Is Your CV a Trick or a Treat?

Richard Speight 31.10.2017

As a recruitment consultant, I see many CVs. Some good, some bad, and some ugly. But what do they all have in common? They can be improved. In this blog, I plan to give you an insight as to the CV do's and don’ts’ along with some horror stories!

Let's look at your CV section by section:

Personal Introduction

In this space, I just need to know a BRIEF summary about you. Your field, qualifications and what it is that motivates you. I don’t need to know the name of your children or partner. Whilst this is lovely to know, it doesn’t need to go on your CV. Also, no photos, (of anything – yes, I have even seen CVs with photos of someone’s pets, even flowers and suns on before!) A good way of starting your personal statement is something like: An ACA qualified accountant with a background in… 

Previous Employment

This is the space that will secure you an interview, so you need to make sure its top notch.

It needs to be in order of your most recent position first. With dates, company, and job title clearly stated. The bullet points of each of your responsibilities, giving lots, but not too much detail. I see lots of CVs of fantastic candidates who have been in great positions, but they just fail to give the level of detail needed to make them wow on paper! Use this space to tell me about what you have personally achieved in each position. Anywhere you can demonstrate you’ve saved the company money or time is going to stand out and examples of where you may have covered managers in their absence is a great way of showing you’re ready to step up to that next level!

And be clever – if you’re applying for a Finance Business Partner position, should you be spending half a page telling the reader about your responsibilities in an Accounts Payable role you had 15 years ago? No, be detail savvy. Elaborate on your strong positions, and keep short the more junior, less relevant positions. Again, I do not need to know that you successfully managed a difficult night shift at a nightclub when you were 18 or that you learnt to use a till in a part time shop assistant role. Anywhere you can demonstrate you’ve saved the company money or time is going to stand out and examples of where you may have covered managers in their absence is a great way of showing you’re ready to step up to that next level!

Being clever doesn’t just stop here, though. Read the job spec of the role you are applying for carefully and highlight the key words. For example: a Financial Accountant job spec may specify they want someone with IFRS, UK GAAP and Statutory Accounting skills. So put these ‘buzzwords’ in your CV! It will ensure you get picked up on my searches, and become top of my list to call when appropriate roles come out. 

Academics & IT Skills

This can go after your personal statement or after your career history, it’s completely up to you. But again, this needs to go in order of most recently obtained.

If you are ACA/ACCA/CIMA, you should put the date you started studying and the date you finished. Also mention if they were first time passes or not. GCSE grades are good to put down if you are just starting your career i.e.: first mover out of practise, but make sure you don’t list all your subjects with grades next to them. I personally did 11 ½ GCSEs, and it would take up a lot of space writing each one individually! Instead, just put the number of A8s, As, Bs, Cs etc.. I would also like to see your degree classification, should you have a degree. 

List your IT skills in bullet & column form. Don’t waste space with this telling me the MS Packages: we all know what the MS Packages are. Naturally, this section will be fuller for commercial & analytical positions. 

Personal Interests

This part is like Marmite. This is where the horror stories kick in. Some recruiters love it, others hate it. I personally don’t mind it, but you should only put this part in your CV if your interests are, in the nicest possible way, interesting. I have, believe it or not, read CVs where people tell me they like to get drunk at the weekends, forage for free food, and sit in dark rooms watching horror films! Please, in this section, only bother if you have done something interesting related to your interests. IE: raised money for charity, climbed a mountain, or are a pro sportsperson. These things make you interesting – in a good way, and provide a good point of conversation in interview. 

Ensuring you take the tips above will take you on your way to a treat of a CV and give you a much better chance of securing an interview. Of course, there are lots of different elements to your CV, and it would take me a lot longer than this blog to give you tips, so if you are thinking of applying for a new role, I am more than happy to help you work on your CV. I regularly advise candidates,  from someone coming out of practice, right up to Finance Director level!

Richard Speight's picture
Manager, Accounting & Finance, Bristol