How to Write a Cover Letter for Entry-Level Finance Jobs, Part 1 of 2: Do Your Research First

How to Write a Cover Letter for Entry-Level Finance Jobs, Part 1 of 2: Do Your Research First If you will be applying for entry-level finance jobs or finance or accounting internships in the near future, you should include a cover letter with your application and resume. Writing a cover letter isn’t exactly brain surgery, but it’s important to do some solid research about the companies you are targeting, present the letter in an appropriate style and include a few key items to make a good impression.

In the first installment of this two-part post, we’ll discuss what you need to do to get a good start, doing the research.

Getting Started on a Finance Job Cover Letter … Research First

Before you start typing, you’ll want to do some research first. It’s crucial that in your finance job cover letter and throughout the interview process you portray your knowledge about and interest in the company in question.

Why? If you want to distinguish yourself from other candidates and vie for the best finance positions and internships available you need to go the extra yard.

In your research, you’ll want to learn about the organization’s goals. This information will come in handy when you’re explaining why your skills and background will help them REACH those goals. In cover letters and resumes for finance careers, hiring managers and recruiters are looking for quantifiable accomplishments.

If you can tailor your accomplishments to the target company’s goals, you can increase your odds of getting an interview, and ultimately the job.

A recent survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) asked employers about their hiring and business goals for 2013. Employers are focusing on efficiency, with 68 percent looking to improve performance and productivity.

In addition, organizations are also focused on growth, with 61 percent looking to expand the business’s customer base. So, start digging.

You can learn a lot about a business by visiting its corporate website and examining recent press releases, videos and blog posts.

But don’t stop there; start working your network (if you don’t have a network, start building one!). Ask yourself who you know, who might know someone “in the know,” at your target companies.

Start Working Your Connections

Next, make a list, and work your connections to get an introduction to people who currently work at the companies you are targeting. Try to get face-to-face meetings if possible, or a phone or Skype conversation, to learn more about the company and its goals. You might also be able to use this person’s name in your cover letter to give it more credence if the person is agreeable.

All of this research may sound like a lot of work (and it is), but it’s worth it. Senior accounting and finance managers are looking for candidates who will contribute to the company’s bottom line; have knowledge of the business’s goals and structure; and would be passionate about working for their firm. Your research and how you demonstrate that your personal accomplishments and background would contribute to the company are necessary if you want a career in finance.

In part two of this finance careers cover letter post we’ll talk about the nuts and bolts – presentation, style and what to include from top to bottom.

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Sources:

Isaacs, K. “Cover Letter Tips for Finance Professionals.” Monster.com. Available at: http://career-advice.monster.com/resumes-cover-letters/cover-letter-tips/finance-cover-letter-tips/article.aspx. Accessed October 24, 2013.

“2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey.” Report 01. Graduate Management Admission Council, 2013. Available at  http://www.gmac.com/~/media/Files/gmac/Research/Employment%20Outlook/crs-2013-hiring-report-01. Accessed Oct. 28, 2013.

DeChesare, B. “The Investment Banking Cover Letter Template You’ve Been Waiting For.” Mergers & Inquisitions website. Available at http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-cover-letter-template/. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.

“Example of a covering letter for a graduate finance traineeship.” University of Kent website. Available at http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/cv/covlet.htm. Accessed Oct. 30, 2013.

“Investment Banking Resume;” “Private Equity Resume;” “Hedge Fund Resume.” Street of Walls website. Available at: http://www.streetofwalls.com/. Accessed Oct. 25, 2013.

8 Interview Clichés to Avoid

The point of an interview is to show off to the hiring manager how wonderful and unique of a candidate you are.  So why would you waste precious time and words answering questions with clichés?  Unfortunately, when put in a nerve-racking situation, people often freeze up or stumble over their words, and these standard lines are the first things that come to mind.  Here are a few clichés to look out for, and some alternate ways to respond:

1. I’m a Team Player

The ultimate cliché, this one pops up in resumes, cover letters, and interviews.  But what does it really mean?  If you’re a “team player” and really want to get this point across, don’t say this line.  Explain what it is that makes you so great to work with.  Focus on your excellent ability to communicate or your willingness to both lead and follow directions.  Talk about a few instances where you have picked up the slack for someone else without having to be asked.

