Being in the coaching space I meet and interview a number of CA’s every week.
Accordingly I am looking at CV’s all the time.
The quality of CV’s that cross my desk leave a lot to be desired.
If you knew how important this document actually is you might seriously get it professionally written.
The thing is that the CV is a marketing document – it’s a tool to sell yourself to a prospective employer. It’s the beginning and the end of the job-seeking process – if it does not tell the right story, you won’t even be considered for an interview.
Almost without fail my clients hopelessly under-sell themselves. In fact they often leave my office with a smile on their face as if they have suddenly discovered who they really are.
I’m not pointing fingers here neither am I trying to be unfairly critical. It’s quite simply the fact that they are not schooled in how to sell themselves. And why should they be? Hopefully people don’t have to look for work too often in their lives.
Again, one of the most critical tools in job hunting is the CV. This sounds obvious. but a bad CV will bowl you out without giving you a fair chance at a face-to-face interview.
It’s the opening gambit of the job seeking process. Ignore it at your peril!
Bear in mind that a recruiter/HR could get as many as 100 CV’s to review. If yours efficiently supplies the required information you stand a better chance of being selected for an interview. Remember that you are competing with a lot of good people out there!
There are a number of different views on how CV’s should be presented and I am not suggesting that mine is the best and only. This is my view on what matters most based on my experience gained from my 20 year stint in corporate as an employer.
Do not turn your CV compilation into a Grade 5 school project. Pretty frills around the edges and fancy fonts should be avoided. This is a professional document and it needs to look like one!
Some suggest that you should include a photograph of yourself. I personally would advise against this especially if you do not have a professional studio portrait. Including pictures are for PA’s and other like positions.
Filling the CV up with irrelevant information is pointless. What is critical is that important information is accessible and easy to find. Accordingly the front page should contain all the pertinent information .
1.1 Basic information:
This information needs to be clearly set out in the simplest of ways. I have seen CV where the contact details are in the heading, there is no address etc. So here is the layout:
– Contact details (cell and home)
– ID number
– Date of birth and age (even though this can be determined from your ID number)
– Residential address
– Interests and hobbies
– Current and expected salary
All this information has a specific purpose which helps in the screening process.
The Name and ID number is important if the recruiter/HR wants to get credit references or to get a police clearance. The ID number also verifies your date of birth and age and it will reveal if you are a non-SA citizen.
Race is becoming more important from a BEE perspective. State it clearly. Do not leave it vague or confused. What this needs to establish is whether you are Black, White, Indian, Chinese or Coloured. This is not a racial thing at all. It’s about cultural fit.
Citizenship identification is also an important part of the employment process. Having a SA identity number is not the full picture. Hence as recruiter you need to know of which country you are a citizen. Often companies do not want to employ foreigners (although in my personal experience is that Zimbabwean CA’s are great!). But there are also companies who prefer foreigners as I did.
The residential address is important as it gives an idea of how far the person has to travel. This allows the recruiter to assess whether it is logistically efficient to employ you.
As far as the interests and hobbies are concerned only include this section if you have something special to present. Reading novels and watching videos does not qualify! If you have provincial or Springbok sport colours put it in. Any other interesting activity like diving, archery, biking or marathon running should also be included. This helps in assessing your self discipline and give the interviewer the opportunity to connect with you on a more personal level. This could reduce the tension in the interview and allow you to discuss something that you are really comfortable with.
Current and expected salary gives a good overview of where you are coming from and your realistic expectations.
It might seem that some of this information will work against you but if the information is not there, your CV will be ignored in favour of other candidates. Bear in mind that some of the negatives could be outweighed by your other attributes. For instance your location to the work place might be the most important requirement that outweighs everything else.
1.2 Academic qualifications summary:
This is a BRIEF summary of your your qualifications, You can refer to more detailed information further on in the CV. Always start with your highest qualification and work backwards:
CA(SA) – Registered – 2015
ARTICLES – Deloitte – 2015
CTA – University of Cape Town – 2012.
B COMM – University of Cape Town – 2010
MATRIC – Pretoria Boys High School – 2007
At this point do not get into the details – all that is required here is a snapshot of who you are.
1.3 Job history summary:
This is the part that most CA’s leave out. Usually they deal with this in a lengthy diatribe of various previous positions going on for pages. Don’t get me wrong. All that is important and must be in the CV somewhere but not here! This is a summary and it has a specific purpose – it highlights stability and loyalty(otherwise know as traction). It also gives you an opportunity to disclose your reasons for leaving previous employers.
