Avoiding finance resume cliches

Avoiding resume cliches

The internet is full of resume advice. Much of it is helpful, but candidates applying for investment banking and risk management jobs have likely already found that tips for creating a finance resume are far less common.

A resume is an opportunity to capture a hiring manager’s attention, but presenting your best possible self is tricky business. Since choosing the right words can be stressful, here are some tips to help you conquer both basic and industry specific resume cliches.

The basic resume cliches
Many job candidates already know this, but for those who don’t – words like “dedicated,” “dynamic” and “driven” (all beginning with d-, for some suspicious reason) are so repeated that they make recruiters snow blind.

“Phrases like ‘detail oriented’ and ‘team player’ are just empty jargon.”

Phrases like “detail oriented” and “team player” are just empty jargon. They don’t mean anything, Martin Yate, a job search expert, told Bankrate. “We get tempted to use these because we want to fill up space.” But for all intents and purposes, they may as well be empty space. Hiring managers skip right over them because they offer nothing substantial about a candidate.

So what should you do instead? Hunt down the adjectives in your resume and try deleting all of them, even if it’s only temporarily. In their place, search for verbs that more fully encapsulate what you did to contribute to an old employer, whether that be improving workplace productivity, making them money, or saving it for them.

There is one important exception to this rule, however.

If an employer uses these types of words in their job description, it’s more likely recruiters will be using them to search their resume database. In this case it’s okay to use adjectives, but only do so sparingly, and always follow them up with results-focused, preferably measurable descriptions of how you helped contribute.

Industry-specific cliches
Since the finance industry is divided into specific business sectors, it’s essential for candidates to know the cliches that turn up in hiring managers’ queues.

In the risk management field, where firms have tightened under regulatory scrutiny in the last few years, a strategic mind is demanded. For that reason, candidates have begun to notoriously exaggerate their experience, writing things like “Client-focused, analytical and efficient” or “Worked closely with risk management as part of a joint team,” as if they could absorb knowledge through sheer proximity. Instead, highlight which specific projects you worked on and what your responsibilities were for each one.

Avoiding finance resume cliches

Choosing the right words – and ditching cliches – will move you to the top of recruiters’ lists.

Since investment banks are very appealing to college students and young finance workers, recruiters and hiring managers tend to see more fluff words here than in other industries. Those without work experience resort to cliches to mask their inexperience, writing things like “Decisive deal-closer” or “Entrepreneurial deal-maker with strategic people skills.” Although it may be tempting to fall into this pattern, overused phrases like these will end up hurting your overall chances.

Candidates seeking technology jobs are great with code, but when it comes to resume language many turn to tired cliches to prove to recruiters that they aren’t just tech gurus, but also financial wizards. Phrases like “I connect the worlds of technology and business” and “I speak tech as fluently as English” are enough to make a recruiter’s stomach churn.

The exact wording may get more complicated, but the problems with basic cliches and industry cliches remain the same. Candidates are unsure of how to appeal to recruiters, or are worried about how their experience or education will hold up. To compensate they turn to jargon-riddled, well-worn phrases for comfort. The solution? Specificity.

Instead of saying you’re a “hard worker” or that you worked closely with other departments to achieve success, make a point of sticking to precise language. For example, if you work in technology and helped design a program for an employer, you could write “As the senior C++ developer at a derivatives trading firm, led a team of three to develop a new options market making platform while working closely with traders to implement their strategies in a fast theoretical pricing engine which would be adopted firm-wide upon completion.”

This may seem complicated, but in the end, avoiding resume cliches is all about being attentive and true to what you’ve accomplished. Focus on what you do, how you do it, and rather than say you’re “results oriented,” give recruiters some actual results.