Tags (Advice, CV tips)

What makes a good CV?

February 14, 2024
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There is no definitive template on how the perfect CV should look. What suits one role, company, hiring manager, or industry, will probably be completely different to another. It really is different strokes for different folks, but consider everyone does want you to be as accurate as possible. However, there are general rules of guidance that can be followed to ensure you’re given yourself the best chance of getting maximum interest from your resume.

We must understand what is the purpose of a CV? It is your first impression. Maybe even your “elevator pitch”. It is the chance to showcase to the employer that they should meet you to discuss the role in question.

Your CV should include a comprehensive summary of your experience, industry knowledge and relevant background. It should show someone, with no prior introduction to you, what you have been doing with your career to date, and the suitable skills and knowledge you have gained along the way. Where you are looking to apply for a role of interest, and demonstrable to your experience and desires, it’s a chance to sell yourself as the best possible candidate for the position. Again, it is your first impression.

The trick is knowing your audience and getting the correct level of detail down. There’s a fine line between exaggerated detail and unnecessary waffle when writing a CV. Getting the balance right is crucial, use an available job specification to your advantage, making sure your CV could mirror the spec’s requirements and responsibilities. Your focus should always be in your daily tasks from your current and previous roles, this is where you’re showcasing your suitability for a position. Clearly define the coverage of your role, breaking the processes down to emphasize the scope of tasks performed, but be careful not to over-dwell on the points. Your CV needs to look clean and clutter-free, and without using first- or third-person perspective. Bullet points are the easiest way to achieve this, it individually highlights tasks you have performed, not forgetting it is easy on the eye. Long paragraphs will likely give the opposite effect. As example:

  • Supporting Cash Equity and Bond market trading, in the European and Asian markets
  • Covering all trade lifecycle tasks, from trade booking, through confirmation, settlements, and includes failing trade investigations with counterparties.
  • Performing various cash, FOBO, stock and depot reconciliation, and investigating all discrepancies.

In our specialist recruitment world of Operations and Middle Office, asset classes are becoming an essential requirement and a must for any CV. These should be prominently seen in each role, as close to the top as possible. Letting these get lost in daily tasks is risking them being missed altogether, in a product focused space, that’s key detail which could be costly if left out. Also showcasing different types of trading strategies (e.g., high frequency, algorithmic, new issuance) or fund strategies (e.g., high yield, emerging markets, credit, long/short, arbitrage) are essential too. This gives a wider understanding of the type of businesses you have supported.

Should you be able to offer leadership experience of people, processes, controls, or change, then certainly do highlight. Demonstrate if you are “hands on” manager, strategic dictator, or a combination of both. Indicate how large your teams are in terms of staff numbers. If you are a departmental head, then indicate which departments you are responsible for, and how many managers directly report into you, and number of subordinates.

Include achievements and any kind of processes improvements or project work; CassonX believe these are great ways of adding extra kudos to your experience, but shouldn’t be the focal point of your CV. It’s deemed noticeable “value add” if you can further back these up with tangible examples of the impact this has made to the team or department. This can be in the form of cost savings, automations / STP improvements, hours of work reduced, directly supporting regulation changes etc. The extra context is the difference in adding weight to the information.

Hiring managers want to see the systems you have used, but these don’t necessarily have to be added for every role, but a summary towards the end of your resume showcasing all systems used is always advised. However, if you are technically very savvy with programming languages (VBA, SQL, Python alike), then adding how you have used these under each role is encouraged. We are living in a world where many Operations or Middle Office hires requires candidates who offer those capabilities and is hugely sort after skill set in today’s market. The more you can mention this, the better your CV will look.

Education should always be included, both via schooling and professionally, although arguably it doesn’t carry the weight it previously has. This doesn’t need to be much more than place of education, courses and grades achieved. On rare occasions will you be asked for more detail than this, noticeably when applying for work in companies that as example require Russell Group education. The same can be said for professional industry qualifications, they are unlikely to be the reason you are hired for a role in Operations or Middle Office functions, but you have worked hard for them, then they should be included on your CV. Consider accountancy or regulatory qualifications as example.  

A summary at the start of any CV is always nice, but most companies and their managers reviewing the CVs tend skip over it most times and go straight to your relevant experience. However, the summary section is a perfect opportunity to detail information such as key skills and personality traits, which are nice to see, but are unlikely to get you an interview. Be careful dedicating too much time to the detail, if you are going to do so then make sure you use competencies, adjectives or character traits that can be found in the company’s values statement on their website, or even taken from the job spec provided.

A big question often asked is how long a CV needs to be. Whilst no one wants to read a 6-page resume, keeping it to just 2 pages at the detriment of valuable relevant expertise is counter-productive. Keep as much detail as possible in your most recent 2 or 3 roles (or previous 8 years’ experience), as this will be most recently relevant to the role you’re applying for. Make sure company names, dates and job titles are clear, with your most recent role first and in reverse chronological order. Give reasoning for any gaps that appear in the flow of dates on your CV, aiming for 2 pages with a maximum of 4 (unless necessary). You can see another blog we wrote about the length of your CV in the resources section of our website https://cassonx.com/resources/

At CassonX we firmly believe in leaving nothing to assumption, thinking a hiring manager will know the wider tasks you’re performing based on your job title could be the reason you’re not called to interview. You can always reduce the content for specific roles if the detail isn’t needed at that time. Constructing a good CV doesn’t need to be difficult, it’s a chance to flex your muscles and show your experience as much as possible. One size doesn’t fit all, so be prepared to adapt, and adjust your CV for each individual role you are applying for. If working with a recruiter, then seek their guidance on how best to propose a tailored CV for the role, in accordance with the guidance they have received from the hiring manager. You’re looking for maximum impact to stand out in a competitive market.

Our final thought, and the most important advice that CassonX has to offer, is to make sure that you send a CV that clearly demonstrates that you are suitably experienced to be considered for the role. This is essential in giving you a chance to meet the hiring manager accordingly.

Should you require free consultative advice on how to construct your CV for any specific role you are applying for, then please do reach out to our friendly team here at CassonX.

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