The matters discussed here are very important to a recruiter as it tells them a lot about you.
Always start at your current job and work backwards.
Be wary here especially with the way you disclose reasons for leaving:
> Never mention relationship issues. It will always reflect negatively on you. If you left a position because your previous boss was a prize you-know-what, rather say that you wanted to extend your experience and you left because you want to advance your career.
> Job hopping is a bad reflection on your competency. It raises questions about your work ethic, health and competency. Accordingly, for the purposes of the CV use softer explanations when you describe your reasons for leaving. Be careful how you word this. It is worth spending time thinking about this before you compete this section. Do not underestimate its importance!
> If you have or had been retrenched, rather say that you were offered an attractive package that you decided to take as you were concerned about the future at the company. Every recruiter will know you were retrenched but it sounds better and you might find it helps you feel better about yourself.
> Never lie! If you were fired for dishonesty say so. There is nothing more disconcerting than a candidate who is a liar. Be aware that your previous employer will be contacted for references. But, then again, there is nothing stopping you presenting yourself in the best possible light.
> If you have had some gaping gaps of unemployment don’t leave them off the CV. For a recruiter there is nothing worse than having unaccounted for gaps in employment history.
So here is an example using the info above:
UNIVERSAL WORKS (PTY) LTD
Period: Oct 2012 – current
Reason for leaving: Looking to upscale myself into operations management.
Period: Mar 2010-Sept 2012
Reason for leaving: Completed articles
Here is another example with a more complicated work history:
UNIVERSAL WORKS (PTY) LTD
Period: Jan 2015 – current
Reason for leaving: Looking to upscale myself into operational management.
SEA FOODS INCORPORATED LTD
Period: Jan 2014 – Dec 2014
Reason for leaving: Offered a package as company was restructuring after completing implementation of SAP.
TRAVEL & SABBATICAL
Period: Jan 2013 – Dec 2013
Reason for leaving: N/A
Period: Mar 2010-Dec 2012
Reason for leaving: Completed articles
If there are worrying issues in this part of your CV, know that you will have to try harder to get work. See as many employment agencies as you can and don’t become despondent. Persevere.
There is still more to come but there is enough to chew on for now. If you get this part right you should start having better results.
If you need further assistance please call me directly on +27-72-280-6878.
In Part 1 we discussed Simplicity.
I explained how important it is to have a cover summary page with all your pertinent information. The objective was to make the CV more readable.
1.4 Important achievements:
Major achievements that highlight your leadership skills and abilities would be included under this heading. Here are some examples:
– Passed Matric with 4 distinctions
– Head prefect in final year
– Captained the hockey team
– Head of the mountaineering team
– Passed with straight ‘A’s
– Chairman of the SRC
– Passed both Board exams on the 1st attempt
– Received the Deloitte’s prize for best article clerk
– Was selected to attend an international conference on IFRS
All these issues reflect your quality as a prospective employee.
Do not be afraid to brag – put it all down!
The next part of the CV is all about the detail on the two important issues raised in the summary:
> Academic qualifications
> Employment history
Before we get into the detail it is important to note that the more you can present yourself around the position you are applying for, the better your chances of getting the interview. Accordingly you are in the better position if your CV is designed to address the particular nuances of the job. Remember the CV is the ‘weapon’ that you are using to get that interview.
So here are some points to bear in mind:
2.1 Academic Qualifications:
In the previous article I suggested a summary of all pertinent qualifications. I propose that you only extend this into more detail if you have something relevant to say. I would suggest repeating them here even though you might have dealt with them in 1.4 above. This is because the reader might only concentrate on reading what they are focusing on.
Here are some issues that constitute relevant information:
> Passing the two qualifying exams first time
> Obtaining special marks or distinctions (both at school and university)
> Winning any academic awards
> Any meaningful leadership roles or sporting achievements.
I would definitely avoid mentioning that you repeated any of the qualifying papers. It’s irrelevant unless you make it relevant. A CA(SA) is a CA(SA) bottom line. Never draw attention to any failures. You have the qualification and that says it all!
If you do not have anything important to say stick with the summary on the first page and say no more.
2.2 Employment History:
The detail in this section is critical. But it needs to be focused. The best way of doing this is to get a job spec from the recruiter/HR. This is usually possible if you are applying for a particular post. Bear in mind that being a professional allows you a bit of cheekiness.
