Opening doors to M&A jobs
So you want an M&A job in an investment bank? Maybe you’re already working in M&A and are looking for a new role as an analyst or associate? Maybe you’re trying to get in as a graduate? Either way, you’ll need to apply. And in most cases, you’ll need to write a cover letter.
What should go into your cover letter? We suggest a standard banking cover letter here. Your M&A cover letter will need to be similar to this, but different.
Keep it short
If you’re applying for a student job in an investment bank you might be compelled to write a set number of words for your cover letter. Goldman Sachs requires that student applicants write 300 word cover letters, for example. That’s not a lot of words, but it’s enough to say something meaningful.
If you’re not applying for a graduate role, you still need to keep your cover letter short. M&A recruiters told us they rarely read cover letters – especially if they’re sent as an attachment rather than added into the body of an email.
Matan Feldman of Wall Street prep, a firm that helps get people into global investment banks, says cover letters should be no longer than three or four short paragraphs. “Most bulge brackets, who are inundated with resumes do not read the cover letters and dive straight into the resume,” he says. “That said, a cover letter can be helpful for non-traditional applications (career transition, off-cycle) as well as applications to smaller banks.”
Start by introducing yourself
You need to start with an introductory paragraph about yourself, says Feldman. This needs to be brief: distill who you are into a few short sentences. “Provide a high level background of your academic and relevant job experience,” says Feldman.
“You can say that you are a top rated analyst who has worked on the healthcare team of X bank and that you have Y years of experience working on deals worth between $Am-$Bm,” says Andy Pringle at Circle Square Recruitment in London.
The second-paragraph is the all-important one. Here, you need to persuade the bank you’re applying to that you’re the right person for the job.
If you’re a graduate who’s never worked in M&A before, Pringle says you’ll need to use this section to emphasize your mathematical skills and academic achievements. If you’ve worked in M&A already, this is where you can summarize the deals you’ve worked on.
“With an M&A cover letter, include a figure that demonstrates total amount of deals involved in, combined notional value, role served and cumulative fees received,” says Mary De Luca at Preferred Resume, a Wall Street application specialist. “I don’t recommend including names of deals to protect proprietary information,” she adds.
What if you’ve worked on a lot of deals that came to nothing? Clearly you can’t mention the names of companies involved, but Pringle says you can still allude to them. “There’s nothing wrong with saying that you worked on a deal involving a US conglomerate with $10bn of turnover which was looking to acquire a US conglomerate with $5bn of turnover, but the deal fell at the final stage.”
Why this job?
In the third paragraph you need to explain why you’re particularly interested in the role.
If you’re a student, this is where you’ll need to emphasize your interest in M&A as opposed to sales and trading. Victoria MacLean of London-based City CV, says it helps to emphasize your interest in a role that involves client interaction as opposed to playing the markets. “Talk about previous customer/client service experience and why you want a client facing role,” she suggests.
Feldman says it helps to add something that demonstrates a real interest in and familiarity with the firm you’re applying to. That way, it seems like you really want that job at that bank. “This can be anything – a call/meeting you had with someone at the firm, a presentation you saw by the firm, or a firm focus that resonates with your academic work,” says Feldman.
The call to action
All cover letters should end with a ‘call to action.’
McLean suggests all cover letters should end with the following sentence: “The prospect of joining X is extremely attractive. I am confident that my long history of top performance will be of value. I am available for interview and contactable by X.’
Feldman adds a cautionary note. “The danger with cover letters is that they do more harm than good – bad grammar, spelling mistakes, and references to other companies are shockingly prevalent and are often deal breakers. If there’s one universal piece of advice with M&A cover letters is that they need to be thoroughly proofed,” he warns.
- Keep it short and simple. Add a short p.s. notation at the end if there’s something specific that you want to stand out.
- Mention specific challenges or pieces of news involving the company that proves you’ve done your research and are serious about the position.
- Get feedback from friends or a trusted mentor before sending your letter to a prospective employer.
The cover letter is your introduction to employers. It should be a brief and direct note that’s tailored to the position and firm you’re targeting. Whenever possible, address it to a specific person by name, ideally the hiring manager for the job.
Cover letters should convey why you are writing and how the firm could benefit from hiring you. Before you begin writing, do some research on the employer to help you come up with ideas to make it original. A letter that shows you’ve done your homework and understand the company’s specific challenges can be a powerful differentiator.
Make sure your cover letters accurately reflect your personality. For instance, don’t send forward, aggressive letters if you’re introverted and laid-back. And try letting others sing your praises. If a former supervisor still maintains to this day that you’re the best at something, include a quote from him or her, the person’s name and title.
It’s generally recommended not to mention salary in cover letters. Employers will typically ask for your salary requirements in a phone screening or during the interview process. But if you’re responding to an ad that requests this information, cite a range or acknowledge the request and add that you’ll be glad to discuss compensation during an interview.
Finally, ask a trusted friend, mentor or career adviser to review your cover letters before sending them to make sure they lack typos and read smoothly.