Writing a Top-Notch Cover Letter

Cover letters suck. They're cheesy, time-consuming, and trivial annoyances. But might they be a hidden opportunity to get ahead of the pack? 

The cover letter is mainly known as a box-checker with many saying it serves no purpose. Although mostly true, you could also use it as an opportunity to increase your chances of landing an interview.

While the resume establishes the “what” about you, the cover letter establishes the “why.” More importantly, it gives you the chance to name-drop if you’ve talked with someone in the firm or the hiring manager themselves about the position/firm.

The main point here is to let them know why you want to work for them and what you bring to the table. In any case, you’ll want to tell them what they want to hear - which isn’t a novel about how awesome it would be to work for Deutsche Bank

Side note: OF COURSE you will have to do some sucking up to the hiring managers - you need play the game until you’re better off playing your own game.

They want to hear a short but impactful story about how you’ve become interested in finance or the environment you imagine exists in Investment Banking (or Sales or Equity Research) through your conversations with those in the industry. So give it to them, but don’t lie as it’ll likely come up in your interview when they ask “why finance?” or “why banking?” Exaggeration is fine, but DO NOT overdo it.

It should also be short, sweet, to the point with nothing outlandish that can send your opportunity to the dump.

Cover Letter Template

A cover letter is personal and certainly difficult to produce a convincing fake. Here’s a good outline of the things you should be discussing and the various places you should be name-dropping. Note there is no personal story here, but if you have a good one, go ahead and drop a max 2-3 sentences about it at the beginning of the second paragraph



Do’s and Don’ts when writing the Cover Letter:

Do 1: IF you want to stand out - describe an event or series of events that led you to take the path of finance

  • ex: my father lost half his net worth in the financial crisis and I always wondered how this was even possible, so I began researching xxxxx…

  • ex: I planned a garage sale when I was younger but needed money to buy posters etc., so I asked my parents to lend me money and I’d pay them back xxxxx…

  • ex: I opened a practice trading account and became interested in xxxxx…
    just make sure it doesn’t drag on

Do 2: DO YOUR BEST TO NAME-DROP - will cover networking later on, but try get the permission of someone that works there if it is OK to mention their name - this is where connections can come in handy
If you do not have someone to name-drop, if you attended a seminar or viewed a presentation related to the firm/position be sure to at least mention that

Do 3: Keep it short and simple! remember it’s mainly a formality plus a chance to *briefly* name-drop/follow-up with the hiring manager if you’ve met before

Don’t 1: don’t mention anything in the cover letter that’s on your resume, unless necessary for immediate context

Don’t 2: don’t BS about how much you’ve dreamed about working at Citi - unless you’ve interned there, you have no idea what it’s like to do so and should remain humbled

Don’t 3: don’t say how much of a hard worker you are, how you’ll be a team player etc. - show, don’t tell - what did you work hard at in the past that can translate over to the job? how exactly have you been a team player before? - these are opportunities to stand out, although not necessary to add

To Recap:

Although the cover letter is more of a formality, it does give you the opportunity to mention things you’re not able to on a resume, such as your conversations/connections with other professionals at the firm.

Good Luck!

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