Investment Banking Cover Letter Mergers And Inquisitions Dcf

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We’re going to continue our series on investment banking resume templates and go through how you should write about investment banking experience in this article.

You can actually use a similar template for anything in finance, whether you worked on the sell-side or buy-side.

But you can’t use it for everything.

Who Should Use This (or a Similar) Template:

  • Students who have had banking / finance internships (you will need to make some modifications, e.g. put Education at the top instead).
  • Current Analysts and Associates.
  • Anyone in other front-office finance roles who is now looking for something else within finance.

Who Should Not Use This Template:

  • Anyone applying to business school – for that you want to present a more “balanced” picture of what you’ve done.
  • Older, more experienced people – if you have worked on 20+ deals you will need a separate page for listing everything. This usually only happens at the VP-level and above.
  • Anyone working outside finance or anyone interested in moving to something outside finance – the Peace Corps doesn’t care if you know what EBITDA means.

The Template, The Video, and the Tutorial

As before, here’s the template in Word and PDF format:

And here’s the overview video:

(For more free training and financial modeling videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.)

And here’s the same tutorial in text format:

What’s Different In This Version

Actually, a lot of this is the same as in our university student template: the area at the top with your name and contact information, the overall format of the resume, and format of each work experience entry (name and position left-aligned, location and dates right-aligned, summary sentence, etc.).

What’s Different:

  • The Order – Work Experience on top, Education below that and Skills/Activities/Interests below that. Note: If you were an intern and are still in school you should keep Education on top.
  • The Focus – We are focusing much more heavily on your investment banking experience and have cut back on the rest.


Yes, you can include previous internships and jobs as well but you should make your banking experience take up most of your resume.

If you’re an intern returning to school, it’s fine to leave in previous internships but I would not devote as much space to them.

About the Banking Experience

You should give 1 or 2 summary sentences, and then go straight into your deal experience (or if you worked on the buy-side, “Investment Experience”).

The summary sentence should:

  • Give the number and types of deals you’ve worked on.
  • Say that you completed valuations, models, due diligence, research, and client presentations (or anything else – add and subtract from here as needed)

Research and qualitative items are OK to include but try to focus on clients / deals / technical work because those are what interviewers care about.

If you didn’t work on deals (if you were an intern) or didn’t do much substantial work, there are ways around it – which we’ll get into below.

Picking Deals / Clients to Write A <pbout

Once you have your summary sentence, you need to decide WHICH deals / clients / investments to write about.

If you were an intern, this is easy: take what you can get. Unless you were a miracle summer analyst and somehow worked on 10 transactions, you can usually point to a few major projects.

For those working in banking full-time, it’s more difficult to decide what to write about.

Some guidelines:

  • Aim for between 2 and 4 deals total – just 1 looks strange, and more than 4 is excessive to get your points across. In THIS template there are more than 4 deals, but that’s because I wanted to give you examples of how to write about different deal types.
  • Try to have a mix of “high-profile” or larger deals that catch recruiters’ attention (e.g. Microsoft / Yahoo) and deals where you contributed something more substantial (this one is more relevant for full-time bankers).
  • M&A / Restructuring deals are better to write about than IPOs or other Equity-related deals. Debt Financings can be ok depending on what you did. Anything “unusual” like divestitures, distressed sales, etc. is also good to write about and talk about in interviews.

See Also:Private Equity Resumes for more on this topic.

It’s not the end of the world if you’ve mostly worked on IPOs. Despite rumors to the contrary, you can get into PE without having M&A or Leveraged Finance experience.

Whether or not a deal was officially announced doesn’t matter: just replace company names with industry descriptions (“Biopharmaceutical Company”) for unannounced transactions.

What to Do If You Don’t Have “Real” Deals

If you don’t have many “official” deals, you should turn whatever you did during the summer into “pending” or “potential” deals.

The more that happened, the better, but as long as you did something you can write about it as if it were a potential transaction.

Were you doing research on companies for a client or prospective client? Sounds like a “Potential” Buy-Side M&A deal to me.

Did the CEO approach you and ask your team to pitch for the business? Did you do a valuation and research potential buyers? That’s a “Potential” Sell-Side M&A deal, even if you didn’t do much more than the pitch book (if you’re paranoid, you can label this type of experience a “Pitch” instead).

You don’t need to list “deals” if it’s too much of a stretch – in that case, just go with a summary sentence and a few more descriptive bullets on what you did.

Writing About Deals

Within each entry, list the dollar/Euro/other currency amount – estimating if you don’t know for sure – and list the company that you were representing first.

“Media Company’s Acquisition of Software Company” would imply that you represented the Media Company on the buy-side.

