Sample Cover Letters
In general, you can get yourself in trouble saying too much—less is more. Introduce yourself, highlight your skills and experience, indicating why they should look at you, tell them what you want, and get out. Whether you are a major or minor, you should examine all of these letters; they will give you ideas.
Your resume should be quick to read (10-15 seconds), eye-catching in that it draws the eyes of the reader to the key points/skills/achievements you would like to highlight, and gives the reader a complete sense of your capabilities. Many recommend that you list your education last. I do not favor this; your education immediately tells the reader who you are. It should be upfront, separated from the body of the resume, and easy to assess at a glance. (These resumes may not be very compatible with the data systems that HR use, but in general, they are reader-friendly. Get them to the person making the decisions.)
You shouldn’t wait until you’ve graduated to look for a job, and employers make hiring decisions much sooner than you think. The primary entry date for new hires is June/July. Interviewing for these positions can occur as early as the previous October, with the season is in full swing by January, and most decisions finalized by April. This means: you should be applying for positions early as October and have completed most of your applications by January/February.
There are two other traditional hiring seasons that are less prominent: September and January. Many institutions (particularly finance) experience turnover at the end of the summer, when firms make offers to the graduates of each other’s training programs, or when employees leave after end-of-the-year bonuses have been paid. There will be some immediate openings. For these positions, you want to be applying August-October, and December-January. There will be many fewer of these positions.
Internship hiring tends to run a little bit later, typically starting in January, with the season in full swing by February-March. This means that you do not want to wait until April to seek an internship, although there may be some recruiting at that time. Please contact CBE Placement Services for information on summer internships, and indicate your interest in an internship early; as well as conducting your own search.
So how do you find a job—a job you want? It takes work. First, you have to determine what you want. That may take some research, using the web, financial websites—major banks and financial institutions are a great source: many have extensive job descriptions and sometimes video interviews with recent hires, if you fish around the sections for new graduates (undergrad and MBA). The finance department webpage Finance Careers also contains descriptions of several traditional finance career paths. But, you should do enough footwork to be knowledgeable about what you want. This is also one of the ways Informational Interviews will help you (discussed below).
Once you have figured out what you want, the single best way to locate a position is through personal relationships (e.g. friends, parents, other students, or people whom you have worked with), if they are in the industry, or know someone in the industry, they can help you get interviews. Internships can help you greatly with this—even if they are unpaid. But if you don’t know anyone in the industry you are seeking, you will have to do some cold calling, and this is where Informational Interviews will help you find a job or create a connection.
Informational Interview—what is it? It is where you arrange to interview an individual you about a career and/or work environment at a specific firm. And it is a fantastic tool, because used correctly, it is a non-threatening way to develop connections and create real interviews. Moreover, you don’t have to be nervous, you are not applying for a job (at least, that is what you are telling everyone), you are there to get information. But if you do a good job of it, they will likely take your resume and forward it to HR, and possibly someone else. And if they really like you, they will ask you to apply or begin considering you (this actually happened to me).
So how does it work? You identify your targets, people who are in mid-level to senior level positions in the careers and firms you would like to be hired. Ideally, you will interview with someone who can make a hiring decision. And you will research the career and firm ahead of time, write down a list of material questions you really want to know about, dress professionally, and go in with the objective of finding out about a career. This last point is crucial. If you are trying to sneak in a job interview, people will see through it. You are there to get information.
What do you ask? Virtually everything is fair game, with one warning, don’t ask about vacation time. It is a great way to kill any opportunity, because they will assume you are more concerned about that. Ask what they do, what their day/week looks like, what your first year would look like as a new hire, what your career path would be. Skills required, hours, compensation as your career progresses, travel, what they love about it, and what they dislike. Ask what they would do if they were in your position to enter the career. Let them talk. People love to talk about themselves and they love to give advice. And all the time, do not worry about their perceptions of you or if they are going to ask you for your resume—keep your thoughts on finding out whether this is a career or firm you would like to go into. Allow yourself to enjoy their company. And the worst that can happen is they say “thank you very much”, and you move on to the next target. But, eighty percent of the time, they will ask you for your resume’, and you better have it, prepared and targeted for them. Don’t be sloppy. (It is not unacceptable to offer your resume’ at the end of the interview, if they have not asked for it. Some individuals will deliberately wait for you to see how assertive you are. You will have nothing to lose by offering it.)
How do you get the interviews? Friend, parents, classmates, acquaintances, internships…and cold calling. Don’t get nervous. Most alumni love to give back, and this is a costless way for them to do it. Most people feel threatened when they are asked to give a job interview, because they feel they have an obligation to hire you. But you aren’t asking for that. You are asking for information and an hour of mentoring. Check with the university’s alumni center. Also, Linked-in. Send out a few emails, you will be surprised who will be willing to talk to you. Most people like helping people.
Other Search Mechanisms
Most firms have jobs listed on websites. You can apply directly, but your competition will be fierce. It becomes a law of large numbers, and nothing about you is personalized. You are better off cold calling, actually researching and approaching your targets (managing directors, senior vice presidents, etc.) where you know there are jobs available, and send them hard copies of your resume’. But, it will probably be ten times easier to arrange an informational interview with these individuals. (One exception: if you have very specific skills that you know they are seeking, send a letter/email to them directly indicating your interest, with your resume.) Btw, I am a big fan of going around HR and sending a letter directly to managers of the groups you are trying to get hired in. If they find your resume interesting they will request you; and often times, if they relied on HR, they will have never seen it, because your resume’ doesn’t fit supposed requirements. But that footwork you will have to do.
For more information on career placement and internship opportunities, please contact Placement Services.