2. I’m the Perfect Fit

Ultimately this is up to the hiring manager.  Instead of wasting your breath telling them this and expecting them to believe you when they know nothing about you, barrage them with examples of why you’re a great fit.  Then they’ll come closer to making this conclusion on their own.

3. I’m a Hard Worker

Aren’t we all?  Again, saying this really means nothing to the interviewer until you provide concrete examples.  Tell them about all those times when you stayed late, turned work in before its due date, anticipated what needed to get done next, etc.  Make the interviewer really believe that you are a hard worker, because just saying so is not enough.

4. I’m Willing to Do Anything

Often this is the road many people have to take, especially when starting out in entry-level positions.  And while it’s great to have that sort of mentality, you don’t want to sound too desperate in a job interview.  And worse than sounding desperate, you don’t want to imply that the job itself is something you’re “willing to put up with” until you advance on to something better.  Mention specific parts of the job that excite you, and instead of focusing on your willingness to do anything, focus on your desire to do these specific things.

5. I’m a Fast Learner

When you say this, Hiring Managers hear, “I don’t know how to do this“. Saying this makes you sound like you are inexperienced, and that you may be underestimating the level of understanding it takes to do the job.

6. I’m Good with People

That’s exactly what the interviewer is trying to determine in the interview. It’s not just about determining if you have the skills and qualifications to do the job. The interviewer is trying to determine your general demeanor and personal skills, so let them see you in action, don’t simply state it.

7. I’m a very Loyal Person

People who say this are usually overcompensating for holding many jobs in the past, but not staying at any particular job for very long. Candidates who say this are typically concerned that the interviewer will think they’ll get bored and leave soon after taking the position. Instead of saying this, stress how you see this potential employer as a long term career path.

8. I really need this job

Some people think it’s a good idea to talk about their personal life in an interview, and how important it is for their family that they get this job. Even if this is true, do not say it. It only makes you look desperate. The less it seems you need the job, the more valuable you seem to the employer, because other employers want you too.

Clichés hurt you not just because they make you sound less credible, but also because they take away the chance to go into depth and provide specific examples of why you’d be a great hire.  Don’t do yourself an injustice by speaking vaguely with a hiring manager – the specifics will get you much farther.

Impress Hiring Managers by Showcasing Your Strengths

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Database Intern, San Francisco, CA
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Competition for job openings continues to be fierce. But you can set yourself apart by smartly displaying your strengths, specialized training, and accomplishments to beat out the competition! Use the ideas below to develop your plan to showcase your strengths.

Flaunt Professional Development Activities

Perhaps you aced the latest company training session, or sought out additional educational activities on your own. Maybe a graduate project translated into thousands in savings or local exposure for the company. Flaunt those accomplishments in your resume and cover letter to set yourself apart from other candidates who lack such initiative.

Highlight Certifications

Certifications, licensure, and train-the-trainer experiences are uncommon accomplishments typically reserved for high-performance staff. Simply listing certifications and licensure raises your background above the competition because the additional effort required to achieve professional standards is well known and is recognized as well beyond most candidates. Likewise, being singled out to train trainers is another example of high-level performance.

Review Customer Satisfaction Ratings

Customer satisfaction ratings are gathered in many different fields, from sales to healthcare. Course and training evaluations are another form of customer satisfaction surveys. If your company doesn’t use any kind of satisfaction ratings, look at this measurement from the opposite side – reduction of consumer complaints. Outstanding customer service across internal and external divisions is a highly valued skill.

Applaud Your Own Accomplishments

Review your experience in terms of traditional achievements such as exceeding quotas, but also highlight teamwork awards and yes, even employee-of-the-month kudos! The key is to include details about your performance that set the foundation for those awards, presenting accomplishments in terms of value for the employer. For example, what did you do that others did not? What happened as a result of your performance, idea, or strong customer relationships? List positive outcomes across all levels, for example:

    · Increased morale

    · Higher profit margins

    · Streamlined procedures

    · Fewer absentee days

Outline Technological Innovations

Did you re-vamp a website to increase traffic and sales? How about automating manual records with a spreadsheet program? You may consider these routine activities, but such accomplishments definitely distinguish you from the crowd!

Explain Team Contributions

Did you make the boss look good? In what ways did you anticipate a change that allowed your manager to come out on top? What projects, programs, or initiatives did you manage? What trends did you forecast? In what collaborative projects did you participate? Examples may include:

    · Spearheading highest earning United Way Campaign in company history

    · Garnering community support for employee recognition event

    · Identifying new B2B partnerships

Show Your Career Progression

Do your resume, LinkedIn profile, and personal website tell the story of increasing responsibility throughout varied positions? Think of your business card and resume as promotional pieces for your personal brand. What do these say about you? Do they invite the reader to engage with you and learn more about your career progression?

Avoid Negative Distinction

Even though distinguishing yourself from the tight competition is a plus, you also have to be conscious of how you will be perceived. You don’t want to set yourself apart in a negative way. Photos of yourself, brightly colored paper, and unusual or colored fonts are all examples of how you may damage your personal image rather than strengthen it.

Think about the image you want to present to impress hiring managers and showcase your strengths. All the aspects discussed above contribute to the employer’s first impression of you. When that impression is positive, they absolutely want to learn more about you. A polished resume will stop the hiring manager from sifting through the endless pile of candidates and get them to call you! Showcase your accomplishments and distinguish yourself from the competition to impress hiring managers and land that new job.

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Perfect the Punch in Your Cover Letter

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

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Your resume and cover letter should combine to deliver an effective “one-two punch” that grabs the positive attention needed to land an interview. Though many think the cover letter has become obsolete because of online resume posting, in reality the cover letter is equally important in electronic and paper applications. Typical business standards of communication apply in any type of career search contact. Being too informal and using emoticons or e-mail acronyms (such as BTW or LOL) will likely sabotage your well-planned efforts.

Personalize the Letter

Research the company and the HR department to determine the person to whom you should address the letter. You may even call the company to inquire as to the name of the appropriate person who is screening for the position of interest. If unable to find the name of a specific person in any of your research, you can always default to the title of the individual in charge of the position search, such as “Office Manager” or “Director of Human Resources.”

Although personalizing the salutation is a good start, don’t stop there if you want to stand out from the crowd. Use the results of your research to determine the values, mission, and new initiatives for the company. Aligning your strengths and personal work history with these key areas will help the hiring manager see you as a viable team member. Recruiting key talent makes the hiring manager look good, so help them by making it easy to recognize what a great fit you are for the opening.

Highlight Your Accomplishments

Every hiring manager differs in his or her approach to screening resumes and cover letters. Some don’t even bother with the cover letter, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on your attention to detail. Many other hiring managers use the cover letter to screen out unlikely candidates.

Make your cover letter doubly effective by including several accomplishments that align with key aspects of the open position as well as the overall corporate mission. Many people don’t include specific accomplishments in the cover letter to avoid being repetitive. But key concepts often bear repeating! By emphasizing the same accomplishments in the cover letter and the resume, you help the hiring manager remember your strong points. Beyond that, if the hiring manager only reads the resume or the cover letter, you have made certain that your key skills are highlighted and will be noticed at least once, if not twice!

Electronic Postings

Spend time perfecting your subject line if submitting your resume via email. Including your name in the subject line facilitates name recognition. To present a business-like impression, stick to the basics in your subject line, such as listing the position and a descriptor (e.g., “Robert Smith Application” or “Jane Doe Resume”). The same cover letter that you submit with a paper application becomes the text of your email accompanying the electronic resume.

The Basics

Of course, you need to pay attention to the basics of business grammar, spelling, and format when writing the cover letter. You don’t want to set yourself apart by making the cover letter too “flashy.” Colored paper, personal photos, and overly distinctive fonts have no place in a strong cover letter. Review the letter to make sure it aligns as closely as possible with the details included in the job announcement. Give the entire package a final close inspection before sending it out to ensure it is not only accurate, but also complete in terms of what the employer has requested (e.g., transcript, references, etc.). Finally, don’t forget your original signature on the paper version of your cover letter. Even such a small oversight may close the door on your chances for an interview.

The cover letter can be a critical component in your job search. It allows you the opportunity to “connect the dots” for the hiring manager between your skills and their needs. Customizing the cover letter demonstrates your due diligence, initiative, and interest in the company. Create an effective “one-two punch” and get the most out of your cover letter to highlight your skills and present yourself as a top-notch candidate.

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

How to Handle Resume Gaps


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Job seekers often assume that in order to score the perfect job, one has to be the perfect candidate.  That the right mix of education, titles, and skills is needed in order to land the career of their dreams.  So when faced with resume gaps, an individual may rightly feel disheartened.  But continuous employment is not the be-all, end-all to nabbing a great job, especially in these times.  It is important, however, to know how to treat employment gaps on your resume, in your cover letter, and in your interview.

The Functional Format

One way to gloss over gaps on your CV is to create a functional resume.  This focuses on your skills and achievements, rather than on specific dates.  There are certainly other advantages to formatting your resume this way as well, as it allows you to pinpoint exactly what it is that you bring to the table.  The trick here is to tailor it to the specific job that you are applying for.

List Your Achievements

Another way to downplay a gap in employment is to highlight your accomplishments on your resume.  While you may not have continuous experience, various honors will convey that you have quality experience, and that you have been recognized as having done an outstanding job.

Include Extracurricular Experience

Hiring mangers understand that qualified candidates may have gaps in employment.  What they want to avoid, however, is a candidate who is qualified but who lacks work ethic.  What did you do while you were out of a job?  Did you volunteer or become an active member of an organization?  Even though you weren’t necessarily paid for your extracurricular activities, it’s perfectly okay to list them.  Highlight your transferable skills here, and focus on how you can apply them to the position you are currently seeking.

Explain Your Reasons

It also works well to just come out and explain why you have a resume gap and what you did to fill your time.  Don’t be afraid to address the matter in a cover letter or an interview.  Hiring managers will respect your willingness to be forthright about periods of unemployment, and will be interested to learn about the creative, productive ways in which you were able to spend your time instead.

In a time where everyone’s looking for an edge, an employment  gap can seem like a major setback.  But if you know how to strategically position yourself and your experience, a hiring manager will be much more interested in what you have done, rather than what you haven’t.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Show Employers They Need You!

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Mutual Fund Analyst, New York, NY
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The cover letter is the first opportunity you have to introduce yourself and your extensive skills to potential employers. Make this document work for you by showing employers how you can solve common and unique problems they are facing. Specific strategies in the cover letter will make hiring managers call you!

1. Toot Your Own Horn!

Be sure to include achievements and outstanding accomplishments in the cover letter as well as in the resume.  All hiring managers approach the screening process in vastly different ways.  By including significant achievements in the cover letter you generate interest in your resume and associate certain skills with your name. Listing accomplishments prompts the interviewer to read more and ultimately contact you.

2. Use Key Words Selectively.

Be cautious not to over-use phrases that have become so common they are practically meaningless. You may choose to use such words as “innovated” but be certain to describe exactly what makes your achievement innovative.  For example, “I increased sales 20% by initiating a hands-on mentoring program for new associates”.

3. Managing Challenges.

Employers want loyal personnel who are also able to make things happen. Do you perform well under pressure? Did you identify a procedural problem and devise a solution? Are you uniquely qualified to conduct sensitive negotiations? These are all examples of how you can contribute to the corporation. Describe how you managed these challenges to get the attention of hiring managers.

4. Avoid Explaining Employment Gaps.

You can’t hide an employment gap and if you try to do so, most hiring managers will look on that more negatively than the gap itself. Most explanations of employment gaps are best handled in the resume rather than in the cover letter. If you choose to explain an extended employment gap in the cover letter, the hiring manager may not read further. An exception is in the case of additional training. Improving your skills through formal training or an internship can highlight a change in career direction and emphasize your commitment to the profession.

5. Be Clear About What You Want.

End the cover letter with a request for an interview. Including an intention to follow up can also be effective. For example, “I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the many ways I can benefit your organization”. Being clear about your goals in the job search conveys a sense of authority and competence that helps the hiring manager see how you will perform in the position.