Use “Potential” or “Pending” for deals that haven’t been announced or closed yet, and only give the names if it’s publicly known.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This advice assumes that you actually have some closed deals. If you have worked on several deals but nothing has closed yet, it’s best not to draw attention to that fact – so you should leave out this “Pending” or “Potential” language and act as if everything is “ongoing” (and be ready to outline the next steps in the process).

Aim for 1-2 bullets for each deal – if you can summarize it with 1 bullet, do that, but if you need more than that you could split up what you did into “qualitative” and “quantitative” parts and use a 2-bullet structure.

I’ve mentioned the “Specifics; Results” structure before and the same applies here – but you need to be careful about what you write:

  • Focus on modeling or valuation work if possible in your “specifics” segment – due diligence or other qualitative work may be ok as long as you can make it sound good in an interview. Try to link anything qualitative to how it was used in the transaction.

In the template here, the banker is using the buyer list he created for the Restructuring deal as the “specifics” and then giving the “results” by writing that it was used in Chapter 11 proceedings to show that the price was fair.

(“Fair” may sound ridiculous to you if you haven’t worked in finance before, and it would take me about a page to explain the term here – but for now just keep in mind that the work he did was used in court proceedings, which makes it good to write about.)

  • The level of detail for each deal depends on how much space you have and the rest of your resume. If this is your first and only full-time work experience, be as detailed as you can, but if you have lots of other solid entries then you don’t need to write a Wikipedia page about each entry.

In this template, the banker has gone into detail on some deals and hasn’t written much about others – which is fine.

  • Be very careful about your “results” for each deal. If you write something like, “Negotiated 10% lower purchase price,” you’re going to get called on it in interviews because Analysts and Associate don’t “negotiate” anything (except for food prices at closing dinners, maybe…).

If your work impacted the deal, that’s fine – but be careful with your wording and make sure that you frame the results as you having “supported” the senior bankers.

Also, don’t feel pressured to include false “results” – if all you did was create a presentation, just write that rather than pretending you made $10 million for your firm.

What to Do If…

Here are answers to some other common questions:

You’ve Had Multiple Investment Banking Internships

You can still include the other internships, but cut back on how much you include, and keep the focus on your current or most recent one.

You Had Experience in Private Equity, at a Hedge Fund, or Something Else Outside Banking

Still include a summary sentence but write about “Selected Investment Experience” instead and list the investments / potential investments you worked on.

Focus on modeling, due diligence, and how your work impacted the deal process (if that’s what happened).

See the video for more detail and an example of how to do this.

You Can’t Fit Everything On One Page and You Don’t Live in Australia

Decrease the font size, cut out experience, or do whatever it takes to get it on 1 page. 2 pages is still not appropriate in most regions, unless you have dozens of deals and need separate page(s) for them.

You Didn’t Have Any “Real” Deals

See above.

The Rest of the Resume

Again, it’s fine to leave in other Work Experience but you shouldn’t focus on it quite as much – which is why this section has been reduced here.

Education should be shorter if you’re working full-time – no one cares that you were on the Dean’s List. GPA and standardized test scores are fine to keep in. If you’re still a student, you can keep this section more detailed.

Skills, Activities & Interests should also be shorter (it’s named differently here as well) because people care even less what activities you were in once you’ve been working for awhile.

Again, students can keep this section more detailed but don’t go overboard.

Caveat Emptor

So that’s a quick overview of what’s in this template and how to use it – please do not just copy this blindly unless you want to get a lot of questions you can’t answer in interviews.

Use the basic format and style and adapt it to what you actually did.

Note: Also, I assume no liability in case this template does not, in fact, get you into KKR.

Still Need More Help?

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We will take your existing resume and transform it into a resume that grabs the attention of finance industry professionals and presents you and your experience in the best possible light.

When we’re done, your resume will grab bankers by the lapels and not let them go until they’ve given you an interview.

Specifically, here’s what you’ll get:

  • Detailed, line-by-line editing of your resume/CV – Everything that needs to be changed will be changed. No detail is ignored.
  • Your experience will be “bankified” regardless of whether you’ve been a student, a researcher, a marketer, a financier, a lawyer, an accountant, or anything else.
  • Optimal structuring – You’ll learn where everything from Education to Work Experience to Activities should go. Regional badminton champion? Stamp collector? You’ll find out where those should go, too.
  • The 3-point structure to use for all your “Work Experience” entries: simple, but highly effective at getting the attention of bankers.
  • How to spin non-finance experience into sounding like you’ve been investing your own portfolio since age 12.
  • How to make business-related experience, such as consulting, law, and accounting, sounds like “deal work.”
  • How to avoid the fatal resume mistake that gets you automatically rejected. Nothing hurts more than making a simple oversight that gets you an immediate “ding”.
  • We only work with a limited number of clients each month. In fact, we purposely turn down potential clients in cases where we cannot add much value. We prefer quality over quantity, and we always want to ensure that we can work well together first.


