1 Maran

Investment Banking Cover Letter Mergers And Inquisitions Resume

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A long time ago I said that we would never post a cover letter template here:

“I was tempted to post a Word template, but I don’t want 5,000 daily visitors to copy it and to start using the same exact cover letter.”

But hey, we already have resume templates that everyone is using, so why not go a step further and give you a cover letter template as well?

Plus, “investment banking cover letter” is one of the top 10 search terms visitors use to find this site – so you must be looking for a template.

The Template & Tutorial

Let’s jump right in:

And here’s the video that explains everything:

(For more free training and financial modeling videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.)

And if you’d rather read, here’s the text version:

Do Cover Letters Actually Matter?

At bulge bracket banks, people barely read cover letters.

Cover letters matter 10x less than resumes and 100x less than networking.

But there are a few special cases where they’re more important:

  • Boutiques and Local Banks – Sometimes they actually read cover letters.
  • Unusual Backgrounds – If you’re NOT in university or business school at the moment, you may need to explain yourself in more detail.
  • Outside the US – In Europe, for example, some banks pay more attention to cover letters, online applications, and so on.

Similar to grades and test scores, a great cover letter won’t set you apart but a poor one will hurt you – so let’s find out how to avoid that.

Overall

Keep your cover letter compact and avoid 0.1″ margins and size 8 font.

With resumes you can get away with shrinking the font sizes and margins if you really need to fit in extra information, but this is questionable with cover letters.

Go for 0.75″ or 1″ margins and at least size 10 font.

With resumes there were a couple different templates depending on your level – but with cover letters that’s not necessary and you can use the same template no matter your background.

1 Page Only

Ok, maybe they do things differently in Australia (just like with resumes) but aside from that there is no reason to write a multi-page cover letter.

If you actually have enough experience to warrant multiple pages, do it on your resume instead and keep the cover letter brief.

Contact Information

List your own information – name, address, phone number, and email address – right-aligned up at the top.

Then, below that you list the date and the name and contact information for the person you’re writing to, left-aligned on the page.

If you don’t have this information you can just list the company name and address and use a “Dear Sir or Madam” greeting.

That’s not ideal – especially if you’re applying to smaller firms where cover letters actually get read – but it’s all you can do if you can’t find a person’s name.

If you’re sending the cover letter via email as the body of the email, you can omit all this information and just include the greeting at the top.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

This is where you explain who you are, where you’re currently working or studying, and how you found the bank that you’re applying to.

Name-drop as much as possible:

  • Impressive-sounding university or business school? Mention it. Even if it’s not well-known, you still need to mention it here.
  • Your company name, especially if it’s recognizable, and the group you’re working in, especially if it’s something relevant to finance like business development.
  • How you found them – specific peoples’ names, specific presentations or information sessions where you met them, and so on.
  • The position you’re applying for (Analyst? Associate?) – especially for smaller places that are not well-organized.

This first paragraph is all about grabbing their attention.

Example 1st Paragraph:

“My name is John Smith and I am currently a 3rd year economics major at UCLA. I recently met Fred Jackson from the M&A group at Goldman Stanley during a presentation at our school last week, and was impressed with what I learned of your culture and recent deal flow. I am interested in pursuing an investment banking summer analyst position at your firm, and have enclosed my resume and background information below.”

Paragraph 2: Your Background

You go through your most relevant experience and how the skills you gained will make you a good banker right here.

Do not list all 12 internships or all 5 full-time jobs you’ve had – focus on the most relevant 1-2, once again name-dropping where appropriate (bulge bracket banks / large PE firms / Fortune 500 companies).

Highlight the usual skills that bankers want to see – teamwork, leadership, analytical ability, financial modeling and so on.

If you worked on a high-impact project / deal / client, you can point that out and list the results as well.

This may be your longest paragraph, but you still don’t want to write War and Peace – keep it to 3-4 sentences.

Example 2nd Paragraph:

“I have previously completed internships in accounting at PricewaterhouseCoopers and in wealth management at UBS. Through this experience working directly with clients, analyzing financial statements, and making investment recommendations, I have developed leadership and analytical skills and honed my knowledge of accounting and finance. I also had the opportunity to work with a $20M net-worth client at UBS and completely revamped his portfolio, resulting in a 20% return last year.”

Paragraph 3: Why You’re a Good Fit

Now you turn around and link your experience and skills to the position more directly and explain that leadership + quantitative skills + accounting/finance knowledge = success.

There is not much to this part – just copy the template and fill in the blanks.

Example 3rd Paragraph:

“Given my background in accounting and wealth management and my leadership and analytical skills, I am a particularly good fit for the investment banking summer analyst position at your firm. I am impressed by your track record of clients and transactions at Goldman Stanley and the significant responsibilities given to analysts, and I look forward to joining and contributing to your firm.”

Paragraph 4: Conclusion

This part’s even easier: remind them that your resume is enclosed (or attached if sent via email), thank them for their time, and give your contact information once again so they don’t have to scroll to the top to get it.

Example 4th Paragraph:

“A copy of my resume is enclosed for your reference. I would welcome an opportunity to discuss my qualifications with you and learn more about Goldman Stanley at your earliest convenience. I can be reached at 310-555-1234 or via email at johnsmith@fake.com. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.”

Unusual Backgrounds

These examples cover how to apply to a bank if you’re in university, business school, or you’ve been working for several years.

If you have a more unusual background (e.g. you went to med school, graduated, started your residency, but then decided you wanted to be an investment banker), then you might need to add a few sentences to paragraph #2 or #3 explaining yourself.

Resist the urge to write your life story because no one will read it – interviews are a much better venue to prove how committed you are.

Email vs. Attachments

If you’re emailing your cover letter and resume, do you create a separate cover letter attachment?

Or do you make the body of your email the cover letter?

I think it’s redundant to create a separate cover letter and attach it, so don’t bother unless they ask specifically for a separate cover letter.

If you’re making the body of your email the cover letter, make it even shorter (4-5 sentences total) and cut out the address bits at the top.

Optional Cover Letters?

If you’re applying online and it says “Optional Cover Letter” should you still upload one?

You might as well because it takes 2 minutes once you have a good template – it’s not the end of the world if you don’t include one, but you never know what everyone else is doing and it’s not terribly time-consuming.

Cover Letter Mistakes

Remember the role of cover letters: great ones don’t help much, but poor ones get you dinged.

The biggest mistakes with cover letters:

  • Making outrageous claims (“I’m a math genius!”) or trying to be “creative” with colors, pictures, fonts, and so on.
  • Going on for too long – 10 paragraphs or multiple pages.
  • Listing irrelevant information like your favorite ice cream, your favorite quotes from Wall Street or Boiler Room, and so on.

If you think this sounds ridiculous, remember the golden rule: do not overestimate the competition.

For every person reading this site, there are dozens more asking, “What it’s like to be an investment banker?” at information sessions.

Sometimes you hear stories of people who write “impassioned” cover letters, win the attention of a boutique, and get in like that…

…And I’m sure that happens, but you do not want to do that at large banks.

If you do, your cover letter will be forwarded to the entire world and your “career” will be destroyed in 5 minutes.

More Examples

As with resumes, there are hardly any good examples of investment banking cover letters online.

Most of the templates are horribly formatted and are more appropriate for equities in Dallas than real investment banking.

Here’s a slightly different but also good templates you could use:

More questions? Ask away.

Still Need More Help?

Introducing: Premium Investment Banking-Specific Resume/CV and Cover Letter Editing Services

We will take your existing resume and transform it into a resume that grabs the attention of finance industry professionals and presents you and your experience in the best possible light.

When we’re done, your resume will grab bankers by the lapels and not let them go until they’ve given you an interview.

Specifically, here’s what you’ll get:

  • Detailed, line-by-line editing of your resume/CV – Everything that needs to be changed will be changed. No detail is ignored.
  • Your experience will be “bankified” regardless of whether you’ve been a student, a researcher, a marketer, a financier, a lawyer, an accountant, or anything else.
  • Optimal structuring – You’ll learn where everything from Education to Work Experience to Activities should go. Regional badminton champion? Stamp collector? You’ll find out where those should go, too.
  • The 3-point structure to use for all your “Work Experience” entries: simple, but highly effective at getting the attention of bankers.
  • How to spin non-finance experience into sounding like you’ve been investing your own portfolio since age 12.
  • How to make business-related experience, such as consulting, law, and accounting, sounds like “deal work.”
  • How to avoid the fatal resume mistake that gets you automatically rejected. Nothing hurts more than making a simple oversight that gets you an immediate “ding”.
  • We only work with a limited number of clients each month. In fact, we purposely turn down potential clients in cases where we cannot add much value. We prefer quality over quantity, and we always want to ensure that we can work well together first.

FIND OUT MORE

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

If you're new here, please click here to get my FREE 57-page investment banking recruiting guide - plus, get weekly updates so that you can break into investment banking. Thanks for visiting!

We’re going to continue our series on investment banking resume templates and go through how you should write about investment banking experience in this article.

You can actually use a similar template for anything in finance, whether you worked on the sell-side or buy-side.

But you can’t use it for everything.

