Boutique Banks 101

If working at a huge multinational investment bank is not your cup of tea, then you might instead set your sights on landing a job at one of many specialized, or boutique, investment banks spread across the country.

How Are They Different?

Unlike large “bulge bracket” banks such as Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and other Wall Street powerhouses, boutique investment banks tend to be much smaller and specialize in certain industry fields, including technology, biotech, healthcare and energy.

They’re also usually private partnerships, not publicly traded firms, and often resemble what investment banks used to look like before major regulatory changes and consolidations transformed the banking industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Why Boutique?

And the top-tier boutique banks are considered excellent and often lucrative places to work for those yearning to break into investment banking.

“It’s one of the best training grounds for young investment bankers,” says Alex Hart, a managing director at Signal Hill, considered one of the more prestigious boutique investment banks in the U.S., with offices in Baltimore, Boston, Nashville, New York, Reston, Va., San Francisco and Bangalore, India. “You can gain a lot of experience at a boutique that you can’t find anywhere else.”

What’s Their Niche?

The evolution: Modern boutique investment banking can trace its roots to roughly the early 1980s, when then young tech companies like Microsoft, Apple and other tech firms were first emerging as titans, or potential titans, in places like Silicon Valley and Boston’s Route 128 high-tech corridor.

Back then, boutiques played a key role in helping startups and medium-sized firms by raising capital and providing advisory services for mergers and acquisitions (M&A). But the bottom fell out on many boutiques in the late 1990s, as federal regulatory reforms allowed larger banks to jump into a wider field of financial services, including investment banking. Several boutiques ended up getting snapped up by giant financial firms.

“Many of these (mergers) failed miserably, as the cultures were quite different,” says F. Mark D’Annolfo, who formerly worked in investment banking at Deutsche Bank Securities and Adams, Harkness & Hill, a boutique firm that was purchased last decade by Canaccord Genuity.

The current climate: Over the past 10 years or so, boutiques have reemerged as key players within the investment banking field, often taking on smaller deals that mega-huge firms don’t want to touch. In other words, they’ve found a nice and often very lucrative niche.

What’s their bread and butter today? Some boutiques raise capital for IPOs and other public offerings, while also providing advisory services for M&A deals. But the majority of boutiques focus on the M&A advisory side of the business, effectively acting as middlemen between small-to medium-sized firms of all stripes and potential financiers, such a private equity firms and other fund companies.

Why it works: Boutiques tend to specialize in certain industry fields — such as technology, healthcare, biotech and energy — and often locate in major cities with cutting-edge companies and industries. Their deals are usually smaller than what the bulge bracket banks handle. Boutique deals can range from $20 million to $1 billion.

“After that, you’re starting to compete with the big guys,” M. Benjamin Howe, chief executive and head of investment banking at AGC Partners in Boston, says of the huge Wall Street firms.

The Best of the Best: Top Boutique Banks

There are literally hundreds of investment banks across the U.S., largely because anyone can technically call him or herself an “investment banker” and try to act as a financial advisor on major M&A and other financial deals.

But the most well known, top-tier boutique investment banks include Evercore Partners, Signal Hill, AGC Partners, Pacific Crest, Catalyst Group, GCA Savvian and others who are considered key financial players within certain industry sectors.

D’Annolfo, the former investment banker and now managing director of the Stephen D. Cutler Center for Investments and Finance at Babson College, cautions that those applying for jobs at boutiques need to carefully research firms to make sure they’re the right fit, such as whether a bank’s industry focus matches a candidate’s own expertise and interests.

“You really have to do your homework, as the experience can be very different from firm to firm,” he says.

The Best of the Best: Ideal Candidates

The best boutiques want the same type of job candidates as the big investment banks: potential top-notch financial analysts who are excellent at sifting through and analyzing complex financial data.

They also tend to recruit from top colleges and universities, though some boutiques may be partial to smaller prestigious schools close to their headquarters or satellite offices. Like bulge bracket banks, they look highly upon candidates who have majors in both business and specialized fields, such as computer science, biology and other science-related fields.

Compensation

Compensation at boutique investment banks tends to be lower than what is paid at the mega-
big banks, largely because their deals are smaller, and they don’t have as much capital and global franchises.

But the compensation at boutiques, by any other standard, is still excellent, with some boutique starting first-year analysts off at $80,000 to $100,000, with additional performance bonuses. The pay rises as employees move up the corporate ladder and, if they can crack into senior management positions, compensation can easily surge into the seven-figure range.

