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Construct A Top-Class CV: Part 3 – Fine Details

by Mark Ellwood

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Welcome back again to our series on constructing CVs. In our previous posts, we gave you some pointers on the overall impression that your CV should make and we gave you a general guide to structure and and content.

 

In this final post, we’ll be looking at some of the finer detail that goes into your content.

 

Look at me!

 

When an internal recruiter, an MD or hiring manager looks at your CV, the chances are it’s somewhere in a large pile of CVs attached to job application emails. As much as we don’t like to consider ourselves box-tickers, the requirements of the particular role will have created a shortlist in the mind of the person doing the sorting of these CVs, and they will be mentally scanning the page to find evidence of these skills and experiences quickly.

 

This is the reason that, rather than presenting your CV in some glamorous way (impressive photos, long-winded introductions or a quote from famous people), it’s actually better to go for simpler styling and to let your skills speak from the page.

 

Straight to the point

 

It’s a good idea to take a careful look at all the information you have about the role – job advert, job description, and anything you’ve been told by a reliable third party. Make a list of the most important skills, experience and behaviours required to qualify for the role. Then write down next to each one something from your background that fits this. Then try to get this information across on the CV as close to the top as possible, without compromising the structure of the CV we laid out in the previous post.

 

Example: Matching requirements to CV content

 

Let’s say there’s a job for a Financial Officer in a healthcare company. The job description requires the following:

  • Experience with holding companies’ account

  • Year end accounting experience

  • Experience with FP&A

  • Experience of working with teams across territories

  • Experience in a regulated industry

The job description also mentions some nice-to-haves:

  • A second (European) language

  • University degree education

  • Prior healthcare sector experience

 

However, to add to this information, the job advert mentioned ‘Calling all chartered accountants’, the company website shows the headquarters is based in Switzerland, and your recruiter has mentioned that they’re really looking for someone who can manage a team and is good at line management and multi-tasking. So, we can also assume the following additions to the list:

  • Chartered Accountancy qualification

  • Nice to have German or French language skills

  • Some team/line management experience

  • Good multi-tasking skills

 

So you look back across your own profile, and realise you have the following:

  • You previously worked in a property firm that operated via a holding company

  • You’ve mainly been working on end of year accounts, but this has also involved working with the lead on FP&A who was based in the UK. While your experience was limited, you nevertheless gained a good grasp of these activities and you had to juggle this role with some demanding end of year activity

  • You’ve been line managing 2 juniors for the past year, getting them up to speed

  • You currently work for an airline, which is a highly regulated industry

  • You have a degree in Economics and you’re ACA qualified

  • You are fluent in English, Mandarin and Bahasa

 

However, you don’t have French or German language skills, nor experience in the healthcare field. However, you’re confident that these are nice-to-have skills and not essential criteria.

 

So, you put this across in the following way on your CV:

 


Joe Bloggs CFA

 

Highly motivated, dynamic Chartered Accountant with a degree in Economics and 7 years’ experience working for international firms in property and aerospace.  Strong experience managing end of year closure in regulated industries, with recent exposure to FP&A. Proven ability to work with operations across European holding companies and manage a team. Multi-lingual and fluent in English.


 

In the above 57 words, you’ve addressed all the requirements of the role and made up for areas that are lacking (you don’t have healthcare experience, but you’ve worked in regulated environments. You don’t have French or German, but you do have English and can speak Asian languages).

 

What is also a good idea is to break up this paragraph into bullet points and use that as a summary on your email. And then also remember to highlight the experience that matches what you’ve said above everywhere possible in the CV under your roles and responsibilities and when giving examples.

 

The final tip for the content on the CV is to think of where you should be at this stage in your career. What are the essential skills and experiences you should have by now?  Make sure you get these across on the CV. This is also a good exercise to identify for your personal reference where you need to be up-skilling.

 

This wraps up our series on constructing a CV. We hope you’ve found it informative and useful and don’t forget to share this with friends and colleagues who may be looking for a new role. Constructing a CV is something of an art form, but one we can all get better at with practice.