CV/Resume Writing Tips

Posted on 27 May 2021

Hi there, my name is James Drysdale, and I am a senior headhunter and recruitment entrepreneur with more than twenty years of commercial experience recruiting with financial markets, both buy and sell-side. For the last ten years, I have been entirely focused on proactively headhunting and hiring experienced quantitative driven investment management professionals for Hedge Funds and Proprietary Trading Firms.


As part of my daily life, I actively search for, approach, and introduce incredibly talented, and experienced Portfolio Managers, Traders, Quants and Developers into new opportunities at several high profile buy-side firms. Part of my role involves reading and reviewing candidate CVs, and I would like to think I have developed a feel for what firms and hiring managers would like to see from a front office resume - although these tips could well be relevant to other positions and industries.  


The purpose of this article is to highlight my experiences and opinions of CVs, and I hope to provide you with some useful tips on how to deliver a stand-out resume. These tips are directed at experienced candidates within the Quant Trading market who would like to make their resume zing, save time, and stand-out with hiring managers, business development teams, recruiters and talent acquisition professionals at buyside firms.


As I alluded to earlier, I have read a significant number of CVs, quite possibly hundreds of thousands during my career so far, and a high number let the candidate down. Your CV is your initial pitch to a potential employer and represents your opening gambit on why the hiring manager should meet you, instead of anyone else. Working your CV should take time, energy and deep thought, anything less, and you are doing yourself a disservice and losing opportunities regardless of whether you are hot stuff, or your skills are in demand.  Your resume is essential for several reasons, and it is not just a talking point for interviews. This document (your CV) is your declaration of who you are, what you do, how you do it, what value you bring, and why that firm needs to hire you. Yes, there is innovation in the recruitment and interview market, but trust me when I say, the humble CV is going nowhere, and getting it wrong is a crime unto one's self.


So, let us jump in.


Who are you, and how do we contact you?

Starting with the basics, we should begin with your name, phone number, and email address at the top of page 1.  I am still surprised by the number of CVs I receive without this essential information; it is just straight-up weird to not put your name and contact information on your resume! These days we can drop your home address from your CV, no-one is writing you letters or communicating with pigeons anymore, so this information is now redundant and takes up essential space.


Just below your name and contact information that I advise candidates to list professional links. By this, I mean ResearchGate, Github, Kaggle, TopCoder, Quantopian, StackOverflow and such. Please don't bother with LinkedIn because this site, trust me, will get searched by the hiring manager anyway. LinkedIn profiles are another subject entirely, but it is my advice to you, to ensure your LinkedIn profile matches your resume, at least in terms of dates, titles, and employment.


If you do not have accounts like the ones I mentioned above, then that is OK, but I will say you are missing a trick when it comes to standing out. With these sites, you can demonstrate capability and skill, and the manager can view your greatness for themselves; they do not have to take your word for it.


OK, now we have spelt our name and remembered the phone number, we can move on to the good stuff.


What are your core skills?

After your contact details and professional links, a skills index is the very next thing a manager or firm should see. Why? Because this will show the hiring manager exactly what your core experience, expertise, and skills are, straight off the bat, and that you are a match for the mandate they are looking to fill.


Now, with the skills index, let’s not get crazy and list everything you have ever read or worked on over twenty years.  We need to keep this section informative, exciting and concise, and your index should only contain subjects and skills that you have a depth of expertise of knowledge, and subjects you are comfortable being robustly tested on. 


In my experience, a quality skills index for the quantitative trading market will consist of three core sections. These are: -

 1.) Finance: This is where you highlight your asset class, instrument, and strategy expertise. For example, Equities, ETF, Statistical Arbitrage, Index Arbitrage, Mean Reversion etc...  Please keep it to your core expertise and value add.

 2) Quantitative: as you can imagine, this is where you list the statistical and mathematical methods and techniques that you use and have expertise. For example, Probability Theory, Regression, Bayesian Statistics etc. Again, please keep it to your core expertise and value add.

 3) Technical: code is king, right? This section is where we highlight the language/s you use to code (for data exploration, prototype models and production) and well as other tools and technology you are good at doing.  For example, C++, STL, Boost, Python, NumPy, SQL, Linux...  You guessed it, keep it real and to what you know, and to what you can be tested on (because you will be tested on everything you write).


If you have professional qualifications and certifications, then I would advise adding a fourth section to the index for "Qualifications". Here you can add your CFA, FRM, CQF, Series 7 or Coursera learning courses etc.


Let's quickly talk academics next.

For experienced hires and candidates, this is not as essential as a graduate. However, firms still like to see that the person they are hiring has a solid academic track record and a strong work ethic, even at college or university, and that you strived to achieve great results.


We don't need to go into in-depth detail of the subjects you studied, your papers, dissertations or thesis here. We can list the institution, degree, discipline, and GPA or graduating mark for UK readers.  I would advise that this slips neatly under your skills index on your CV.


