Experts offer their top tips for accounting and finance professionals for building a CV that is a cut above the rest – and what to avoid at all costs.
By Jessica Mudditt
The average employer spends just eight seconds reading a CV before deciding whether to progress it or reject it. What will make your CV stand out from the rest?
“With accounting and finance CVs, we want to be able to very quickly identify relevant systems, industries and key skills,” says Erin Devlin, managing director Victoria at recruitment consultancy people2people and author of Get the Job You Really Want.
“And be as specific as possible – list systems on the first page, and then provide detail later in the CV, such as the fact that you’ve done pivot tables, rather than just saying you used Excel.
“Do the same for industries – for example, within manufacturing, there might be a particular type of inventory you recorded. The employer then knows immediately, and it makes you stand out from other candidates.”
Beat your own drum
Achievements within each role should be clearly articulated, adds Devlin.
“You don't want to just say, ‘I did invoicing.’ It’s better to say, ‘I managed invoicing for approximately 400 suppliers per month.’
“Provide some robust data about how you improved your organisation, such as by identifying cost savings which resulted in a 10 per cent EBIT increase over a certain period of time.”
Highlight anything that adds value in the eyes of the recruiter, such as excellence in education.
“If you did well, highlight it, such as having a high distinction average in your university studies,” suggests Devlin.
Play to your strengths
The founder of Recruitment Expert, Michael Edelstein CPA, urges candidates to reflect on their strengths.
“What makes you special? Are you a CPA [Australia] council member, sports team captain, Toastmaster champion? Basically, what are you doing to grow, develop and contribute?”
Communicating this effectively requires a high degree of self-awareness.
“I know what a financial accountant does, and I know what a business services tax accountant does,” Edelstein says.
“What have you actually done in that role? Did you just come in and do your job, or did you excel in some areas? Did you come up with a new report, or reduce the time it took to do something, or implement something new? Those kinds of things show initiative and will make you stand out.”
Volunteering or community work could potentially be included as well, depending on the type of activities undertaken, Devlin says.
“For a lot of positions, we love to see how people are engaged in their community,” says Devlin.
“As it is outside work, it’s obviously personal information, and it is up to someone to volunteer it. But if you want to, it can make you stand out, because it might show leadership qualities and additional skills.”
Avoid raising red flags
It is all too common for an otherwise excellent CV to be undermined by unanswered questions. Pre-empt this by addressing any gaps in employment or periods of short-term employment.
“No one wants to hire a job hopper,” warns Edelstein. “Anything that raises a red flag needs to be addressed. There may be legitimate reasons for short-term roles, like a maternity contract, or moving cities, or being on maternity leave or caring for elderly parents. Explain it, instead of leaving it to the imagination of the reader.”
It may sound obvious, but spelling and grammar errors are a huge red flag for accountancy and finance CVs, because they suggest sloppiness.
“Attention to detail is key – accountants live and die by that skillset,” says Edelstein, and yet he is astonished by the number of CVs he has seen that talk about attention to detail while containing careless typos.
The cherry on top
In the age of social media, having a top-notch CV is no longer enough. Candidates should also leverage their LinkedIn profile to stand out.
“In combination with your CV, LinkedIn can be incredibly powerful,” says Devlin. “Creating and sharing great content that is specific to accounting and finance can position you as a thought leader.”
Edelstein also advises job seekers leverage their LinkedIn connections and ask for recommendations from current and former colleagues that highlight traits listed on their CV.
“It can be very powerful to have someone describe you as an amazing team player who always delivered on time and went above and beyond. That sort of stuff is really hard to showcase in a CV,” he says.