You must submit a covering letter at step four of your online application for graduate positions and internships at Citi. Get this right and you’ll be a step closer to securing a job. This is what you should and shouldn’t do.
Research Citi, the division and the role
Carry out thorough research into the bank, your chosen business area and preferred role before you begin.
Speak with current employees at networking, campus or careers events to find out more about the business and day-to-day responsibilities, or reflect on past conversations and placements if applicable.
Explain why you’re applying to Citi
Specify in your covering letter why Citi has attracted you. Plenty of banks offer graduate jobs and internships; what makes Citi different? Perhaps it’s the bank’s key obligations: to act responsibly, do everything possible to create the best outcomes, and prudently manage risk. Doing everything possible to create the best possible outcomes’, for example, implies very high levels of client care; maybe this customer-led culture appeals to you. State what you like and why.
Say why you’ve chosen the business area
Citi offers a range of full-time, placement and internship opportunities across a number of its business areas. These include corporate and investment banking, capital markets origination, markets and securities services, treasury and trade solutions (TTS), private banking, risk, finance, HR and technology. Graduate recruiters want you to clarify in your covering letter why you have decided to apply to the division you’ve chosen. Think about the different aspects of the division: the clients and colleagues you’ll work with; the team’s objectives; the day-to-day work you’d do; and training and development opportunities. Then pinpoint what appeals to you and why.
Tell recruiters why you should be hired
Include your relevant skills and experience, and why you believe you should be considered for the role. Focus on the qualities you need to do the job. Citi’s investment banking arm, for instance, seeks candidates who have strong teamwork, analytical, research and communication skills, as well as business acumen.
However, it’s also worth being candid and mentioning what you believe are your main strengths, even if they don’t feature in the job description. Citi recruiters have in the past matched applicants with other positions within the business that they didn’t apply for based on their skills set and experience.
Substantiate the claims you make with examples. For instance, if you describe yourself as a good communicator with great people skills in your covering letter, say how you have demonstrated this at university, work or elsewhere. Perhaps you hosted events and delivered presentations while you were the president of a university society.
Citi recruiters welcome a spot of name-dropping, as long as the employee you mention will recollect meeting or having a conversation with you. You could say, for example, something along the lines of ‘After speaking with [eg] Jessica Plant, EMEA graduate recruiter at Citi, about the company, I conducted further research into the business area and...’
If you have met Citi representatives at a careers, campus or networking event, mention that in your covering letter. Citi recruiters want to see that you have tried to engage with the bank. If you attended an event you could also mention that you were chosen from X amount of applicants. This would show that you have met the stringent requirements of the event, so are well placed to meet Citi’s.
Exceed one sheet of A4
Your covering letter shouldn’t go over one page of A4, or three to four paragraphs. Citi’s graduate recruiter says you should make sure you answer the three main ‘whys’: why Citi; why the division; and why you. You could use these questions to help you structure your letter and reduce your chances of going off on a tangent.
Rush your covering letter
The recruiter says: 'You should take time over your covering letter and sleep on it before you submit.' She adds that you should ask two people (such as a university lecturer and a classmate) to give it the once-over for mistakes, overall sense and effectiveness.
Citi isn’t looking to hire run-of-the-mill graduates; the recruiter says ‘fresh’ candidates who can ‘think outside the box’ are sought. If you can demonstrate that you’re the creative and innovative type whose ideas can make a difference, your covering letter will surely stand out.
Maybe while at university you set up a finance society that, by your penultimate year, had more than 25 members. Or perhaps you co-developed a mobile phone application that was downloaded by hundreds of people within a year of its launch.
More help from TARGETjobs:
Several banks including Barclays and Nomura ask graduates to submit a CV along with their investment bank application form. Other finance firms, including Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs, require a covering letter as well.
Since competition for these graduate roles is fierce, with the industry having seen highs of 141 applications per position, it’s key you get your CV and covering letter right.
To do so, compare yours to the three example investment banking candidates below to identify areas for improvement. Any one of these candidates could be forwarded to interview. Each has skills that are relevant to a graduate investment banking role. However, they will reduce their chances of getting the job if they don’t make it clear how these experiences relate to the role they’re applying for.
Also check out our annotated final year graduate investment banking CV and our TARGETjobs sample template CVs.
Graduate investment banking candidate one: the straight and narrow
This candidate simply ticks all the boxes. She has directly-related work experience in the financial sector, gained from an internship or prolonged work experience, and a solid academic track record in her honours degree in business.
In addition, she has shown, through her extracurricular activities, potential as a leader and motivator – qualities highly sought by banks including Credit Suisse. This candidate meets at least 80% of the requirements listed in the job description.
*While the straight and narrow applicant has plenty to offer the employer because she meets most of the requirements, she has to ensure her CV and covering letter don’t come across as ‘samey’, bland or too rigid.
If you’re a straight and narrow candidate, inject some of your personality into your CV and covering letter. This doesn’t mean radicalising style and format, as your application should be legible and look smart. Rather, incorporate more original examples from your extracurricular activities and work experience, or when you took a risk and produced exceptional results to illustrate your skills and experience.
A detailed but succinctly written example can be included in your covering letter. If the employer doesn’t accept covering letters, incorporate it within the skills or achievements section of your CV. Alternatively, you could put it in the work experience segment under the appropriate employer instead of listing your duties.
Graduate investment banking candidate two: the everyman
This candidate has explored a few different avenues and has gained work experience in finance as well as unrelated sectors. His CV doesn’t have any gaps, as he’s worked throughout all university holidays. His experiences are detailed and even those obtained in an unrelated sector are smartly linked to the role he’s applying for. This candidate has a strong honours degree in a related subject.
*While the everyman applicant shows flexibility and adaptability, and has obtained relevant work experience, he has to ensure the details on his CV and covering letter are applicable and organised.
If you’re an everyman candidate, divide the work experience section of your CV into ‘finance’ and ‘additional’. Put all finance-orientated experiences under the ‘finance’ heading, including your achievements and projects you’ve worked on. In the ‘additional’ section, include pursuits within other sectors – but ensure you highlight transferable skills. The covering letter is also a good opportunity to explain your varied endeavours and bring them back to the role you’re applying for.
Graduate investment banking candidate three: the wildcard
This candidate is not the typical applicant but clearly demonstrates an aptitude for finance and a clear interest in a career in investment or investment banking. He has a small amount of directly-related practical experience under his belt, and has completed a trading course after university and joined a financial student society to increase his knowledge and skills. He got an excellent honours degree in a seemingly unrelated subject – such as classics – but knows that many banks, such as Morgan Stanley and Nomura, accept applications from all degree disciplines.
*The wildcard applicant, who has less directly-related experience, has to make sure his CV and covering letter effectively communicate his genuine interest in the industry and the initiative he’s used to build knowledge and experience.
If you’re a wildcard candidate, conduct thorough research into the bank and role so you can accurately articulate how your skills and knowledge, finance-related or not, would be an asset to the employer. Also, turn what might appear to be a weakness into a strength; take advantage of your degree in classics, for example, and explain in your covering letter how it’s improved your ability to think critically, conduct research, write reports and communicate effectively – skills investment banks favour.
As with the everyman applicant, segmentalise your CV so you have related experiences and achievements at the top, and more unrelated towards the bottom half. And ensure with all less directly relevant roles that you bring out of them the skills you developed and picked up that apply to the position you’re going for.
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