Preparing for a Career Move: CV Guidance & Interview Techniques

Whenever you are considering a potential career move, the first step is to write or update your CV.  This can initially seem like a daunting task, so Recruitment Consultant, Harry Young has pulled together some best practice guidance for writing your CV, as well as some interview techniques to guide you through the full career move process.


CV Writing Guidance

The first thing to remember is that a CV is a tool: A tool that you use to open the door to an interview. It is essentially a document you use to sell your experience and character as efficiently as possible, in relation to the business and position you are applying for.


How long should my CV be?

Your CV doesn’t need to be ‘War and Peace’; Two or three pages is all that is necessary, provided you are being concise and accurate with the content.

The more experienced you are, the more content you will have to add. However, if you are earlier in your career (i.e., applying for grad schemes/looking for industry roles post training contract), 2 pages should absolutely suffice.


CV must-haves
  • Include any relevant post-nominal letters after your name, related to ICAS, ICAEW, ACCA, CIMA etc
  • Recruiters will look at where you’re based to ensure you are within easy commuting distance for the role you have applied for. If you’re looking to relocate, make sure that this is stated clearly next to your current address
  • Include your contact information. It sounds obvious, but it is important to make it as easy as possible for people to contact you, so have your contact information in bold at the top
  • If you have a LinkedIn profile, add in a link beside your contact details. This is another avenue of contact with anyone potentially interested in your profile and will allow them to connect with you online, adding them to your network for future opportunities


CV structure

In terms of structure, I would always advise leading at the top with your name, contact information and qualifications/education in a very clear format. One big thing to avoid is using complex CV layouts. Microsoft Word/PDF with font size 10-12 in a regularly used format (Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman etc.) and will work well.

After this, you should have your personal statement. This should only be a few lines covering all essential information about your career, qualifications and experience. A well-written personal statement will encourage the reader to keep reading, so it is important to get this right.

Following your personal statement, it’s time to write about your career history. Always start with your most recent position working backwards from there. Your role may be broad, so it is important to tailor this section to the specific role you are applying for.

For example, if you are working in a group accounting role and have analytical responsibilities but are looking to move into a finance analyst position, make sure to highlight the analytically focused aspects of your role in more detail.

You should have a bullet-point list covering all the responsibilities in your role, but also make sure to highlight any achievements and ad-hoc work you have undertaken.

If you are working in a firm, it is worthwhile highlighting information about your client base including sector, turnover and the role you played in auditing/preparing accounts for them. If you are looking to transition from practice into an industry role, this gives the company some reassurance you have relevant experience understanding a comparable organisation.


Once you have written your contact information, education, qualifications, personal statement, and experience in this format, I would suggest having two additional small sections.

  • Firstly, you should cover specific systems knowledge you may have, and examples of prior systems you have used as well as your IT proficiency (Word, Excel level etc)
  • Secondly, a section covering your hobbies, interests and personal achievements is always worthwhile to mention, as well as any fundraising activities or teams/groups you are a part of. This provides social proofing and will allow the reader to potentially find some common ground with you


Should you tailor your CV for every role?

You should tailor your CV for every single role you are applying for, particularly as you progress to more senior positions. It is important to draw out specific relevant experience that highlights why you are the right candidate for the position and demonstrates how you have previously made an impact in similar roles.

As a newly/recently qualified accountant or even as a graduate, it is crucial to highlight the relevant education/exams for the position you have applied for. When completing an ICAS qualification it is worthwhile including if you have passed your exams on the first sitting, and if you are applying for a training contract, you should make reference to any exemptions you may have from your education.

You should also always tailor a line in your personal statement at the top of your CV mentioning the type of role you are looking for; This should align with your application to that role.

Once you have pulled together a CV, always spell check it; and before you send it out, go back a few hours after you have written it to re-read it with fresh eyes – this will help improve its readability and make it clearer and more concise.

After curating the perfect CV, you can now start to prepare for the interview stage!


How to Prepare for an Interview

Interviews can be very nerve-wracking situations, not just because you are forced to tell a stranger about your knowledge and why you think that you are the best candidate for the role, but also because it could mean the difference between you securing a move in your career or remaining where you are.


Dress to impress

It is important to present yourself in the best light possible when making a first impression, as this helps get the conversation off on the right foot. It is worth having a look on the company’s website and social media to see if you can get a feel for what would be appropriate dress attire.


Do your research

It is essential to research the company you are interviewing with prior to interview in order to understand the type of business that they are and the types of activities that they engage in.


Making a first impression

When you arrive, the first person, you meet might not necessarily be the person who is interviewing you. It is important to remember that once you enter the building there are a variety of different stakeholders who can in theory contribute to the decision-making process. Therefore, it is important to be respectful and approachable to everyone you meet along the way.

Eye contact is key, be sure to try and maintain eye contact as much as possible throughout the process. If there are multiple interviewers, try to divide your attention equally amongst everyone as best you can.

For virtual interviews, try to choose a well-lit location that has a static background and minimal background noise, this can help the interviewer as they are less likely to get distracted by things moving around in the background.

It is also worthwhile testing your camera, microphone and internet connection prior to going into the interview. This way you can have peace of mind that once you are on the call you shouldn’t have any unexpected problems arise.


Showcasing your experience

Interviewers will often ask you to provide examples across a number of different scenarios that are designed to get you thinking and showcase your experience. For example, you may be asked, “Tell me about a time when you had to complete a set of accounts within a tight deadline” or “Describe a situation where you have had to deal with a difficult client in a previous role”.

The STAR interview technique can be a really good way of breaking down your answer to provide a more well-rounded response:


Situation – Briefly describe the scenario that you were in

Task – Explain the task you needed to perform and why you needed to do this

Action – Outline how you responded to the task and the actions you made

Result – Explain what happened as the result of the action you took


Using the STAR interview technique enables you to keep your answers concise and to the point, ensuring that the interviewers can gain a good understanding of your experience.



Most interviewers will ask you if you have any questions at the end of the interview. This is a chance for you to gain a greater insight into the business culture and the role that you are interviewing for. It can also provide an opportunity to build a better rapport with the interviewers and develop more of a two-way conversation.

At this point, it is good to avoid asking about anything that is already clearly stated in the job description or asking about the salary as this should have already been covered by your recruitment consultant.

If you have applied for a role through Rutherford Cross, you should call your consultant post-interview to debrief and have a chat about how you thought it went and to ask any questions that you feel you would like further information on.

This also gives you a chance to mention anything that you feel didn’t go as planned and that you wish you could change as we can sometimes negate this on your behalf.


As recruitment consultants, we want to help you do the best you possibly can and make a successful move in your career. If you are considering your next career opportunity within accounting and finance, reach out to [email protected] for a confidential discussion with one of our consultants.