Who Should Use This (or a Similar) Template:

  • Students who have had banking / finance internships (you will need to make some modifications, e.g. put Education at the top instead).
  • Current Analysts and Associates.
  • Anyone in other front-office finance roles who is now looking for something else within finance.

Who Should Not Use This Template:

  • Anyone applying to business school – for that you want to present a more “balanced” picture of what you’ve done.
  • Older, more experienced people – if you have worked on 20+ deals you will need a separate page for listing everything. This usually only happens at the VP-level and above.
  • Anyone working outside finance or anyone interested in moving to something outside finance – the Peace Corps doesn’t care if you know what EBITDA means.

The Template, The Video, and the Tutorial

As before, here’s the template in Word and PDF format:

And here’s the overview video:

(For more free training and financial modeling videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.)

And here’s the same tutorial in text format:

What’s Different In This Version

Actually, a lot of this is the same as in our university student template: the area at the top with your name and contact information, the overall format of the resume, and format of each work experience entry (name and position left-aligned, location and dates right-aligned, summary sentence, etc.).

What’s Different:

  • The Order – Work Experience on top, Education below that and Skills/Activities/Interests below that. Note: If you were an intern and are still in school you should keep Education on top.
  • The Focus – We are focusing much more heavily on your investment banking experience and have cut back on the rest.

Why?

Yes, you can include previous internships and jobs as well but you should make your banking experience take up most of your resume.

If you’re an intern returning to school, it’s fine to leave in previous internships but I would not devote as much space to them.

About the Banking Experience

You should give 1 or 2 summary sentences, and then go straight into your deal experience (or if you worked on the buy-side, “Investment Experience”).

The summary sentence should:

  • Give the number and types of deals you’ve worked on.
  • Say that you completed valuations, models, due diligence, research, and client presentations (or anything else – add and subtract from here as needed)

Research and qualitative items are OK to include but try to focus on clients / deals / technical work because those are what interviewers care about.

If you didn’t work on deals (if you were an intern) or didn’t do much substantial work, there are ways around it – which we’ll get into below.

Picking Deals / Clients to Write A <pbout

Once you have your summary sentence, you need to decide WHICH deals / clients / investments to write about.

If you were an intern, this is easy: take what you can get. Unless you were a miracle summer analyst and somehow worked on 10 transactions, you can usually point to a few major projects.

For those working in banking full-time, it’s more difficult to decide what to write about.

Some guidelines:

  • Aim for between 2 and 4 deals total – just 1 looks strange, and more than 4 is excessive to get your points across. In THIS template there are more than 4 deals, but that’s because I wanted to give you examples of how to write about different deal types.
  • Try to have a mix of “high-profile” or larger deals that catch recruiters’ attention (e.g. Microsoft / Yahoo) and deals where you contributed something more substantial (this one is more relevant for full-time bankers).
  • M&A / Restructuring deals are better to write about than IPOs or other Equity-related deals. Debt Financings can be ok depending on what you did. Anything “unusual” like divestitures, distressed sales, etc. is also good to write about and talk about in interviews.

See Also:Private Equity Resumes for more on this topic.

It’s not the end of the world if you’ve mostly worked on IPOs. Despite rumors to the contrary, you can get into PE without having M&A or Leveraged Finance experience.

Whether or not a deal was officially announced doesn’t matter: just replace company names with industry descriptions (“Biopharmaceutical Company”) for unannounced transactions.

What to Do If You Don’t Have “Real” Deals

If you don’t have many “official” deals, you should turn whatever you did during the summer into “pending” or “potential” deals.

The more that happened, the better, but as long as you did something you can write about it as if it were a potential transaction.

Were you doing research on companies for a client or prospective client? Sounds like a “Potential” Buy-Side M&A deal to me.

Did the CEO approach you and ask your team to pitch for the business? Did you do a valuation and research potential buyers? That’s a “Potential” Sell-Side M&A deal, even if you didn’t do much more than the pitch book (if you’re paranoid, you can label this type of experience a “Pitch” instead).

You don’t need to list “deals” if it’s too much of a stretch – in that case, just go with a summary sentence and a few more descriptive bullets on what you did.

Writing About Deals

Within each entry, list the dollar/Euro/other currency amount – estimating if you don’t know for sure – and list the company that you were representing first.

“Media Company’s Acquisition of Software Company” would imply that you represented the Media Company on the buy-side.

Use “Potential” or “Pending” for deals that haven’t been announced or closed yet, and only give the names if it’s publicly known.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This advice assumes that you actually have some closed deals. If you have worked on several deals but nothing has closed yet, it’s best not to draw attention to that fact – so you should leave out this “Pending” or “Potential” language and act as if everything is “ongoing” (and be ready to outline the next steps in the process).