The job spec has quite a lot of detail. For instance here is an example of job spec that I received for a financial manager position for a newly qualified CA:
CA(SA) needed to manage teams who are responsible for the on time andaccurate completion of stock reconciliations.
They will be required to:
> Assign responsibility for activities to analyse, define, implement, monitor and support stock and recon operational control and processes;
> Implement using and developing IT processes to improve efficiency, including specification of functionality required in conjunction with finance, management overall effective running of the Stock and Reconciliation processes and controls.
Key Responsibility Areas
Core Functions:(I think the language used here is unnecessarily confusing)
> Manage escalations to relevant stakeholders on time to ensure minimal financial and /or reputation loss through daily review of reconciliation and trend analysis exceptions ie timely reporting
> Customers Focus Manage internal and external customer satisfaction relating to Stock and recon processes and exception management ie interdepartmental communication
> Functional Delivery Review reconciliation of data to ensure integrity (daily, weekly, monthly and annually), including, but not limited to IT Stock reports, General Ledger Accounts versus Inventory Valuation report ie attention to detail and accuracy
> Functional Delivery – Finance reporting * Identify through analytical review incomplete/inaccurate capturing relating to AR, AP, Stock etc with ad hoc queries arise, manage and review reconciliations, calculations and reports where necessary * Review and management of stock processes and this is being applied consistently monthly with minimal fluctuations * Effective management of stock invoice capturing and reporting with set deadlines. *Manage any corrections on time prior to reporting final numbers being reported * Review of controls around systems capturing to ensure accurate capturing of invoices ie systems functionality and delegation
> Functional Delivery – Stock and Recon * Daily review of recons relating to 3rd party integration setups and related exceptions * Drive resolution of exception management with relevant stakeholders both internal and external *Weekly review of stock trending analysis * Management of stock ordering and approval process being followed * Clearly define controls required for any new recon processes and maintain a robust control environment with minimal exceptions or escalations * Manage internal controls around audit time to ensure strong control environment is maintained and reported ie ditto on systems, detail and accuracy
> Human Capital Ensure roles and responsibilities set for each staff member Establish and evaluate Key Performance Indicators * Ensure adherence to performance review processes * Ensure effective and timely feedback on tasks performance * Initiate HR poor performance review processes when required *Ensure effective utilization of staff members * Implement progression and contingency planning * Implement and encourage staff development activities, identify training needs Provide a mentor-ship and counselling function for team members * Facilitate a process for each staff member to develop career development plans ie ensuring staff comply with company policy and ethos
Competencies – (more like character traits)
The candidate must display the following competencies:
*Ability to Organize * Achievement Driven * Flexibility * Initiative * Integrity *Learning Ability * Responsibility * Self-Confidence * Self-Management * Stress Tolerance * Tenacity Communication * Conflict Management * Delegation * Developing people * Influence * Leadership * Management Supervision *Teamwork * Analysis * Attention to detail * Business knowledge * Industry Awareness * Judgment * Managing complexity * Planning and organizing *Problem solving Acting with confidence * Self-motivated * Mentoring *Motivating the team * Using financial information * Working with computer technology * Working with data/number * Management of financial resources *Management of personnel resources * Time management * Mathematical reasoning *Number facility * Leadership orientation * Adaptability * Self-Control * Stress Tolerance * Attention to detail * Dependability * Independence
Extensive knowledge Microsoft Word/Excel/Outlook * Knowledge of Pastel Evolution * Knowledge of Syspro*
This sounds like quite lot especially for a newly qualified.
But I have to giggle. This is largely describing the type of work and character traits that most ‘big 4’ audit supervisors do/have (and probably more) as they are about to leave the profession!
So if you design your job description around these requirements you have a super chance of getting called in for an interview.
So here is an example based on the above assuming you are currently working at Deloitte:
EXAMPLE OF JOB HISTORY:
Period: Jan 2012 – current
Position held: Audit Supervisor
Current earnings: R400k p.a. cost to company
Managed teams of up to 20 people.
- Budgeting and variance analysis
- Meeting deadlines
- Handling staff queries
- Disciplining staff where necessary
- Completing and discussing staff performance reviews
- Mentoring, coaching and training staff
– Extensive experience in delegating and reviewing complex work including:
Detailed stock, debtors, bank and creditor reconciliations
Report writing and review
Top down bigger picture reviews and investigating usual trends – Liaising with stakeholders at executive level (CFO’s, CEO’s, CIO’s, and senior client managers on audits or speaking to bankers or attorneys)
– Working closely with the up-line (your manager. director and partner at your firm). This reflects your ability to get on with ‘the boss’ – this is very important. – Ensuring that sufficient attention to detail is undertaken to confirm the accurate and correct resolution of queries.
