We all know how important research and thorough preparation are when it comes to submitting an application for a new job, particularly given that potential employers will take an average of just 5-7 seconds looking at each CV they receive.

Yet we all still hear horror stories of applicants being rather too relaxed with the truth and exaggerating their achievements or qualifications or attaching questionable profile pictures, or of CVs with mis-spellings, poor grammar and unclear layout 

A CV needs get across the key facts about a candidate on the first page. This may seem daunting, but CVs are a way for you to showcase your personality, strengths, employment history and ambitions for the future. For employers, the likelihood is that they will have tens, if not hundreds, of CVs to sift through – despite there being a shortage of good candidates at the moment – so making yours stand out for the right reasons is crucial to help you land that all important first interview.

In this article, I am going to share some top tips for creating the perfect tax CV so that the next time you apply for your dream job, you’re in the best possible position to make a positive first impression.

What information should I include in my CV?

The first page is the most important because this is where you need to grab the employer’s attention. It must very quickly summarise your experience and sell your capabilities, while shining a light on your personality and outlook. The list below shows the key pieces of information to include, in the order they should appear. 

  • Personal details – including a full postal and email address. Age and date of birth is not required in the UK although it may be in other countries.
  • Education history – from secondary school to bachelors or post-graduate degree level
  • Relevant professional qualifications – such as accounting or tax qualifications
  • Full career history – in reverse chronological order, with the most recent role listed first
  • Personal interests – including hobbies and other relevant information to give the employer a good feel for you as a person

How do I make sure my career history reflects my skills and experience?

When you list your employment history make sure you showcase the breadth and depth of your technical experience within each tax role by providing clear examples of technical work you’ve undertaken. You don’t have to provide client names if you’re not comfortable doing so, but make sure you make you can talk about any examples in detail if asked.

When listing past experience, the most recent job role should be the most detailed unless you have only been with the company for a very short period of time. The amount of information for each role thereafter should reduce in length. The last five years of your employment are the most important to a potential employer – which is great for you because it’s fresh in your memory – so be sure to brush up on your major accomplishments during that time.

You also need to avoid gaps in your employment history. If you have taken time out of work at some stage, make reference to it. The worst thing you can do is ignore these gaps. A potential employer will understand your reasons as long as you list them and they are justified. 

Finally, don’t ignore the softer transferable skills you possess. If you’re adept at project management, building relationships, or working with people, then get these across. The employer is interested in technical skills and experience, but your soft skills will also play a vital role in their assessment of your suitability – so make sure you’re selling the ones that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

What about including a personal profile?

A personal profile can be a great way for an employer to get a feel for the person behind the words very quickly, but make sure you evidence any claims about yourself in your CV. The danger is that these can be very general, so they end up saying very little of value. If, for example, you describe yourself as a “technically strong business developer”, then you need to be able to evidence this within your history of employment and at interview stage. This additional level of detail often helps to set someone apart from the rest but remember, it needs to be short and succinct. Don’t write an essay – just include the key takeaways and selling points about yourself.

How long should my CV be?

Unless you’re a graduate-level entrant or have only limited tax experience, your CV will almost always be longer than one page.

The ideal length of a CV is often debated but, depending on the breadth of your experience and how many roles you’ve occupied, the perfect CV should be no longer than three to four pages. This is where layout and how you structure your CV really come into its own, as we go on to explore below.

What about presentation and layout?

How you present and structure your CV is important. You want it to be easy on the eye, with white space and room for the content to breathe. Don’t overcomplicate it with too many different font sizes. Keep your headings and body copy consistent, use a professional typeface and use headings to divide your content into logical sections. Many CVs are now read on mobile phones, so having a layout and approach that considers mobile first could be a good thing.

It is also worth noting that the majority of interview processes include a CV-focused stage. If your CV is well laid out, clear and concise, then you will have more time to talk about the things you want to and to really sell yourself. After all, you only get one shot at it!

At Harris Glubb we will help you to put together your CV and ensure that it truly reflects your skills and experience. Because we speak to the key decision maker about you, we will make sure they have a more thorough understanding of the kind of candidate you are.

We hope that this has given you some great tips when applying for your next tax role and will help you get through the first level of sifting and land that all-important interview.

For one-to-one advice and support in finding and applying for your next tax role, email enquiries@harrisglubb.com or call Mark Glubb on 0203 740 4010.

You can also find out more about how we support and work with candidates via our dedicated explainer video, below.