If you’ve read our blog post Why are Accountants So Bad at Writing CVs? then you’ll already be familiar with what can – and frequently does – go wrong when those in the accountancy field attempt to write their own CVs. Of course, there are exceptions. Every now and then, we’ll have a CV land on our desk that gets us misty-eyed and asking “why can’t they all be like this?” Unfortunately, however, that doesn’t happen very often. We’ve already listed our top tips for accountancy CV writing, so in this article, we’ll be analysing one of the CVs sent over to us to see what the candidate got right – and what could be improved.
Full contact information including postal address
This might seem like a given, but a surprising number of people fail to include even basic contact info such as email address and telephone number on their CVs. When it comes to postal addresses, this number increases significantly. Some companies will only consider candidates in a specific geographical area, so including your location is crucial. It also helps us to match you with other roles you might be a great fit for.
Details of companies worked for
This candidate has included the name, location, and postcode of the companies they’ve worked for (with one exception!). Not including the location can cause confusion, particularly if there are two or more companies with the same or similar names in different places. Not including the company name OR location might well see your CV going straight in the bin.
Not listing your job titles makes it very difficult for us to understand what level you’re at, especially if the information regarding your responsibilities is also scant. This candidate has included job titles for all of their roles, so we’re not left wondering whether they’re a Trainee Accountant, Bookkeeper, or Tax Accountant.
Start and finish dates
Full start and finish dates are included for each role on this CV, and by full we mean month AND year. It’s acceptable to put just the year if you’ve been in a role a long time – for example, 2005 to date. But putting 2017-2018 for one role and then 2019-2020 for another makes us wonder if you’re trying to hide a succession of short roles. January 2017 to December 2018 is a two-year stretch. December 2017 to January 2018, however, is only two months. Be specific.
Putting your skills and responsibilities into bullet-pointed lists makes your CV much easier to scan and digest. Accountancy firms and departments – and recruitment consultants! – are often inundated with CVs for each role. Paragraphs of drivel about being results-oriented and number-focused will lose people’s attention very quickly. Use short, bullet-pointed sentences to list your concrete skills and responsibilities instead.
Good font choice
This CV is in Times New Roman and while it’s not the only acceptable font – Arial and Calibri work just as well – it is one of the few fonts that are both professional and easily readable.
The main aim of any CV should be to transmit the necessary information as quickly and clearly as possible. While this CV has a lot of important information immediately in view, there’s too much of it in one place. Keep it simple and have each section follow on from the last rather than laid out side by side. This will help to keep the reader’s attention focused.
Disorganised contact information
While all of the relevant contact details are included in this CV, they’re not all in the same place. The candidate’s mobile number and email address are directly beneath their name, but the postal address doesn’t show up until the bottom of the page. Your complete contact details should be easy to find, preferably right beneath your name.
No nationality/right to work details
Some candidates are not originally from the UK and, of course, that’s absolutely fine – but we need to know. If there are visa issues, we need to be aware of them so we can check that the potential employer is happy to offer any support or sponsorship needed.
One of the first things we noticed upon opening this CV was that the word “experience” is spelt incorrectly. Always run your CV through a spellchecker – or ideally, Grammarly – before sending it across to anyone. While this may well be a typo, it still creates a negative first impression.
No profile/personal summary
This candidate has not included a profile or personal summary. Providing a brief description of yourself is a must for any good CV and should come right after your name, contact details, and nationality information. Keep it short and factual though, and avoid unnecessary waffle – in this case, for example: “Part-qualified AAT Trainee Accountant with more than 3 years of accounting and bookkeeping experience. Looking for a role that will provide career development, preferably in the Harrow area. Extensive experience of Sage 50, QuickBooks and Xero as well as the MS Office suite.”
Incomplete education information
While there is an education section, it doesn’t include enough detail. If you’re studying for the AAT like this candidate, let us know where/how you’re studying, when you started, and when you expect to complete your qualification.
Company information is lacking
We might be being harsh on this candidate here – all of the roles listed give a fairly good indication of the type of company from the name of the firm. This is not always the case, however. When putting together the work experience section of your CV, always specify the type of company along with the name and location of the firm. For example: “Joe Bloggs & Son, Hardware Retailer, Swindon.” It’s also useful to include a brief summary of the company before listing your responsibilities, for example, to include how many people work for them and how many offices or outlets they have.
Practice role not highlighted
Again, this might be slightly unfair in this case, as the firms in question have names that allude to them being accountancy practices. As a general rule, however, always be explicit about whether a role is in practice or industry, for example: “Joe Bloggs Accounting, Accountancy Practice, Swindon.” With practice roles, maybe include a couple of sentences outlining the number and type of clients, along with the industries in which they operate.
Passing off a potentially unpaid role as a paid one
One of the companies this candidate has worked for is KBM. KBM is well-known in the accountancy industry for providing unpaid internships to those looking to gain experience. We’re not knocking the opportunity to learn important skills, but the reality is that most employers don’t count unpaid positions as experience. Always specify if a role you’ve undertaken was unpaid.
IT skills information is lacking
While the candidate has included information relating to their IT skills and experience, it needs work. Create a separate section for your IT skills and give plenty of detail. This CV states “accounting software like Sage 50, QuickBooks and Xero.” In an industry where software systems are growing more important by the day, examples are not enough. List all the software you have experience of and to what level. With remote working on the rise – particularly during the covid-19 crisis – experience of cloud accounting software such as Xero and QuickBooks is in demand. And if you’re a Xero Certified Advisor, say so!
This CV doesn’t even refer to references as a concept, let alone include names and contact details. No employer will hire you without checking your references first, so you’ll need to provide the information sooner or later. We understand that you might not want your previous employers to be contacted out of the blue, however, so if you’re not comfortable providing full details upfront, add “References available upon request” to the end of your CV.
The Could Be Better
Date of birth
This candidate has chosen not to include their date of birth on their CV. You are, of course, under no obligation whatsoever to include your date of birth. Some employers do like to see it, however, and if it’s a plus – for example, if you’re between 25 and 45 – then you might want to think about putting it on.
There are a couple of instances in this CV where the English used doesn’t sound like that of a native speaker. Not all candidates are native speakers, and employers understand that. However, to make the best first impression possible, if you’re not a native English speaker, then getting someone who is to look through your CV before sending it off might be an idea. This is particularly important if you’re applying for client-facing roles.
There is no title included in this CV, so we have no idea whether the candidate would like to be addressed as Mr, Ms or Mx. Including the title you would like us to use helps to avoid any confusion.
This candidate very possibly speaks a language (or languages) other than English. Leaving this off their CV may well be denying themselves an advantage over other candidates. If an employer has a client base that speaks a language you are advanced or fluent in, then this will be a huge asset to them.
Activities and interests
Including a section on hobbies and interests creates an opportunity for the candidate to potentially bond with the employer. It also gives a sense of who you are as a person, beyond your qualifications and work experience.
Notice period and salary expectations
There is no indication in this CV of what the candidate’s salary expectations or notice period are. That may or may not be deliberate. While it can be extremely helpful to us and potential employers to know this information at the outset, we completely understand that you may not want to write yourself off over points that could well be negotiable. If they’re not negotiable, however, it’s worth including them and saving everyone some time.
Overall, while this CV has some good, strong positives to it, it could definitely benefit from applying the points discussed above. If you have a CV you’d like us to review, please feel free to get in touch.