At most investment banks, cover letters that accompany resumes are barely read, if read at all. Applications are typically screened according to your resume, with school and GPA as the first filter. If you went to a “name” school and have a strong GPA, then your resume and cover letter are read in more detail. To help you get through the screening process, we’ve created this guide to writing an investment banking cover letter.
Unfortunately, cover letters are often more of an opportunity to make a mistake than an opportunity to impress. Your best bet is to keep your letter short and straightforward, taking care to not say anything too daring or risky.
If you do have something unique to note, a particular value-add, then your cover letter can be a great tool for showcasing it.
How to write a cover letter for investment banking
Investment banking cover letters are fairly formulaic. The sections below give a breakdown of each of the areas of information that should be included and what information to put in each.
There are three main components to a standard investment banking cover letter:
Experience & Fit
As we noted before, it’s a simple, straightforward (not fancy) document.
Introduction (one paragraph)
This is where you aim to quickly grab the reader’s attention. You may have been raised to be humble but in an investment banking resume and cover letter, do not be shy about showcasing your skills and achievements right away. The reader is looking for two things right up front: who you are and why they should care.
In the introduction, you should name your school, major, and GPA, and explain how you came to apply for this position (e.g., met someone at the bank, went to a company info session, etc.). Your story about why you came to apply is important. Be sure to include something that shows you’ve genuinely made an effort, as opposed to just saying you saw the job posted on a jobs website.
Experience & Fit (two paragraphs)
Next, go on to describe whatever relevant experience you have that makes you an ideal candidate for the bank to hire. This can include work experience, university clubs/associations, certification programs, or other activities. Try to connect your experience back to investment banking skills such as financial modeling and valuation.
Explaining why you’re a good fit for the firm is very important. To demonstrate fit, you have to understand the bank’s culture (i.e., the values they talk about externally, which may be different from the actual internal work atmosphere). It’s important for the recruiter to feel confident that you’ll fit in well with the firm. Therefore, make sure you’ve done your homework and are familiar with the primary values the bank espouses in their marketing materials.
The best way for you to determine if you are a good fit with the bank is to network with people who work there and learn first-hand what the culture is like. Once you know what it’s like, you can make an honest assessment of how close a fit you actually are. In any event, whatever you’re able to glean about the company culture, try to work something into your investment banking cover letter indicating how well you’ll fit in. For example, if you determine that the company is especially focused on providing first-class customer service, you can indicate that you focus on providing the specific kind of service that each individual client wants.
Conclusion (one paragraph)
Finally, wrap things up by reiterating how keen you are to work at the bank, why you’re well-suited, and pointing out that you’ve enclosed your resume and are reachable at your contact information to discuss the opportunity. The conclusion is an almost pure formula section. No real new information should be presented there. Simply tie up everything you said in the first two sections.
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Proofreading your investment banking cover letter
Be absolutely sure your cover letter is free of any spelling or grammatical errors. Having such a careless error could result in an automatic disqualification – as it indicates carelessness, not a desirable trait for an investment banker. Investment banking requires extraordinary attention to detail. If your cover letter or resume contain any errors, that just gives the hiring manager an easy excuse to move on to the next candidate. If you have time, have someone else proofread your cover letter as well. It’s sometimes hard to spot your own typos.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to writing your investment banking cover letter. Please be sure to download our free template and see our additional (free!) resources below to help you land a job in IB: