Training and development: perfect CV

For many years, job candidates in the accountancy sector have been in a
strong position. With the advantages of a buoyant economy, a fluid recruitment
market and an industry-wide skills shortage, job seekers could move between jobs
relatively easily. But as the economic slowdown continues, the tables are

Increasingly, companies are reducing staff intake or freezing recruitment
programmes and even beginning redundancy initiatives. In fact, demand for staff
last month fell at the fastest rate for almost seven years, according to the
Recruitment and Employment Confederation and KPMG. In short, there are more
people competing for fewer positions.

This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all doom and gloom ­ there will always be
demand for strong candidates ­ but it does mean that now’s the time to think
seriously about refreshing or updating your CV and ensuring that it really makes
you stand out from the crowd.

When compiling a CV it’s worth considering the results of ‘Underselling in
CVs’, a recent report based on interviews with 1,000 jobseekers and 200
employers, that contrasted what employers look for in a candidate CV with what
jobseekers think they want.

One of the report’s key recommendations was for candidates to ensure they
focus on communicating their personal achievements on their CVs. This doesn’t
mean your qualifications, the places you’ve worked, or the responsibilities your
position gave you. Achievements in the context of a CV mean the specific things
that you actually did and the impact they had on the business. For example, how
you turned around the profitability of a key customer, how you transformed a
critical financial process or how you mentored a junior member of staff to
improve their productivity.

It may sound like common sense to include these on a CV, but the report found
that many people omit them. Almost three quarters (73%) of employers surveyed
said they had rejected candidates for interview after finding a lack of speci
fic achievements on their CVs. It also showed that when candidates get their
achievements right on their CV, they can increase their ‘valuation’ in terms of
the salary they can demand. Nearly a quarter of employers surveyed said
applicants could demand an increase of 15% if they showed evidence of relevant
achievements – representing an increase of £6,000 on the average British
accountant salary of £40,000.

Achievement amnesia

The research also revealed possible reasons for the omission of achievements
­ it suggested that candidates are not necessarily lacking in things to include
but, instead, are unable to recall them when it matters ­ a symptom it dubbed
‘achievement amnesia’.

CVs are usually written in a rush, with 71% of people taking two hours or
less to write it and 79% of applicants saying they only write CVs when actually
looking for a position. As a result, a third said they weren’t confident they
could recall useful achievements more than six months old and nearly another
third (28%) couldn’t recall those more than 18 months old.

To avoid falling victim of ‘achievement amnesia’, candidates should begin
keeping an ongoing record of achievements during the periods when they are not
actively seeking work. This will ensure they avoid underselling themselves when
they begin interviewing.

There are now tools available online that allow you to manage your career
details more effectively. For example, you can use them to record and structure
your achievements as they happen so that your CV grows with you.

Online CVs can also help ensure your information is presented in a format
preferred by recruiters and some even allow you to track in one place whom you
have shared your career details with, whether they have looked at it and get
feedback directly from them.

The economic slowdown is showing no immediate signs of abating and finding a
job is likely to become more difficult. Employers will start to have the upper
hand but candidates can still make sure they’re on the front foot by effectively
selling their skills and experiences. They will then have the best possible
opportunity to be matched to the right position at the value they are worth.

Creating the perfect CV

In today’s employment market, you need a good CV to put you in the best
possible position from the start. Our research highlighted that there is often a
vast difference between what employers are actually looking for and the
information jobseekers include on their CVs. So what should you consider when
writing your CV and what are the most common pitfalls jobseekers encounter?

  • Develop a strong CV that showcases your experience, abilities, and skills.
    Structure your CV so that your skills and achievements stand out, this is what
    employers are looking for, not a generic list of responsibilities
  • Don’t waste time decorating your CV. Recruiters extract the relevant
    information and put it into their own preferred format so look for an online
    tool that puts your CV into the correct layout so information isn’t lost.

Make it accurate, exaggerating your experience or even lying will come back
to bite you

  • Keep your information up-to date and current during the periods when you’re
    not actively seeking work. This will help you avoid ‘achievement amnesia’ and
    stop you underselling yourself in an interview
  • Make use of the new online tools that provide a template for the modern CVs.
    Some allow you to update them as often as you like and recruiters can
    immediately see the new version without you having to resend it

Rick Bacon is CEO of iProfile. Underselling in
CVs, published by, is available to download from

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