In our business we frequently meet absolutely top class candidates with great experience who fail to convey within their CV, just how good they are. In this article I’ll set out some basic fundamentals on how to write your CV so that you have the best possible chance of getting that interview. The main function of your CV is to get you sitting in front of employers for great positions. As such, it is your marketing document about yourself and your qualification, and your experience.
What’s the purpose of your CV?
The function of a CV is to present information about yourself, your qualifications and experience to employers. Take a hypothetical example!! You have just got your results and you have passed your CPA finals. On opening your CPA magazine you see the most amazing advertisement just looking for someone like you!! It’s the best salary you have seen this year and the career development potential is second to none. So what’s next? Well you just write up that CV and e-mail it to the employer, what could be simpler? Well it’s not that simple. You need to spend time and effort in properly constructing your CV. And don’t forget there are possibly 200 other newly qualified CPAs who have read that very same advert, so your CV may be competing with quite a lot of other CVs.
Keep one thing in mind, you must target the jobs that you are qualified to do. There’s no point in applying for a role that clearly asks for applications from experienced Financial Controllers if you are still at Assistant Accountant level.
Fundamental rules in writing a CV
So you send the CV in for that great position. And so have 50 other newly qualified accountants!! What happens next? You have probably sent it in by e-mail and the recruiter now has 50 other CVs in their Inbox to read. He/she may want to interview 6-8 candidates so they can have a shortlist of 3-4, who will meet the MD or FC. If the recruiter spends 2 – 3 minutes reading each CV we are talking over 2 hours of reading!!! A lot of busy professionals don’t have that time to spend reading CVs. Have you ever received a long winded e-mail and you said to yourself “I’m busy now, I’ll read this later” and then found it quite a while later and you never got to read it. Well you don’t want your CV to end up like this. Your CV must be in the group that gets a detailed review and the reaction must be “Yes we got to meet with this candidate”. If that happens your CV is working.
Main sections in a CV
- Personal Details
- Academic Record
- Employment History
This contains information such as Name, Address, Telephone contact details, e-mail address, Date of Birth/Age (optional). We have seen CVs without telephone numbers leaving the recruiter unable to contact the applicant on receipt of the CV.
Here you list in reverse chronological order your qualifications and academic achievements. If you have done something that is particularly good mention it. Remember blow your own trumpet, as nobody else will!!
Examples of what you add here would be high points in leaving certificate, placed in college or placed in your professional examinations.
- Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- Qualified, 2006 (all first time passes)
- Placed 1st, Financial Accounting, Professional 1
This is the most important part of your CV. Here you are telling the prospective employer about your experience. The employer is probably more interested in what you have done in the past 3 years. You have got to highlight this in the most favourable and concise way. I set out a hypothetical employment history below:
Modern Software Technology, Technology Campus, Citywest.
Company: MST is the European Headquarters for the worlds 6th largest software company. In Ireland they employ 600 staff in a Shared Service accounting and support centre.
Financial Controller (Promoted May05)
Reporting to the Finance Director main duties include:
- Preparation of monthly reporting package
- Supervision of annual budgeting process
- Monthly forecasting and planning
- Supervision and development of 25 person finance team
- Ongoing involvement in systems and process development
- Part of strategy team involved in acquisitions
- As SAP Power user provide advice company wide on systems issues
Financial Accountant (Promoted May03)
- Preparation of monthly P&L for Irish, Germanand UK operating companies
- Year end audit process
- Supervision of Accounts Payable and Payroll functions
Assistant Accountant (Aug01 – May03)
- Assisted Financial Accountant with preparationof month end close
- Accruals & prepayments
- Debtors & Creditor control accounts
- Budgeting for Irish Subsidiary
- Promoted twice since joining company
- Chosen to represent Irish operation at strategy conference at global Headquarters in Atlanta
- Successfully managed the implementation of SAP across 30 entities
- Developed finance function from 6 staff to 25
- Identified and implemented cost saving processes which save the organisation $1m annually
- Sage payroll. SAP, Excel.
Ahearn Cowan McCreevy & Co., Dublin 2
Practice: This is a 3 partner accountancy firm employing 25 staff
- Preparation of annual accounts for SME client base
- Audit assignments for multinational clients including
- Retail Group t/o €50m
- Software development Company €36m * Preparation & finalising tax returns
Points to note in the above experience example.
- Jobs listed in reverse chronological order.
- The use of bullet points to make the experience stand out (rather than long winded narrative)
- Highlighting achievements and promotions
It is always good to have a section called interests on your CV. It can be an important way of giving the potential employer an indication of your personality. It should really tell something interesting about you. Contrast the following interest sections
Reading, TV, Walking
This is boring boring boring!!!!
- Mountain Climbing (Fund raised €10,000 for local charity)
- Walking (completed Dublin City Marathon for last 4 years)
- Treasurer for Dublin City Mountain Club
- Art (part of local art group. My paintings were exhibited in London Art festival)
The above interests section actually creates the image of an interesting person with a “can do attitude” who can handle responsibility and has leadership qualities. It also may define part of the interview process in that the interviewer may discuss topics that you are very comfortable with
Always state that references are available on request. Do not give addresses or phone numbers in case they are contacted without your consent. Make certain you notify your referees that they will receive a call and give them a brief outline of the position and the areas covered within your interview.
My References are available upon request.
To summarise, your CV needs to tell a recruiter or an employer everything about your experience and skill set at a glance. Your CV should be given careful thought and consideration and not approached half heartedly. I have included some do’s and don’ts for your consideration at the end of this article. At Accountancy Solutions we are currently compiling a Wining CV guide. If you are unsure about your CV or are finding it difficult to construct, why not e-mail Fiona in our marketing department to receive our free booklet. Our consultants would be happy to meet with you to discuss your CV and any potential roles we have that might suit your particular skill set and qualifications.
CV Do’s and Don’ts
- Your CV should be two to three pages in length depending on your work experience but definitely no longer than four pages – potential employers want to read a synopsis of your skills and experience, not a book
- Use clear, positive business-like language
- Ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors, be sure to proof read it several times
- Start with your personal details followed by education, work experience, hobbies and interests and then references
- Keep paragraphs short and use bullet points where possible
- Be sure to highlight your achievements and skills acquired as opposed to your duties
- Avoid professional jargon and abbreviations to prevent misinterpretation
- Always use the heading Curriculum Vitae at the top of the first page
- Personal Details – keep personal details short
- Put your most recent qualification first and give
- details of your results from degrees to Leaving Certificate
- Be certain to include any work placements, IT skills or languages acquired during your studies
- Use Action verbs such as ‘Responsible for..’ or I developed...’
- Put your experience in chronological order, starting with your most recent
- It is essential to list the name of your employer, your job title and the dates of your employment along with a brief outline of your role and responsibilities. It is worth noting that some employers like to see a brief description of the company and their business but try and keep this information to a minimum
- Try and emphasise the positive changes or influences you had in your role or that you made to the company in your time there
- The employer is keen to know what skills you can bring to the table so be certain to highlight your strengths
- Do not use the abbreviation CV at the top of your page
- Do not write rambling statements, it should be clear concise and to the point
- Do not include salary information
- Do not give reasons for leaving a job
- Do not exaggerate your experience
- Do not write anything negative about a previous employer
- Do not use colours or decorative borders as this will distract the readers attention