Sales and Trading Cover Letter: Example and Tips
When applying to any sales and trading role you’ll need to have always prepared two things: a resume and a cover letter. However, there’s no getting around the fact that the former is much more important than the latter.
Think about the interview process from your interviewer’s perspective: they’re not just interviewing you, but potentially up to ten different people over a day or two. And these interviews – whether a first round or a superday – are usually being conducted during market hours where they (obviously!) have other things on their mind.
So, your interviewer isn’t going to spend a lot of time thoughtfully combing through your resume and reading through your cover letter prior to interviews beginning; given how many interviews will be occurring, that would involve a lot of prep time.
As a result, here’s the process that most doing interviewers will follow: prior to the interview, they’ll do a quick scan of your resume, looking at where you’re attending college and what past experiences you’ve had, and then judge you primarily on how you perform during the interview.
If they’ve been given a copy of your cover letter, which isn’t always the case, then they may quickly scan it as well (in particular, if they think you have an interesting resume). But most will just casually glance at the cover letter (again, if it’s even been provided to them to begin with).
So, the reality is that your cover letter isn’t going to be something that’s closely scrutinized at every step of the interview process. But that doesn’t mean that your cover letter isn’t important.
The reality is that all resumes – especially for summer analysts – will look quite similar from a formatting and content perspective. In other words, there isn’t much variability. However, there is a ton of variability when it comes to the cover letters received from applicants: some make them far too long, some have loads of grammatical mistakes, some are more akin to personal statements that you’d use for getting into college, etc.
Therefore, even though your cover letter won’t be read by everyone, having a cover letter that conforms to a proper format and touches on a few key points is impressive and is a way that you can standout from the crowd.
Because even though your cover letter won’t be read by everyone involved in the recruiting process, you can be sure that it’ll be read (perhaps very quickly) by at least a few people. There are always some interviewers who, if they’re impressed by an applicant or are on the fence about them, will take a look at their cover letter to see how it’s formatted, how well it’s written, and what topics are touched on.
In the end, there are only so many ways to try to stand out in the sales and trading interview process. So, even though a cover letter may not be nearly as important as your resume, or how you perform during the interview, it will be read by someone at some point and could help land you a role.
The good news is that your cover letter can follow a bit of a “template” format, where you can just swap out the names of banks, so you don’t need to spend countless hours crafting a unique cover letter for every place you’re applying to.
Personally, I’ve always been impressed by cover letters that are properly formatted and hit some key points, even if they’re a bit generic, because it shows you “get” how cover letters are supposed to look. And, as I’ve discussed many times before, when applying to sales and trading one of the best ways to stand out is just to show you “get” what is involved (i.e., that you understand what market making is, that you understand the structure of desks and what desks are out there, etc.).
Sales and Trading Cover Letter
Below is a breakdown of how to structure and write your sales and trading cover letter. Included is also a template to show you what a submitted version should look like (although you’ll obviously need to make some personalized modifications to it).
- Sales and Trading Cover Letter Format
- Sales and Trading Cover Letter Example
- Sales and Trading Cover Letter Tips
As I mentioned in the preamble, there’s an incredible amount of variability when it comes to the cover letters that are received; with some being far too long, some being far too personal, and some showing a lack of understanding (unintentionally) of what sales and trading is all about.
So, here are some formatting rules that your cover letter should follow. Needless to say, you don’t have to use all of these – but they’ll create a cover letter that stands out for being nicely formatted and, more importantly, doesn’t standout due to being abnormally formatted!
- Your cover letter should, under no circumstances, be over a page. In fact, it should be short enough that there’s significant white space on the page. Having a short cover letter makes it more likely it’ll be read and just looks more conventional.
- Your cover letter should be centered on the page with 11- or 12-point font – use whatever font you used for your resume, traditionally most will use something like Arial.
- Your cover letter should be three-to-six paragraphs and no paragraph should be more overly long (you don’t want there to be a wall of text anywhere). Don’t worry about indenting paragraphs.
- Your address should be in the top right-hand corner (several spaces down from the top).
- The date you’re submitting the cover letter should be three or four spaces below the address (right-aligned).
- You should use “To Whom it May Concern:” as the greeting, left-aligned.
- All paragraphs in the body should be full-width justified.
When it comes to the actual content of the cover letter, here’s the general approach that I’d follow:
- The first paragraph should cover who you are, what you’re studying, and any quasi-relevant experience you have (i.e., a prior internship related to finance).
- The middle paragraphs should state why you’re interested in sales and trading, which always works best if you can tie it back to past experiences (i.e., internships, clubs on campus, etc.). Then you should provide a bit of detail on the areas of sales and trading that are of most interest and why you’re specifically applying to this bank (i.e., because it has a rotational program, because of your past conversations with current employees, etc.).