Think of the cover letter as an expanded version of your business card. Limited space forces you to be selective about what you choose to include. Emphasize the ways you can benefit the organization to show employers they need you!

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

New Year’s Guide to the Job Search – 5 Steps to Landing a New Job

land-new-job


A New Year marks the beginning of a new and improved you. It also marks the beginning of a new job search season, meaning it’s time to leave your old job-seeking ways behind and embrace the new, more organized, more prepared you – someone who lands a new job with ease.

So here at Doostang we composed a check-off list of vital job application steps for all job seekers to consider. Make sure you have these 5 steps down and you’ll be fulfilling that “New Job in the New Year” resolution in no time.

1. It All Starts with the Resume

The first step to securing an interview (and hopefully a job) is having a superb resume. Begin by proofreading your resume for any grammatical and spelling errors, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What’s more important is that the skills and experiences you’re listing are relevant to the specific job you’re applying for, so that the hiring manager can be convinced that you’re capable of doing the job he or she is hiring for. That means every resume you send out needs to be tailored to the position you’re trying to get.

You may think your resume is top notch, but getting a second (and third, and fourth) opinion never hurts, so get some input from your friends as well. And if you want to be absolutely sure in the quality of your resume, get feedback from an expert and get a professional resume critique.

If you need more in-depth guidance on resume-writing, you can find our collection of resume tips and advice here.

2. Always Include a Cover Letter

Every resume you send out should be accompanied by a cover letter. And just as you would personalize a resume, a cover letter should also be custom-tailored to the job you’re applying for. This is your chance to expand on your resume and prove to the person reading that you have the skills necessary to do the job they’re hiring for.

Keep the length under one page and take the time to proofread, as spelling errors can quickly disqualify you from the race. And make sure you’re not making any of these deadly cover letter errors.

3. Pick Up the Phone

Phone interviews are commonly used as the preliminary step to weed out unqualified candidates, so chances are your first actual conversation with the company will be over the phone. This step should not be taken lightly, so do your research ahead of time and be as prepared as you would be for an actual in-person interview.

Use the fact that the interviewer can’t see you to your advantage and have your materials in front of you – your resume, company info, questions for the interviewer, and whatever else will aid you in that initial conversation.

Always answer with a professional greeting. “This is John Smith speaking” will impress your potential employers much more than a puzzled “Hello?” The same goes for your answering machine, so while you’re in the process of applying to jobs, replace that quirky voice-mail you recorded back in high school with a professional-sounding message.

Another tip – stand up while you’re speaking on the phone. Your voice will project louder, making you sound more energetic and positive.

4. Questions Questions Questions

Although there’s no way to know for sure what you will be asked in any given interview, there are ways to make sure you’re as ready as you can be. Be prepared to go over your resume and explain every point in detail – that’s almost a given in any interview.

Examples speak volumes, so have some stories ready that highlight your achievements. When you’re asked a seemingly random question about how you handle challenges or your work style, use a relevant back-up story as a supporting point – your interviewer will be impressed.

Keep in mind – what the hiring manager is really trying to find out is (1) do you understand what the job entails? and (2) can you actually do the job? Prove to them that both of these are true and you’ll can be sure you left a positive impression.

And make sure you have a set of questions ready to ask as well. Remember you’re interviewing the company too, so use the chance to see if the job is a good fit for you.

5. Giving Thanks (And a Reason to Hire You)

The Thank You Note is the final step to securing that job. It’s not just your chance to be polite and thank the interviewers for their time (please do) but also your chance to remind everyone you’ve interviewed with why you’re perfect for the role and seal the positive impression you’ve made on them.

As with everything else, make sure to personalize your note and reference some of the things you and the interviewer talked about so that he or she can easily remember who you are.

For a more thorough look into what you should include in your Thank You Note, you can read all the details here.


So once you’re ready to apply to that fantastic job on Doostang, go down this list and make sure you have every step down. When you’ve mastered all the steps in the process, you should have no trouble fulfilling the career portion of your New Year’s resolutions.

Happy New Year!
The Doostang Team