When applying for investment banking internships, you will often need more than a solid resume to land an interview. You’ll also have to craft an appealing cover letter.
While the cover letter – if required – isn’t of the utmost importance when applying to investment banking jobs, a poorly crafted one will almost certainly ruin your chance of being called back for an interview. A cover letter isn’t the reason you’ll get an interview, but it could definitely be the reason you don’t. For this reason, it is important when applying to internships to nail your cover letter in the same way you work on putting together a perfect resume.
As far as formatting goes, Mergers & Inquisitions has a few suggestions. For example, while it may be all right to mess with font size and margins to ensure your resume fits onto one page, the same is not true of cover letters. Your letter should definitely be limited to a single page, but you’ll have to keep it within the one page threshold through efficient writing rather than format tweaking. While you may have plenty of experience, that is what your resume is for. Remember to keep your cover letter brief.
“Keep your cover letter brief.”
So what should you put in there? There are four basic parts – three if you exclude the header. Your contact information goes in the top left, followed by an introduction, a summary of your background and an explanation of why you’re a great fit as an intern at the investment banking firm of your choice.
This section, essentially your header, should start with your own contact information right-aligned at the very top of the document. Include your name, address, phone number and email address. This should be followed by the recruiter’s information, aligned to the other side of the page. Here, just under the date – also left-aligned – write the recruiter’s name, his or her title, the name of the investment bank you’re applying to and the firm’s address. Simple but essential, make sure to include this information before moving onto the bulk of the cover letter.
For the salutation, do NOT open with “To whom it may concern” if you don’t have the recruiter’s name. Even specifying with “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Investment Banking Team” is better than keeping it general. When possible, see if you can find an HR contact name or department head through LinkedIn or the company website. This shows that you’re interested enough to put effort into researching the firm.
Here’s where you get started talking about yourself. Don’t get too deep into your past experience yet, since you’ll have to save that for the next section. Furthermore, repeating yourself is an inefficient use of limited space. Simply introduce yourself, – “My name is [name]” – and note the college you’re attending and what your major is. After this you should also include how you came across the internship opening, why you’re interested in this specific company and the position you’re targeting. Keep all of this limited to about three sentences – start overindulging in your introduction and you may lose the reader’s attention.
Your background summary
Here’s where you start getting into the good stuff. Once you’ve caught the reader’s attention, it is time to start telling him or her about all the great things you have done. If you’re applying for an internship, this may not be as much as a 30-year veteran of the industry, but luckily, you’re sticking to the golden rule: Keep it brief. List your previous relevant work and internship experiences and note how they prepared you for the role you’re applying for. Explain the skills you have gained from this prior experience, and if possible, explain a specific project and how you were able to help the client or company through it. Again, keep this down to two or three seconds.
How you will help
Now the portion recruiters care about the most: How can you help their investment banks? What exactly can you contribute and why do they care? Your prior experience doing [previous project] makes you a great fit for the investment bank because [how does your background connect to what is important to the bank?]. Also note why you are drawn to the investment bank and if possible, relate it back to a personal experience you’ve had with the firm, such as always seeing the company name in WSJ or hearing about a deal they handled that caught your interest. Once more, keep it as brief as possible.
Finally, conclude by noting that your resume is included with the cover letter, and that you are excited to talk about how you can use your past experience to help the company. Explain to the recruiter how he or she can get in touch with you, and sign off as you normally would with a formal letter.