One of the most contested questions on the CFA forums is whether the charter, or passing the exams, will help you get a job. Despite my constant grumbling that the experience is worth it simply for professional development, candidates still look to the charter to help gain employment. Imagine it, the nerve!
Rest easy candidates, I can tell you from my own experience (and from the experience of many others) that your hard work is appreciated and will be rewarded. Employers love to see the CFA on your resume.
It’s not just charterholders and the Institute
You would expect other charterholders to talk well of the designation and look to other members as employees. We know full well the kind of hard work and dedication that goes into earning the right to those three little letters. I have seen whole firms that seem to employ exclusively charterholders and it is usually the result of a charterholder at the top making decisions. It doesn’t take long looking through postings for analyst opportunities to see more than a few, “CFA charter or progress required.”
But it is always those outside voices that strike me as the most convincing. Those employers I talk to that have not sought the charter for themselves but recognize the quality represented by someone willing to put in the long-hours and hard work.
One of my first freelance writing projects was for the quarterly advisor newsletter of the Baxter Credit Union. Over the one hour phone conversation, the hiring advisor spent at least 20 minutes talking about the great things he had seen from CFA charterholders. Here I was looking for a job and the interviewer couldn’t stop congratulating me on my accomplishment!
My current employer, a venture capital firm out of Canada, requires that all analysts be charterholders or are candidates for the exams. It was imperative to management, when putting together a team of sell-side analysts, that they find people with a high standard for ethical and professional behavior. Having the charter does not automatically make you an honest person but employers know that, besides their own code and standards, charterholders are bound by the CFA Code and Standards.
And these are only two firms of the many that I’ve talked to and have explicitly favored charterholders or candidates in the hiring process. It’s especially true at small firms and for contract positions. These firms might not have the resources or time to fully train a new analyst. By hiring charterholders, they know that their new employee has a minimum of exposure to a range of topic areas through the curriculum.
A strong tool but not the whole toolbox
Obviously, earning the charter or having passed the exams will not get you the job versus a much more qualified and educated job hunter. Completing the three exams is not the last professional development you’ll need. Look to the Institute for research or seminars. Take an honest look at your resume and improve on those areas where you are lacking.
It also cannot do the networking for you. You still have to be aggressive in your job search. Make calls and go to professional events. Ask for the interview and send your resume.
When they see the hard work you have put into the CFA exams, they will take a second look and that effort will be rewarded.
‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA