Careers

Three Ps to the perfect CV

May 01, 2020

Pandemic or not, brushing up your CV's presentation can mean the difference between an interview and a long-term job search. Sinead Smith outlines three things you can do to make sure your post-qualification CV gets you noticed.

With an almost blanket adoption of technologies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype as interviewing tools, this pandemic doesn’t mean that your post-qualification plans need to go on hold. Companies are still recruiting and, for many of you, it may be time to start crafting your first professional CV. With almost 10 years’ experience representing newly qualified ACAs, I'm sharing three components that contribute to the creation of the perfect CV.

Presentation

A 2012 Business Insider piece reported on a study that found those recruiting for a role spend, on average, just six seconds looking at a CV. The study found that they “will look at your name, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, previous position start and end dates, and education.”

Questionably short time period aside, the message is clear: your CV needs to make an instant impact and those eight markers should jump off the page to anyone reviewing it. You can achieve this by:

  • choosing a single, clear font for the entire document. Typically, sans-serif fonts like Calibri and Arial look best. 
  • only printing in black. You may think that a dash of red here and a highlight of yellow there draws attention but, conversely, it distracts the eye. Bold, italics and
  • underline are much less aggressive ways to convey emphasis.
  • using headings to denote the end of one section and the start of the next. This will help a recruiter or prospective employer easily navigate through your CV, quickly finding the information required.
  • employing even line spacing and bullet points throughout to clearly present a lot of information.

Prediction

When you are writing your CV, you should be trying to predict what they need to know and eliminating any questions along the way. A hiring manager doesn’t know you beyond what you have included on the page, so it is crucial your CV accurately tells your story. Here are some things to consider: 

Address any gaps in education or employment. Perhaps you began your career as an engineer before pivoting into accountancy, resulting in a two-month period where you weren’t working. Or maybe you decided to travel for three months after college. Rather than conceal it (never do this) or leave it open to interpretation, get ahead of the inevitable question by addressing it. It can be as simple as a line that reads:

February 2018 – April 2018: Awaiting commencement of training contract.

Highlight academic or professional achievements. Not only do strong Leaving Cert points or a high-performance rating satisfy the hiring criteria of many large companies, but it is also an easy way to demonstrate your calibre. 

Detail your client portfolio. Unless otherwise instructed, there are no mitigating factors that prevent you from naming your most relevant or well-known clients. This is what prospective employers want to know and it demonstrates the complexity of your experience.

Personalisation

Personalising your CV should be considered to have two distinct purposes. First, it should tell the recipient something about you. Second, it should be tailored to reflect the role to which you are applying. Some nice touches include: 

  • A section about your interests and hobbies – this is where you can really add some colour to your CV. Consider what pastime makes you so uniquely you and share that in your CV. Oftentimes, these hobbies will form the basis of interview questions and provide an opportunity to find common ground with the hiring team. Some great examples I have encountered are jigsaws (he used them to connect with a younger sibling), mid-80s British sitcoms (he was an expert on the escapades of Del Boy and Rodney) and agility training (she and her dog showed at international competitions). However, do be mindful of including interests that may prejudice someone against you – gambling and hunting, for example, have caused issues previously.
  • Research the company and read the job spec carefully. What experience makes you relevant for this role? Perhaps you are applying to a retail company and two of your clients were retail giants – they should be right up the top of your client list, quietly showing the company that you understand their business. Maybe they mention a reporting standard in the job spec – provide more detail about where you encountered same.

CV writing could be considered an art form and can take some time to master but, learning how to tell your professional story clearly and succinctly will see you well-positioned when the time comes to enter the market as a newly qualified ACA.

Sinead Smith is the Director of Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO.