The accountancy and financial services job market can be competitive – particularly for recent graduates who are hoping to break into the industry – but there is plenty of reason for optimism. While getting an interview can prove difficult, even for the brightest accountants, there are techniques you can employ to improve your success rate with recruiters and employers.
It all starts with your CV.
A first-class graduate accounting CV will help you get your foot in the door, but you need to be careful about what you submit. By optimising your CV, you stand a much better chance of getting interviewed for the jobs you really desire.
Why Does Your Accounting and Finance CV Matter?
Building an impressive CV is hardly the most enjoyable task, but it pays dividends in the long run. Studies have shown that recruiters only tend to look at CVs for a matter of seconds, so you need to do everything you can to make your CV accessible, purposeful, and memorable.
If you fail to give proper attention to your CV, you will not give yourself a fair chance with employers and recruiters.
Seven Areas to Focus on for a Top Graduate Finance and Accounting CV
As a graduate, it stands to reason that recruiters and employers are going to be highly invested in your academic performance. These entities will not expect you to have an extensive employment history when you are only just leaving education.
Your university education or finance qualification will act as the bedrock for your career, so should also stand as the centrepiece of your graduate accounting CV. If you are yet to graduate, include a predicted grade or your current average. This will give prospective employers a clear insight into your academic performance. A sample of what you can do.
You will also want to include the subjects and grades that you achieved at A-level, while a briefer summary of your GCSEs will more than suffice. List the total number of GCSEs and the range of grades you achieved for them. You might also note that these include key subjects, like Maths or English.
In general, you are trying to make clear that you have attained and honed two key skills – numeracy and a meticulous attention to detail – both of which are key in an accountancy or finance career.
- Finance Experience
If you have not yet graduated or you have only just graduated, the likelihood is that your work experience in accountancy and finance will be limited, or even non-existent. Yet, if you have spent any time in this field already, it is something you should highlight vociferously. Give as much detail as possible when speaking about your experience working in finance, even if the roles were summer jobs, internships, student programmes, or even work experience placements.
Remember, employers are looking for an interest in and passion for finance. This is why it is also imperative that you point out finance or accounting-oriented insight days or events that you have attended, though this would be listed separately on your CV.
For those who have had zero working experience in finance or accounting, listing any other work experience is still valuable. A strong work ethic is a valuable asset for any graduate applicant.
- Meeting Targets
Goals and objectives are both regular aspects of the finance and accountancy world. You often have to navigate tight deadlines and quick turnarounds as an accountant, so you need to make clear that you are capable of doing exactly that.
Specific examples of where you have met deadlines or targets in the past will stand you in good stead. For the purposes of a trainee accountant CV, this could be in any type of work, volunteering, or even academia.
A history of setting financial objectives shows that you closely adhere to principles that are key to a successful career in the accounting and finance world. Using precise figures – as you would as a qualified accountant – is important. These small details again show that you are a meticulous character.
- Customer and Client Service
As is the case with many forms of employment, interpersonal skills are a must for any aspiring accountants or financial professionals. Most jobs in finance involve a lot of communication and relationship building, either working in collaboration with other members of the finance department or with other parties altogether.
Being able to explain complex financial concepts to individuals without any financial training or education can be a challenge, but it is something most accountants and finance professionals will have to overcome eventually.
In consequence of this, it is crucial that you can demonstrate any experience you have with serving clients and customers, where these interpersonal skills are also key. Speaking about the negotiating and influencing skills and techniques that you might have leveraged is an excellent method for demonstrating your aptitude in this space. If you can also give examples of reaching common goals with colleagues or associates, either within or outside of your team, do so.
- Voluntary Work and Other Positions of Responsibility
Many people make the mistake of thinking that only paid work is worthwhile for a graduate CV, but that isn’t the case – voluntary work has a place of value on any graduate accounting and finance CV.
Under a clear and appropriate heading, list the voluntary work you have undertaken, picking out some transferrable skills that can be applied to relevant finance and accountancy roles. Volunteering is looked upon favourably by employers, as it shows a candidate has taken the time to improve themselves outside of work and education.
It is also worth writing about other positions of responsibility that you might have held, perhaps while at university. A place on a student council, captaining a sports team, or managing a society are all relevant positions that are well worth mentioning.
These snippets of information serve to demonstrate the soft skills that you have developed during your fledgling career. Inevitably, this section of your CV will shrink as you gain more experience in the finance and accounting world, but for now, it has clear value.
- Observe Job Adverts
By focusing on the areas mentioned above and presenting your information in a digestible and succinct fashion, you are on the right track for getting yourself plenty of interviews. But you cannot stop there.
The most effective approach for job applications is altering your CV to use specific language that mirrors the job advert that your application is for. If the job calls for a high level of Microsoft Excel aptitude, for example, that is something that you need to highlight. This is all about emphasising that you have the skills the employer is seeking.
While this process is likely to increase the time spent on applications, it will have the desired effect – more responses and more interviews. A nicely-tuned accountant CV template is not enough.
- The Final Touches
There is always more that you can do to improve your graduate accounting and finance CV. Here are a few extra tips that could make the difference:
- If you speak any additional languages, add this to your CV, including the level at which you can speak and write. Bilingual candidates have a natural advantage, so use it.
- IT skills are, to an extent, an expectation for finance graduates. Try to emphasise your capabilities, with reference to specific software.
- Use a professional font with high readability – Arial and Calibri are both solid choices – in either font size 10 or 11.
- Make sure there are no grammar or spelling errors present on your CV. These mistakes will set alarm bells ringing for employers.
- Double check your contact details are up to date and error free. If you are successful in your pursuit of an interview, you need to be accessible.
- Keep it short and sweet. Your graduate finance or accountant CV should not be any longer than two sides of A4.
Making Your Graduate CV Count
Making a positive first impression with prospective employers is imperative. Your graduate CV needs to impress – every word needs to count.
Directing your energy on the areas we’ve mentioned will help get your CV on the right track. By keeping the document succinct and listing information about your most desirable qualities, you raise the likelihood of getting interviews substantially.
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