The Typical Day — and Why It’s Better Here

For junior employees at boutiques, the average day is not unlike what financial analysts endure at big firms — long hours of research, research and more research.

But there’s a huge difference: Early-career boutique employees can get much more involved in actual deal strategizing, working closely with senior investment bankers and even clients. In other words, their jobs can be more flexible within a collegial environment, allowing them to gain far more experience than they might at bulge bracket banks.

“They’re also on a much faster track to partnerships because firms are smaller,” says AGC Partners’ Howe.

 And another big plus: Many young boutique bank employees can parlay their valuable experience into landing jobs at private equity firms, hedge funds and larger banks.

Some even occasionally take the entrepreneurial plunge by joining young startup firms that they’ve previously worked with on finance deals.

About the Author: Jay Fitzgerald is a business journalist based in Boston. Over the years, his articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Herald and other publications.

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Alternative Paths to I-Banking

Alternative Roads Into I-Banking

Not in school? A foreign student? Recruiter doesn’t come to your school? You can still get an interview. And you can still get a job in I-banking. Here’s what our insiders recommend if you fall into one of these categories.

MID-CAREER HIRES
If you already work on Wall Street, you know where to go-and you’re probably not reading this guide. If you’re coming from another industry, you’ll probably have a tougher time. Everyone is happy to hire lawyers who are fully proficient in banking or, on the research side, people with deep industry experience. And a few firms are willing to take a chance on a brilliant academic. But most tend to fill the gaps in their analyst and associate pools with men and women who have worked in a similar capacity for competitors. If you are a lateral hire, the good news is that you don’t have to suffer at your current job waiting out the long recruiting season. Throughout the year, recruiters scurry around to replace those analysts or associates who have either defected or fallen off the corporate track. Because lateral hires are typically not interviewed during the normal training-program season, they usually begin their new jobs without much, if any, formal training.

FOREIGN STUDENTS

For foreign nationals who lack the right visa status to work in the U.S. after attending an American university, the process is less complicated than you might think. Investment banking is an increasingly global enterprise. Recruiters unanimously agree that candidates who are not U.S. citizens are treated the same as any other applicant; your working status is not an issue. In fact, your proficiency in several languages and close ties to your own country may give you a highly desirable edge. If you receive an offer, the firm will arrange your visa and, after a given number of years, your green card.

NO-NAME COLLEGE DEGREE
“I don’t have a prestigious undergraduate degree and/or I attend a second-tier MBA program. Is all hope lost?”

No. If the top firms’ analysts all appear to be summa econ graduates of U.S. News & World Report’s Top 10, or if the associate class seems to have been culled from the ranks of former analysts or the Penn and Harvard Clubs, you’re not far off. Investment banking firms are disproportionately staffed with Ivy Leaguers and top-tier MBA graduates who get scooped up on the recruiting tour. But there is no need to give up just because the scoop never came for you. There is a way in, albeit a more difficult one. If you’re going to be the exception, you need well-honed interviewing tactics. Preparation, strategy, and aggressive but discriminating networking will all help get you the job.

The first step is networking. Do not waste postage blindly mailing your resume to every firm. Focus instead on setting up appointments with industry insiders, either through introductions from friends (or even friends of friends) or by targeting alumni of your school who work on the Street. Ask lots of thoughtful, informed questions and demonstrate your commitment to investment banking. Keep in mind that, like the S&T hopefuls, you will probably have to fly yourself to headquarters (most likely New York) on your own nickel and pay for your lodging.  This show of initiative may just be your ticket in. Remember: Being hungry for an investment banking job is at least as important as having a top-tier school on your resume. What really makes a candidate stand out is enthusiasm and commitment to the work. One recruiter told us of a candidate she hired from a school where the firm does not recruit: “On top of her excellent academic and professional experience, I was so impressed with her initiative to seek out several people in the firm. She demonstrated a genuine interest in investment banking when she flew to New York to meet with us and several other firms over her Thanksgiving break.”

Most insiders concede, however, that candidates from lesser-known schools need to have either stellar work experience or the ability to fill a unique need at the firm, particularly for CorpFin positions. It also helps if they have previously worked with someone in the firm who can serve as a reference. At the same time, several recruiters for sales and trading reveal that they interview-and hire-many graduates from no-name undergraduate schools or MBA programs. One insider explains that if you went to a lesser known institution you need to be prepared to give a valid reason. The best reason, as you might guess, is that you received a full scholarship. And if you’ve already had a lot of relevant experience, the good news is that where you went to school has much less impact on your candidacy.

