1. Opinions not facts
Imagine the following in a profile statement on a compliance CV:
“A highly experienced Head of Compliance with strong leadership skills and the ability to influence policy decisions.”
It seems like a strong statement but this sentence is an opinion the job seeker has about their abilities. When a job seeker states an opinion it will often be the interviewer’s prerogative to get the hard facts about the statement a job seeker has put forward. This line of interviewing is what we have all come to know and love as competency-based interviewing.
A much more powerful and direct way to communicate suitability on a CV is to use facts. This allows a recruiter or hiring manager to fully understand the level of comprehension a job seeker has for the job they have applied for and also puts that persons abilities firmly into their mind. The main reason for this is that a hiring manager like any other person comprehends and remembers facts much better than an opinion. It is very difficult for a hiring manager or recruiter to hold onto an opinion particularly when that opinion is generic and not very specific to that individual job seeker. The classic (and terribly droll) opinion being, “Works well individually or in a team.” Quite honestly, if you cannot do both you really do not have a place in the modern working world unless you work in quaint finance and all they want you to do its lock you in a dark room to crunch numbers.
May we suggest an improvement on our original opinion and turn it into some facts:
· 10 years experience as Head of Compliance in investment banking
· Managed teams of between 5 and 15 from Compliance Assistant to Vice President of Compliance
· Lead on 3 global compliance policy documents which affected over 15,000 employees work
Better? We think so.
2. Poor structure
A typical CV consists of the following structure:
3. Phone Number
4. Email address
5. Personal Profile (typically around 10 sentences long)
7. Career Background
Now, we do not mean to grumble but we would like you to think about the reader of your CV for just a moment. In most cases the most relevant info is in number 7 (Career Background) on the list, unless you are a graduate, in which case number 6 (Education) may be more appropriate.
The hiring manager/recruiter has advertised for a Compliance Manager. Rightly, you decide to submit your CV. The recruiter may have time to sift through your CV and pick out the relevant parts of your experience that apply directly to the job (assuming you have actually tailored your CV). This would assume you have a very patient recruiter at the receiving end of your CV. However, a hiring manager is much less likely to be so forgiving. Recruiting people may only be 5% of their day, so they will not spend a great deal of time sifting through the info. They need relevant info as soon as possible. If you use the rule that a hiring manager or recruiter needs to see at least 80% of the job description answered within the first 30 seconds of reading your CV or at least on the first ¾ of a page then you will not go far wrong.
Get tough with yourself:
a) Do not write ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top of your CV it is more than obvious what the document pertains to.
b) Write your name, the city/town you live in, an email address and your telephone number only.
c) Exclude a personal profile unless it contains facts supporting the specific job application you are going for.
d) Place your education after your career history unless you are a graduate.
e) Tailor your most recent job experience to make sure it relates directly to the job description advertised.
3. Where is the evidence?
This might seem like a straight-forward point but it is another of the top 5 mistakes on CV’s. Not only are most CV’s full of opinions and not facts, they are poorly structured and they often have very little evidence of how the job seeker can perform the job advertised.
Assume that a job is advertised for a Compliance Monitoring Manager. It is likely that the employer or recruiter is looking for an individual with compliance monitoring experience. Perhaps you would like to apply but don’t have the relevant monitoring experience, although you work with other compliance monitoring assistants and you think you are perfectly capable of performing the job (if not a little better than them!).
Taking the specific role of compliance monitoring you should be able to deduce that it requires an investigative approach. Good compliance monitoring has a lot to do with a person’s ability to decipher the numbers and determine, for example, whether market abuse has occurred.
Knowing this, a job seeker needs to write in black and white their ability to investigate problems and find resolutions. Also, if the job seeker is aware that this is the most important aspect of the job they are applying for then they need to put this evidence first. When writing their CV the first line of their most recent career experience should have something along the lines of:
· Currently investigating 30 concurrent compliance issues across all product lines for a US Investment Bank
· This experience lends itself well to compliance monitoring work
Note: it might also be good to include the specific products that you are currently knowledgeable on. This helps recruiters and employers to find you if they use keyword searching on a CV database.
I’m sure you understand the gist of what we are saying. The important point to take away is that providing facts, in the right order that match the job requirements, is essential in progressing your career. A CV is a sales tool and should be utilised as such. Always think of the reader.
4. Spelling mistakes / poor grammar
OK… I know you have heard it before. So we are not going to flog a dead horse on this issue. HOWEVER, it still amazes us that (as a collective of ex-compliance recruiters) the frequency of spelling and grammar mistakes is so high, PARTICULARLY, at a senior level. We think you can get by with perhaps one or two spelling mistakes or grammar mistakes on your CV, but we have seen dozens on some CV’s from Head’s of Compliance!
Spelling and grammar mistakes have three simple remedies:
1. Use spell check on your Word Processor (.i.e. Word or Open Office Writer), ensuring it is set to the correct language for your country.
2. Get a friend you trust implicitly to check and re-check your CV. If that friend works as an analyst or in a reporting role requiring lots of writing then they might spot mistakes. Even better, get two or three friends to check and then you have really made sure there is nothing wrong.
3. As you check your CV read it out loud slowly. This technique will help you focus on what you have written and it will give you a good idea as to the flow of your writing.
Please, please, please try to avoid spelling and grammar mistakes. For spelling use the spell check facility and look up a reputable dictionary if in doubt. For grammar a good book you can buy to help you is The Economists’ Style Guide. If you prefer their free version it’s online.
5. Generic Eric
This might seem like it covers old ground as it relates closely to point 1 (Opinions not facts) but it does have its own subtle place here. Generic Eric is a troublesome soul. His writing style is simple: write to ensure I cover all aspects of what others want to hear. An excellent example would be a sentence in a profile statement such as:
· A good communicator who can work with a wide variety of people
The rationale behind Generic Eric’s sentence is to make sure he writes something about ‘communication’ because you have to, and to show he is a good communicator which is what all hiring managers want in the heady world of compliance. Unfortunately, Generic Eric has filled the first half of his CV with this bland, meaningless drivel. The hiring manager or recruiter finds Eric’s CV and gets so bored of reading it that it goes to the shredder (putting CV’s in a regular bin does not adhere very well to the data protection act!).
Our advice is to completely remove these pointless sentences and keep your CV as punchy and relevant as possible. If it sounds generic then leave it out.
If you want to emphasise your ability to communicate then state a fact that might help you such as:
· Have made presentations on complex compliance issues to rooms of between 10 and 50 people with no knowledge of compliance
Here you have demonstrated a clear ability to communicate without using your own opinion or providing nonspecific information.
One of the key requirements of a CV is to make you stand out in a positive way. Bear in mind that Henry Ford invented the division of labour that we now all love/hate today. As a society of specialists its should be easy to make our experience unique and for us to create CV’s that SELL those all important distinctive characteristics.
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