Your CV FAQs answered- how to make yourself stand out

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Karen Young, Director at Hays Accountancy and Finance, provides expert advice on how to make sure your CV has the best chance of getting you selected for that all-important first interview.

Frequently asked CV questions

Q. I’m switching careers to apply for jobs in accountancy. I have no previous experience – just my AAT studies. How should I tailor my CV?

A. “If this is the case then a strong personal statement is particularly important in explaining why you’re applying for a role and why you would be a good fit. Without relevant experience this information may not be clear to a hiring manager, so use your personal statement to introduce yourself and explain how your interests, qualifications and employment background or your key skills relate to the role you’re applying for.

Key skills can make up for a lack of professional experience. Those worth including are any self-taught skills that show how you’ve taken it upon yourself to upskill in anyway whilst unemployed, transferable skills that were learnt during work experience, part-time jobs or education that can be transferred to a professional job, and soft skills that reflect your personality such as being organised or a natural problem solver.

The hobbies/interests section of your CV is also not to be underestimated. Any extra-curricular activities you were involved in during your time in education for example can show individual or team achievements and core strengths you’ve developed. This will also give a hiring manager an insight into your personality, an often forgotten but crucial element to a successful application.”

Q. I’m an older student searching for a job while I complete the AAT level 3 qualification. I had to take a break due to family illnesses that led to me losing my mum, stepfather and brother. How should I approach my CV to interest employers?

A. “When taking a career break it’s often advised to keep up to date with any changing trends in the profession by reading industry publications, attending events and talking to other professionals.

As your break sounds like it is due to further studying then you may well find yourself in a good position for staying up to date and learning about the newest trends in your industry, as this is required to earn a qualification. This also shows your interest and commitment to a profession, something employers will look favourably upon when considering you for a role.

Try not to be apprehensive when communicating to potential employers why you have taken a career break, and if it is for personal reasons, you shouldn’t feel obliged to explain it. However, employers are likely to be understanding and will welcome your honesty.

You may have to be flexible in your approach to re-entering a profession, sometimes taking a step-down or at the very least sideways from your previous role is necessary as employers may feel you need to be re-familiarised with the workplace. This is nothing to be disheartened by however, as within a few months you should find yourself even exceeding your previous position with the new knowledge and skills you’ve gained from your studies.”

Q. How important is putting references on your CV? I worked overseas most of my life, so just wonder if prospective employers would reach out to an overseas company.

A. “It isn’t typically necessary to include full references on your CV, simply stating ‘References available upon request’ is recommended and perfectly acceptable. However, it is important to contact your referees and prepare them ahead of time as referees are considered to be one of the most credible endorsements of your skills, experience and suitability to the role you’re being considered for.

Most prospective employers will ask for at least two references. This can be understandably tricky for those who have limited work experience, but you should consider asking a college tutor, any business contacts you may have or someone you have volunteered with to fill any gaps.

If the majority of your work experience is overseas, it is worth contacting any potential references well ahead of time to make adjustments for any potential time differences or language barriers. Arrangements can often be made to adjust for these issues, if not it’s recommended you have a back-up reference you can supply in these instances.”

Karen Young is Director at Hays Accountancy and Finance.

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