How to write the perfect graduate accounting and finance CV

The accountancy and financial services job market can be extremely competitive, particularly for recent graduates hoping to break into the industry – just getting an interview can prove to be a challenge for the brightest, most talented accountants. In order to land an interview, your accounting and finance CV needs to be succinct, professional and targeted specifically at the role for which you are applying. Follow this graduate finance CV guideline to ensure yours is as effective as possible.

GAAPweb’s checklist of finance graduate CV tips:

  1. Education
  2. Finance experience
  3. Meeting targets
  4. Customer service
  5. Voluntary work and other positions of responsibility
  6. Using the job advert to your advantage
  7. General points

Education

Your finance graduate CV is likely to be led by your education history, partly due to your limited experience in the industry but also because your success will be heavily influenced by the intensive education or training you have undertaken. Two key attributes to highlight are attention to detail and numerical skills. You will use both every day in a finance role, so employers need to see that you have honed these skills over your time in education.

Focus mostly on your university education or finance qualification and, if you are yet to graduate, include a predicted grade or current average. List the subjects and grades for each of your A Levels but there is no need to include every GCSE subject and grade; “12 A*-B grade GCSEs, including Maths, English and Science” or a similar summation is perfectly acceptable.

Finance experience

Having just graduated and being at such an early stage in your career, it is likely that your work experience in accountancy and finance will be limited so, as well as encouraging you to include your non-finance employment history, we recommend distinguishing your directly relevant experience from that which isn’t.

Naturally, any finance experience you have should be given more detail and space on the page than non-finance positions. Summer jobs, internships, student programmes and work experience placements in any kind of financial or accounting capacity should be included. Any insight days or events that you have attended should also be mentioned but make sure to separate these from your hands-on work experience.

Meeting targets

All roles in finance and accountancy are directly involved in attaining set goals and objectives, often to tight and unnegotiable deadlines, so it is of paramount importance to highlight any experience you have in meeting targets – even if you are yet to work in a financial position.

Before or during your time as an accounting student you are likely to have had full or part-time jobs in retail, telesales or a similar target-driven environment. Similarly, you may have been involved in fundraising for student events or charities.

Essentially, any time that you have set a financial objective – or had an objective set for you – and then worked towards it is worthy of a place on your finance graduate CV. Having studied accounting, economics or similar you will know that finance professionals must use accurate figures daily, so make sure you include how much you raised, how many calls you made or how many sales you put through the till as a quantifiable number or percentage.

Customer and client service

Another important group of attributes to pull from your previous non-financial work experience are those surrounding interpersonal skills. All jobs in finance involve a high degree of communication and relationship building; you must often work in collaboration with other members of the finance department and will need to be able to explain complex financial concepts to non-finance colleagues or clients.

For these reasons, it is important to highlight any experience you have serving customers or clients. Note how you quickly established relationships with them and the negotiating and influencing skills you used to sell, upsell or maximise value. Detail also your experience working with colleagues to reach a common goal and how communication contributed to the team’s success.

Voluntary work and other positions of responsibility

Under a clear and appropriate heading, list the voluntary work you have undertaken and pick out some transferrable skills that can be applied to the finance role for which you are applying. Employers look favourably upon voluntary work as it tends to be indicative of candidates who have taken the time to proactively develop themselves outside of work or education.

Include also a clearly headed list of any other positions of responsibility that you have held whilst at university. This may be a place on a student council, captaincy of a sports team or management of a student society. Any role entailing budget responsibility or money-handling will be of interest to employers.

This area of your CV will shrink as you gain more experience in finance and accountancy, but for now it is a good way to demonstrate soft skills you have developed and interests you have outside of work and academia.

Using the job advert to your advantage

Every job advert you view will contain a list of skills, experiences and qualifications required to be successful in your application – use this to your advantage and create a CV that is tailored specifically to the job at hand. If the job calls for high level Microsoft Office skills or a commercial mindset, make sure your CV highlights your proficiency in those specific areas. Applying for jobs this way will make the process slightly longer, but you are far more likely to find success with a unique, tailored CV than you are with a blanket document that you send to every recruiter.

General points

  • Emphasise any additional language skills you have, including the level at which you can speak and write.
  • Finance graduates are expected to be highly computer literate so consider adding an IT skills section. If you do not have a significant quantity of IT skills or do not have enough space on your CV, it’s imperative that you draw attention to your proficiency in Microsoft Excel – usually an essential requirement in finance roles.
  • Write your CV in a clear, professional font like Arial or Calibri, font size 10 or 11.
  • Double check that all your contact details are up-to-date and accessible.
  • A clear and professional layout is vital – if the recruiter cannot easily navigate the document it will be swiftly pushed aside.
  • Don’t include referee details on your CV – the employer will ask for these if your interview is successful.
  • Keep it short – your graduate finance CV shouldn’t be more than two sides of A4.

Your CV is your first impression on prospective employers, so you need to make every word count. Keep it succinct, professional and relevant and make sure you tick every requirement box for each role you apply for – do not give the recruiter any reason to doubt your capability to carry out the job at hand. Is your finance graduate CV up to scratch? Search and apply for the latest finance and accountancy roles for newly qualified accountants and graduates today on GAAPweb.

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