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Your CV, Cover Letter, and Applications - ICYMI

If you missed our CV Clinic last Thursday (29th Sept), don't worry! This post will cover all the information that we went over in that event.

Preparation Timeline

The best way to get an internship or spring week is to be prepared. This timeline will help you get ready to ace each stage;

  1. Complete your CV and General Cover Letter Template - Your CV and, depending on whether a firm requires it, your cover letter are critical in the application process! You will need these to initially apply to firms as well as them being used as the initial method to screen candidates.

  2. Begin Initial Application Stages - Once you have nailed your CV and Cover Letter template you can then start to apply to firms that have opened their applications.

  3. Complete Online Test and Video Interview Preparation - It is likely firms will use HireVue, which will either be sent automatically or after CV and Cover letter screenings. As you start applying to firms and receiving this part of the process you should then start preparing for this.

  4. Begin General Face-to-Face Interview Preparation - Following the initial application stages, the later rounds will include personal interviews. You will usually have enough time to prepare for those when you receive an invite. Begin preparation for these as and when you receive invites.

Application Trackers

As mentioned in a previous post, application trackers are your friend during the application season. Either make your own, or we suggest using this template from our friends over at LSESU:

LSESU Application Tracker

Structuring Your CV

The following template CV is the ideal CV when applying for jobs in finance.

Your CV should be split into 4 sections, and should never be longer than a page long with 2-3 bullet points for each section:

  1. Education

  2. Experience

  3. Other Roles

  4. Interests and Awards

Some other tips that can really help boost your CV:

  • Quantify experiences (eg. implemented x; increasing customer retention by xx%). Using the STAR method can really help here (we will talk about this later).

  • Do not need to include an address

  • Justify your margins for bullet points and make sure dates and the end of lines are aligned

  • Try write bullet points in a way that they end on the edge of the line or as close to it to reduce white space

  • Experience does not have to just be finance related! Anything can display relevant skills!

  • For interests, include anything obscure or niche! (It is not a trick, they want to find out more about you)

  • Never include photos or colours in your CV, even if you're trying to separate yourself from the crowd. Show your personality in the interview stages.

Fundamentally, the best way to know how your CV should look is by looking at a template. The above photo is a great template that you can use as a baseline for your CV. Below is a link to download:

Download DOCX • 41KB

The STAR Technique

The STAR technique is one of the most effective methods in showcasing your experience and making it more formal, informative, and captivating.

STAR stands for;

  • Situation - What was the problem you faced?

  • Task - What needed to be done as a result of this problem?

  • Action - What did you do as a result of this problem?

  • Result - What was the end result? Try and quantise this result using percentages and time - i.e. efficiency went up 10% within the first 2 days as a result.

The STAR method should be used when answering most questions about experience.

Structuring Your Cover Letter

Not all firms will ask for a cover letter. However, you should be prepared when applying for those that do, as they are very important. The below template shows a good example of how to structure your cover letter.

When writing your cover letter, it needs to be in letter format - you should include your address, the firm's address, the date of writing and then sign off with your name.

Ideally, you want to have 3 paragraphs:

  1. Why the firm?

  2. Why the division/industry?

  3. Why you?

Beware not to repeat your entire CV - you want to be showing your motivations more than your experience.

Again, the best way to understand what your cover letter should be is by looking at an example or template. The above photo is another great template that you can use as a baseline. Below is a link to download:

Download DOCX • 39KB

Types of Assessment

Every application has a number of stages consisting of different assessments, and the number of stages can vary by firm. Luckily, however, these assessments are used frequently between firms, and there are many resources online that provide you with practice. Websites like Assessment Day can help you practice each assessment. The following is a list and explanation of each assessment method:

Situational Judgement Test (SJT)

The SJT tests your responses in given scenarios. It usually gives 15-30 scenarios with 4-5 options for what you would do for each one. Don't overthink them and act how you would act if you were in the job. Most firms look to see if you are following their core values, so keep these in mind before and during the SJT.

Numerical Test

The numerical test consists of between 25-40 questions, based on solving mathematical problems from given data. As this test is time sensitive, try and spend less than 20 seconds on each question, whilst being as accurate as possible. The numerical tests are usually simple arithmetic, basic statistics, or logic - whilst they are not difficult, they can trip you up under pressure, so stay on your toes.

Verbal Test

The verbal test is usually 30-50 questions based on given extracts, and will give a statement asking whether the statement is true, false or cannot be decided given the level of detail in each extract. Again, spend less than 20 seconds on each question, as this is another time sensitive assessment, with usually around 14 minutes being given. Attempt as many questions as possible, whilst being as accurate as possible.

Logical Test (or Inductive Reasoning)

The logical test will attempt to challenge your pattern recognition skills, and will give you a series of patterns and shapes. You may either need to pick the odd one out, which pattern comes next or which pattern belongs to each category. In most cases, there are unlimited questions and around 7 minutes to answer as many as possible.


Possibly the most fun assessment, Pymetrics is a personality test based on multiple minigames to test a certain characteristic, such as risk preferences and perseverance. There is no one way of going about Pymetrics, except be yourself and keep in mind the core values of the company you're applying to.

Interviews and Later Stages

The interview, whilst dreaded by many, can be the best way of letting your true personality and uniqueness shine. Interviews can be conducted via different means, but the fundamental advice is similar for each. However, many firms use HireVue, which can be an obstacle, especially when the firm uses AI to filter interviews using this platform. Therefore, some further advice is necessary for this.

HireVue Interviews

HireVue interviews usually contain between 2-5 questions, often based on competencies. You can be given 30-60 seconds beforehand to prepare each question. The best ways to get through the AI filter and the following human reviewer is to follow these instructions:

  • Dress smartly

  • Have a plain background

  • Don't sound robotic

  • Don't read off a screen - they can easily tell. Eye contact with the camera goes a long way

  • Use the STAR technique (more on this later)

  • There may be a commercial awareness question, asking you about something you found interesting in the news recently

Other Interviews

The first round of interviews will usually test competency skills, with the following rounds being slightly more technical - we advise you go through some basic finance terminology to prepare for this. Again, dress smartly, maintain eye contact, and if you don't know how to answer a question, be honest with them. Just be yourself - be conversational, smile and have fun with it! Remember that the interviewer needs to be able to think that they could see themselves working with you so do not be robotic.

Types of Interview Questions

Generally, there are three types of interview questions you may be asked. These are:

  1. Motivational - Elaborating on the reasons of why you're applying. (Why Finance? Why the Role? Why the Company?, similar to the content found in a cover letter)

  2. Commercial Awareness - testing how up-to-date is the interviewee with financial news and important events.

  3. Competence - Examining your skills, experience, and attributes such as leadership, team-work, ethics, and other skills.

Some of the most common questions of each can be tackled using the following advice:

Why this role? (Motivational)

Focus on providing a genuine view of why you are interested - no matter the reason! Further, allude to any experiences, people or events that led you on your 'financial journey'.

Why this company/firm? (Motivational)

The more specific the better. You can talk about culture, programme division, people from the company that had a good impression on you, or recent news that you care about and connect it with things you have done. Tell me about a time.../How would you.../What is/are... (Competence)

Answer using your experiences, and attempt to use the STAR technique. There is no right or wrong way of answering this question, as long as the story is relevant and the conclusions you reached as a result make sense.

What do you think.../Tell me about an event.../How has... affected... (Commercial Awareness)

Before you attend an interview, ensure you have one or two recent financial news stories summarised. These should generally be focused around the industry you are applying for, and you should be able to explain the general gist, context, and consequences of the news.


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