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Cover Letters


Cover letters are part of your "contact package" along with your resume. Cover letters should explain why you are writing (what position you are applying for), highlight your credentials in relation to the job description, and clearly indicate your next contact with the recruiter.

You want your whole contact package to be professional and effective. Use the cover letter to explain how the credentials presented in your resume fit the job description. Integrate the cover letter and your resume instead of just reiterating your resume. Also your cover letter should be closely tailored to each job description while still recycling some parts.

It is extremely important that just like your resume, your cover letters should be free of errors involving grammar, punctuation, or spelling. No one will fault you for incorrect use of periods at the end of bulleted list items, but you must be consistent in your mistakes - that is the key that I was taught is essential for good financial analysis. Inconsistency and poor spelling in your written correspondence are seen as signs of sloppiness and inattentiveness to details. In an industry where mistakes of a fraction of a penny can be magnified to errors of millions of dollars, recruiters and bankers are very obsessive about details (no joking).  If you use a spell checker, slowly read your correspondence aloud to yourself, check for consistency, and utilize a good proofreader then you are on your way to producing effective contact packages.


The Job Search Manual distributed by the University of Alabama Career Center clearly explains the different sections of a cover letter:

  1. The position for which you are applying
  2. Your credentials in relation to the job description
  3. When your next contact with the recruiter will be

Your cover letter will open with why you are writing. You want to quickly draw the recruiter into the rest of the letter by explaining why you would be such a good choice for so-and-so analyst (like Global Power or Media). Immediately put forth your strengths in relation to the analyst position in this section (jobs, internships, projects, special studies, whatever). At this point, your company research will come in handy for customizing the cover letter. Research some deals that the investment bank has done recently. Try to find deals, such as stock or debt underwritings or merger advisories, that are in the industry that you would like to cover. Once you have some deal descriptions and/or special market niches of the firm then use them in the opening paragraph of your cover letter to introduce the recruiter to your credentials.

NOTE: If you aren't sure of an industry then pick one that is the best match for your current mix of experiences and skills. Most investment banks will recruit their analysts and train them on-the-job for a month or so. Then the recruits are placed into or get to choose an industry group. Therefore, your goal is to first get into an analyst program and then later worry about specializing in an industry group or deal type.

The credentials section, or the second paragraph, is where you want to present more highlights. Take each of your strong points and link it to a need presented in the job description (need -> strong point). For example, "My pursuit of excellence is reflected by my 4.00 GPA". Try to cover both broad and specific needs of the job.   However, it is probably best not to try to match your skills to all of the needs listed in the job description unless you can do so without stretching (otherwise, they may think you are exaggerating your entire skill set).

The closing section is also important. This section is where you will tell the recruiter how you plan to contact him/her again. Open the paragraph with a one or two sentence summary of why you are the best choice for an analyst. Then include the dates of your New York trips (this is one reason why it is important to arrange your trips early). Finally, close with your phone number and an open-ended closing like "I look forward to meeting you".

I prefer not to use "Thank you for your consideration" because you are not done presenting yourself. However, this is simply a personal preference. In addition, avoid phrases such as "Please call me at...".
This stems from an absolutely crucial strategy in your whole job process. You must maintain control of the whole process until the investment bank has interviewed you at least once.

Download this Word 97
example of an initial contact cover letter for guidance. You can also download the companion Word 97 example of a simple fax cover sheet. Note that you should prefer to mail your "contact package" (cover letter and resume).


The follow-up contact cover letter is mainly what you will use when you are in New York or sometimes after you have contacted the recruiter many times without a response. The purpose of the follow-up cover letter is to remind recruiters of who you are, whet their appetite for you, and indicate when you will contact him/her. One difference between the format of this follow-up cover letter and the initial contact cover letter is that you will fax this letter with your resume while you are in New York instead of mailing it.

The important part of the follow-up cover letter is stimulating the recruiter's desire for you. A sure-fire way to make a recruiter want you is to say that you are being actively interviewed by the competition (being "courted"). When you talk with the recruiters, they may ask you who is interviewing you. Tell them only the company names of a few that you are truly conversing with about setting up interview dates. Many definitions of "conversing" exist so use your best judgement ;-)

The subtle confidence of the follow-up cover letter should set the way for your phone call. While in New York, you should be able to call the recruiter a few hours after faxing the letter and effectively request an interview date.

Download this Word 97
example of a follow-up contact cover letter for guidance. You can also download the companion Word 97 example of a fax cover sheet to use while you are in New York. Note that you should prefer to fax your "contact package" (cover letter and resume) while you are in New York in the interests of time.


Variations on the Company Name

Obviously, you want to churn out cover letters as fast as possible. However, you don't want it to appear like you did a mass mailing. This is the reason for including company specific details in a cover letter. Another tip for customizing a cover letter is to use different variations of the company name. For example, in the opening paragraph use "Goldman, Sachs & Company" and in the conclusion use "Goldman Sachs" or "Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette" and "DLJ". As a rule, don't use any variations unless you have seen them in the company web site or literature.


This one is a pain in our politically-correct world. My suggestion is to drop these titles in cover letters unless you know them for sure. You can use "Ms" with little backlash if you are unsure of a woman's preference. However, in letters written to you by the companies, you will find that, quite often, you will be addressed as "Mary Smith" rather than
"Ms. Smith".

"Enclosure" Footer

This is just a reminder to put "enclosure" as a footer on your cover letter since you are enclosing your resume. It is a small detail, but details and professionalism go a long way in investment banking.

Font, Line Spacing, and Page Margins

Like your resume, you want your cover page to comfortably fit on one page. As a means to this result, you have at your disposal:  line spacing, font size, font face type, and page margins. Ideally, 1.5 line spacing, 1" margins all around, and the same font size and type as your resume will have the best impact. Don't go below size 10 font, 0.75" margins, and 1.0 line spacing in your quest to make it all fit. Remember that you are going for a visual and content appeal. Therefore, cut to the good stuff.

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