The Perfect M&A Resume
As investment banks and M&A advisory firms continue to hire for mergers and acquisitions roles, presenting a well-written resume can help get you past the initial gatekeepers.
And even though many of the standard resume requirements hold true, there are some additional points to keep in mind when searching for M&A work, said experts. For one, a standard M&A resume is two pages instead of the traditional one-page resume, to leave room for the level of detail needed for describing M&A experience, said Mary Kier, vice chairman at Cook Associates, a Chicago-based executive search and M&A advisory services firm.
Another difference is the need to include as many numbers as possible to illustrate accomplishments and avoid elaborately-worded statements, said Kier. “Someone that wants to make a better career for themselves in M&A needs to be very cognizant of what the numbers look like and the financial elements of a business.”
Here are additional ways to perfect your mergers and acquisitions resume:
Stress Specialized Knowledge
While it may seem better to show knowledge across the board, Brett Good, a district president at staffing firm Robert Half International Inc. said more companies are eager to see candidates that could be an exact fit. Include specialized knowledge about the sector and industry, regulatory policies or any complex modeling experience, said Good, who works with M&A applicants. This can be especially important in differentiating yourself as a fit for some corporate development positions.
Leave Out Company Names
Unless the deal is in the public domain, naming companies could mean a possible violation of the non-disclosure agreement. Instead of using official company names, Good suggested using telling details like “pet food manufacturer in excess of $100 million” to avoid a breach of confidentiality. This common mistake on a resume can cause a hiring manager to question your judgment as a potential employee, he said.
Integrate a Deal List
Kier asks the M&A applicants she works with to include a separate list of specific deals under each company heading. In addition to mentioning accomplishments for each chronologically listed position, use another indented list to explain your work on specific deals. “Show the complexity of those deals — describe the quantitative structure, what did you do and what did that result in,” she suggested. Providing these additional bullet points and including which side of the deal you focused on can help a hiring manager scan a resume quickly for applicable experience.
Wendy Enelow author of “Expert Resumes for Managers & Executives” said bullet points could read similar to the ones below and even be listed under their own section of a resume:
— $22 million acquisition of Company A
Led financial due diligence, contract negotiations and final deal transaction for acquisition that propelled Company B into the rapidly expanding B2B logistics market in Northern Europe.
— $40 million acquisition of Company X
Orchestrated complex 2-year due diligence for proposed acquisition. Advised Board of Directors and CEO not to proceed with transaction based on significant risk exposure and poor corporate credit rating.
Make a Short Version
While a two-page resume can be a good fit for a recruiter, consider providing an abridged version if you’re simply sending an email introduction to someone within the firm, said Kier. A short bio including past deals and accomplishments can quickly provide relevant info to time-strapped managers who won’t read the standard two-page resume, she said. “Deal guys have very little time and five minutes is very valuable to them,” she said. “That one page document should grab their attention or you might lose your audience.”
Point Out Global Reach
“Every job seeker — particularly folks involved in M&A transactions — should highlight their experience working, traveling and studying abroad, and their foreign language skills,” said Enelow. Conveying international experience is always important because so many transactions have a global reach even if there’s little physical travel involved.
Avoid the Summary
Even as some career experts tout summaries or objectives, most M&A recruiters said it’s better left off this type of resume. Especially if you have deep experience, use the extra space to delve into the results from specific deals or flaunt your quantitative knowledge when explaining accomplishments. Since most summaries are simply an easy way to get important keywords to the top of the resume, be sure to still include industry terms throughout. (As a quick guide use the keywords most often listed in the job descriptions you’re applying for when writing about your work.)
Skip Subjective Descriptions
Mentioning qualities like “self-motivated” or “articulate” can actually come off sounding too subjective and cause your resume to be passed over, said Steven Provenzano, author of “Top Secret Executive Resumes”. Subjective language isn’t helpful because a hiring manager already expects these qualities from someone who’s been successful in previous M&A roles: “It’s obvious that it’s fluff material and you can’t prove it false,” he said. As you list information about each of your previous roles, use verifiable facts instead of opinion-based details to demonstrate high performance, he suggested.
As you write your resume, pay attention to which skills you emphasize. Tout the skills that are truly appropriate for an M&A position instead of simply conveying your business skills, said Tim White, a partner at Kaye/Bassman International Corp., a Plano, Texas-based executive search firm. “Orient everything on your resume so that it relates [to the role],” he says. And of course, skipping basics like spell-check, not using appropriate financial terms and presenting a cluttered format can also keep you out of the running.
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