- The closing paragraph should thank the reader for their time, and below that you should state your full name (followed below by your college e-mail address and your phone number).
In the end, you want to keep your cover letter simple and well formatted. You don’t want to be overly verbose, and you don’t want to say anything too specific about your exact interests in a certain desk if you’re applying to a summer analyst position.
For example, you don’t want to say you’re really interested in the equity derivatives desk, as that can seem a bit presumptuous, especially if the person who’s reading your cover letter is on a rates or credit desk. The obvious exception here is if you’re applying specifically for a certain desk, in which case you should make your interest in the desk clear and explain why.
Below is the text for a pretty good (albeit slightly generic) sales and trading cover letter. Your aim should be to craft a cover letter that can be reasonably quickly edited, as you’ll be applying to a number of different banks.
Needless to say, the text of the cover letter below isn’t perfectly formatted according to the rules I’ve listed above! So, to see the cover letter properly formatted in PDF format, just click here: sales and trading cover letter.
Here’s the cover letter content:
To Whom It May Concern:
I am currently a rising sophomore at Harvard College pursuing a concentration in economics and last summer completed an asset management internship at [X].
During my time at [X] I became increasingly interested in markets and, more specifically, the role that sales and trading professionals play in them. As a result, given how opaque the world of sales and trading is, I began networking as broadly as possible in an attempt to better understand the nature of the roles that exist and the attributes of various desks.
As you can imagine, these conversations have given me an appreciation for just how diverse a mix of roles and desks exist within the sales and trading universe. Indeed, this is partly why I’m so excited to be applying for a summer analyst position in sales and trading – especially at a firm as storied as [Y].
While I can’t confess to knowing exactly what desk is right for me yet, my work last summer did lead to an initial interest in [Z] – and I know [Y] is a leader in [Z] trading among, obviously, many other areas.
From all of those I’ve talked to, [Y] has a phenomenal summer analyst program that, due to it being rotational, provides a summer analyst broad exposure so they can figure out where exactly they best fit and can best contribute to the firm. The latter being something that I’d hope to do for many years to come.
Thank you very much for your consideration. Should there be any further questions, please let me know.
First and Last Name
In the above template, you’ll obviously have to change a few things around to make it fit your background (i.e., change the college and major, change around the past internship, etc.). But once you’ve crafted your own cover letter in this vein then you just need to swap out the name of the bank you’re applying to, and also change the second to last sentence based on if it’s a rotational or a fixed-placement program (if it’s fixed-placement, then just say that it will allow you to get a deeper understanding of a desk as opposed to only getting brief exposure as occurs in a rotational program).
Note: What you should be putting in [Z] is a broad asset type, not a specific desk. So, for example, you could say you’ve developed a general interest in rates or credit. But you shouldn’t say you’ve developed a specific interest in equity derivatives or interest rate swaps (as that’s a bit too specific and could be viewed as some as a bit presumptuous given your lack of experience).
Whenever you’re applying to a hyper-competitive role, you want to take every opportunity to standout that you possibly can. The reality is – at least for sales and trading - the best way to standout with your cover letter is to keep it short, well-formatted, and hit on a few key themes (i.e., that you’ve talked to people in the industry, that you know the program is rotational or not, etc.).
You don’t want to be too over-the-top in what you’re saying, and you also don’t want to be too specific with what desk you want to end up on (unless you’re applying for a specific desk). Instead, you want to keep everything very professional, well-worded, and show that you’ve developed a reasonably good understanding of what sales and trading involves (i.e., by saying you’ve tried to better understand the role of those in sales and trading, aren’t sure exactly what desk is right for you, etc.).
In the end, it’s not a given that too many will read your cover letter. But even if they just briefly glance at it, as they flip over to your resume, if it’s well formatted (i.e., followed the rules I mentioned above) that leaves a subtly positive impression. And, when it comes to applying to hyper-competitive roles, those subtly positive impressions can make all the difference.
While it’s a safe assumption that the vast majority of your interviewers are not going to have read your cover letter, it’s an equally safe assumption that at least a few people involved in the process will have glanced at it.
Therefore, it’s worth putting time into creating a personalized template – following the general rules and format I’ve gone through in this post – that you can then quickly change around for each bank you’re applying to.
In the end, it shouldn’t take you more than an afternoon to create your own cover letter and then personalize it for each bank that you’re applying to. Just make sure, prior to submitting your cover letter, that you double check you’ve put in the right bank name! You’d be surprised how many cover letters at Goldman express the candidate’s interest in working at JPM!
If you’re currently gearing up for interviews, beyond getting your cover letter and resume in order, be sure to go through the sales and trading primer and review all the sales and trading interview questions I’ve put together here as well.