6 Steps to Making a Financial Analyst Resume That Will Stand Out From the Competition was originally published on The Muse, a great place to research companies and careers. Click here to search for great jobs and companies near you.
Financial analyst is a very common first job in finance, and the position can have a range of duties depending on the industry or company. Many financial analysts work in the investment world, analyzing potential or current investments and reporting their findings to the rest of their team. Others might work for depository banks or credit card, insurance, or mortgage companies, evaluating where their money is best directed and what the possible returns might be. Some corporate financial analysts are outside of the financial industry entirely and work for companies in other fields to help them make financial decisions.
Regardless of where you want to work as a financial analyst, you probably love crunching numbers, diving deep into data, and telling others what you found. Before you can get started doing all of that and more in a great new role, you need a strong financial analyst resume to help you land the job.
Here are six steps to follow—plus an example.
Step 1: Start With the Job You Want to Apply to
Tailoring your resume—writing your resume so that it shows why you’re the best person for a specific opening—is important for every job, but it’s especially important for financial analysts since what might be vital experience for one open job might not even be in the scope of another. For financial analysts, “responsibilities all differ based on the type of industry they are recruited for, as well as the type of analyst that the client is looking for,” says Jim Goldfarb, SVP of Atlantic Partners Corp, a Fortune 500 recruiting agency, who has been involved in the recruitment and hiring of hundreds of financial analysts across various industries and types of companies including financial services, manufacturing, distribution, pharmaceutical, and brokerage and insurance firms.
For this reason, you should find a job or a few jobs you want to apply to before you write your resume. Because how can you know which of your skills, qualifications, accomplishments, and past experiences are most relevant to the position you want if you don’t know what the position entails? Even a general resume you make to pass out to your network should be based on job descriptions for the types of financial analyst roles you’re interested in.
If you’re looking to apply to a range of types of financial analyst roles, it might be helpful for you to start by making a resume outline and then use that document to update your resume for each job.
Step 2: Identify the Most Important Keywords
When you apply to a job online, chances are your resume will pass through an applicant tracking system (ATS). These programs scan resumes submitted for a role and organize them for the recruiter or hiring manager on the other side. In order to quickly find the most relevant resumes, recruiters will often use the ATS to search for keywords relevant to the job they’re hiring for. Humans will also naturally scan for keywords when they read. Recruiters often only spend a few seconds reading a resume for the first time.
This means you need to make sure your resume has those relevant keywords, and the job description is the best way to figure out what they are. As you read through the job description or descriptions you’re working from, circle or otherwise highlight any skills, technologies, job duties, qualifications, or requirements that are mentioned. Any of the highlighted things that you have experience in belong on your resume. And mirror the language of the job description when you add them. For example, if the job description talks about using spreadsheets or Excel, don’t just list “Microsoft Office Suite” under your skills section and think that covers it.
For financial analysts, the important keywords will vary widely, but here are a few to get you started:
- Accounting Principles
- Balance Sheet
- Budget Analysis
- Business Analytics
- Cost Management
- Data Analysis
- Finance Model/Financial Modeling
- Financial Analysis
- Financial Reporting
- FP&A (Financial Planning and Analysis)
- GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles)
- Gross Margin
- IBM Cognos Impromptu
- Income Statement
- Microsoft Dynamics
- Microsoft Excel
- Montgomery Investment Technology FinTools XL
- Oracle Business Intelligence
- P&L (Profit and Loss)
- Projection Models
- S&P Capital IQ
- SAS Financial Management
- The MathWorks MATLAB
- Value-Added Analysis
Step 3: Choose Your Most Relevant Skills and How to Present Them
Once you’ve selected a job to write your resume for and identified the most important keywords, you can decide which of your skills to feature on your financial analyst resume. Generally, you should highlight each of your most important skills in two ways: in your skills section and in context within the rest of your resume.