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Two Hidden Gems for Financial Analysts: Real Estate and Mutual Funds

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News flash! You don’t have to work on Wall Street to be a financial analyst.

Financial analyst jobs come in all shapes and sizes, so there are plenty of opportunities to land
analyst positions at a wide variety of financial firms spread across the country — not just in Manhattan. Analyst jobs can serve as springboards to other finance jobs in various sectors,whether they’re at investments banks, hedge funds, brokerage companies, private equity firms or other types of companies located in major cities across the country and globe.

Really? Tell me more…

Take Roy Sandeman, 26, who got his MBA at Providence College three years ago and considered pursuing a finance career at one of New York’s big financial houses. But after extensive research and networking, Sandeman, who earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Leeds, decided to take a job as a financial analyst at a major commercial real estate firm in Boston, where he crunched numbers and analyzed multimillion dollar commercial real estate lease deals for major corporate tenants and office building owners.

How’d that work out?

Two years later, he was promoted to senior analyst within the firm’s capital markets group, helping put together even larger office and industrial building sale deals. He now hopes to move up the ladder into senior management positions in coming years. “You have to keep your eyes and options open,” says Sandeman, who believes his engineering background has helped him in his new finance career within commercial real estate. “I’m in a field I like. I’m still crunching numbers, but now I’m in direct contact with clients and helping out in actual deals.”

Following is a look at just two areas that financial analyst wannabes might consider: real estate and mutual fund financial analyst jobs.

Real Estate and Mutual Funds: Where You’ll Become an Expert

The job of a financial analyst always come down to roughly the same thing, no matter the sector: long, hard hours of carefully researching company, industry, market and economic data and then making recommendations to senior managers about a course of action — such as whether to pursue a deal or pull back. Candidates with degrees in business administration, finance, accounting, math and economics are preferred.

In the case of commercial real estate and mutual fund analysts, though, their research concentrations can and will vary greatly.

Real Estate: Financial analysts within commercial real estate — which also includes publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and commercial mortgage companies (which effectively serve as investment banks for the buying and selling of sometimes huge commercial properties) — have to learn the intricacies of the real estate industry: office and industrial lease prices for a given market; cash flows of office buildings and industrial facilities; and debt payment and refinancing details. In addition, analysts will need to keep up with average moving and renovation costs, the economic and employment conditions of particular industries within regions and countries, and a host of other variables specific to real estate.

Mutual Funds: Financial analysts at mutual funds — either independent mutual fund firms or funds within giant parent companies, such as banks or insurance firms — serve as the effective eyes and ears for portfolio managers who can oversee multibillion dollar funds of a seemingly infinite variety: small-cap funds, Blue Chip funds, tech funds, energy funds, healthcare funds, and the list goes on and on. Financial analysts at mutual funds are usually assigned to a specific sector fund for a few years, and they better master the sector intricacies they’re covering.

The Upside: Career Potential and Flexibility

Move on up in real estate. Financial analysts within commercial real estate traditionally move up the ladder to become brokers, vice presidents, directors or partners, depending on the terminology and structure of individual firms. MBA degrees are highly advisable in order to advance, but not always critically necessary. One thing is almost always a must: Studying for and getting a commercial real estate broker’s license.

Or climb the ladder in mutual funds. The ultimate goal of analysts at mutual funds is to become a portfolio manager overseeing funds and managing other analysts working under them. MBAs are highly desirable for those wanting to advance to higher positions, and becoming a Certified Financial Advisor is must.

Then, leverage that experience. A major attraction for financial analysts at commercial real estate and mutual funds is that they can parlay their sector expertise to land jobs at hedge funds, private equity firms, investment banks, REITs, asset managers and other financial firms specializing in their new fields.

And live where you want to. Because there are commercial real estate and mutual fund firms and offices in most major cities across the country and globe, financial analysts in these fields also have incredible geographic flexibility. They can generally work where they want after they gain some experience, or at least they have a greater opportunity to land jobs where they hope to go.

The Burning Question: What About Compensation?

Salary: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the mean salary of financial analysts is about $75,000 — and that roughly holds true for analysts within commercial real estate. The pay at mutual fund companies is usually higher, but it varies from firm to firm.