About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

If you're new here, please click here to get my FREE 57-page investment banking recruiting guide - plus, get weekly updates so that you can break into investment banking. Thanks for visiting!

If you’ve ever interviewed in Europe, you might have lingering nightmares about case studies in interviews and at assessment centers.

But the contagion is spreading!

Over the years, more students and professionals at all levels – in all regions – have been receiving case studies and modeling tests as part of the interview process.

If you approach them incorrectly, they could sink your chances.

But if you do them correctly, they might be the difference between “Offer” and never hearing back from the bank:

Types of Case Studies

You can divide case studies according to two main categories:

  • Type: Qualitative or quantitative. Do you read information and make a recommendation, or do you build a model and calculate numbers?
  • Time: Do you have 5 minutes? 30 minutes? 2 hours? 1 week? Shorter case studies are “speed tests,” while longer ones are more about your thought process and presentation skills.

For investment banking, specifically, these types of case studies are most common:

  • 3-Statement Models – You might receive a company’s financial statements in Excel and then get 20-30 minutes, up to 2-3 hours, depending on the complexity, to build a 3-statement projection model for the company.
  • Qualitative M&A Discussions – Should Company A acquire Company B, C, or D? What are the key deal issues that might come up? Sometimes you’ll have to back up your reasoning with simple calculations, but you’ll rarely build complex merger models due to time constraints.
  • Financing Discussions – Should Company A raise Debt or Equity to fund its planned acquisition or expansion? You can’t make this type of recommendation without looking at the numbers, so these case studies will be more quantitative.

LBO case studies are possible, but more likely for experienced candidates.

I haven’t seen that many examples of time-pressured valuation/DCF-based case studies. They tend to be more common in investment banking case competitions, where you work in a team and you have days or weeks to finish.

The case study I’m covering here is based on a 3-statement projection model for Illinois Tool Works [ITW], a mid-sized manufacturer.

It falls squarely in the “speed test” category since it’s a 30-minute case:

Excel Files:

YouTube Tutorial and Step-by-Step Walkthrough:

What Are They Looking For?

Bankers do not expect perfection with any of these tests.

In fact, standards are quite low because most people do not even finish!

Interviewers want to verify that you understand the basics and have a strong enough foundation to learn more.

The biggest mistakes in time-pressured cases studies include:

  • Over-Thinking or Over-Complicating the Assumptions – You are completing a speed test, which means you have to go against your perfectionist/OCD tendencies.
  • Not Understanding the Type of Case Study – Many people attempt to turn qualitative cases into quantitative ones, or vice versa.
  • Not Finishing – If you don’t finish, you won’t be able to answer follow-up questions or present your findings. So, if you get a modeling case study, you better know the most common Excel shortcuts.

Take Me to the Examples and Walkthrough, Please

This case study is a bit tricky because they’ve given us some, but not all, of the assumptions:

The perfectionist/OCD way to handle that is to over-think minor details, such as whether you should use an average for Days Sales Outstanding or make it increase gradually over time.

The correct way to handle that is to make a quick decision and move on, so you actually finish in 30 minutes.

For this case study, we recommend the following completion order:

  1. Fill Out All the Assumptions First – You don’t want to jump between schedules constantly if you can avoid it – each jump costs you precious time.
  2. Fill Out the Entire Income Statement – See above.
  3. Fill Out What You Can of the Balance Sheet – This approach breaks down when you get to the Balance Sheet because some BS line items depend on IS line items, but others will be linked to the CFS.
  4. Fill Out the Entire Cash Flow Statement – Items here are simple percentage assumptions, absolute numbers, or reflections of changes in Balance Sheet line items.
  5. Finish Linking the Balance Sheet – Go back and complete the items that link to CFS line items. Cash and Equity should make the Balance Sheet balance.
  6. Check Your Work and Answer the Questions (If You Have Time) – If the Balance Sheet doesn’t balance, you need to find the error quickly.

I’m not going to do a step-by-step walkthrough with screenshots of everything because that’s better done in video format.

But I will highlight the tips and tricks you can use to finish these tests on time:

1) Don’t Enter Unnecessary Information

In time-pressured cases, every second counts. You can’t spend time entering data or formulas that are not required, or you’ll never finish.

Here’s an example:

2) If a Scenario Won’t Come Up, Don’t Build a Formula to Handle It

The perfect example of this one is the Amortization formula for the Debt:

It’s better to use a MIN formula to ensure that we never amortize more than the total remaining Debt balance.

