything but 'book learn' on these subjects. It's painfully obvious by reading the report. He uses four valuation methodologies on the stock with the sole intention of showing that he knows more than one valuation method.

If you're thinking of including a research report on a company when you're cold emailing people, it's a high risk strategy. Your research probably sucks unless you've been doing it professionally. If there is any doubt at all about including a 'research report', do not do it.

(Side note: The research report had a lot of opinions and not a lot of facts, and it lacked connections between really basic facts about the current state of the business to the 'projections'.)

Miscellaneous:
"Dear Hiring Manager,

I am an inquisitive mind that loves to use this innate trait towards evaluating the economy, markets, and stocks. Those skills are collecting data and analyzing the data."

Face palm. This is how the cover letter starts. So much is wrong with this, I hope it does not require an explanation.

"Computer skills" is mentioned in both the resume and cover letter. In general, if you are listing "computer skills" as one of your strengths, it probably isn't. You should probably be more specific or focus on something else.

"CORE COMPETANCIES" -- listed as a major category on the resume. If your "computer skills" are so strong, you should probably know how to use spellcheck.

"Sincerely,
John Public, MBA"

You're not a medical doctor. You do not put "MBA" in your god damned signature. Seriously, wtf is wrong with you?

Don't pin your lack of finance experience, poor GPA, mediocre university, etc., on dumb luck. Yes, explain any major gaps in your resume. No, don't make excuses. Avoid discussing things you don't understand.

The Hail Mary Cover Letter

If you don't think you have a chance to get the job, you can toss a Hail Mary with your cover letter. Here's a cover letter an audacious undergrad used in an effort to stand out and grab the attention of its reader. A big swing that's either a hit or miss. We don't recommend using this cover letter unless you lack the slightest chance of getting the interview in the first place.

Dear BLOCKED,

My name is (BLOCKED), and I am an undergraduate finance student at (BLOCKED). I met you the summer before last at Smith & Wollensky's in New York when I was touring the east coast with my uncle, (BLOCKED). I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk with me that night.

I am writing to inquire about a possible summer internship in your office. I am aware it is highly unusual for undergraduates from average universities like (BLOCKED) to intern at (BLOCKED), but nevertheless, I was hoping you might make an exception. I am extremely interested in investment banking and would love nothing more than to learn under your tutelage. I have no qualms about fetching coffee, shining shoes, or picking up laundry, and will work for next to nothing. In all honesty, I just want to be around professionals in the industry and gain as much knowledge as I can.

I won't waste your time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job titles, or feeding you a line of crap (sic) about how my past experiences and skill set align perfectly for an investment banking internship. The truth is I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities, but I do have a near perfect GPA and will work hard for you. I've interned for Merrill Lynch in the Wealth Management Division and taken an investment banking class at (BLOCKED), for whatever that is worth.

I am currently awaiting admission results for (BLOCKED) Masters of Science in Accountancy program, which I would begin this fall if admitted. I am also planning on attending law school after my master's program, which we spoke about in New York. I apologize for the blunt nature of my letter, but I hope you seriously consider taking me under your wing this summer. I have attached my resume for your review. Feel free to call me at (BLOCKED) or email at (BLOCKED). Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

BLOCKED.

Original Post

Do you guys know of any solid cover letter templates (and/or examples)? Feel free to link your own if you think it's good, or you could just tell me to PM you and I'll send you my email address. I'm trying to figure out what it should look like, so I can hopefully start getting some interviews. Also, I'm not only applying to IB jobs (or even finance jobs, for that matter), so feel free to recommend/link stuff for a variety of jobs/industries; it'll all be helpful to me. Thanks in advance, guys.

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Do you really need to write a cover letter when you’re applying for a job in an investment bank? These days, it’s surely all about the skills in your CV – who’s got the time to read that extra blurb saying how perfect you are for the role?