Bonuses! On top of regular pay, financial analysts within both fields usually get bonuses, from 20 percent to double their salaries, pushing their compensation higher.

Potential: The salary rises as an analyst gets promoted and takes over more responsibilities. Compensation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and even in the low millions is the norm within both fields after bonuses and commissions are included.

About the Author: Jay Fitzgerald is a business journalist based in Boston. Over the years, his articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Herald and other publications.

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5 Cover Letter Must-Haves

 

cover-letter

Sending  a good cover letter lets the employer know you really want the job.   A great cover letter will get you an interview.  A bad cover letter says you are a spammer sending your resume to every job under the sun.  Learn the 5 things you need to know to do it right!

1. Tell them what job you want

Establish the focus and purpose of the communication right from the start. The reader will know you are interested in employment, but be specific about the type of job you are targeting. If replying to a specific advertisement, mention that at the beginning. Push your brand right from the beginning. A cover letter is not a social correspondence but a business communication with the dual purposes of introduction and persuasion.

2. Tell why you’re special

What makes you unique? What do you have to offer that is an added bonus? The cover letter is where you establish your image as the expert in your field. Many people think they are average and as a result, they write about themselves in an average way. Employers do not hire average candidates in a tight market. They hire above average candidates. Not only must you show you are a good candidate, but you have to believe you are a great candidate! When you believe it, others will to. That enthusiasm and confidence must come through in the cover letter.

3. Tell them how you add value

Have you ever purchased one brand of product over another simply because you received more for your money with the selected product? Companies try very hard to “bundle” services or market added value benefits in order to persuade you to purchase their products. For example, you may purchase one car over a comparable vehicle because it has a longer warranty. This marketing concept works in job search, too. What do you to offer that is extra? Perhaps you are multilingual or you have depth of insight into the industry that other candidates do not possess. Maybe you win sales based on your unique approach or that you are very good at saving endangered accounts. All of these things are “added value” and can play a powerful role when highlighted in a cover letter.

4. Tell them about your past success

It is important for the cover letter to bring attention to some of your achievements to spur the reader to read the resume. Allude to specific accomplishments you have brought into your resume but only give the reader a taste or a tease. If you can select these statements to match up with the needs of the employer, all the better! For example, if a job ad states “Experience selling into Fortune 100 IT departments” and you have that experience, make sure you mention it in the cover letter!

5. Tell them you will follow-up

So many people make the mistake of ending the cover letter on an “I’ll wait to hear from you” note. Take charge of the situation and state when you will follow up on your communication. State the day you will be in contact and by what method (phone, email, etc.). By being proactive, you give the impression of being positive, confident, and professional. Of course, you have to do what you promise and follow up! Don’t let that drop through the cracks or you waste the entire effort!

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Biggest News from Recent Investment Bank Deals

finance

IPOs and M&As — they’re the type of deals investment bankers love.

And the U.S. markets for initial public offerings and mergers and acquisitions improved considerably in 2013, hauling in small fortunes for the investment bankers who helped raise capital or acted as financial advisors on the mega-huge deals.

Larger transactions were usually handled by “bulge bracket” banks, or large multinational institutions whose names are generally familiar to the public. But some deals also starred smaller, less known boutique investment banks.

The prospects for 2014 look just as strong for both IPOs and M&As, barring unforeseen economic developments, and that means investment bankers should have a very busy and prosperous year.

Here’s a look at some of the top IPO and M&A deals — and the investment banks involved — in 2013.

IPOs

The IPO market surged in 2013 to 222 deals valued at $55 billion, compared to 128 deals valued at $42.4 billion in 2012, according to Renaissance Capital. The 2013 performance was the best since 2000. The top IPO deals included:

1. Plains GP Holdings LP — $2.8 billion. The underwriters/managers: Barclays, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Citi, UBS, Wells Fargo, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Raymond James, RBC Capital Markets.

2. Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. —  $2.4 billion. The underwriters/managers: Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, Blackstone Capital, Macquarie Capital, Barclays.

3. Zoetis Inc. — $2.2 billion. The underwriters/managers: J.P. Morgan, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Jeffries & Co., BNP Paribas.

4. Twitter Inc. — $1.8 billion. The underwriters/managers: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Allen & Company, CODE Advisors.