But it’s irrelevant here because 5 * 10% = 50%, and there are no optional repayments, so that outcome is not possible; entering a MIN formula would waste precious seconds.

3) Use Beginning Balances to Avoid Circular References

Note that in this model, circular references could come up with Interest Income, but not Interest Expense, since the change in Debt is not linked to Net Income.

Still, we avoid this potential problem altogether by using the Beginning Balances to calculate the Interest Income and Interest Expense:

Using the Average Balances would be more accurate, but, at least for Interest Income, it would introduce a circular reference and make the model more unstable.

You do NOT want that in a time-pressured case because one small mistake or modification could cause a cascading series of #REF! errors throughout the model.

4) Fill Out the Entire Column First, and THEN Copy It Over

ITW’s Income Statement has 17 rows.

You could fill in the projection for each line item (Revenue, COGS, etc.), copy it across with Ctrl + R, and then move to the next row and do the same thing.

But it’s much faster if you finish the entire projected column first and then copy over that entire column:

This point might seem minor, but 5 vs. 85 keystrokes could represent 1-2 minutes of lost time, which is a lot for a 30-minute test.

5) Look at the Color Coding of Cells for Hints

If you don’t know if something should be an average or a hard-coded number, you can often look at the color coding of cells to figure it out: Black for formulas, blue for hard-coded numbers, and green for links to other worksheets.

You can enter dummy values into cells and see what font color comes up:

6) Remember the Rules for BS/CFS Links

I’ve seen a lot of mistakes with signs on the Balance Sheet.

Students often try to “figure out” if they should add or subtract when a Balance Sheet item depends on the same item in a previous year and a line item on the Cash Flow Statement.

But that’s unnecessary: If you’re linking to a Cash Flow Statement line item, and you’re on the Assets side of the BS, you subtract the CFS line item; on the L&E side, you add it.

If you know this simple rule, you can avoid headaches by minimizing the number of decisions you have to make.

7) Make Equity Your “Catch-All” If You Don’t Know Where Something Goes

You may not know what an item on the Cash Flow Statement flows into on the Balance Sheet: Where do “Other Non-Cash Items” and “Other Financing Items” go, for example?

The truth is, those items probably flow into multiple different Balance Sheet line items.

But doing that in a time-pressured test is a recipe for disaster.

If you don’t know where something goes, and especially if it’s small, non-recurring, or 0, make it flow into Equity:

There are some limits to this strategy: For example, you can’t take items that obviously flow into something else (like CapEx and Depreciation for PP&E) and link them to Equity.

But for small, non-recurring, or zeroed-out line items, this trick works well.

How Do You Improve Your Ability to Complete Case Studies?

A lot of people say, “Practice,” and I partially agree with that.

But you need deliberate practice as well.

It’s best to get actual case study examples rather than picking random companies and building models for them because:

  1. The focus is different. If you build models for random companies, you’ll spend a lot of time searching for data and adjusting the financial statements. But time-pressured case studies rarely, if ever, ask you to do that.
  2. It’s hard to “come up with” the right scenario to analyze. If you don’t pick the right company, the answers to questions such as the best acquisition candidate or Debt vs. Equity will be too easy or too difficult.

Putting It All Together: What You Need for IB Interviews

Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered topics related to the qualitative and quantitative side of interviews.

Here are the most important tasks to complete, even with extremely limited time:

  1. Draft Your “Story” – You need a 100-150-word outline and a 200-300-word full version.
  2. Outline Your 3 “Short Stories” – You can use these to answer questions about your leadership skills, work experience, challenges, failures, etc.
  3. Select 3 Strengths and 3 Weaknesses – These are what you say in an interview, not your real weaknesses.
  4. Prepare for the Top 3 Objections Bankers Will Raise About Your Background – Compare yourself to the “Ideal Candidate” that bankers are seeking, and see where you come up short.
  5. Look Up 1 Deal the Bank Has Worked on Recently – You need to walk in knowing something about the bank and group, or the interview is over.
  6. Prepare for 1 In-Depth Deal/Market/Company Discussion – We didn’t cover this topic in this series, but previous articles on deal discussions apply.
  7. (If Applicable) Prepare for 2 Discussions of Your Own Deals – If you’ve had previous IB, PE, or Big 4 experience, you must to be prepared to discuss a few deals you have worked on.
  8. Learn as Much as You Can of the Technical Side – It’s not possible to “learn” everything in a day or a week. But you can focus on the most important concepts (accounting and valuation/DCF analysis) and get decent results even if you have limited time.

You can finish almost everything on this list, except for the last item, in 1-2 days.

None of it requires advanced math, an Ivy League degree, or connections to rich and powerful people.

So, get started – no excuses.

Series – Interview Prep:

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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