Your Compliance & Ethics CV - How to Effectively Showcase Your Relevant Qualifications

This is a guest post by Spark Compliance Consulting's West Coast Director Diana Trevley.
There is no one route to becoming a compliance professional.  Some compliance professionals join the compliance department after working for years within another department at their company, others are lawyers who have worked in law firms or for the Department of Justice, some are accountants or investigators, and others may have worked within a regulatory agency.  This type of diversity within an organization’s compliance department helps to foster innovative ideas and avoid the “group think” that might occur in a department composed of individuals with the same educational background and work experience.  It also means that the field is relatively wide open for those who decide that they too want to become compliance professionals.

    However, it can still be a challenge to secure a good position when you have little or no experience in that particular field.  As compliance and ethics becomes a more established field, hiring managers often prefer to hire someone with prior experience rather than take a chance on someone new.  This is why it is so important for those pursuing long-term careers in compliance to create a CV that showcases how prior education, job experience, and skills will be valuable to a compliance & ethics department.  This article lists some practical tips for those who want to have a compliance CV that stands out to potential employees – whether you are revamping your old compliance CV or creating one for the first time. 
List Advanced Degrees and/or Compliance-Related Certifications After Your Name on Your CV
    If you have any advanced degrees and compliance-related certifications, list them immediately after your name on the top of your CV.  For example, if you have an MBA, the top of your CV should read “Jane Smith, MBA.”  Not all compliance professionals have advanced degrees or certifications and you want potential employers to see right away—without having to search through the text of your CV—that you have these additional qualifications.  If you don’t have a compliance-related certification, consider whether your past work experience and education qualifies you to obtain such certification and whether it would be a good investment for you to pursue one.

If You Are Brand-New to Compliance, Add a Brief “Objective” Section at the Top of Your CV
    When I first decided to begin a career in corporate compliance a Chief Compliance Officer suggested that I add an “Objective” heading at the top of my CV and provide one to three sentences summing up my career goals.  At first I was reluctant to add such a section because I had never seen such a section on a professional CV and it seemed somehow amateurish.  I figured that my career objectives should be in my cover letter.  However, the Chief Compliance Officer noted several important points that changed my mind.  First, he almost never read job applicants’ cover letters.  Second, unless I made it immediately clear in my CV that I was actively pursuing a new career path in compliance it might look, based on my past work history as a litigator, that I was just aimlessly sending out my CV to any job opening, without any real interest in compliance & ethics.  (An additional piece of advice:  While your cover letter is likely to go unread in many cases, I still recommend including one when you apply to a position as it is still standard practice – just be sure to include all vital information you want a potential employer to read directly on your CV).

Gather 10 Corporate Compliance Job Postings and Circle the Skills and/or Experience You Already Have
    I recommend looking at the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics’ or the FCPA Blog’s job postings boards to gather these job applications.  You will notice a clear pattern of what hiring managers are looking for, such as knowledge of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines or excellent communication skills and your CV should reflect these qualifications to the extent possible.

Use the Elements of an Effective Compliance Program as Set Forth in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to Frame Your Qualifications
    When describing prior positions you held, I recommend emphasizing the work you did that is relevant to what tasks you will be doing as a compliance officer.  Use the elements of an effective compliance and ethics program, as set forth in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, as a guide.  First, it will show that you know and understand the elements of an effective compliance and ethics program.  Second, it will allow hiring managers to see how your unique skillset will be useful within the compliance department.  Professionals with legal, accounting, investigatory or human resources experience have valuable skill sets that they should be sure to emphasize.  Lawyers will want to emphasize their analytical and investigative skills.  Those who have worked in human resources should focus on dealing with internal complaints and adhering to company policies.  Those who have worked in accounting will want to highlight their auditing and investigatory skills.  Below are some suggestions of typical tasks a compliance officer performs. Consider whether your prior work experience allows you to list any of these qualifications on your CV.
 - Working with laws and regulations;
 - Working within a highly regulated industry, at a large multinational company, or within a specific industry in which you want to work;
 - Managing projects, particularly big projects or those that entail working across different departments;
 - Creating documents that govern company policies or standard operating procedures;
 - Acting as the face of the company;
 - Working with outside vendors;
 - Handling complaints at the company – both internal and external;
 - Leading or taking part in investigations;
 - Conducting due diligence on new hires or other companies;
 - Creating and/or conducting trainings;
 - Writing legal, financial or other complex documents;
 - Creating and/or delivering presentations to high-level executives;
 - Reviewing internal financial records, especially working in the auditing department;
 - Ensuring proper documentation is in place for the company’s actions;
 - Conducting risk assessments, even in an informal context;
 - Working in sales or in another position that requires people skills and the ability to persuade others;
 - Taking corrective or remedial action at the company when things go wrong;
 - Interacting with government officials, even on a local level;
 - Handling marketing and publicity, such as creating posters, flyers, or sending out email alerts to alert employees or outside stakeholders regarding the company’s actions;
 - Traveling for work, particularly to different countries;
 - Fluency in foreign languages.