5. Antero Resources — $1.6 billion. The underwriters/managers: Barclays, Citi, J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse, Jeffries & Co., Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, TD Securities, Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., Baird, BMO Capital Markets.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Though the global M&A market is back to its approximate pre-recession level, worldwide M&A activity has generally stagnated in recent years. However, in the United States, M&A deals were up 11 percent in 2013, totaling more than $1 trillion.

Here are some of the top M&A deals and the investment banks involved:

(All the M&A deals were announced in 2013, but some of these transactions won’t technically be completed until later this year.)

1. H. J. Heinz Co. — $28 billion. Buyers: Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and GE Capital. Centerview Partners and Bank of America-Merrill Lunch were advisors to Heinz. Moelis & Co. was adviser to a Heinz board of directors committee. Lazard was lead financial advisor to buyers, assisted by J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo.

2. Dell Inc. — $24.4 billion. Buyers: Dell founder Michael Dell and Silver Lake. J.P Morgan and Evercore have been advising Dell’s board. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Centerview and RBC Capital have been advising buyers.

3. Virgin Media Inc. — $23.3 billion. Buyer: Liberty Global Inc. LionTree has acted as lead advisor to Liberty Global; Credit Suisse has also acted as an advisor. Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan have acted as advisors to Virgin.

4. Life Technologies — $13.6 billion. Buyer: Thermo Fisher Scientific. J.P. Morgan and Barclays have acted as financial advisors to Thermo. Deutsche Bank and Moelis & Co. have been advisors to Life Technologies.

5. Onyx Pharmaceuticals — $10.4 billion. Buyer: Amgen. Lazard was lead advisor to Amgen, while Bank of America-Merrill Lynch has also acted as an advisor. Centerview Partners have advised Onyx.

And those are just the top domestic (U.S.) merger and acquisition deals of 2013.

The largest global M&A deal in 2013 was Verizon Communications’ agreement to pay $130 billion to buy U.K.-based Vodafone Group’s American wireless business. It’s the third largest corporate deal in history. Barclays and Bank of America-Merrill Lynch acted as financial advisors to Verizon, while Goldman Sachs and UBS advised Vodafone.

Sources: Renaissance Capital, StreetInsider.com, Bloomberg, Reuters, and Business Wire.

Jay Fitzgerald is a business journalist based in Boston. Over the years, his articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Herald and other publications.

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Ace Your Financial Analyst Interview

financialanalyst

When applying for a financial analyst job, get ready to spend huge amounts of time and energy polishing and customizing your résumé and cover letter — they’re the entry point to landing a job interview. But once you get the call to meet in person, that’s no time to relax.

Now the Real Work Begins

Recruiters and hiring managers are quick to note that too many job applicants don’t dedicate enough time preparing for the most important part of landing of the whole process: the in-person interview.

Fortunately there are ways to prepare. Here are some tips for acing the interview based on conversations with financial services recruiters and active hiring managers.

1. Know the company and sector inside and out. You’re applying for a research job, so you had better show that you actually took time to research the company and its place within the financial world.
Study the company and make sure you’ve covered all these areas:

-History

-Size

-Services

-Fields of expertise

-Any recent big deals or acquisitions

-Names and backgrounds of the chief executive and the people who will interview you

-Recent press releases and any other up-to-date news about the firm

It’s all readily available via Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo Finance, Bloomberg, government regulatory agencies and other sites. While you’re at it, talk to friends, relatives and acquaintances who might be knowledgeable about a company — or at least its reputation.

2. Tailor your answers. Don’t treat financial analyst jobs as cookie-cutter positions automatically transferrable from one finance sector to the next — they’re not. Research the specific sector and expertise of each company you interview with and be prepared to tailor your responses so they’re a match.

3. Draw up a mental list of your strengths and weaknesses. It’s corny, but you’ll almost inevitably be asked a variation of “So, tell me your greatest strength,” or “What’s your biggest weakness?” Similar inquiries include: “Tell me your greatest success at a job,” or “What was your biggest mistake while on a job?” Create a list of what you think are three or four of your strengths and a few of your weaknesses.

4. Assemble a portfolio. To support your answers, review any past examples of research reports or other business assignments you’ve done as an intern (or as a junior analyst if you’re applying for a senior analyst position). Analyze the specifics of those particular cases, and be prepared to answer detailed questions about them. Bring the reports — along with any accolades from supervisors or teachers — in an organized portfolio to the interview.

