Finance is a competitive field thanks to the prestige and high pay that accompany many positions, meaning that a job seeker would need an outstanding finance resume to get noticed. The finance industry is made up of sectors including banking, asset management, venture capital, insurance, and others.
Beyond the obvious factors—such as attending an exceptional school, getting great grades, choosing the right field of study, and landing a coveted summer internship—what should a finance resume include?
While focusing on achievements over responsibilities is good advice for job seekers in any field, it is especially important for those seeking a career in finance, which is a competitive industry that prioritizes data and results. Consider a resume showing a proven, quantifiable track record of success a necessity. Accomplishments that can be backed up with numbers include ones related to budget management, increasing efficiency, increasing earnings, reducing costs, training or building teams or departments, works published or presented, and more.
Skills and Licenses
Finance positions tend to require applicants to have advanced knowledge of Excel, plus experience with other specialized tools based on the role (for example, accounting roles will ask for experience with QuickBooks, NetSuite, or similar products). Instead of just claiming “advanced Excel skills,” as is common, job seekers should spell out on their resumes what they can do in Excel. Adding specifics such as HLOOKUP and VLOOKUP, or pricing stock options with the Black-Scholes Formula, can help get a resume noticed by an applicant tracking system or a human hiring manager. PowerPoint skills can be nearly as desirable Excel skills.
Many jobs in finance require specific licenses or certifications, and for the sake of clarity, these belong under a header separate from technical skills. According to a study on recruiter behavior by TheLadders, recruiters spend 6 seconds reviewing each individual resume—thus all information needs to be relevant and easy to find. There are numerous examinations administered by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and many finance positions require candidates to have passed one or more of them. Series 7 and Series 63 are among the most common.
Though it may be tempting to save space by using abbreviations, don’t rely on abbreviations alone—they aren’t always recognized by applicant tracking systems. Be sure to spell things out, and, to make sure all bases are covered, try to include a second mention that is abbreviated.
Kim Isaacs, a resume expert with Monster.com, has compiled an extensive list of keywords for reference for anyone writing a finance resume. Useful for a wide range of positions, it includes titles, certifications, tools, tasks, and more. GAAP, value-added analysis, P&L management, and data warehouse reporting are just a few of the entries. In finance, as in all fields, it is important to pay attention to a particular job listing when choosing specific resume keywords. The presence of the right keywords is largely what gets a resume noticed by an applicant tracking system.
Bold, attention-getting resume formats are suitable for some fields, but finance is not one of them. Colorful and unique resumes are best used in creative fields such as graphic design, or at companies with distinctly open-minded and creative cultures. (For example, an internal applicant at Zappos successfully submitted her resume in cake form.) Sleek and traditional is the way to go when applying for jobs in finance.