Not recruiters working with experienced hires. Most of the banking recruiters we speak to treat the cover letters (or ‘cover emails’) they receive from experienced candidates as an irrelevance. “For experienced roles, we rarely look at cover letters,” says Logan Naidu, CEO of London-based financial services recruitment firm Dartmouth Partners. “I don’t really read the cover letter, I just go for the CV,” agrees Richard Hoar, director of banking and financial services at Goodman Masson. “I look at the CV and then I phone them. – If the CV is relevant, I’ll get everything that would have been in the cover letter from that call.”

Before you start sending CVs and resumes for banking jobs without any preamble whatsoever, though, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are some situations in which cover letters can make all the difference.  

These include:

  • When you’re applying for graduate jobs in banking.
  • When you’re applying to banks directly (without going through external recruiters),
  • And… when you happen to be using a recruiter who simply likes cover letters (hard to tell!).

“For graduate hires, cover letters are very important,” says Naidu. Just how important is reflected by the fact that some banks specify them as a must-have in their graduate recruitment process.Banks like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Macquarie all demand that their would-be analysts in Europe write cover letters or something very similar, says Victoria McLean, a former Goldman Sachs recruiter and founder of banking CV specialists, City CV. 

Goldman Sachs is particularly demanding – it requests that graduate applicants write a personal statement which is effectively a cover letter in 300 words or less.  In theory, Goldman Sachs is ditching its cover letter process and will soon be using HireVue digital interviews to select all its student hires, but for the moment the 300 word killer cover letter is still an integral part of the Goldman recruitment process. A former recruiter at the firm told us it’s very important. “Some students were excellent until they got to the cover letter,” – those 300 words let them down.

What makes a good banking cover letter? Mai Le, a former Goldman Sachs investment banking associate runs CoverLetterLibrary, a community which houses a collection of cover letters that have enabled juniors to get jobs at banks in the past. Le says the best cover letters have two things in common: narrative structure (they emphasize your story and show the choices that brought you here) and facts and figures that underscore your background and achievements. By comparison, Le says the worst banking cover letters suffer from key-word stuffing, irrelevant information and spelling and grammatical mistakes.

It can help to follow a general template… 

You need to tailor your cover letters for each job you apply to. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t write a cover letter that follows a template. It does mean that each time you apply for a new job, you will need to fill in the template all over again.

McLean suggests your template follows the following format: Introduction. Why me? Why you? Why this job? In total, the text within the template should be no more than 750 words, or one A4 page, long. Le says some candidates also use a format that’s ordered as, Why this job? Why this bank? Why me? “It’s a matter of personal preference,” she says. Ultimately, you want all these elements in the cover letter and should go with which ever you feel comfortable with.

Either way, here’s what to include.

The easy introductory paragraph

The first paragraph is all about explaining why you’re writing. If you’re applying for a graduate job in a bank, keep it short and sweet.

“The first paragraph is just to say who you are and why you’re writing the letter,” says McLean.

This paragraph might read something like. “I am an X with X year history of X at global banking firms including X as well as X. I have been working for X for the past X years.”

If you’re writing a Goldman Sachs cover letter that’s 300 words or less, you can ditch this style of opening paragraph. – There’s just no space for it.

If you’re writing to a recruiter, there’s less need to be quite so brief with your introduction. Say who you are, and explain why you’ve approached that recruiter in particular: “If someone says they’ve been referred to me by someone I know and respect, I will sit up and pay attention,” says Branthover. “The same applies if they say they’ve learned that I mentor women and that this is something they’re interested in too.”

In other words, when you’re writing a cover letter to a recruiter, you need to know who you’re writing to. Use this introductory paragraph to address them in person. Flattery will get you everywhere.

The selling yourself paragraph. ‘Why you?’

