Job context is key...by Accountancy Ireland & Barden (Career Guide 2017)
To make a wise career move, you need to understand fully what’s on the cards.
Once you’ve developed a clear understanding of the corporate landscape and your position in it, it’s time to get into the detail of what you do in your company and what you’d like to do in another company – the day job, so to speak. It’s easier said than done, however!
Different companies call the same jobs and job activities by different names. Job specs can lack detail around hierarchy, division of labour and weighting towards different types of activity. So can CVs for that matter. In the pages that follow, we’ll move beyond assessing opportunities on the basis of job titles and define a common language for the activities of an accounting department.
We’ll also provide you with a few tools and tricks to better describe your experience, assess potential opportunities and, again, understand what’s more and less likely in your next move. This will allow you to look differently at the job you now have, and how it relates to the job you aspire to.
The perils of job titles
Unfortunately, people don’t spend a lot of time looking at the detail. Candidates scan job specs and make decisions based on key words, especially job titles. HR managers will likely review hundreds of CVs a day and will make fast calls based on a quick scan of a document. Hiring managers might review a smaller volume of CVs, but they often do it on top of their day job – they rarely have time to pour over the detail.
Candidates, HR managers and hiring managers place an over-reliance on job titles – not all of them, but enough to matter. When looking for a financial analyst, a hiring manager might discount a candidate with a job title of ‘financial accountant’ and vice versa. People are busy and more often than not, make decisions based on very little information. People that don’t understand the detail will almost definitely make snap decisions based on tiny details like job titles.
In accounting and finance, similar jobs will have different job titles. What one company calls a ‘financial accountant’, another might call a ‘management accountant’ and another might call a ‘GL accountant’. Candidates will, of course, put their actual job title in their CV (what their current manager calls what they do) and hiring managers will put a title on a job spec that fits other titles in their company. The problem arises when these two worlds collide. A candidate can overlook a relevant job opportunity because the job title means something different in their experience. Likewise, a hiring manager can reject a CV because the candidate’s current job title means something different in their company. In an ideal world, we’d title jobs in a standard way – a way that reflects the context and content of the role; a way that would be understood by all. It would be universal label or language for job titles.
Unfortunately, that world is a long way off. In the meantime, be tactical and use this knowledge to your advantage.
Take care when you create your CV or write a job spec that you use a job title that best reflects what the market calls the job. Be cautious when reviewing a CV or job spec that you don’t judge a book by its cover.
The danger is in the detail
Job titles are perilous enough, but it gets worse when you dive into the detail and actual activities of a CV or job spec. Companies tend to speak their own language and use their own specific acronyms when describing the activities of a particular job. Let’s take an example: the payments process. Depending on where you work, the payments process can be described as accounts payable, AP, purchase to pay, P2P, PTP, payables, payments, invoicing and even bookkeeping. It’s a simple process with a lot of different names!
It’s therefore easy to miss an opportunity through an overly-narrow keyword search, or be overlooked because you listed “invoicing” but not “accounts payable” or “AP” in your profile or CV. And it gets even more complicated when you get into more value add activities. Now that you’re aware of the dangers, be tactical as to how you address them in the context of your unique situation.
Weighting of your time
Universal job titles and a common language for activities would go a long way towards solving this problem, but not far enough. Two job specs can read exactly the same but the percentage of time spent on certain activities might vary. A role that’s 90% financial accounting and 10% forecasting/analysis is very different to a role that’s 10% financial accounting and 90% forecasting/analysis. However, you might not be able to judge the weighting by the job spec and the same goes for CVs.
So weight the time spent on different activities in your document as best you can, and seek weighting before applying for a job or inviting a candidate to interview.
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