In Your Skills Section
Depending on which resume format you choose, your skills section may go at the beginning or end of your resume, but in either spot the goal is the same: List the skills you have that are most relevant to the job posting. If you have a lot of skills that match up with the description, splitting them into categories like technical, analytical, and accounting might make your resume a bit easier to read (see the example resume below).
You should start your skills section with your most important technical and industry skills (think of the ones emphasized in the job description), then you should list relevant soft skills followed by any other technical skills, says Muse career coach Tara Goodfellow, a former finance professional and founder of Athena Consultants, where she coaches job seekers hoping to enter the finance industry.
Soft skills are the skills that are difficult to measure, like communication, leadership, work ethic, or attention to detail. And whether or not your soft skills go into your skills section depends on the job description, Goodfellow says. If the job you’re applying for emphasizes a lot of collaboration, public speaking, interaction with clients, or other soft skills, listing these in your skills section will help show that you’re the right person for the job. However, if the description is most focused on technical aspects like data analysis, you might want to leave your soft skills out of your skills section and only emphasize them in your bullet points.
In the Rest of Your Resume
A skills section is a great tool for calling out your most important qualifications for a financial analyst role, but all it really shows on its own is that you can type out a list of skills. So you’ll want to make sure all of the important skills in your skills section appear elsewhere on your resume, too, Goodfellow says, to put your skills into context and show how you’ve used them in the past as an indication of how you could use them in the future. Usually this means working your skills into the bullet points describing your past experience, but, particularly if you’re an entry-level candidate, you can also highlight them in your education section or a resume summary.
And speaking of bullet points…
Step 4: Write Descriptive Bullet Points Focusing on Outcomes and Accomplishments
The real substance of your resume is in the bullet points describing your past experience. This is where you can really show who you are and what you’ve done beyond just listing position titles and company names. So make sure that these bullet points showcase how you’ve used your skills to make an impact in past jobs, internships, projects, volunteer experiences, or clubs.
“Experience and notable accomplishments are the first things I look for in a resume,” says Yaniv Masjedi, a business leader at Nextiva who has hired financial analysts to work at tech companies, often as part of marketing teams. “It would help to include figures—even ballpark estimates would do—on the effects of their outputs,” Masjedi says.
Often job seekers use their bullet points to just list responsibilities or skills. That’s a mistake. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see what you’ve accomplished in your past experiences as a preview of what you might be able to accomplish for them. For financial analysts, it’s especially valuable to highlight anything where your analysis drove results—particularly ones that have reduced costs, increased budgets, or improved finances, says Jennifer Smith, Muse career coach and founder of Flourish Careers. But you should be checking the job description here too to see which of your accomplishments will be most interesting to your prospective employer.
This also applies to internships. “A lot of people will say, ‘I just supported this person,’” when describing their internship, Goodfellow says. But you can use strong bullet points to describe what you accomplished in the context of your smaller role and show your awareness of what you learned. You can talk about any processes, skills, or software you mastered or reports you gave and quantify both your experience and the results.
Whether or not you’ve had past jobs in finance “any type of result is important,” Goodfellow says. Did you initiate, manage, or lead a successful project? That belongs on your resume along with the result of the project. Did you streamline an old process or design a new one? That should be on there along with the results, Goodfellow says.
If you’re light on past financial jobs or internships, well-written bullet points can connect your past experience to your next job by highlighting your transferable skills and showing what you achieved with them. Look back on all your past experiences and ask “How have I added value?” and “What makes me stand out?” Goodfellow says. During a group project, did you notice you adapted quickly to new software and ended up training the rest of the team? Or maybe you took the lead in organizing the other members of your group. Highlighting instances where you applied skills like budgeting, analysis, spreadsheet creation, or presenting or reporting research will be especially valuable for a financial analyst role.
How do you write a bullet point that accomplishes all these things? You can follow this simple formula:
- Action Verb + Job Duty + Skills, Technologies, or Processes Used + Outcome
And remember to quantify your bullet points as much as possible!
