The devil is in the Detail

The devil is in the Detail

Unlike the infamous saying, this post focuses on the positive context of detail, and how adding more information into your CV is the right thing to do, not the wrong thing.


As a recruiter, I can receive hundreds of applications to just one job advert in the current climate.  The CVs that grab my attention are the one or two page variety that tell me more about an individuals personal interests than work experience, and the longer detailed CVs that have substance in them.  So as you would expect, it is the latter that I really give most attention to.


I’m not convinced by the argument of a 2 page CV and don’t think I ever will be, particularly when you consider people can have 10, 15 or even 20 years of experience.  Being realistic, how can anyone get so many years of experience plus a personal profile, qualifications, systems skills, personal interests and career achievements properly presented on just two pages ?.


I don’t even believe the “2 page CV” is what it’s about anyway.  What job seekers should be doing is making their CV as relevant as possible to the advert they are applying to.  In order for it to be relevant, it needs to show depth and meaning, and therefore needs to be detailed.  Detailed means it should be as long as it needs to be, without the pressure to condense everything down.  Surely it is better for a CV to be 4 pages long and gets put onto the ‘youre hired’ pile rather than 1 or 2 pages and gets put onto the ‘youre fired’ pile.


The reason I put many CVs on the ‘no’ pile is because there is not enough detail in the CV to convince me they have the experience in the first place.  Detail is everything, because without it, there are 59 other CVs waiting for me to review.


Let me give you some examples of why adding detail in a CV makes the recruiter’s and employer’s job easier, and your job easier when you secure an actual interview.  If an employer advertises for an Office Manager and one of the key responsibilities is someone who can supervise a team of 10 staff, a lot of CVs may just contain the words ‘staff supervision’ as a bullet point and leave it at that.  Without any additional detail, is this 2 staff, 5 staff, 20 staff ?  The person reading it wont know, because you have left the reader to assume any number they decide to pick out.


Below I highlight a number of real cases where people have put skills on their CV, but there is actually no substance to what they have written.  As I personally focus on Accounting & Finance, these are what I experience time and again regarding poorly detailed CVs.


Example 1


What I normally see on a CV: Budgeting and forecasting


What I would like to see on the CV: Liaising with the Sales Director, Operations Director and four EMEA Commercial Managers regarding preparation of the annual budget for the region and individual countries, and quarterly revenue and cost re-forecasting   


Example 2


What I normally see on a CV: Sales analysis


What I would like to see on the CV: Responsible for in depth sales analysis of the EMEA region, which covers 25 countries and 32 entities.  This includes segmentation of sales by product line, sales channel, gross margin, largest customers 


Example 3


What I normally see on a CV: Processing of invoices


What I would like to see on the CV: Processing of up to 1,000 invoices on a monthly basis with values of £5-£500 per invoice, across 400 live supplier accounts


Example 4


What I normally see on a CV: Monthly management accounts


What I would like to see on the CV: Solely responsible for preparing the monthly management accounts which includes P&L for 5 business units (then consolidated), cash flow statement, full balance sheet, analysis of revenues and costs compared to last month, quarter and year.


I am not looking for a whole essay for each company you have worked for, but certainly something more substantial than 2 words to explain each key part of your job.  Not only does it show you have actually put some effort in, but it allows you to tailor your CV to the specific job advertisement, stops the reader from assuming you have or don’t have the requirements, and includes relevant facts and figures to back everything up.  One of the worst examples is something like the one below, again taken from a real CV:


Aug 1999 – Feb 2010

EMEA Financial Controller

  • Supervising a team of qualified accountants
  • Monthly Management accounts
  • Budgeting & forecasting
  • Providing commercial support
  • System implementation
  • Ad-hoc projects


This creates more questions than answers for me, and here are just some I would ask: how many staff, what specifically is contained within your management accounts, what support do you offer, what system did you implement, and what are ad-hoc projects ? (plus many more).  Looking at this from a recruiters or a potential employers point of view, it doesn’t tell them very much.  Remember the reader doesn’t know you, doesn’t know the company you work for, and doesn’t do the role you do.


I really believe that the more detail you put on your CV, the more likely you are to receive a call wanting to invite you to an interview.  A one or two page CV that is generic, not detailed and shows little effort has been applied just doesn’t do it for me, sorry.


Leslie Fearn

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