– Completing detailed systems reviews and reported on weaknesses – liaised with IT to find workable solutions
– Understanding and identifying relevant IFRS implications
– Analytically reviewing business risks and relating same to appropriate legislation including:
- Companies Act
- Income Tax Act
– Reviewing complicated legal documents including:
- sale agreements
- lease agreements
- bankers term sheets
– Working with a number of different IT systems – expert at finding my way around a new systems using conventional drop-down menus.
– Advanced Excel skills specifically around financial modelling
– Jim Steele – manager – 083-555-5555
– Anton Berger – partner – 082-333-3333
(It is advisable to inform your reference to expect a call and possibly even ask them to vet your CV).
Do you get the picture? The CV is talking subtly to the job spec and none of this is a fabrication. It’s just selling your skill and character appropriately by putting your best foot forward.
It is also important to note that even if you do not have a job spec, the above description will serve you well.
I have also included here a checklist of interesting aspects and skills that I often have to drag out of candidates by asking question after question. In other words they often do not realize the importance of of these issues and so leave them out of the CV:
> Character traits (considered much more important than skill)
– meet deadlines
– attention to detail
> Management experience
– size of teams
– handling difficult staff
– performance reviews
– CCMA issues
– number of projects being handled simultaneously
– coaching and mentoring
> Legal and tax experience
– reviewing of complex service agreements, leases or sale agreements
> Dealing with clients and customers
> Level of negotiating skill
> System design and implementation
> Credit control and management including CGIC limits and claims
> Dealing with the up-line (bosses, executive directors, non-executive directors)
> IT experience
> Report preparation:
– Investor and stakeholder meetings
> Minute taking at meetings
> Interaction with external auditors
> Membership of various committees
> Health and Safety Committee
– IFRS both current and proposed (advisable to review the company’s website and identify which Statements apply)
– cash flow analysis and forecasting
– variance analysis
– lease/buy decisions
– due diligence
– statutory reporting
> Internal audit and follow-up
> Specific investigations:
– purchase of property
– purchase of another business
> Insurance review
> Complex insurance claims:
– major fire claim
– loss of profits claim
– employee fidelity claim (employee fraud)
> Project management especially IT implementation. Highlight bigger installations like SAP
> Integrated thinking
> IRR/NPV calculations with terminal value determinations
> Feasibility studies on:
– medical aid/pension-provident fund
– outsourcing warehousing and logistics
– outsourcing fleet management
> handling queries with SARS
> Sorting out historical mess-ups eg:
– un-reconciled cash books/ledger balances/debtor-stock control accounts – all about project management.
– inter-company loan account matrix’s
> Work flow analysis
> System/process efficiency reviews
> Manufacturing of any sort:
– bill of materials
– variance analysis
> Level of Excel modelling complexity especially around macro’s
> Forensic investigations
> Property management/ tenant lease agreements and rental collections
> Retrenchment processes
> HR – general issues
– PAYE/IRP5 recons
– SARS queries
> Any special investigations around particular complex sections in the Statues:
– Competitions Act
– National Credit Act
– Income Tax Act
– Companies Act
– Stock Exchange Regulations
Some suggest that one should include a section on strengths and weaknesses. I think this should be reserved for the interview.
Some also suggest a brief summary of who you are right at the beginning of the CV. This usually one looks like:
“I’m a highly motivated and energetic CA with good business sense etc etc……………………”
I buy none of this and usually don’t read it.
For the sake of easy reading it is advisable to put your CV in point form. The essay format is laborious and difficult to read.
DOUBLE CHECK AND RECHECK YOUR CV FOR SPELLING MISTAKES! There is nothing more off-putting than this kind of lack of attention to detail!
And finally, make a statement that this is a true reflection of the truth and sign the document. This indicates that you stand behind what you are presenting. This could look like:
“I confirm that this is a true and fair reflection of myself and my work history, character and skill”,
Signed at ………………… on the …………./…………/,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
…………………………. CR KAPLAN CA(SA)”
Submit your CV via email (in nearly all cases). Preview the document before sending toensure that it comes up on the computer screen in a chronological format which is page under page. It is terribly frustrating to receive a CV with four pages on the screen and you unable to determine the sequence of the pages because they are not numbered.
If you require clarity on any of the above or you would like more assistance please contact me direct on +27-72-280-6878.