Shift your CFO CV up a gear for Non-Exec Appointments

Non-Exec Appointments are a great way to develop a breadth of experience. The biggest draw to exploring the Non-Exec world is the variety of business challenges you will become exposed to, in addition to the opportunity to segue into areas like governance, strategic planning and risk management, that your current role may be limited in. But as you may have already experienced, it’s not always easy to get on the Non-Exec ladder. It can be a Catch 22 – once you have one appointment, it will be easier to find another, but until then you need to focus on making your applications as targeted as they can be. Rule number one is never to use your ‘standard’ CV – Non-Exec applications require a different approach and an increased focus on the higher level facets of your career. Here are our top tips:

Brevity is of the essence

The CV trend, for senior managers and executives is towards 2-3 pages in length, concise wording and an emphasis on the last 5-10 years on your career, over earlier appointments. This is even more so the case with Non-Exec CVs. Aim for 2 pages in length, and only include your recent appointments, at senior management or executive level. Earlier appointments can be minimised to an Earlier Career Summary. Likewise, include all your education and accreditations, but only include relevant professional development courses – topics like strategic planning, leadership, change management, governance, risk management are important, but lower level (task-based or function-specific) courses or certifications can be dropped from this version.

Think strategically, not operationally

When writing about your roles, focus on strategic priorities, not tasks. Whereas in a general CV you might include all of your input in leading the month-end and year-end accounting processes, take a helicopter view here. Summarise the essential (no more than 5) accountabilities of your role at a high level and link them to strategic priorities. For example, instead of bullet pointing “Lead team delivery of month-end close to corporate HO in US”, think about what priorities you were driving here. Perhaps this might be more appropriately written as: “Drove continuous improvement in month-end activities to lead the delivery of accurate Day 2 reporting to US HO.”

Be outcomes focused

Once you have summarised the top 3-5 accountabilities of your role to demonstrate your strategic focus, you need to also take a fresh look at your achievements. Very task-based achievements like “streamlined invoicing processes to implement monthly billing for top 5 customers” are too granular, so take a step back. Think about where you’ve had the biggest impact overall. Achievements centring on change, transformation and turnaround are valuable. If your achievements are more technical, around process improvement, for example, that’s fine, but take a top-down view and think about it in terms of benefits delivered, or value added. For example: “Led a series of process and systems improvement projects to boost team productivity, resulting in a reduction of month-end close from 5 to 2 days, reduced error and significantly improved customer experience”.

Include all ‘steer-co’ or broader committee work you may have done

This is often missed out. It is likely that you’re a member of a leadership cohort or maybe you have been a Chair or member of a number of committees, so detail them. It doesn’t require lots of detail – something like this will make this clear without labouring the point: “Proactive contributor to quarterly senior leadership team meetings, member of the Exec Steer-Co for Salesforce Implementation and Chair of the Risk Committee”. Likewise, if there is anything else you do outside of work, like maybe acting as a Treasurer for a Sports Club or Church, or any other related responsibilities, list in bullet point format in an Additional Information section.

After you’ve done this, pay careful attention to what the advertisement or job description is looking for in terms of a profile. Highlight what you see as the top 5 criteria, and ensure you succinctly address these points in a cover letter/email where you directly ‘match’ your own experience to what they are seeking, and clearly flag any corresponding achievements to each of these points. Remember to clearly include a reason for applying that extends beyond ‘what’s in it for you’ in terms of gaining breadth of experience. Try to identify a point of connection or interest in the organisation/role that has prompted you to apply, or point to some area of business challenge of opportunity that you feel has the most obvious correlation to your own experience. Use this to close out your email and clearly frame the value and expertise you offer them.

Good luck!

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