CVs come in different lengths and formats and there is no one singular thing that will make your CV stand out from the crowd, rather there are a number of key indicators that an experienced recruiter will be looking for. The Big 4 is a measured environment which has expectations on UCAS points, degree classification and professional exam results and let’s face it, if you are working for, or have previously worked for, one of the Big 4 there will already be a presumed level of competence. So whether you have worked for Deloitte, PwC, EY or KPMG you should already have the recruiter’s attention. Thereafter, you need to differentiate yourself from the crowd by focusing on presentation, accuracy, relevance, content, chronology and unique selling points – after all your CV is a sales document which will open the door for you.
In terms of presenting your CV, 1-2 pages is generally sufficient, anything longer and you may start to lose the recruiter’s attention. In some cases, if you need to provide additional information such as a specific list of assignments then do this as an addendum referenced from your CV. Make sure that it is clear and concise, use sensible font and layout and ensure that the salient points are easy for the user to access. Given the nature of your profession you should be aiming for 100% accuracy both factually and grammatically. It should be relevant to the roles you are applying for – sometimes this will be self-evident, for example if you are an auditor applying only for audit roles then a generic audit focused CV will do the trick, but if you are applying for a role in a different specialism or a different industry you should try to tweak your CV to reflect this and, if the application process allows, back it up with reasons in a covering letter. The content should tie in with the relevance and the accuracy and is your chance to demonstrate your experience and achievements.
It is essential to ensure that there are no unexplained gaps in the chronology of your CV as this will immediately raise questions in the mind of the recruiter. To maximise differentiation it is important to emphasise your unique selling points. USPs can be many and varied but some examples might include being a prize winner at school, university or in your professional exams; achieving a 1st Class degree or 1st time passes in your professional exams; additional qualifications such as an MBA; professional awards; a strong set of appraisals; proven leadership skills; quantifiable business development skills; promotion record; champion in a certain area; evidence of other achievements outside the workplace etc. Remember, you are competing in an environment where all of the players have a high base level of achievement so your CV is a tool to help you stand out from the crowd.
Success requires preparation and in career terms your CV is part of that process.