Aim for 1-2 bullets for each deal – if you can summarize it with 1 bullet, do that, but if you need more than that you could split up what you did into “qualitative” and “quantitative” parts and use a 2-bullet structure.

I’ve mentioned the “Specifics; Results” structure before and the same applies here – but you need to be careful about what you write:

  • Focus on modeling or valuation work if possible in your “specifics” segment – due diligence or other qualitative work may be ok as long as you can make it sound good in an interview. Try to link anything qualitative to how it was used in the transaction.

In the template here, the banker is using the buyer list he created for the Restructuring deal as the “specifics” and then giving the “results” by writing that it was used in Chapter 11 proceedings to show that the price was fair.

(“Fair” may sound ridiculous to you if you haven’t worked in finance before, and it would take me about a page to explain the term here – but for now just keep in mind that the work he did was used in court proceedings, which makes it good to write about.)

  • The level of detail for each deal depends on how much space you have and the rest of your resume. If this is your first and only full-time work experience, be as detailed as you can, but if you have lots of other solid entries then you don’t need to write a Wikipedia page about each entry.

In this template, the banker has gone into detail on some deals and hasn’t written much about others – which is fine.

  • Be very careful about your “results” for each deal. If you write something like, “Negotiated 10% lower purchase price,” you’re going to get called on it in interviews because Analysts and Associate don’t “negotiate” anything (except for food prices at closing dinners, maybe…).

If your work impacted the deal, that’s fine – but be careful with your wording and make sure that you frame the results as you having “supported” the senior bankers.

Also, don’t feel pressured to include false “results” – if all you did was create a presentation, just write that rather than pretending you made $10 million for your firm.

What to Do If…

Here are answers to some other common questions:

You’ve Had Multiple Investment Banking Internships

You can still include the other internships, but cut back on how much you include, and keep the focus on your current or most recent one.

You Had Experience in Private Equity, at a Hedge Fund, or Something Else Outside Banking

Still include a summary sentence but write about “Selected Investment Experience” instead and list the investments / potential investments you worked on.

Focus on modeling, due diligence, and how your work impacted the deal process (if that’s what happened).

See the video for more detail and an example of how to do this.

You Can’t Fit Everything On One Page and You Don’t Live in Australia

Decrease the font size, cut out experience, or do whatever it takes to get it on 1 page. 2 pages is still not appropriate in most regions, unless you have dozens of deals and need separate page(s) for them.

You Didn’t Have Any “Real” Deals

See above.

The Rest of the Resume

Again, it’s fine to leave in other Work Experience but you shouldn’t focus on it quite as much – which is why this section has been reduced here.

Education should be shorter if you’re working full-time – no one cares that you were on the Dean’s List. GPA and standardized test scores are fine to keep in. If you’re still a student, you can keep this section more detailed.

Skills, Activities & Interests should also be shorter (it’s named differently here as well) because people care even less what activities you were in once you’ve been working for awhile.

Again, students can keep this section more detailed but don’t go overboard.

Caveat Emptor

So that’s a quick overview of what’s in this template and how to use it – please do not just copy this blindly unless you want to get a lot of questions you can’t answer in interviews.

Use the basic format and style and adapt it to what you actually did.

Note: Also, I assume no liability in case this template does not, in fact, get you into KKR.

Still Need More Help?

Introducing: Premium Investment Banking-Specific Resume/CV and Cover Letter Editing Services

We will take your existing resume and transform it into a resume that grabs the attention of finance industry professionals and presents you and your experience in the best possible light.

When we’re done, your resume will grab bankers by the lapels and not let them go until they’ve given you an interview.

Specifically, here’s what you’ll get:

  • Detailed, line-by-line editing of your resume/CV – Everything that needs to be changed will be changed. No detail is ignored.
  • Your experience will be “bankified” regardless of whether you’ve been a student, a researcher, a marketer, a financier, a lawyer, an accountant, or anything else.
  • Optimal structuring – You’ll learn where everything from Education to Work Experience to Activities should go. Regional badminton champion? Stamp collector? You’ll find out where those should go, too.
  • The 3-point structure to use for all your “Work Experience” entries: simple, but highly effective at getting the attention of bankers.
  • How to spin non-finance experience into sounding like you’ve been investing your own portfolio since age 12.
  • How to make business-related experience, such as consulting, law, and accounting, sounds like “deal work.”
  • How to avoid the fatal resume mistake that gets you automatically rejected. Nothing hurts more than making a simple oversight that gets you an immediate “ding”.
  • We only work with a limited number of clients each month. In fact, we purposely turn down potential clients in cases where we cannot add much value. We prefer quality over quantity, and we always want to ensure that we can work well together first.

FIND OUT MORE

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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