The banking sector can offer a wide range of lucrative options for those interested in developing a career in the global financial markets. The globalisation of banks, the growth of emerging markets and the integration of banking activities are trends that entail different opportunities for those pursuing a career in banking.
More so than for any other industry, commercial awareness is an important aspect to demonstrate when applying for a job with a bank. Show that you understand the bank, not just in terms of it as a stand-alone company but also in terms of it in relation to the economy it is operating in. What are the bank’s strengths and weaknesses?. How does this work in the current economic climate, for example?
Do your homework
Before you start writing your resume, make sure that you have read and know about the bank that you are applying for. Pick up the Financial Times and read about the current markets and what the threats, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses are for the company in the world of banking. This time spent researching, will not only mean that your resume is more appealing to the person shortlisting, but it will also mean that you are better prepared for the interview.
Cover all Bases
A well-written covering letter supporting a smart resume will charm the most hardened employer. Imagine you have a pile of resumes; a third will be generic resumes that have been sent out willy-nilly with no thought to the specific job in question, a third will be poor quality or inappropriate - there will only be a handful of resumes that make a strong case for being a potential candidate.
In that golden pile, those resumes that are accompanied by a covering letter will really speak volumes to the employer. It’s the difference between receiving a valentine’s card with a question mark and receiving a valentine’s card with a hand-written letter enclosed. A cover letter is undoubtedly a powerful weapon - employers love them and, luckily for you, not everyone invests the time into writing them.
In your resume, make sure you start with a personal statement that makes it clear that you have the drive, the ability, and the commercial awareness to succeed in the banking industry. Try and be as specific as possible about your aims for developing your career. An example might be:
A driven Business Studies graduate with an interest in investment banking hoping to develop a career in a reputable bank. Excellent IT and financial accounting skills coupled with a desire to provide an excellent customer service experience to clients.
You can see from the example above that this graduate seems aware of commercial awareness and the importance of customer service to the particular bank that they are applying to. They have combined their skills with the awareness of the bank’s aims.
Make sure your employment history is related as much as possible to the skills needed in the financial sector. Even if you don’t have specific industry experience, you can bring out the skills that a bank will be most interested in from any job. Those skills include:
- customer service skills which you can gain in retail and catering jobs
- good communication skills which again, can be built upon in any paid or voluntary position and also societies.
- financial know how and relevant qualifications
Tailor Me Resume
Make sure your resume relates specifically to the job and bank. A generalised resume will never make the grade. Read through the job specification and the job advert and try to emulate the language that the company is using, without sounding creepy! You want to send a subconscious message in your style and language that you will fit right in and you are of the same ilk.
Places to research
Here are a number of places that you might visit to build up your knowledge of the banking industry before you write your resume.
- Read Financial Times (weekend edition, more fun)
- Look at the company website
- Google the name of the company in the news
Find out information that is specific to the company and the current economy. For example, Ernst & Young profited during the recession from the number of companies that went bust. Somebody needs to be there to be the administrators to failing businesses. Showing this level of awareness will set you apart from other applicants.
List computer skills, accounting knowledge, business knowledge, marketing skills, customer service training. Anything that would support someone deciding to interview you.
Check yourself out
Google yourself and make sure that there is nothing online that would bring the bank into disrepute. Banking is a traditional area where reputation and impression are important.
Show that you are committed to a career in banking and that you are being instrumental in making that happen - don’t leave it up to the employer to take complete responsibility for your professional development. You can put down events that you have attended at your university Careers service such as "Careers in Banking" - anything that will show your long standing interest.
You would do well to draw attention in your resume to an online profile or blog. A webpage like about.me might be a bit too funky for the traditional world of banking.
However, if you have a smart, clean blog created in Wordpress or even curated financial news using a curating website such as Scoop-it then this would definitely help you stand out from the crowd, as well as prove your digital literacy and IT competency.
Kent University in the UK has some great information about getting a job in the banking sector. For careers information, the Kent Careers site cannot be beaten.
Despite the dodgy clip art, I would thoroughly recommend reading the ’I Want to Work in …Banking.’ It cover absolutely everything in retail and investment banking including:
- what skills you need
- the ups and the downs
- the average salary
- the sideways and upwards routes
- practice interview questions with example answers
If you are banking on a good job in banking, work hard on your resume, research the bank in question and don’t forget to build on your commercial awareness. It’s more important in banking than in any other industry. Show that you know about the banking sector in terms of the economy it operates in as this will help you stand out from the crowd, and ultimately get your foot in the door of your first plum banking job.