Include a “Qualifications” Section that Highlights Your “Soft” Skills
   “Soft” skills such excellent communication skills, the ability to work independently, and building consensus are vital skills for compliance professionals.  I believe listing your applicable “soft” skills on your CV is important because it shows to hiring managers that not only do you have these skills, but that you recognize they are important for the job.  As noted above, combing through compliance and ethics job postings is a good way to get an idea of what type of skills you may want to list.

Limit Your CV to Two Pages
    Distill your experience, education, and qualifications down to two pages unless you have been working in compliance for more than a few years.  It is common knowledge that hiring managers only take a few minutes to look at each CV, given the large number of applicants to most positions.  People in general are more inclined to want to read short documents as opposed to longer ones, particularly when they are very busy.  This also forces you to only include information directly relevant to compliance, rather than a laundry list of your achievements over the years.  No one (with the possible exception of your parents) has the time or inclination to read about every duty you had at your last job or every club you joined while at university.  So while it is important to include your prior work history, when describing what you did at that job, do so in a way that emphasizes the qualifications you have that directly relate to qualifications relevant to working as a compliance officer (described in more detail below).

Create One Master CV That Accurately Reflects Your Qualifications
    Most headhunters suggest that you tailor each CV you send out to match the desired qualifications and industry of each job posting.  I don’t recommend spending a lot of time on this.  This can take up an extraordinary amount of time and increase the chance of typographical errors when you are constantly editing your CV to ape the language in each job posting.  Even more importantly, you want your CV to land you the job you really want.  I suggest you consider your dream job (being realistic about what position you are qualified to get at this point in your career) and create one master CV that accurately reflects what you will bring to the table as a compliance and ethics professional.  Then, you can add minor tweaks as needed into a second copy of the document depending on the job posting, for example, highlighting your experience dealing with financial records for an auditing and monitoring position or emphasizing your public speaking experience for a job handling compliance training.

Include Hyperlinks in Your CV
    Include hyperlinks to your LinkedIn profile and to publications you have written that can be accessed online.  Put the hyperlink directly into the text:  for example, someone should be able to click on the title of your publication in order to access the article.  Adding hyperlinks directly into your CV allows hiring managers to quickly access more information about you if they want to learn more without weighing them down with additional documents.

Once Your CV is Nearing Completion, Ask Several Compliance Professionals To Look It Over and Get Their Thoughts
    Ask any compliance professionals you know to look at your near-finished CV to provide you with your thoughts.  They may have valuable suggestions as to what additional information you should include or what you might want to consider taking out to best showcase your qualifications.  Keep in mind that everyone will have different opinions and it will be impossible to incorporate all suggestions into the final product, so you need to rely on your own judgment in the end.  Also, don’t send your friends and mentors a CV that hasn’t been thoroughly proofread; they are there to provide suggestions on the content, not comb through the document for errors.

Do Not Lie or Exaggerate On Your CV!
    This should be a given, but there are many people who send out CV’s that don’t accurately reflect their experience or education.  As a compliance and ethics professional, you are expected to adhere to the highest standards of ethics and integrity.  This should extend to your search for a job in compliance & ethics.  Make sure that you can back up everything your list on your CV, from the job descriptions to the dates that you worked to your GPA at university.    

        These suggestions should help you create a CV that lands you the job that you want.  Don’t give up if your CV doesn’t yield the responses you expected immediately.  Network with other compliance professionals.  Do what you can to gain experience or education in compliance while you search for a new position.  Continue to send out your CV.  Soon, you will find the perfect job for you.