The Great CV Debate - Part 2

Published: 3 June 2016

Thank you to everyone for the comments and thoughts I received on my previous blog on writing the ‘perfect’ finance CV – it is clearly an emotive subject and one which is worthy of debate.  One of the main topics has been around the presence of a personal statement; I advised against it, purely on the basis that so many of these are generic and un-factual, they don’t add anything to your CV.  However if you want to be impactful at the top of your CV and catch people’s attention then it can still be a highly effective way of doing this.  It may be that you have personally impacted on the top or bottom line performance of your business and can quantify this, or you may be a relevant award winner – these are meaningful and are worth highlighting.

Preamble over, now onto part 2 of my CV do’s and don’ts:

Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself in the first person, particularly when describing achievements.  It is a common trend for people who are very used to operating within a team scenario to share their achievements around the group through communicating in ‘we’s and ‘our’s’.  A significant amount of research has shown that the language of leaders is heavily populated with the use of ‘I’ and ‘me’.  However in this case it becomes more important than ever that the stated  achievements are entirely factually correct and that you know the detail inside out when it comes to interview.

Do own the financial performance that you have contributed to and quantify it.  Nothing will spark the interest of a commercial leader more than a finance chief who can clearly state the amount of money that they have helped shave off the bottom line or how your initiatives have helped improve profitability.  Know your figures – it should be the very least a hiring manager can expect from you, but is something that people fall down on surprisingly regularly.

Don’t neglect the importance of effective financial risk management.  It should be the cornerstone for any high performing Finance Director and is arguably the hottest topic in the industry currently.  There is a temptation to focus a CV purely on commercial gains but this should be given equal weighting.

Do include a short summary of your personal interests at the end of a CV.  Once again, a highly emotive topic and many are likely to disagree with my stance.  My opinion is that this is an opportunity to find common ground with the reader that may not otherwise be obvious and can lighten the mood in an interview scenario.  I would caution against generic ‘interests’ though which can appear to be included for the sake of it – current affairs, reading, keeping fit are good examples of these which are frankly best left off.

Don’t clump your experience and achievements together in one block of text with a list of your employment at the end.  This is just about the most off-putting CV that any recruiter or hiring manager can come across. It is impossible to see what the individual has delivered within each role, or understand their career development.

Do detail your accomplishments as a leader – once again an often overlooked component but an incredibly important part of the successful Finance Director’s toolkit.  Detail how you have developed a team underneath you, the challenges you faced around this and how you overcame them.  It is no longer enough to be technically strong and commercially savvy so make sure that the reader is in no doubt that you deliver in this vital regard.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I would very much welcome any comments or observations on the above – particularly if you disagree with any of my suggestions!  My next blog will be on the challenges associated with being the FD of a start-up so until then…

Hal Stoddart is a Consultant in the Financial Leadership Practice, specialising in the Manufacturing, Built Environment, Infrastructure, Business Services and Not for Profit sectors.

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