Writing a bullet proof cover letter

contract-945619_1920Cover letters are essential to successfully recruiting. While many disagree on their importance, there is one thing we are sure about, and that is that you must write one. They go hand in hand with your resume and are another data point that banks will use when forming their opinion of you. Although the cover letter affords you an opportunity to expand upon the bullet points in your resume, it is not a free reign to ramble. A bullet proof cover letter requires the correct layout, powerful language and a crisp sentence structure.

 

Structure

A bullet proof cover letter requires a clean, standard structure. First, the top right hand corner should be your name, address, phone number and email address. Underneath the email address put the date. Second, on the left hand side above the salutation put the employer’s name and address. Third, put “Dear Sir/Madam,” as the salutation.

You are now ready to start writing the body of the cover letter. The body consists of three main paragraphs. Stick to this format as strictly as you stick to the one page resume format. In the first paragraph, you should introduce yourself and how you discovered the firm and internship opportunity. The second paragraph should outline why you want to work at that particular firm. The third expands upon your resume experience to demonstrate why you are a suitable candidate for the role. Once those three paragraphs are written you can sign off the letter using “Yours faithfully”. Do not use “Yours Sincerely” since you have said “Dear Sir/Madam” – it is a subtle grammar point.

In terms of length, one page is enough. Goldman Sachs restrict the cover letter to 250 words so aim to keep all your cover letters to that size. Just because you have an opportunity to write longer letters for other firms doesn’t mean you should.

 

Introductory paragraph

You outline who you are, what you study and how you found out about the opportunity. If you know anyone at the bank, include them here by saying you spoke with X person at Y event. Mentioning a banker’s name that you met during the recruiting process is important to get your cover letter noticed. It shows your interest in the firm (as you have reached out to a banker) and that you may have the backing of an existing employee. When HR receive your cover letter, they may refer your application to the person mentioned in order to validate your claim or get a better picture of you – if you have made a good impression this will help you greatly. Make sure to round out the first paragraph with an explanation of why you have applied. A good way to do this is by saying that the person you spoke with sparked your interest in the firm and having researched the firm and role further, you decided to apply for the particular position.

 

Flatter the firm in the second paragraph

A bullet proof cover letter will include a short paragraph on why the candidate wants to work for this particular firm. Focus on high level aspects of the firm, its culture, values and mantras along with any awards won and large deals they have done this year. For example, if applying to Morgan Stanley in London, you should reference their aim to “deliver first class business in a first class way” along with their recent success on the Airbus Boeing merger and Euromoney Awards for Best European M&A House. Explain why these values, deals and awards appeal to you and why they have motivated you to apply to this particular division at this particular firm.

 

Sell yourself in the final paragraph

It is an opportunity to expand upon the brief bullet points in your resume. But again be warned, keep this paragraph short and avoid the temptation to ramble. Clear, crisp sentences that convey your attributes are what you are aiming for. Each sentence in paragraph three should have two components: the first is the experience or achievement you have, the second is what skill or attribute that the experience or achievement demonstrates. This paragraph will include a selection of the core attributes of a successful investment banking analyst/associate: analytical ability, presentation skills, team work, time management, leadership, passion and motivation. Pair the experience in your resume with these traits. For example, “researching and investing in S&P 500 stocks has developed my analytical abilities and demonstrates my passion for financial markets.” Team sports are a great opportunity to discuss team work and leadership, whilst public speaking or case study awards can illustrate presentation skills.

 

Print out and check for errors

A bullet proof cover letter is free from any errors, e.g. spelling and grammar. Also, there is nothing worse than applying for an internship at Morgan Stanley only to put UBS on the cover letter. Double and triple check for mistakes like this. Print the cover letter and proof read for errors. Mistakes often become more visible when viewed in hard copy whereas electronic versions can mask little mistakes (a good tip for on the job too!). We cannot emphasis this enough, if there are any spelling or grammar mistakes then all your hard work will be for nothing. Attention to detail is a key quality that recruiters look for in investment banking analysts/associates – if you cannot proof read a one page cover letter then this does not speak highly of your diligence. So print it out and triple check!




P.S. If you would like to learn more about banking recruiting, you should invest in our guide “Crushin’ IB Recruiting” Learn more

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