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The definitive guide to an engineering CV in banking

Fancy your chances of becoming an engineer at Goldman Sachs? Even if you're the perfect candidate for the role, a poor first impression can get in the way of that. 

Your CV is the first thing a banking recruiter is going to see of you. These are rules to follow to ensure you avoid the dreaded discard pile.

Context is key

Knowing how to use a wide array of technologies and languages is all well and good, but dumping them into one big list won't do you any favours.

Banks want to know where and how you've used your tech stack. Machine learning recruitment specialist and co-founder of Claypot AI Chip Huyen advises to give a one sentence account of the function you performed with a given piece of tech. The r/engineeringresumes forum on Reddit advises starting this with a strong action verb like "delivered" or "implemented" but warns not to use "utilized" as it has a track record being attached to an overly wordy sentence.

If you've used a particular technology at work, mention it in the context of an employer and your work experience. Kirsty Tutton head of technology at finance recruitment firm Selby Jennings says her "banking clients like to see the tech stack used for each role as opposed to a big list"

If you haven't used a technology at work, it can be more complicated. You could reserve a space at the end of your resume to showcase work you've done on StackOverflow. 

X-Y-Z vs A-B-C-D for bullet points

Starting a bullet point with a strong verb is one thing, but filling the rest out in an optimal way is even more difficult.

Google recruiters suggest the X-Y-Z method for constructing your bullets. This means that you should say you "Accomplished [X], as measured by [Y], by doing [Z]." A simple and effective method for sure, but not the only one.

Evy Kassirer, software engineer at Pilot.com, instead suggests a 4-step process: Skill, Task, Tools, Result (A-B-C-D rolls off the tongue slightly better than S-T-T-R)

Under these methods, improving the efficiency of high-frequency-trading code could either be written as "Optimized low latency code performance, minimizing tick-to-trade latency by implementing coroutines in C++," in X-Y-Z or "Optimized low latency C++ code, using coroutines to decrease tick-to-trade latency."

The two approaches share similarities at face value but X-Y-Z prioritizes results, while A-B-C-D emphasizes the process. Use both accordingly to highlight whichever you believe is more important for a given project.

Choose your metrics wisely

Measuring success is a difficult thing in an engineering context. Arbitrary metrics like lines of code have been laughed out of the office by seasoned coders... so how do you stand out?

Huyen warns against quantified metrics saying "not all that are quantifiable are impactful." Clarifying how these metrics played a role in delivering business objectives or contributed to personal development will make them much more effective.

In banking, certain metrics do receive extra attention, however. Tutton advises using examples of "large-scale migration" or "increasing the speed of performance." You also must mention the range of asset classes you've worked across, as banks will "sometimes discount CVs on the basis they are not showing particular asset class experience. "

Don't shorten it just for the sake of it

A one-page CV is the gold standard, short and sweet for recruiters. But just because you can cut it down to 1 page doesn't mean doing so will improve your odds.

Huyen said she does not reject CVs for being over one page, but strongly advises against it. She says, "rarely do I see a candidate whose best foot forward can't be contained within one page."

Even for those of the utmost seniority, she warns that a longer resume comes with "more chance that your biggest strengths will be buried among less important details," and that a long-winded CV without focus "shows the lack of judgement for what is important"

Can't keep your CV below a page? Try removing references, soft skills and indentation. A well-chosen font can make a significant difference also, but make sure whatever you pick is easy to read.

An example of a CV meticulously optimized for space comes from Evy Kassirer

Be honest about your "expertise"

Banking is a career all about progression and growth. You will be provided the opportunity to improve your skills, but you must be honest about which skills you're actually an expert in, and which you've only got a bit of knowledge

Huyen says "expertise takes time to acquire. I'm skeptical of people who claim to be experts in too many things."

An easy way of being honest, suggested by Tutton, is "offering a ranking out of five in order of skills within specific languages."

Honesty is important beyond just technical expertise. Leadership roles, for example, vary from title to title and Tutton says it's important to specify if your role was in 'people management' or a 'product lead.' Furthermore, job titles can also mean very different things from one industry to another (Vice President being a particularly egrigious example) so being honest about your responsibilities in a role helps clear up confusion.

Don't forget the basics

As much as it's an important thing to specialize your CV for banking, there are some basic elements that good CVs across all industries possess.

  • Save the file as a PDF. Please.
  • Make sure your contact info and links to GitHub etc. are accurate.
  • No Photos. Pretty please.
  • No confidential information, for your own sake.
  • Don't overuse bold, italic or colored text.

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Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: alex.mcmurray@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. 

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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