4. Plan to talk about life experiences and career goals. Be ready for discussions about your career goals, college major, extracurricular activities, summer jobs, post-college jobs (if any) and other items on your résumé. One investment banker says he also likes to hear from candidates about non-business successes they’ve achieved in life. “I’ll say, ‘Tell me one thing you’ve really mastered and are good at.’ It can be music or painting or running road races. We want (to hire) someone who has already proven they’ve done something really well.” And whatever you do, be confident but not cocky.

5. Be able to explain why you want the job. One commercial mortgage banker, who asked not to be named, says he carefully explores a financial analyst candidate’s knowledge of his industry and why they specifically want to get into commercial real estate. “I want to find out if they’re serious about getting into (the field) and so I’ll ask them, ‘So, why aren’t you applying for a financial analyst job on Wall Street? Why are you here?’ ”

You’d better have an honest answer — with details about the type of financial company and position that you’ve applied for.

6. Be prepared for spontaneous tests. The same investment banker says he’ll sometimes verbally outline a general business scenario, such as one firm trying to buy another firm, and asks candidates, “So why would someone want to buy such a company? How would you go about researching that company?” Such “tests” are not meant to be trick questions. They’re meant to see how you might react and approach a problem.

If you’re working with a recruiting company to land a financial analyst job, they’ll often subject you to a number of assessments before you head out to an interview, says Richard Deosingh, a recruiter at Robert Half in New York. Recruiters might test how well you know Excel or if you can efficiently organize spreadsheets, for instance.

During interviews, companies rarely ask candidates to physically prove they know how to use Excel, PowerPoint and other software programs needed to conduct, analyze and present data in research reports. But they may ask you detailed questions about the programs or how you’ve used them in the past.

7. Ask questions that show your interest. Interviewers almost always invite questions from candidates. This is another chance to be personable and demonstrate interest in the job, so have a list ready in advance.

Some questions to consider include:

-What’s a typical day like for a financial analyst at this firm?

-What type of clients will I work with?

-Would I specialize in a specific field of interest?

-How did you (the interviewer) get his or her start in finance?

-What are the prospects for promotions?

Preparation is key. Practice, get your story straight — and you’ll be on your way to crushing the interview.

Jay Fitzgerald is a business journalist based in Boston. Over the years, his articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Herald and other publications.

 

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7 Words That Will Sabotage Your Resume

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The wrong words can sabotage your resume, and nearly all of us have at least a few of these words on our resumes.  Learn the 7 types of words that can have a severe impact on your chances of getting an interview.

1. Generic Attributes

These words are on everyone’s resume.  They are so common that hiring managers simply don’t even read them. Do not bore the reader to tears with these trite, overused and tired phrases.

  • Hard worker
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Goal-driven
  • Strong work ethic
  • Multi-tasker
  • Personable presenter
  • Goal-oriented
  • Detail-oriented

It is much more effective to write description that is action-based and demonstrates these abilities rather than just laying claim to them. For example, rather than just stating you are an “excellent presenter,” you could say something like “Developed and presented 50+ multi-media presentations to C-level prospects resulting in 35 new accounts totaling $300,000 in new revenues.”

2.  Age Attributes

Under qualified candidates often try to look more mature.  Over qualified candidates sometimes try to look more youthful.  Hiring managers know these tricks.   Candidates near retirement are often the worst offenders.  Words to avoid:

  • Young
  • Youthful
  • Developing
  • Professional Appearance
  • Mature

3. Health Attributes

Candidates who claim to be “healthy” are telling hiring managers they feel they fear getting to0 sick to do the job.  Candidates with past medical issues are the worst offenders here.  Words to avoid.

  • Healthy
  • Fit
  • Energetic
  • Active
  • Able-bodied
  • Athletic

4. Appearance Attributes

Candidates who claim to be “attractive” are telling the hiring manager they get by on their looks instead of their skills.   Let the hiring manager see how attractive you are at the interview, but don’t expect to get that interview because you are attractive.

Age, health, appearance phrases to avoid:

  • Pretty
  • Attractive
  • Handsome
  • Cute
  • Adorable
  • Masculine
  • Powerful

Let the hiring manager see how healthy and fit you are when you come for an interview.  Don’t expect claiming to be as such will get you an interview in the first place.

5. Passive Voice Words

Forget what you learned in school and don’t write in passive voice.  Many people write in passive voice because that is how we’ve been taught to write “formally” in high school composition and then in freshman college English.  Its wrong for resumes.