The good stuff

Now we have the intro´s out of the way and have got the hiring managers attention that your profile is a good match for what they are looking for; we can start to talk about role, responsibilities, individual contributions, techniques, methods, technologies used (yes, again), and very importantly your results.  This is the meat on the bones of your CV. Your most significant selling point, and what the hiring manager and/or firm is most interested in.  One-line descriptions are not going to cut it, and you are letting yourself down by not giving this some careful thought and consideration. Try to remember that the manager reading your CV, more than likely, has no idea who you are, what you do, or how much potential upside you can offer his team or the firm, so we need to spell this message out and tell your story, clearly and loudly.


Try to avoid talking about what the team is responsible for, what the team does, and what the teams results are when writing this section of your CV.  Unless you manage that team, and the client is considering hiring your whole group, then I would advise that you write only about yourself as an individual contributor. It is you that the manager/client is interested in hiring.


As experienced professionals, you are limited to two or three pages when writing a CV, and as you can tell by now, I do not subscribe to the one-page CV. For a seasoned investment or quantitative professional one A4 page is simply not enough space for you to showcase your qualifications, expertise, skills, results and highlight your potential value to a new employer.  If you are considering a one-page CV, then I would advise against this idea.  Two to three-page CV´s for experienced professionals is more than acceptable and provides the reader with all the information they need to gauge your suitability for their position, team, and firm. As a rule, I advise my clients to focus their CV´s on the most recent five years of work experience as this is the most crucial information to the reader. Of course, what you worked on and achieved 10, 15, 20 years ago is important and interesting, and you will no doubt be proud of some of your previous wins, but it just isn’t as relevant as your most recent projects, contributions, skills, expertise and results.  For positions you have held after the last five or so years you can list these with the firm name, your role, and dates, but if you can also highlight your key achievements on each role, in one or two bullet points, then go for it.  When you are writing your CV (for the last five years), you need to think “what have I done”, “how did I do it” and “what were the tangible results”, and then write all of that information down. You can then review it all afterwards, reduce some parts down, further expand some parts, choose different language if necessary, and optimise it where needed. 


For investment and trading professionals and revenue generators, we have arrived at the most important, but also the more sensitive part of your CV.  Let’s get straight to the point, Hedge Funds or Prop Trading firms are hiring/buying experience, expertise, trading strategies and track-record, so not having this information on your resume is a mistake and is going to cause wasted time. The firm/hiring manager is looking for particular information from you, and I would hazard a guess that 95% of candidates are not displaying the correct information on their CVs, even the headhunters need this information to gauge whether you meet the client's requirements for the mandate.  You have probably already experienced headhunters and firms confirming receipt of your CV by sending you a fact-finding document for you to fill out and return. Hopefully, this next tip will save you a great deal of time during the application process, either with headhunters or directly with firms/managers.  


So, what do they want? The information that everyone in the process needs on your CV is further details of your proposed trading strategy and its results.  For the avoidance of doubt, I am not suggesting that you share intellectual property (whether you own that personally, or via your current employer), in fact, reputable firms do not want to discuss your specific IP. Sharing protected information carelessly could potentially be seen as untrustworthy in addition to breaking contractual obligations to your current firm. 


IP is out, but what is in (and I would recommend you provide the reader) is a summary of your trading strategy or strategies, your book size, your return on capital, your PNL, sharpe ratio (this metric is now most widely used – love or hate it), volatility, max drawdown, frequency/avg holding period, is it systematic or discretionary, and the length of your live track record. None of this information should/is considered Intellectual Property, but it is essential data.  Some seasoned professionals have a pitch deck that highlights this information, but in greater detail. But if you have a stripped-down version of this in your CV already, then you can reserve your pitch deck for the presentation of your strategy and plan, after successful early-stage interviews with the new platform or firm.  If you work in trading and investing (buy or sell side) and do not have access to this data in your current firm, please try to find a way to collect and collate this information for the future, it is vital, particularly to the buy-side.


One last point I would like to mention is, when getting this information down on paper (roc, PnL, sharpe etc.), make sure the data is precise and on-point, and you can back up the numbers.  As you know, when working with numbers and large sums of money, precision and attention to detail is paramount, and clients have no tolerance for guestimates or flawed numbers. 



Once you have completed the juicy part of your CV and told the client all about you, what you do, what you contribute and what results are, then we can start to finish off the CV nicely with what I call the “Trimmings”.  Trimmings can be anything from papers you have had published, open-source project details, personal/professional activities, external research, and personal interests and achievements.


Thank you for taking the time to read my article; I hope that you have enjoyed my CV writing tips.  I have written it hoping that it will help you construct a winning CV that enables you to stand out and generate real interest from firms, managers, headhunters, and HR teams.  I also hope that these CV tips help you save your valuable time during your application processes, and that it might save you from having unnecessarily repetitive conversations, with various people, about your projects, contributions, performance, and strategies. 

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