Bring your CV to life by telling your story

  • 01-09-17
  • David Landau

There it is – the Financial Controller role you’ve been waiting for! Everything you have achieved in your career mirrors the job description. You read over your cover letter and resume again, pleased with its bullet points, well-thought-out content and keywords. ATTACH and SEND.

Certainly, the reader will feel compelled to respond positively. Or will they? Contrary to popular belief, hiring managers are looking for reasons to hire you versus the opposite, however the only details they have to go on, is your two-dimensional CV. The issue is that resumes are very black-and-white in terms of their information. They list responsibilities and achievements, which are important, but fail to construct an image of who you really are and why you are a great fit for their company.

So how do you bring yourself to life on paper? Through storytelling. By creating a hologram of yourself, the window to your personality opens up, resonating with the employer and leaving them curious to meet you.

Telling a story on paper

Your resume

Your resume is your marketing brochure and needs to herald your story. Unfortunately, too many resumes are a compilation of adjectives, providing the same information as the next CV the reader will review. Instead, the anecdotes you share on your resume should illustrate your achievements linked back to the experience that the Hiring Manager is seeking in the role.

Ask yourself: In each job that you have held, what role did you specifically perform and what improvements or changes did you make? What problems did you solve or challenges did you address? The answers will form the foundation of the stories you tell. Here are some ways to weave stories into your resume:

  • Turn your triumphs into a story: This is where you can show the reader how you find solutions. Start by describing the initial circumstances, what actions you took personally to address the situation and finally the results of your efforts. Summarise this into no more than 2-4 lines and try to humanise the tone.
  • Focus on your achievements, not just responsibilities: As a senior accounting professional, the manager will usually have a great understanding of the day-to-day responsibilities of your accounting function. So, in addition to focusing on duties and responsibilities, emphasise your accomplishments, how you got there and the stories that underpin them.
  • In addition to adding this information under the role section, consider using the CV Summary to highlight key stories that are relevant to the specifics of the position you’re applying for.

Your cover letter

This is where the journey of your accounting career story begins and it is critical that it complements your resume. It doesn’t matter if it is a separate document, the introductory text on an email or the summary section on an online application form, each of these presents the same opportunity and should be approached similarly. What goes in the cover letter is disparate from your resume, but both have the same goal of grabbing the reader’s attention. Ultimately, your cover letter is selling your resume, tempting the Hiring Manager to open it. Go through the job advertisement and ascertain the key qualities that are sought. Use your cover letter to clearly show you have these qualities and attributes specifically. Here are some guidelines for getting your cover letter right:

  • Let the reader know why you’re applying for the job and why you are the best candidate for it. The most effective way to demonstrate this is to articulate through a short account how you have solved problems and overcome challenges that are similar to those you’re likely to encounter in the new role.
  • Avoid reiterating exact points from your resume. Instead, keep it to a high level and use this space to punctuate the narrative with nuances of your personality.

View your cover letter as your elevator pitch which will evoke curiosity in the Hiring Manager. It can be likened to a handshake in writing, with the promise of seeing more great things in your resume and then when they meet you in person.

Continue your narrative in person

Creating compelling career stories in your cover letter and resume is also preparation for a successful interview. Interviewers typically ask behavioural questions, but by having already alluded to relevant examples, you will have provided grounding for these questions. This will help to keep the interview focused on areas that are both highly relevant and familiar to you. However, this does mean that when writing your accounting CV it is a good idea to save some of your story for the interview itself!

Start your story by introducing the situation or challenge from your resume or cover letter but then focus in greater detail on what you did versus what the team did. This is where your conversation represents how your actions provided the solution to the situation. Interspersed with highlighting the skills and qualifications you have in directing those actions, the interviewer will get a better picture of how you can fit into the company. Finally, don’t forget to share the fruits of your labour and tell the interviewer what the results of your actions were. Position this as a benefit to the employer and the role.

For more tips on answering behavioural interview questions, take a look at our guide to understanding the three types of interview questions on our Job Seeker Toolkit.

Final thoughts 

Whether in a cover letter, resume or in an interview, accounting professionals who can articulate themselves as the solution, are highly sought after. By sharing your experience through a relevant narrative, you help the Hiring Manager envision you as the best candidate for the job. After all, stories connect people and leave a lasting impression.

If you’re after specific advice about the best way to tell your story or guidance on your accounting career, we’re always happy to provide our expertise. Please feel free to get in touch with one of our specialist Recruitment Consultants today.

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