Indicators of the passive voice:

  • Responsible for
  • Duties included
  • Served as
  • Actions encompassed

Rather than saying “Responsible for management of three direct reports” change it up to “Managed 3 direct reports.” It is a shorter, more direct mode of writing and adds impact to the way the resume reads.

6. Hyper-Active Words

Hyper-active words are verbs that are too violent or aggressive to be used on a resume.  They’re usually verbs better suited to a comic book than a resume.

  • Smashed numbers through the roof
  • Electrified sales team to produce
  • Pushed close rate by 10%
  • Destroyed sales competition
  • Blew away sales goals

7.  Profile Words

These are Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the DISC Profile. While the results from these evaluations can be invaluable to the job seeker for evaluating an opportunity in terms of “fit”, employers and recruiters are more interested in performance results. Do not inadvertently “pigeon-hole” yourself by including your profile results in the resume.  Words to avoid:

  • A-type Personality
  • D Profile
  • Alpha Male

Consider your word choice in a resume. A resume is a marketing document for your career just as a brochure is a marketing document for a product or service. Companies put careful thought and consideration into each and every word that goes into marketing copy and you should do the same in your resume.

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7 Ways to Improve Your Resume During Unemployment

resumeunemployment

If you’re unemployed and worried about dust collecting on your resume, there’s no need to panic.

According to CareerBuilder, 85 percent of employers said they’re more understanding about post-recession employment gaps. Whether it’s been six weeks or six months since your last job, it’s important not to stress about the space in your resume. There are endless opportunities to help you fill in any gaps due to unemployment — you just have to know where to look.

But keep in mind that just because employers are more understanding about unemployment doesn’t mean you automatically receive a free pass. It’s up to you to be proactive during your unemployment to gain experience and improve your skills. If you want to quickly land a job, it’s essential to develop your skills and gain experience to compensate for the time you had off from work.

If you’re unemployed and want to strengthen your resume, here are some tips to help you fill in the gaps:

1. Take a class or attend a workshop.

One thing job seekers don’t realize is that their career is more than just having a job — it’s about being a lifelong learner, too. If you’re looking to brush up on your skills or learn a new skill that’s in-demand, this is a great time to take advantage of the opportunity to enroll in a class or workshop. Your skills require constant development as you advance in your career. As you search for classes and workshops, try to enroll in those which will provide you with the most up-to-date training. This will be a sure-fire way to catch the attention of employers by adding an in-demand skill to your resume. Plus, you’ll be able to keep your skills fresh so that when you return to work, it doesn’t feel like you missed a beat.

2. Consider freelance or contract work.

There’s no better way to improve your resume than gaining tangible experience. Freelance and contract work is a great opportunity; you can build your resume and earn a little income at the same time. According to a survey by Intuit, more than 40 percent of the workforce will be freelancing by 2020. Whether you choose to use freelancing or contract work to fill in the gaps, it’s a great way to utilize your time as you figure out your career path. Employers will also be impressed that you took the initiative to continue gaining experience during your unemployment.

3. Polish up your personal brand.

While you’ll be spending the majority of your unemployment searching for jobs, you also need to make sure your online presence is a reflection of your resume. Whether you spend time learning new skills, taking classes, or freelancing, find opportunities to boost your resume and personal brand. Sometimes, it can be difficult to stay motivated when labeled as “unemployed.” But if you take the time to ensure your online presence is consistent with your resume, you’ll be more likely to get yourself noticed by employers.

4. Volunteer.

Another powerful way to strengthen your resume is to do volunteer work. Never underestimate the power of volunteering — it gives you the opportunity to learn new skills, gain accomplishment stories, and give back to your community. When employers see volunteer experience on a resume, it tells them a candidate is compassionate, driven, and enthusiastic. As you gain volunteer experience, take note of your accomplishments and responsibilities. This will help you quantify the experience section on your resume and give employers a chance to see how you can make a difference.

5. Make industry connections.

Believe it or not, networking can be a great way to help you improve your resume during unemployment. Research shows that 40 percent of job seekers credited a referral for their current jobs. Not only will you make connections that could lead to jobs, but you can also connect with professionals who could serve as a mentor. It’s always a good to have a friend or colleague who can review your resume and give you some pointers. This is especially true if you can make a connection with someone in your field — they can provide accurate advice on improving your resume to make you irresistible to employers.

