Date posted: 09/02/2024 5 min read

Resume rules

Is your CV in need of a revamp? Accounting and finance recruitment specialists on both sides of the Tasman tell us how to make a great first impression.

Quick Take

  • Tailor your CV and cover letter specifically for each role. Keep resumes and cover letters short and sharp to make a good impression quickly.
  • Take the time to research both the organisation and role you are applying for, to show you’re interested.
  • Show, don’t tell – illustrate your technical, soft and IT skills with examples from your previous roles.

A new year has begun and it’s time to dust off your resume and land your dream job. It’s said that a hiring manager typically looks at a CV for seven seconds, before assigning it to the ‘reject’ or ‘accept’ pile. So, how do you give yourself the best shot at progressing to the next step of the recruitment process?

A CV ought to convey the essential information at a glance, says Tasha Toehemotu, partner at Tyler Wren in Auckland who is a specialist accounting and finance recruiter.

“Employers want to know your experience in terms of responsibilities, projects and people management and also information such as the software you have experience with.

“They want to know the type of business you are in, size of finance team or public practice, annual turnover of the business, or client industries and the annual turnovers you have dealt with.”

Toehemotu says they want to get an overall feel for your career history, personality, interests and goals. But, she says, a CV needs to be short and sharp: just two or three pages. She recommends no more than five bullet points be used to describe each role, “and for a project, no more than three”.

“As long as you do your formatting effectively, that should be sufficient.”

Matthew Roberts is an associate director of Michael Page Australia and a specialist accounting and finance recruitment consultant. For more mature applicants with long work histories, he says a career summary will allow you to create a concise resume for hiring managers to read through and understand.

“It’s more important to provide detail on recent or relevant roles and eliminate outdated and irrelevant information.”

The golden rule is to show, not tell. Illustrate your technical, software and soft skill acumen by listing roles and projects, and the skills you used to perform them.

“For example,” says Toehemotu, “the number of networking events attended which brought in X amount of fees from new clients per year. That’s showing the recruiter you’re comfortable networking and what it resulted in. Offer tangible and measurable results.”No one-size-fits-all

Recruitment specialist and colleague at Tyler Wren, Ben Holloway, says applicants should take the time to tailor their resume for each job.

“We regularly see CVs and cover letters where the applicant has simply tacked their current job onto their old CV. Research the company, show you’ve read the job description, address the person mentioned in the advert. Show you’re interested.”

Toehemotu, Holloway and Roberts all say they see a lot of resumes come through that indicate a lack of effort, including spelling mistakes, inaccurate mobile numbers, typos, poor formatting or not altering the content to fit a particular role. Conversely, a well-written resume and cover letter can make all the difference.

Tasha Toehemotu, Tyler WrenPictured: Tasha Toehemotu, Tyler Wren

Your virtual presence

Beyond your resume, it’s increasingly common for recruiters and employers to Google potential employees and check out their social media profiles.

Holloway says if you’re applying for your dream job and the person hiring looks at Facebook, ask yourself, ‘Is it going to get me across the line?’. If not, he recommends changing your privacy settings and locking down your Facebook profile.

On the flip side, a polished and engaged presence on professional networking social media platform LinkedIn can be a real asset. Roberts recommends including your LinkedIn profile in applications.

“Having an updated professional photo, a brief career summary and an up-to-date profile represents professionalism on what is one of the most-used networking platforms worldwide.”

Toehemotu says the inclusion of photographs in your resume is a polarising topic. “People either love or hate them. I personally think it allows people to be discriminatory. But showing a bit of pizzazz is great. Hobbies that show you are driven, such as skydiving or running, can really illustrate what kind of person you are. Or you could mention your recent trip overseas and why you loved it, such as your interest in cuisine.”

However, the fact that you like Netflix may be perceived as less interesting, adds Holloway, and best omitted.

“People either love or hate [photos in CVs]. I personally think it allows people to be discriminatory. But showing a bit of pizzazz is great.”
Tasha Toehemotu, Tyler Wren

Provide explanations

What if you have a work gap – from a redundancy, travel or something else? Ideally, a work break should be explained, Roberts says. “A clear and concise reason can help a recruiter understand your experience and career. Being honest will increase the trust and credibility with potential employers when discussing breaks or reasons for changing roles.

“Career breaks are common, and recruiters understand that these can be personal,” he says. “Obviously, it is up to an individual if they feel comfortable sharing details, however it’s important recruiters know your experience inside out, including your reasons for moving on from positions.”

Similarly, employers need to know if and why an applicant has a chequered work history.

“While every case is different, companies value someone staying in the organisation long-term, so reiterating that you are committed to a permanent role is important to give the hiring manager confidence.”

A background of contracts can show that you are adaptable, pick up systems and processes easily, and fit in quickly.

“If you do take up a contract role, explain why you’re passionate about short-term projects, such as gaining new skills or that you appreciate the flexibility. Explanation is key.”

Show and tell

Roberts says the skills that need to be illustrated on a resume will depend on the role being applied for.

“If advanced modelling skills, systems or process improvements are required or listed as desirable or required, the individual needs to highlight this, and quantifiable value-add achievements should be illustrated to showcase successes to put you above the competition.”

He recommends having a segment which covers key soft skills, and an IT skills segment to show your competence in each system.

“The way the world is going with AI and technology, the ability to pick up systems, improve them and automate processes is the flavour of the month.”

Cover letters need to highlight key skills and how you can meet the criteria of the role, Roberts says, “but I do like a more unique approach to this. What caught your eye in the advert? Perhaps something meaningful that the company does? This is your time to show off and express why you applied and the level of research you have done on the role and company.

“I love to read through what systems enhancements or initiatives people in the field have contributed,” says Roberts, “as this shows someone who is eager to come in, make process improvements, and go above and beyond.”

CV or resume?

Outside of academic roles, most people use ‘resume’ and ‘CV’ (curriculum vitae) interchangeably. However, while the document may be the same, different countries may prefer one term over the other. In New Zealand, Europe and the UK, it’s more common to send in your CV, while in Australia, the US and India, you’ll be asked for your resume.

What to include in your resume/CV

  • Personal summary and profile
  • Key skills most applicable to the role you are applying for
  • Systems or IT skills used or implemented
  • Career summary, including dates, roles and organisations
  • Detailed career history with most recent role at the top; relevant work history covered in more depth
  • Short summary of your current organisation, business activity, turnover, number of employees and business ownership
  • For each role, bullet-point key responsibilities, skills and achievements
  • Qualifications and education – new graduates may include transcripts and student activities that display leadership and knowledge areas
  • Extracurricular activities, interests and hobbies.

Nail that cover letter

1. Address the hiring manager by name

2. Write an interesting first sentence to engage the reader

3. Show you have researched the company and role

4. Reveal why you are attracted to the position

5. Eliminate typos and errors – to demonstrate your attention to detail

6. Highlight key skills that correspond to the role requirements

7. Focus on what you can offer them and your goals for the future.

Take aways

ChatGPT prompts for jobseekers: using AI to write an effective CV

This ebook from LinkedIn Learning offers a short course on how job hunters can use AI.

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Get the job you really want

This ebook by Australian business mentor Erin Devlin offers a range of useful recruitment topics.

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