The second paragraph is usually harder. This is where you need to start selling yourself, expressing your personality, and explaining why you’re such a hot catch. It’s here that you can add in some of the narrative explaining how you came to apply for this role, plus some of the substantiating figures that Le says make successful cover letters so effective. Don’t use bland and empty phrases like, “I am a determined, motivated person.” Do look at the key words and skills used to describe the job you’re applying for and (without too obviously reiterating the ad) explain how you match them. Focus on the results and on outcomes you’ve achieved in similar situations in the past.  You need to be specific and you need to bring yourself to life.

If you’re writing a cover letter to accompany a graduate application, McLean says you can use the second paragraph to talk about what you’ve studied and how it’s relevant. If you’ve studied finance and know how to do a DCF, now’s the time to mention that. If you haven’t studied finance but have good relationship management skills and you want to work in M&A (a relationship-focused business), say that here. Provide EVIDENCE for the skills you’re claiming to have.- List any awards you’ve won. Never, ever, make empty statements. “Many successful trading cover letters feature the candidate’s trading return profile and their rationales for their success or failure,” says Le. ” – Cover letters for sales positions highlight the candidate’s track record that evident their ability as a natural salesperson.”

The motivational paragraph. ‘Why thisjob (in this sector?)’

If you’re an experienced hire applying through a recruiter or applying directly to a bank, this is where you explain why you want the job you’re applying for. If you’re a student applying for a first job, this is why you need to explain why you want this job and why you want to work in this sector. Be specific – you’ll need to know about the job and the sector before you start this section.

As a student, you’ll need to link your skills back to your motivation for working in that area of banking above others, says McLean. Why M&A? Why not sales and trading? Why not compliance? – If you want to work in operations, for example, explain how you have a passion for building systems and improving efficiency, as evidenced by your system for serving customers in your weekend job…

The flattering paragraph. ‘Why this bank?’

The fourth paragraph is all about explaining why you want to work for that particular bank. Again, you need to be specific. McLean says graduates often copy and paste from banks’ own websites. For example, it’s not unheard of for them to write, “I want to work for Goldman Sachs because you have 170 locations across 90 cities in over 30 countries.”  This will get you nowhere.

The other ex-Goldman Sachs recruiter we spoke to said she particularly looked for, “creativity and effort and writing about Goldman Sachs,” when running through students’ cover letters. People were expected to say exactly why they wanted to work for Goldman rather than, say, J.P. Morgan.

Instead of just reiterating what you’ve read on banks’ websites, therefore, you need to cite some unusual reasons for choosing that bank that will make you stand out. If you’re a student, it helps to say that you’ve met some of the banks’ staff and were impressed by them.  Citigroup, for example, suggests that student cover letters reference encounters with the bank’s staff at recruitment events. – Make a note of the staff you meet and explain what they said or did that impressed you, and what made you think you’d like to work with them.

Mark Hatz, a former M&A associate at Goldman Sachs and Perella Weinberg Partners who now helps people get jobs in banking, says stressing your rapport with people you’ve met from the firm is particularly important when you’re applying for a job in M&A or capital markets: “These are advisory businesses and they want to see that you can build a rapport and work in a team. If you get the job, you’ll also be spending a lot of hours in the office with these people, so showing you like them is very important.”

It also helps to reference the bank’s strategy, to mention any awards the bank won, and to cite any conversations you’ve had with or comments you’ve read from other industry professionals and analysts who’ve given concrete reasons why it’s good place to work. Everything in this section needs to be positive. – You need to explain why you want to work for Deutsche Bank specifically without writing anything that denigrates its rivals. The more senior you are, the more you will need to reference solid strategy points at this stage.

“Show a grasp of where they are going, what the plan is and why this appeals to you,” says McLean. Show that you know their strategy and that you agree with the way they’re addressing challenges.

The call to action

Finally, you need to end the cover letter with a call to action. McLean suggests completing the letter with the following sentence: “I really look forward to hearing from you. I am available for interview and contactable by X.’

Simple. Except all of this has to be written in 750 words – or just 300 if you’re a student applying to Goldman Sachs. It’s not so easy after all.

Follow @MadameButcher

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