6. Start a business.

If you really want to strengthen your skill set, consider opening your own business. Although starting a business is a fairly large commitment and investment, it will definitely pay off during your unemployment. Starting a business demonstrates leadership and initiative, which are two soft skills employers strongly desire. Not only will you gain experience, but you’ll also learn the skills that come along with opening a business.

7. Focus on your career goals.

When facing unemployment, it can be easy to lose sight of your career goals. Whether you’ve used unemployment to pursue other goals, or you’ve become discouraged about your career path, your career goals need to be at the forefront of your job search. It will help you know where to look for jobs, and most importantly, find new opportunities to update your resume. For example, think of a goal you’ve always wanted to accomplish, but couldn’t because you were working full-time. Take this opportunity to learn a skill you’ve never had the time to learn. By doing this, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals while adding another line to your resume.

Gaining experience and keeping your skills fresh during unemployment doesn’t have to be stressful or daunting. Just remember to focus on your goals, the skills and experience you have to offer, and improving your personal brand. This way, you’ll be able to fill in the gaps on your resume and impress an employer’s socks off when you apply for a job.

What tips do you have for improving your resume during unemployment?

About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

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10 Quick Resume Tips

resumecritique

1. Font matters.

Pick a simple font that is easy to read. Size 10 or 12 font is the standard.

2. No references.

There is no need to include references on your resume, including “References available upon request.”

3. No pictures.

Don’t include a photo with your application unless the employer specifically requests it.  Save your picture for your LinkedIn profile.

4. You might need more than one resume.

Tailor your resume to the job you are applying for. Keep multiple versions of your resume updated.

5. Don’t list all of your work experience.

Only list recent and/or relevant experience. Employers aren’t interested in your summer job from 10 years ago.

6. Skip personal information.

Employers don’t need to know your age, your religion, or your marital status.

7. Focus on your achievements.

Your resume should be highlight your achievements. Go beyond tasks and responsibilities.

8. Lose the objective statement.

Objective statements are no longer part of standard resume formats. Opt for a career summary instead.

9. Proofread….and proofread again.

Double-check your resume and your cover letter against the job listing, and have a friend look for any typos or other errors.

10. Consider getting professional help.

It’s hard to write about yourself, and easy to miss grammatical errors and typos.  Visit us at TopResume.com, if you are thinking about a Professional Resume Rewrite.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at TopResume.

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“Have You Ever Been Fired?”

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For some, the question “Have you ever been fired?” can inspire a pit in the stomach when the answer to that question is “Yes”.  You may be among an unfortunate bunch who had a horrific experience at a company (or with a certain coworker or boss), that did not end well.  And whether your termination was your fault or not, it can continue to haunt you in your search for future prospects.  So what is the best way to field this tough issue?

Be Honest

First things first:  don’t lie.  It may be tempting to dismiss the topic altogether, hoping that the company you’re interviewing with never finds out – but what happens if they do?  If they find out during the interview process, you’re certain not to get the job.  And if they find out a few years down the line, no matter how great an employee you are, they may still decide to let you go.  A second termination is not what you want on your record, so do yourself a favor and be upfront and honest from the get go.  It’s much safer, and you’ll stress about if far less in the long run.

Provide Some Context

Explain the circumstances surrounding the incident.  If it was a conflict of interest, let the interviewer know.  If it happened 15 years ago, tell them that you now have a lot of distance from the incident and that your stellar work performance since then speaks for itself.  If it occurred in the more recent past, explain that you have learned quite a bit from the incident, but don’t spend your time making excuses.  Lay down the facts, and focus on what you’ve done since and will do in the future to demonstrate that you are a valuable employee who understands what it takes to be an asset to a company.

Don’t Give Away Too Much

While it’s important to be forthcoming in your response to this question, you also don’t want to spend too much time addressing the matter.  Keep the focus of the interview on what makes you the ideal person to hire, and spend as little time as you can conveying what the interviewer needs to know about that particular incident.  People who feel the need to defend themselves tend to over-explain, and this can portray lack of confidence and lead you down the wrong road.  Certainly stray away from speaking ill of your former boss or company, remaining as objective and succinct as possible.

No one likes getting fired and everyone wants to find a new job.  Don’t let one obstacle in your past set the tone for the rest of your career.  Concentrate on what you need to do to land your next job and on the reasons you’re a perfect fit for it, and the rest will follow.

Have a wonderful day,

The Doostang Team

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