Step 5: Highlight Your Education and Certifications the Right Way
In finance, whether or not you have or are working toward a certain degree or certification has the potential to disqualify you, so be sure to check the requirements on the job description and highlight these things as clearly as possible on your resume. If a company wants applicants to have a Chartered Financial Analyst credential, and you have it, you can list “[Your Name], CFA” right at the top of the page or mention it in a resume summary. With either strategy, you should elaborate further in a dedicated certifications section at the bottom of the page
If you’re an entry-level candidate, you should put your “Education” section right at the top since your major or the school you graduated from can have a big effect on your candidacy, particularly on Wall Street. Entry-level jobs for investment banks and brokerages pay extremely well and these companies often only want to hire the top graduates from Ivy League schools, Goldfarb says. So if this applies to you, you definitely want to lead with your school.
Even outside of these ultra-competitive fields you should “lead with your most valuable experience,” Goodfellow says. As an entry-level candidate, that’s going to be your degree. You can also add bullet points to your education section to describe projects you did or list three to five classes of “Relevant Coursework” to show employers how you gained some of your most important skills, Goodfellow says. But after you land your first full-time position, you should move your education down to the end of your resume (usually just above or just below your skills section).
Should You List Your GPA on Your Financial Analyst Resume?
For financial analysts, it’s not uncommon for companies—primarily those investment banks, brokerages, and other Wall Street firms—to only want top students. So you may see a job description that specifies a certain grade-point average cutoff or asks for yours—in which case, you should include a GPA on your resume. (Though Smith recommends leaving it off if it’s under 3.0.)
If the job description doesn’t ask for your GPA, there’s a bit more to consider. First, if you’re not looking for your first full-time job out of college, remove your GPA from your resume, Goodfellow says. “Once you graduate college, high school stuff shakes off [your resume]. Once you get your first position, GPA shakes off.”
If you’re a fresh grad, you should only include your GPA if it’s high. But what does high mean? Goodfellow says GPAs should only be on resumes if they’re 3.8 or higher, while Goldfarb puts his cutoff at 3.5. That said, while your grades could set you apart for highly competitive entry-level positions, they’re still only one way to show that you’re a high achiever academically. Even when big-name firms are only looking for top students, the school you graduated from tends to be more important than your GPA, Goldfarb says.
Overall, don’t stress too much about your GPA. Many recruiters recognize that it’s just one number, not a full view of the candidate. Masjedi does consider GPA when hiring financial analysts, but “it is not a tell-all indication of people’s potential, so I always include other factors when making a decision,” he says.
Step 6: Remember the Resume Basics
There are a few basic rules that apply when writing any resume, and you should keep them in mind when writing yours:
- Choose the right format for you. Consider the order of your resume. In general, recruiters prefer chronological resumes, but if you’re just starting out or trying to make a career switch, a combination or functional resume might best show why you’re the right person for a financial analyst role.
- Consider whether to add your location. If you don’t live in the place where you’re applying for jobs, but you’re going to move there regardless, you might list “Relocating to [City, State]” on your resume in lieu of your current location. If you don’t need help with relocation costs, you might want to leave off your location entirely so you’re not automatically disqualified, but don’t omit your location or lie if you do need relocation help, Goodfellow says. Regardless, street addresses aren’t necessary—city and state only.
- Keep it to one page. Particularly if you’re an early career candidate, your resume should generally be one page long. As you continue in your career, you might expand to a second page, but even then only if it’s truly warranted.
- Go easy on the fancy formatting. You might be seeing a lot of sample resumes or resume templates that have a lot of flashy formatting elements, but they can confuse the ATSs that have to parse your resume. Human recruiters are also generally most interested in the content of your resume over the style, so use just enough ATS-friendly formatting to make it easy to read and let your content speak for itself.
- Proofread! Before submitting your resume, be sure to read it over—more than once!— to check for any typos. Ask someone you trust to proofread it as well to make sure your resume is error free.
If you want to see how all this advice looks in action, check out this sample resume for an entry-level candidate looking for financial analyst positions in corporate banking.