1. Don’t tell the whole, unembroidered truth
CVs are about the truth, but not the whole truth. Don’t share too much, and certainly not irrelevant information. Leave out your love of cat grooming competitions and your enthusiasm for knitting.
Don’t lie, either. Particularly in accounting – an industry where you really do rely on your technical skillset – don’t overplay your experience as you will get caught out. “Your CV is the first impression, and recruiters are looking for ways to filter out candidates,” says Marc Zao-Sanders, MD of online training firm Filtered.com. “Give them no excuse!”
And show, don’t tell. Communicate objective, fact-based information, not a list of buzzwords. You might think you’re a “team player” and a “natural leader”, but leave it to others to decide.
2. Your salary expectations
Never include your salary expectations on your CV. If it’s too high or too low, it just gives an employer an easy out. Unless your potential employer asks you directly, in which case you have to answer, save the salary discussion until you have been offered the job – when you are in a strong position to negotiate.
3. Private, personal information
Your religious, political or sexual orientation is irrelevant to the hiring process. Don’t bring it up. “It could lead to discrimination against you even before you’ve had an interview, so unless the information is somehow relevant for the role (which is pretty unlikely in accounting), keep it out of your CV,” says Nadim Choudhury, head of careers and employment at the London School of Business and Finance.
4. A silly email address
If your primary email address is “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org”, take a hard look at yourself. You may have great experience, but a silly email address will ruin your chances. Keep it professional.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be innovative, mind. Consider the story of Elski Felson who applied for a job at Snapchat with a CV that was, yes, filmed entirely via the Snapchat app.
5. Any proof that you cannot right good
This is important: avoid obvious speling and grammatical mistakes [that’s enough, ed].
“I’m personally aware of at least one major firm that will throw an application in the bin if it includes so much as an out of place apostrophe,” says Antony Mason, senior practice consultant at Capita Specialist Recruitment. “So it’s absolutely vital to thoroughly check it before submitting to a potential employer.” [Spot the split infinitive in the last sentence?!]
6. Irrelevant jobs
Think about the wordcount and remove any irrelevant work experience. Two weeks working in a bar won’t prepare you for a complex accounting role.
“When applying for a job in finance and accounting, it’s much more important to find room for recent technical qualifications, training and experience than vague general statements about personal attributes,” says Matt Weston, director at HR consultancy Robert Half.
Keeping your CV concise also means designing it well so that you can pack it with valuable information. Ratio is a seriously cool Bournemouth-based artificial intelligence company and has some good tips on CV design.
7. Why you left your old job or were fired
Sometimes jobs don’t work out, but don’t tell a potential employer the gory details. “It’s quite common for even very experienced candidates to rehash the details of why their firing was all a misunderstanding. Showstoppers like these are best kept to yourself unless you’re asked for details,” explains Liam Coleman, co-founder of Blue Octopus Recruitment in Leeds.
When you do need to admit something that could count against you, frame it in a positive way. Instead of saying “I did not complete this course,” write “I completed two years of this course” or “I expect to finish by next summer”.
8. A photo of yourself
Even if you think you look great, avoid including a photo of yourself in your CV. First, it’s rather vain. Second, particularly in the UK, it would be considered inappropriate. Your CV should stand on its own, without your looks playing a role. A picture is just another reason for the recruiter to discriminate against you.
9. Your date of birth
Likewise, don’t include your date of birth. It isn’t relevant to whether you can do the job. Again, don’t give hiring managers the opportunity to bin your CV. Whether it’s right or not, they could easily think you’re too old to cope, or too young to do the job properly.
10. Confidential information
One, this could be illegal; two, including confidential information from a previous employer will reflect terribly on you.
“I saw a CV recently where the applicant had listed all sorts of highly confidential financial and strategic information about his current company in her application to the closest competitor,” recalls professional CV writer Jo Murchie. “I’m sure the competitor would have found this very interesting, but it doesn’t say a lot about the candidate’s loyalty or discretion!”
Here are more AAT Comment tips for National Careers Week:
- Future jobs: five new, irresistible forces already shaping your career
- What your interviewer wants to know, but can’t tell you
- How to discover the right career for you
- 5 reasons to become an accountant in 2015
Jason Hesse is a journalist who specialises in writing about entrepreneurship and small business.