Your career goal is to become a financial analyst—to influence the decisions of banks, corporations, or institutions about the investment vehicles they should acquire or offer, depending on whether they’re on the buy or sell side of the investment market.
You’ve almost completed your undergraduate degree in finance, or you want to switch career gears for a more challenging position in financial analysis. You’ve proven to professors, mentors, or colleagues that you have the skill sets that a career in financial analysis demands. You’ve also started developing your referral network, all of whom vouch for your talents.
Now, however, you’re going into another dimension—the professional world of financial analysis—to convince total strangers that they should pick you among hundreds of candidates to be part of their slice of that world. And it’s competitive, with an average salary for a financial analyst of $89K.
This post will guide you toward getting an interview for a financial analyst position, whether you’re responding to a recruitment ad for an open position or cold-calling a firm of your choice. It will help you prepare a resume that distinguishes your talents uniquely among others—and convinces a firm that it should choose you because you will help keep it on track for success. It will also give you some tips about how to choose the firm that’s right for you, and what to include in a cover letter to get you that interview.
Who Are You? The Financial Analyst Resume
All candidates for a financial analyst position must offer a formidable combination of skills. Here are just some of them:
- Academic — mathematics, statistics, economics, business, or accounting coursework.
- Intellectual — statistical modeling (including algorithm software applications), financial investment and market analysis (including model-based forecasting), budget and managerial financing, business law and ethics (including Sarbanes-Oxley legislation), business reporting (including balance sheets and asset-liability statements), and market dynamics.
- Personal — self-confidence, energy and stamina, verbal and written skills, multi-tasking ability, self-sacrifice, and teamwork.
In addition, you’ll need a functional knowledge of Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint programs—for preparing detailed analytical spreadsheets and clear, appealing graphics.
This list is not exhaustive. So take the time to visit our “How to Become a Financial Analyst” post and write down a list of keywords that describe the entire financial analyst skill set. Then determine which ones apply specifically to you.
Why are these keywords important? The obvious answer is that you’ll need these qualifications to a get a financial analyst job. But perhaps more important is that they have to appear in your resume. According to experts, resume-matching systems are “leveraging machine learning, data science, and artificial intelligence” to link candidates with open positions in specific companies. Companies are also scanning resumes for key terminology—the skills and strengths they want in a candidate.
Your resume should contain the following elements:
- Academic/professional experience
Before a brief explanation of each, here’s what a basic resume should be:
- Concise—no more than one page.
- Visually appealing—striking a balance between the words necessary in an algorithmic scan while avoiding large blocks of text, with enough white space to keep the resume easy on the eyes.
- Perfection—flawless spelling and grammar, and consistent formatting and fonts (though differentiating between headings and text).
Dozens of resume-sample and preparation sites are available—but don’t go generic. Preparing a resume that is specific to your strengths, talents, and skills may take up to full day of work. Take that time to personalize your resume—to make it unique.
One space below your name and contact information, at the top center of the resume, include a “title”—a one-line description that tells the reader who you are and what you offer, even if your experience includes only undergraduate coursework:
- Finance major specializing in forecasting financial derivatives prices, with superior communications skills
- Finance professional with two years of experience in sell-side investments, with a master’s in business management
Including this concise, focused title at the beginning of your resume will differentiate your resume from others.
Experts say it’s essential to have a well-written objective—because it shows prospective employers that you have clear career goals and that you provide the solution to their need.
Be aware: You will continually tweak this objective depending on the specific bank, corporation, or institution to which you’re sending your resume.
Briefly, your objective should describe how you’ll be applying your skills and specializations to satisfy the requirements of the prospective position, based on your academic or professional experience.
- To harness my comprehensive skills in quantifying impacts and developing forecast models for enhancing investment options and their return in the corporate portfolio.
Experience: Academic, Internship, and Professional
Even if you’ve had just undergraduate experience, list the dates of your attendance. For internships and professional experience, list the beginning and end dates in years only (no days or months), always starting with the most recent position first. This section should be only the facts, no embellishment.
If you have any gaps in experience, be prepared to explain them to interviewers. The only caveat? Be honest when interviewers ask about them.
This section should contain many of your scannable keywords. To differentiate yourself from other candidates, start thinking of your specific strengths in each skill set. Do not generalize. Use a thesaurus if necessary.
For visual appeal, list your strengths as bulleted items, using two columns—to break up the space on your resume.
Start each strength with an adjective that describes the skill, and then amplify upon the skill in the rest of the descriptive statement.
Use a stepwise approach for each skill. For example:
- Strong mathematical skills. [All financial analysts have strong mathematical skills.]
- Inclusive mathematical skills. [Inclusive in what respect?]
- Inclusive mathematical skills, from analysis to modeling to forecasting
You can then take that intellectual skill set and break it down even further:
- Keen analytical skills, focusing on fractal statistics as a predictor of market fluctuation
- Diverse statistical skills, including derivatives modeling
- Accurate financial forecasting skills for competitive and profitable portfolio performance
Compile a comprehensive list of all your knowledge and personal skill sets—while also remembering to include as many keywords as possible.
At the same time, you have only so much space. So choose the most accurate of your skill sets and set the rest aside on a separate piece of paper. Keep these additional skills sets in mind for your cover letter or for your interview.
Describe each skill using the same grammatical format. Go from academic to intellectual to personal skills. Don’t mix one with another. Readers will remember skills if they’re in a logical, progressive order.
Highlights (of Accomplishments)
In this section, show off your talents. Whether you have professional experience already, or simply academic or internship experience, you have to illustrate how your skill sets have contributed to a positive outcome.
List them in the form of sentences starting with past-participle (“-ed”) verbs, without using the word I. Here are three examples, representing one accomplishment each for undergraduate, internship, and professional work:
- Led an academic team that developed a financial model for expanding a hypothetical investment portfolio by 25 percent.
- Interned on a project for Goldman Sachs that reduced modeling error rates in interest-rate futures prices.
- Provided key input that swayed the project team toward a more profitable mix of investment vehicles for a major client.
As a financial analyst, your individual or team success will, in turn, become the company’s.
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